We the People: Expanding the Idea of Democracy - Part 2


Pranav Jeevan P

pranav Democracy is incomplete when it is not expanded to include economic, social and political realms in the world we live in. Economic democracy proposes to remove decision-making power from a few corporate shareholders and transfer that power to the workers, customers, suppliers,and the broader general public[1]. When a few capitalists control the decision making, they prioritize profits over worker welfare, environmental impact, dislocation of communities, and broader harm to the public. Capitalism results in economic crisis due to reduction in effective demand as people are unable to earn enough income to buy its output production.


Sunflower giving Mother

“If there was no night, women would not even have a chance to rest” – Smt. Kusum Nigam

Dhamma Darshan Nigam

Our mother once said that “अगर रात नहीं होती तो महिलाओं को आराम करने का मौक़ा भी नहीं मिलता” (If there was no night, women would not even have a chance to rest). One other time about the 1984 massacre of Sikhs she said that “पूरी दिल्ली जल रही थी” (the whole Delhi was burning), which remains stuck in my mind. And since then I have read the same quote in many books. Such was the depth of thinking of our mother. Our mother was a home-maker, not some working woman who could have seen things while going here and here, or while interacting with different people, but she had a critical eye to understand and analyze things clearly, even through her limited periphery. She had the habit of reading newspapers, magazines and books daily. She used to read every part of the newspaper from front page headlines to daily city crimes, from national to international political news, news from sports pages to new national and international researches, from news about new recipes to Bollywood and entertainment news. She was always up-to-date. She was our social scientist, our political analyst, and our encyclopedia.

kusum nigamOur mother was a hard core Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supporter. Hard core supporter of BSP’s president Mayawati ji. It was the time of the 2020 Delhi assembly election. Every news channel, newspapers, and her three sisters, four daughters she used to talk with, everybody was talking about Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), so she also got a soft corner for AAP. On the eve of the election she told us that for some moments she thought to give her vote to AAP. But then she emphatically said that “वोटिंग मशीन देखते ही, आंखें और उंगली सीधी हाथी पर ही जाती है” ('as soon as I see the voting machine, my eyes and fingers go straight to the elephant'). She also used to say that this is not about winning or losing, but about registering our vote to our party. She had knowledge about all political parties and what was going on in which political party. She was a proud Bahujan Ambedkarite mother.


We the People: Expanding the Idea of Democracy


Pranav Jeevan P

Part 1

pranav Most people believe that democracy means voting in an election every 5 years. Elections in a representative democracy is of course an essential part of the very idea of political democracy, but that doesn't mean that the very idea of democracy is limited to this right to vote. Moreover, every country takes pride in calling themselves a democracy, no matter how far away they are from it in reality, precisely because of the moral superiority and immunity that the idea of being democratic provides them.

The notion of democracy has evolved over time from direct democracy, in which the people directly deliberate and decide on legislation to representative democracy, where the people elect representatives to do that, such as in parliamentary or presidential democracy. Most decision making of democracies works on the principle of majority rule, though other decision-making approaches like supermajority and consensus have also been used to increase inclusiveness and broader legitimacy on sensitive issues and counterbalancing majoritarianism. In present liberal democracies, the constitution limits the majority and protects the minority through enforcement of individual rights. Democracy differs from other forms of government where power is either held by an individual, as in autocratic systems like absolute monarchy, or where power is held by a small number of individuals, as in an oligarchy. Democracy focuses on providing opportunities for the people to control their leaders and to remove them without the need for a revolution. The primary aspect of a representative democracy is the political right of universal adult franchise[1].


Charisma without Organizational Leadership is Abortive for Dalit Politics

Rahul Sonpimple

rahul sonpimple 2021Charisma is elusive yet the most common term to define leadership. Charismatic leadership is usually perceived as essential and assenting, specifically in politics. However, the history of charismatic leadership may not allow one to continue with such romanticism. Nazism led by Hitler and Italian Fascism led by Mussolini are the two most discussed and disconsolate examples of charismatic leadership. Charisma indeed has been explained as an exceptional quality of a leader - endowed with supernatural and divine power.

