Saturday, 29 October 2016
Dalits-Adivasis and the Land Rights
-SR Darapuri I.P.S.(Retd) and National Spokesman, All India Peoples Front
India is a country of villages. According to 2011 Census it has got 6,40,867 villages. According to the same Census, out of a total population of 121 crores 83.3 crores live in villages and 37.7 crores live in cities. As such nearly 70% population of this country is rural and 30% only is urban. Out of the total 24.39 crore families 17.96 crores live in rural area and out of them 3.31 crores are Scheduled Castes (Dalits) and 1.96 crores are Scheduled Tribes (Tribals/Adivasis). In India the population of Dalits is 20.14 crores which forms 16.6% of the total population of the country. The total population of Adivasis (Tribals) is 10.42 crores which is 8.6% of the total population of the country.
According to Socio-Economic and Caste Census - 2011, 56% Rural families are landless and out of them 73% are Dalits and 79% are Tribal families. Out of Rural families 45% Dalit and 30% Tribal families are Manual Labourers only. Similarly out of Rural families 18.35% Dalit and 38% Tribal families are agriculturists. From this Census report it has come to light that out of our total population only 40% are regularly employed and 60% are casual workers who remain unemployed for most of the time.
From the above statistics some important aspects of Dalits and Tribals come to the forefront. One is that about 73% of Rural Dalit families and 79% of Tribal families depend on manual labour only. Secondly most of Dalit and Tribal families are deprived. Thirdly they do not own any means of production like land etc. and due to lack of any other skill they are dependent on manual labour only. They are mostly landless and very few of them own land. As such most of the Dalit and Tribal families are dependent on land owning communities. Not only this they depend on them for cutting grass for their animals and even for natural call. Due to landlessness and limited seasonal agriculture employment, they remain unemployed for most of the time.
It is well known that India is an agriculture country and its 60% population is either agriculturist or agriculture labour. From the above statistics it is clear that most of the Dalits and Tribals are landless and are capable of doing manual labour only. As such landlessness and being manual labourers only are their biggest vulnerabilities. On account of it they are neither able to face the atrocities committed on them due to caste discrimination and untouchability nor they are in a position to fight for proper wages. Agriculture employment being seasonal they have to search for employment elsewhere or remain unemployed. On account of this 73% Dalits and 79% Tribal families are vulnerable and landless.
It is a fact that in rural India land is not only a source of production but it also symbolises the respect and social status. In the village the person who owns land is not only economically secure but he is also socially respected. Now as most of the Dalits neither own land nor they have regular employment, as such they are neither economically secure nor are they socially respected. Rural Dalits can get empowered only if they get land and regular employment. Hence land redistribution and secure employment is the first need of landless Dalits and Tribal families.
After India became independent Zamindari Abolition and Land Reforms were the measures adopted for redistribution of resources. Under this scheme Land Ceiling Laws were enacted to make land available for redistribution to the landless. But open dishonesty was practiced in the implementation of these laws because most of the leaders of the then ruling Congress Party were big land holders and the same class dominated the bureaucracy. The result was that very little land could become available for distribution to the landless by the implementation of the land reforms and even that land was not distributed. This resulted in the land remaining in the hands of the earlier owners. Even today huge land is with individuals, public trusts and temples and anonymous owners. As a result of it there are 18.53% small and 64.77% marginal farmers in the country who own only 41.52% of total agriculture land. The remaining 59% area is in the possession of 17% medium and big farmers.
Socio-Economic and Caste Census statistics show that land right is the most important question for rural Dalits and Adivasis (Tribals) which cannot be solved without proper implementation of Land Reforms but the tragedy is that Land Reforms and Land Distribution do not figure in the agenda of any Dalit and Non-Dalit political party. It is seen that the states like West Bengal and Kerala where land reforms were strictly enforced by Left Party governments and land was made available to the Dalits and Adivasis their social and economic condition has improved.
It is known that in Uttar Pradesh from 1995 to 2012 Mayawati, a Dalit, was Chief Minister for four times. During her regime only some land was distributed in 1995 in Central and Western Uttar Pradesh (U.P.) and that too in a very small quantity and no land was distributed in the remaining parts of the state. In Eastern U.P. which has got a dense population of Dalits no land was distributed except in Gorakhpur district which was due to the initiative of Mr. Harish Chandra, the then Commissioner of Gorakhpur Division. I witnessed the pitiable condition of landless Dalits in Sonbhadra and Chandauli districts of eastern U.P. when I contested Lok Sabha election in 2014 from Robertsganj constituency. The condition of the Adivasis of these districts is really very shocking.
