The Durban dip can cleanse a billion sins

by Chandrabhan Prasad


The Ganges is a monumental aqua-guard which has been cleansing Varna souls ever since the advent of their civilisation. A few Varna apologists describe the senseless Ganga dip as an act of "self-criticism", where devotees officially confirm they have committed a sin.

Those who do not participate in this bizarre event each year, compensate for it by joining the Maha Kumbh madness. In that sense, every Varna individual is a communist, known for his ritual practice of "self-criticism".



Questions have often been asked of us. For instance: "Tell me Mr Prasad, how do you propose to eradicate caste divisions?" Upon saying, "Read Ambedkar," they insist, "No, please don't be evasive. Tell me now." Then we say, "Gandhiji had a historic opportunity. Had he spoken in the voice Dr Ambedkar used, half of India's problem would have been solved in his lifetime itself, and the rest by now. Or if EMS Namboodripad had decided to declare Charu Majumdar as being India's Mao and worked under his leadership, India would have been a different story today.

Or, if Vajpayeeiji spoke the way Kanshi Ram does or Soniaji spoke Mayawatiji's mind, half of India's social tension would have withered away by now. Or, if the Indian Parliament were to raid the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR) Secretariat at Bharani Complex, Secundarabad, confiscate the documents there, own up to them and proceed to Durban telling the world that: "Yes, race and caste are not the same but the implications are similar. In fact, caste-based discriminations are more vicious than those which are race-based. And that India as a nation has decided to eradicate all caste-based discrimination and that we need cooperation and support from the rest of the world." India would then indeed be marching towards a new direction, one which the Dalits have aspired to for ages. But is India prepared to listen to what Dalit heroes have been arguing for? Is Indian society prepared to listen to Dalit icons like Matin Macwan or Paul Divakar?

August 3, 2001, will be thought of as a landmark. The Mumbai-based Sabrang had organised a seminar to solicit public opinion in favour of the Durban conference.

The organisation is headed by Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand, the only couple I have ever met who are great secularists and yet pro-Dalit. The second such combination I can remember comes in the form of Delhi's Nivedita Menon and Aditya Nigam.

This particular seminar had a galaxy of participants: Shabana Azmi, Javed Akhtar, Sitaram Yechuri, Rajdeep Sardesai, Prafulla Bidwai, Rahul Deo, Swami Agnivesh, Martin Macwan, Ramalakshmi, Aditya Nigam, Amit Sengupta, Fr Henry D'Souza, PL Mimroth, Fali S Nariman and others. Although most of them had assembled for secular considerations - to bash the BJP, as if Deve Gowda or Gujral-led third front governments would have supported NCDHR's move - CPI(M)'s Sitaram Yechuri stunned Dalit participants. He first entertained the audience by telling them about the one similarity between himself and Bangaru Laxman: both had betrayed their communities. The audience, however, was unable to figure out how Yechuriji had betrayed the Brahmins as he has never held them responsible for creating the Chaturvarna order and has lost nothing in life. What better stature in life had he thought of than what he enjoys today? On the other hand, in what way did Bangaru betray his community? He was born Dalit and stayed one even after entering the Dwijas' BJP. He became its president, ultimately falling victim to the Varna media. Had he joined the CPI(M), he would have, like most CPI(M) Dalit MPs, remained faceless all his life!

But the mood changed when Yechuri informed the gathering that the CPI(M) had decided to endorse the NCDHR's Durban move. Every right-thinking Dalit must be grateful to the CPI(M) as, barring the BSP, it is the second national party which has taken a favourable stand.

The CPM's stand is important for other reasons as well. In Delhi's cultural/intellectual circles, which includes a few Dalits, word has got around that a Church-based conspiracy is out to malign India, that foreign money was flowing about like the Orissa cyclone.

We all know that science, technology, democracy and modern systems of governance have come from the Christian world of Europe and America. Then, why this Christian bashing? India, right from Nehru's days, has been holding out its begging bowl to foreign countries. But the money brought into the country in the name of development, never reaches the Dalits. Thus, if any money is coming in from abroad to help the Dalit cause, it must be welcomed. Will TATA or Reliance ever give up even one paisa to fight the Varna/Caste order? Then, how will Dalits travel abroad to expose India's Varna order? Is Indian capital benevolent towards the Dalits? By one single act, the CPI(M) has cleansed itself of many sins. Are other Varna parties, too, prepared to take a dip in Durban?

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