For Max Weber - the architect of the concept of Charismatic leadership, charisma is one of the ways of establishing leadership legitimacy. Nevertheless, the nature and significance of charismatic leadership are subjected to the subjectivities of social structures and communities in which it evolves and operates. For instance, while Gandhi’s charisma rooted in his ideal of ‘Seva’ appealed to his Hindu upper-caste followers, Ambedkar’s charisma revolved around the philosophy of justice and attracted followers from the depressed classes. Gandhi’s appearance in public as a half-naked poor man (Fakir) helped him to gain leadership legitimacy to represent the colonized masses. On the contrary, Ambedkar's persona in public, as a modern English educated fiery barrister was seen more as a conscious construct against the elitist romanticism of poverty and tyranny.


A portrait of the casteist as a young influencer

Shy of inquiry into privilege, social media posts flaunt antiquated attitudes to caste, reservations

Rahi Gaikwad

rahi gaikwad 1

We are all to some extent the prisoners of our upbringing.
-PD James (Death in Holy Orders)

If anyone has any doubts about how the virus of caste has mutated into a 21st century variant in the minds of upper caste English-speaking city-bred millennials – leave alone their rural counterparts – they need only to look at their social media offerings.  

Welcome to the cutting-edge of casteism, where calcified sentiments of ‘high-caste’ pride and ‘low-caste’ hatred find expression in snarky memes, reels and tweets. Masked under visual effects, filters and other such digital tools for content creation, they sail past community guidelines and permeate the virtual world.


Crossroads of Covid: Time for Theological Transition


Dr Anuradha Bele & Dr Jas Simran Kehal

dr anuradha bele and dr jas simran kehalReading about Mahavir and Buddha with my son in his class VI ICSE history textbook took us back to the 6th century BC. The chapter explained state of affairs that led to rise of a new religious revolution. The causes enumerated in the textbook forced me to connect contemporary past to the pandemic present.

 Let us copy-paste the causes enlisted in schoolbook-

# The Aryan religion had become quite difficult for the people to understand.
# Animal sacrifices had raised a reaction in people.
# Rituals had become very costly.
# Magic, charms and spells had begun to dominate religious practices.
# Caste system had become very rigid; it divided the society to high and low.
# The Hindus ill-treated the shudras.


Ensuring Access to Justice for Oppressed Communities: Need for proper implementation of Constitution


Bodhi Ramteke  

bodhi ramteke Dr. B. R Ambedkar once said, “If I was asked to name any particular article in this Constitution as the most important — an article without which this Constitution would be a nullity, then I could not refer to any other article except Article 32.1 It is the heart and soul of the Constitution". This Article directly allows an individual to approach the Supreme Court if his or her fundamental rights are violated or they need to be enforced.  In addition, the right guaranteed by this Article “shall not be suspended except as otherwise provided for by this Constitution”. Indian Constitution ensures us with such important provisions, but do the backward and oppressed communities in the country benefit from those provisions?


Land Redistribution and the marginalized in Uttar Pradesh: An interview with Prof. Vivek Kumar


Shivam Mogha

A great churning of ideas is happening in the sites of the current farmers' protest at the borders of Delhi, being dubbed by many as the largest and longest peaceful protest in the world. As part of looking into various aspects of these protests, we have tried to understand the history of such mobilisations of the peasants and marginalized in India. We talk to Professor Vivek Kumar of Centre for the Study of Social Systems at Jawaharlal Nehru University. He is an eminent sociologist with a vast body of work on sociology of marginalized sections of India with a book titled 'India's Roaring Revolution: Dalit Assertions and New Horizons'. In this interview he talks about the historical aspects of peasant and labour movements regarding land redistribution specially with respect to Dalits and other backward castes in Uttar Pradesh.

 JNU Student and Trolley Times' co-editor Shivam Mogha had a talk with him.


Question 1. The demand of land redistribution has been for so long in Indian politics and social sphere. How and where do you locate the historical genesis of this demand?