It is a fact that in 1995 there was sufficient land available under Ceiling Surplus Land, Gram Samaj, Fallow Land and Bhoodan Land in U.P. for distribution to landless Dalits, Adivasis and other landless families but Mayawati did not distribute it with the result that it continued to remain in the possession of illegal occupants. Not only this, she did not take any action to give possession of land to the families who were given land pattas (land entitlements) during earlier Congress regime. After 1995, Mayawati did not take any initiative to distribute land or restore possession to the owners of Land Pattas just to avoid ire of the powerful communities who became her voters under the so called "Social Engineering." It came to light from the Land Owners statistics of 2001 Census that during 10 years span of 1991-2001, 23% of Dalits became landless who previously owned land. It is worth noting that during this period Mayawati was thrice Chief Minister of U.P.
For empowerment of Adivasis, Forest Rights Act - 2006 and Rules came into force in 2008. Under this Act the Adivasis and others living in the Protected Forest area were to get title of the land which they had in their possession and under cultivation. For this they had to submit their claims to the Revenue authorities. Mayawati was the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh from 2007 to 2012 but Mayawati government did not take any effective action to implement this Act with the result that as on 30.1.2012 out of 92,406 claims 74,701 claims i.e. 81% claims were rejected. The result was that only 17,705 claims (19%) were accepted and 1,39,777 hectares of land was distributed.
Now when we come to Gujrat, a beneficiary of Modi's Development Model the situation is very dismal. As on 30.04.2016, under Forest Rights Act out of 1,90,097 claims only 77,038 were accepted and only a total of 11,92,351 hectares land was distributed. As such 65% of the claims were rejected and only 35% claims were accepted. That is why in Gujrat Dalits and Adivasis had to launch a Land Rights Agitation demanding 5 Acres of land to each landless family.
In the face of Mayawati's calaousness and anti-Dalit/Adivasi policy All India Peoples Front (AIPF) had to file a Public Interest Litigation PIL) in Allahabad High Court in which the Court gave an order for reprocessing of claims under Forest Rights Act but neither Mayawati nor Akhilesh Yadav government took any interest to reprocess the claims
At the national level as on 30.04.2001 out of 44,23,464 claims 38,57,379 claims were disposed off out of which only 17,44,274 claims have been accepted and 1.03,58,376 Acres land has been distributed which comes out to be about 5 Acres per claim. At the national level the rate of rejection of claims is 53.8% whereas it is 80.15% for the state of Uttar Pradesh which has been ruled by Mayawati, a Dalit and Akhlesh Yadav, a Backward Class Chief Minister. It transpires that, both Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav are responsible for the tardy implementation of Forest Rights Act in Uttar Pradesh.
From the above it becomes clear that both the Central and State governments have been careless and disinterested in the empowerment of Dalits and Adivasis through distribution of land to them. The political parties both Dalit and Non-Dalit do not want to empower Dalits and Adivasis as they want to keep them poor and dependent for using them as vote banks. U.P. is a classical example of this mentality where Mayawati, a Dalit and Mulayam Singh, a Backward Claws has been Chief Minister four times and three times respectively. All the political parties are indulging in caste and communal politics. None of them has any agenda for Land Reforms and Land Distribution to Dalits-Adivasis and other landless categories for empowering them. As we know land is a very valuable asset for Dalits and Adivasis.
Hence in the face of the complacent and unconcerned attitude of political parties towards land reforms and empowerment of Dalits and Adivasis, there is no alternative but to agitate for land rights. Dalits have a long history of agitation for land. In 1953 land agitation was launched in Marathwara area of Hyderabad state and in 1958 in Konkan area of Maharashtra under the guidance of Dr. Ambedkar. The biggest land rights agitation was carried out by Republican Party of India from 6th December, 1964 to 10th February, 1965 in which more than 3 million Dalits courted arrest. As a result of it, the then Congress government had to agree for land distribution to Dalits. “Land to the Landless" was the key slogan of this agitation. But unfortunately later on no such agitation was launched by Dalits with the result that no land was distributed and majority of the Dalits have remained landless. No doubt Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader Kanshi Ram had given the sloga "Jo Zamin Sarkaari hai vo zamin hamari hai" (All government land is ours) before coming into power but this slogan was easily forgotten once BSP got into power.
In his historical speech at Agra on 23rd March, 1956 Dr. BR Ambedkar had pointed out the importance and need of land for Dalits where he said," I am much worried for the landless labourers living in the villages. I could not do much for them. I cannot bear with their sorrows and woes. The main reason for their ruin is that they do not own land. That is why they are victims of atrocities and insults. I will struggle for them and if the government creates hurdles I will lead them and fight legal battle for them. But I will make every possible effort to get land for them." From this statement it is clear that Dr. Ambedkar knew the importance of land for empowerment of Dalits and he was prepared to take recourse to legal battle and public agitation to get it. But unfortunately he did not live long to give it a practical shape.
In the meanwhile Adivasis have been carrying out "Land Rights Movement" in different parts of the country but Dalits did not launch any such movement as a result of which no land has been distributed to them. The main agenda of Naxalbari movement was to get land to the landless. Recently a call for allotment of 5 Acres of land to Dalits in Tamilnadu, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh has been given by Dalits and Adivasis. The latest Dalit agitation of Gujrat has also demanded 5 Acres of land for landless Dalit families and land titles under Forest Rights Act for Adivasis. This movement can take the Dalits out of the cow web of identity politics which has reduced them to just vote bank for unscrupulous Dalit politicians. If this demand spreads to other states also it will give a radical agenda to Dalit movement and force the political parties to give a place to land rights in their political agenda. Hence land rights demand should be raised immediately in the states where Assembly elections are going to be held early next year. It will put all the political parties to test for their concern or lack of it for Dalit empowerment.
Real empowerment of Dalits and Adivasis is possible only through strict implementation of land reforms and giving land to them. Adivasis should be given land titles by proper implementation of Forest Rights Act. It requires a strong political will which is totally lacking at present. It is certain that no government is going to do it willingly unless Dalits and Adivasis launch a strong agitation for land allotment. The political parties like BSP which believe in easy identity politics cannot undertake land struggle on its political agenda because it shuns all types of struggle. Actually Dalit politics needs a new radical agenda covering their material issues like land distribution, poverty, unemployment and atrocities etc. All India Peoples Front (AIPF) has given a prominent place to Land Reforms and distribution of land to landless people. It had filed a Public Interest Litigation in Allahabad High Court for proper implementation of Forest Rights Act which was badly failed by Mayawati and Mulayam Singh government in U.P. The High Court had issued directives to the state government for reprocessing the land claims of Adivasis which had suffered wholesale rejection by the authorities. AIPF has again launched a struggle for proper implementation of Forest Rights Act in eastern U.P. It is going to hold a big dharna at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on 9th November demanding reprocessing of land claims of Adivasis under Forest Rights Act. All pro-people and progressive organisations are requested to come forward and join hands to compel the governments to take up Land Reforms and all the political parties to declare their agenda regarding implementation of Land Reforms and distribution of 5 Acres of land to Dalits including other landless families. Proper implementation of Forest Rights Act also needs to be reemphasised at political level.
Thursday, 29 September 2016
Monday, 26 September 2016
Sunday, 18 September 2016
Wednesday, 14 September 2016
Saturday, 10 September 2016
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE UNITY BETWEEN
COMMUNISTS AND AMBEDKARITES
A FEW days back, in a seminar organized by a section of radical students of Kolkata, one of our friends of dalit movement from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) argued that the unity between the lefts and the Ambedkarites is impossible. He put his logic bluntly: “The savarna left and the savarna right are united against the dalits. Therefore, a unity between the savarna lefts and the Ambedkarites is not possible.”
Now let us have a discussion on the subject without any kind of biasness for understanding the reality in one hand and in the course to facilitate the development of a real mass struggle against the communal fascist forces in India. In the above-mentioned seminar, organized by Hallabol, a magazine published by some radical students, there was no scope to put forward any kind of counter-argument or different observations. We just learnt, some JNU students were coming to address the seminar, who have been constantly expressing a different voice within JNU movement against the communal caste-Hindu ideology and administration. Interestingly the subject of the seminar was — “Is the Elite Left Trying to Appropriate Dalit, Adivasi and Minority Voices?” From the subject chosen by the organizers it was clear to us that somewhere it was accepted by the organizers themselves that the communist movement in India is essentially a movement by the savarna forces, which practically came in line with the statements and arguments of most of the speakers.
In this essay, it is not intended to address the particular problems of the student movement in JNU or the debates among various student organizations of dalit, conventional left or radical left, rather the point of focus is the misconception on the relation between the dalit movement and the communist movement in India. Let us start the discussion with a brief evaluation of the limitations which the communist movement has displayed in this regard.