Prof. Vivek Kumar: Starting with the basics of Indian philosophy and social structure, we all know that scheduled castes who are now known as Dalits, or ex-untouchables, were not allowed to own property. The ancient Vedas and the Smritis both have deprived them from owning land, which continued well into the medieval times. It was only after the Zaminadri system that Zamindars started giving some fallow land to their ploughmen or to the people who were grazing their cattle. These private lands which were not allowed to be used openly, nor could they have their titles. We also see that revenue villages were always those villages which were populated by the land-owning communities. The ex-untouchables who were supposed to live outside the villages, in settlements often called Dalit Majras, were not even actually counted for the revenue as a part of the villages. It was only after the British came to power that they started reorganisation of the land that the landless got some fallow land which often turned out to be marshy, sandy, unploughable, and infertile. That is the long history that we have to understand. However, after the abolition of Zamindari, Dalits got some fallow land and after the poverty alleviation programmes Pattas were also given to them. In certain areas, there was also this tendency that Gram Samaj land can be owned by everyone, thus Dalits started owning or taking illegal possession of these lands. You can look at this way that since most Dalits lived in villages (about 88%) as compared to other communities, now needed more land.


Conceiving a New Public: Ambedkar on Universities

Asha Singh & Nidhin Donald

asha and nidhinDr. B.R. Ambedkar conceptualizes education as a ‘vital need’ which helps us fight notions of ‘inescapable fate’ or ‘ascriptions of caste or religion’. He counted education as a socially inherited value which defines one’s access to power. Education was always a keyword, an indicator which he applied on issues of political representation and regional imbalance. Thus, beyond the inherent value of education, Babasaheb was keenly aware of its emergent meanings in a socially unequal society. In his writings, Ambedkar engages with the question of education as an educationist, policy maker, institution builder and above all a political philosopher. He generously borrows universal themes on education from philosophers of his times and qualifies them in our contexts. This qualification often translated into specific policy proposals on questions of primary and university education.


Against all odds: Babasaheb Ambedkar's prophetic warnings about communist China

Dr. Aniruddha Babar

aniruddha babarChinese ‘might be induced not to be hostile to us’. And why would that be? Because “I have some slight reputation with the leaders of Communist China because of the Medical Mission we had sent. I have corresponded with Mao Tse-Tung and other leaders in the past. This might help…”.[1]

 ~ Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru

The 21st century is most certainly evolving in terms of global power politics and power structural dynamics. However, the very root and essence of Communism and China is likely to remain unchanged. Even though modern China has embraced an open economic policy, its governance, political structure, ruling culture, and mindset is still very much primitively ‘Communist’ where an ancient Latin Maxim “Rex non potest peccare” (The King can do no wrong) is literally ‘venerated’. Modern China has posed serious threats to the entire world due to its expansionist policies and atrocious military interference in different parts of the planet. Even though China has undergone a complex transformation in the last hundred years, the seeds that Mao Tse-Tung had sown have now caused a great dark vegetation to spread in China, where bitter, venomous fruits of Communism keep the Chinese population in a threatening ‘amnesia’.


Why I decided to be a Pasmanda activist


Razaul Haq Ansari

razaul haq ansariTo begin with, i want to say something about myself. I am Razaul Haq Ansari from Deoghar, Jharkhand, and was born in a middle class family of the Julaha (weaver) caste. I have completed my Bachelor of Technology from a private university in Greater Noida (NCR). I would like to share a couple of incidents through which i first became conscious of caste among Muslims.

The first incident is from when i was pursuing intermediate studies from a government college in Patna. I was living in a small lodge with more than twenty other students, and my roommate was also a Julaha from my hometown. Out of these twenty students, seven were lower caste Muslims and the rest were Ashraf upper caste Muslims. One day an Ashraf named Siddiqui Sheikh was debating some topic with my friend Hussain, who is a Julaha. Suddenly they started fighting each other in front of my room, and Siddiqui kicked Hussain. On hearing about their fight, we got out of our rooms and pacified them.


Life of Bahujans in Brahminical Schools


Pranav Jeevan P

pranav Schools are one of the primary places where the functioning of caste is passed on to the next generation. Savarna kids are indoctrinated of their superiority and Bahujan kids are shown their place in the varna system here. The trauma they suffer at a very young age from school they carry all their life. The schools function as ideal places to preserve and replicate caste system, to remind the Bahujans who they are and make them realise that they will never be equal to savarnas. The following is an analysis based on personal stories shared by Bahujans in social media who experienced horrible casteism in schools.

TW: This article contains experiences of casteism and sexism which might be triggering to some readers