THE LIMITATION OF COMMUNIST MOVEMENT
IT was a common phenomenon in all ages that when a revolutionary doctrine was placed before the society, even the most advanced sections of the population faced difficulties to grasp the doctrine properly. It happens because of the domination of the conservative mode of thinking in the heads of even the advanced elements in a particular society. Therefore, an attempt to understand the revolutionary doctrine within the framework of dominating mode of thinking is developed, which consequently develops a reductionist, mechanical or distorted theo-retical premise. This happened to Marxism also. This problem is not restricted in India only; rather it is a global problem. We find the same problem to be occurred in Russia also, and it was Lenin’s one of the important contributions, that he made Marxism free from the fetter of Plekhanovite Marxism.
The Indian Communist Movement (ICM) has been suffering from this disease since very beginning of its inception. The division of the party twice, in 1964 and in 1969, could not eradicate this fundamental and extremely important problem as it was not at all in the agenda. The party was divided due to the political differences without much exploration of the philosophical backgrounds. The ICM was initiated under very close supervision of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB). However, the RPD-Bradley model was not enough to help the communist movement to find its root on the Indian soil which has the history of class-caste-cultural-philosophical conflicts of more than three thousand years.
A long debate is not required to prove this fact, only it will be enough to note that the party never took any comprehensive attempt to study the Indian history and take positions on different issues related to the concrete reality of Indian situation. Some leading comrades tried to do this as his or her individual capacity and will. However, the party as a leading organization of Indian revolution never realized this as a pertinent task to understand the Indian revolution. Therefore, the task of laid down the strategies and tactics of the revolution always has been based on arbitrary speculation. In this process the importance of caste struggle and religious conflict in India were undermined, and the ‘class struggle’ became the only area to work. This is one of the most important limitations of ICM till today.Now let me try to elaborate this point succinctly.
THE HISTORICAL BLUNDER
THANKS to the Russian Narodniks, the question of peculiarities of Russian condition was raised to Marx and Engels in the second half of nineteenth century. Marx-Engels laid down the general outline of historical development of human societies. However, it was the task of the communists of a particular country to study the particular developments of the country and to formulate the strategy and tactics of the revolution based on both the general guideline and the peculiarities of the particular situation. After the publication of Capital, Vol I, the Russian Narodniks took great initiative to translate it in Russian and simultaneously they raised the question of Russian peculiarities to Marx and Engels.
It should be noted that instead of rejecting any type of so-called Russian Path, Marx-Engels gave great importance to the question. However, by this time a big controversy started to take place in Russia on the course of societal development in Russia under the general guideline put forward by Marx-Engels. The economic doctrine of the Narodniks heavily based on anti-capitalist and pro-Obshchina formulation. Obshchina was a particular type of communal system based on common ownership of land in Russia. Therefore, they put forward the question to Marx-Engels that whether it was possible for Russia to go for a communist society bypassing the capitalist stage.
On the other hand the pro-capitalist and populist intellectuals like Nikolai Mikhailovsky tried to use Marx’s writings in favor of his position. Marx and Engels gave great importance to the question and went for a profound research. However, at the beginning itself, Marx made it clear that his theory was not at all a “philosophico-historical” one. In a letter to OTECHESTVENNYE ZAPISKIin 1877 Marx rejected the standpoint of Mikhailovosky who in an effort to defend Marx by ascribing to him a unilinear theory of human history. Marx clearly said that what he said about the societal development in general and primitive accumulation in particular that was based on actual development took place in Western Europe. Then he wrote in his protest letter,
“Now what application to Russia can my critic make of this historical sketch? Only this: If Russia is tending to become a capitalist nation after the example of the Western European countries, and during the last years she has been taking a lot of trouble in this direction – she will not succeed without having first transformed a good part of her peasants into proletarians; and after that, once taken to the bosom of the capitalist regime, she will experience its pitiless laws like other profane peoples. That is all. But that is not enough for my critic. He feels himself obliged to metamorphose my historical sketch of the genesis of capitalism in Western Europe into an historico-philosophic theory of the marchegenerale [general path] imposed by fate upon every people, whatever the historic circumstances in which it finds itself, in order that it may ultimately arrive at the form of economy which will ensure, together with the greatest expansion of the productive powers of social labour, the most complete development of man. But I beg his pardon. (He is both honouring and shaming me too much.)”
This portion of the letter clearly reflects Marx’s understanding on societal develop-ment which was absolutely multilinear in nature. However, this multinear nature cannot exclude the general sketch. As a dialectician Marx knew very well the relation between general and particular and he expounded so magnificently that matter always was the unity and struggle of the opposites. However, Plekhanov emerged as a theoretician of mechanical Marxism which was based on materialism, not dialectics. It was the limitation of Plekhanov which led him to reject any other path of societal development and finally led him to the Menshevik camp. It was Lenin who, in spite of heavy Plekhanovite influences upon him in the initial years of his revolutionary career, had drawn a clear distinction in Marxist praxis in Russia and came to the conclusion that the impending bourgeois revolution in Russia would be led by the working class, not by the bourgeoisie. This conclusion changed the course of working class movement in underdeveloped countries and made the emergence of a revolutionary Russia possible.
However, the fate of the Indian Communist Movement (ICM) was not as good as Russia, or even China. Here the communist party was formed under the heavy influence of CPGB and never could come out from the mechanical Marxism propagated by them. The colonial mindset also played a huge role behind this failure. The party never tried to understand the peculiarities of the Indian situation and Indian history. The leaders always tried to copy the activities of the communists of other countries, especially the examples of the communists who became victorious in their concerned countries. Therefore, a one sided emphasis was put on class struggle. While the party successfully and magnificently took attempt organizing the industrial working class in leading industrial centers like Calcutta, Bombay, Kanpur etc, it never understood the importance of caste struggle in vast semi-urban and rural areas where class struggle actually mingled with the caste struggle from the time immemorial in India. However, since the political situation under the colonial rule was extremely hot and a persistent revolutionary situation existed, in spite of this lacuna the peasant movements developed in some areas under the leadership of the communist party. This success ultimately proved fatal for the party as the party understood that putting a sincere effort to understand other questions might not be so useful or necessary. This phenomenon repeated again and again in the history of communist movement in India. Now, when the revolutionary wave has gone down the curve and the communist movement has faced a serious setback the above mentioned lacuna has raised its head.
ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE TABLE
ON the other hand the dalit movement in India has its own history also. The stalwart leader of the dalits Baba Saheb Ambedkar founded his party in 1936 which was called Independent Labour Party. However, most of the dalit struggles in this time formed spontaneously. The ILP called itself a “working class party”. However, the relation between the Communist Party and ILP was not very smooth. Although in some struggles they joined hands, the CPI and its leaders saw Ambedkar and his party as a disruptive force hindering the unity of the working class. On the other hand Ambedkar started to base himself more and more erroneous and problematic theorizations. In his work Who were the Shudras?, Ambedkar rejected the theory of Aryan invasion. Instead, he put forward the theory that the Aryans were inhabitants of India itself. More problematic was his assertion that the caste annihilation movement was more important than the freedom struggle against the colonial rule.
While the Hindu leadership of the freedom movement was in a contradictory position with Ambedkar in case of social reforms and the CPI never paid appropriate attention to the importance of caste struggles, Ambedkar started to go further to a position to belittle the importance of freedom movement. He criticized the politically minded Hindus in the preface of the Book — Who were the Shudras? — by saying, “As to the politically-minded Hindu, he need not be taken seriously. His line of approach is generally governed by a short-term view more than by long-range considerations. He is willing to follow the line of least resistance and postpone a matter, however urgent, if it is likely to make him unpopular. It is therefore quite natural if the politically minded Hindu regards this book as nuisance.”
This is a curiously important fact in the history of socio-political struggles in India in nineteenth century that those who tried to fight the Hindu fundamentalism invariably did not hesitate to take the help of British colonialists. It was a fact in the renaissance movement in Bengal at that time and in dalit movement in the southern parts of the country, as well. On the other hand the anti-colonialists revolutionaries, mostly coming from so called upper castes Hindu families, tried to find ideological inspiration from Hindu religious ideology. It was true for famous Lal-Bal-Pal trio, who resolutely fought for full freedom of the country from the stranglehold of the colonialists, inside the Congress which was reluctant for a long time to raise the slogan of complete freedom. It was also true for many more Indian revolutionaries.
However, the situation started to change in twentieth century. Even the most firm defenders of British rule among the Indian intellectuals were becoming disillusioned. Therefore, an amalgamation of anti-Hindu fundamentalism and anti-colonialism started to take place, which actually made the emergence of Indian Communist Movement possible. The emergence of a true anti-feudal anti-colonial struggle was taking place. Although ICM had a lot of limitations which we have already noted, but after all this was the only movement which had this capacity to develop a truly democratic movement in India. This is absolutely true in today’s perspective also.
However, the most problematic part of Ambedkar was that while in twentieth century almost all the struggling intelligentsia started to take more and more anti-colonialist position and started to consider the anti-British political struggle as the primary struggle in the country at that time, Ambedkar dragged the nineteenth century notion to twentieth century as well, as he continued to consider the anti-Brahmanical struggle as the primary struggle. In this way his position became equal with that of his most resolute opponent. The ideologues of Hindu revivalism had the same opinion. They considered the struggle to revive the Advaita Vedanta as a tool to promote Hindu fundamentalism as the main concern and shun the freedom struggle. It was true from Vivekananda to Hedgewar.
The ideological problems in both the camps, the Communists and the Ambedkarites, finally led to a catastrophe which hindered the democratic revolution in India to reach its goal.
WHAT IS TO BE DONE?
THIS is undoubtedly true that the Communists have the larger responsibility to bridge the gap. It is not due to the fact that they committed any larger mistake. Both the camps have committed unpardonable mistakes. But the communists have larger responsibility only for the simple reason that they are the leader of Indian revolution as they call themselves the vanguard force of Indian people. The uniliniar mechanical ee understanding of Marxism should be rejected. The history of India and its peculiarities should be studied thoroughly and must be built proper connection with today’s strategy and tactics. In this way the connection between class struggle and other struggles can be built. More correctly we can say that if other struggles cannot be properly taken care and linked with the political struggle, the true class struggle is impossible to develop. At the same time it is also very important to criticize the erroneous tendencies inside the Ambedkarite movements. The unity between the communists and the Ambedkarites is not only important to resist the communal fascism in India, but to complete the democratic revolution as a whole.
Courtesy: RED STAR , September, 2016
Tuesday, 30 August 2016
Dalit Uprising and After
Why Hindutva Would Not Be the Same Again
When I was born I was not a child
I was a dream, a dream of revolt
that my mother, oppressed for thousands of years ,
Still it is untouched in my eyes
Covered with wrinkles of thousand years, her face
her eyes, two lakes overflowing with tears
have watered my body.....
- Sahil Parmar*
Well known Gujarati poet Sahil Parmar's poem 'When I Was Born' perhaps reverberates these days in Gujarat when we are witnessing a Dalit Upsurge- a first of its kind at least in that regions history. It will be a talk of folklore for times to come how flogging of dalits in a village in Saurashtra by Hindutva fanatics suddenly erupted into a mass movement of dalits which could catch imagination of the people cutting across different sections of society. An attempt is being made here to understand the dynamics of the movement and its likely impact on the future trajectory of Hindutva.
Love Cows, Hate Human Beings ?
There are moments in the trajectory of any authoritarian/fascist/right wing project where one of its closely guarded secrets suddenly tumbles out in the open and then it becomes difficult for it to fix it. The Hindutva brigade today finds itself in a similar situation - thanks to the dalit upsurge in Gujarat which is still unfolding before our eyes.
The historic march to Una town of Saurashtra region- under the banner of Una Atyachar Ladat Samiti might be over ; thousands and thousands of dalits who had gathered there from different parts of the state and outside might have returned home but their resolve not to undertake the despicable caste practice of manual scavenging and disposing of cattle carcasses still reverberates all over the state. And their demand before the state government that within next one month - by 15 th of September - it starts distributing five acres of land to each rural dalit family for rehabilitation is reaching far and wide and gathering fresh support.
None from the Hindutva fraternity had ever imagined that in their so called 'model state' itself , they would be faced with such a challenge which would put their carefully crafted pan Hindu social coalition to test. It was beyond their comprehension that dalits - the most downtrodden section in the Varna hierarchy - who had been slowly roped in down the years in the Hindutva politics and a section amongst them had also become a party to the anti-minority violence in 2002, would one fine morning turn their backs on them and would readily join hands with the 'other' demanding a life of human dignity and putting in jeopardy the very raison detre of the project.
And as can be expected in such a situation, they literally floundered when they were asked to react to this uprising. The multiple voices which emerged from the broader 'Parivar' were an indication of their confusion.
No doubt talking in multiple tongues has always been part of their overall strategy but this time it also demonstrated disorientation in their own ranks. The moot question became whether to uphold the perpetrators - who were following the script - or support the victims. And thus one found the Prime Minister exposing majority of the cow vigilantes as being anti social elements and asking the home department to prepare a dossier about them and another significant leader of the same 'family' denouncing such characterisation as being 'anti-Hindu'. The confusion was understandable. In fact, it was for the first time in recent times that Hindutva Supremacists are discovering that the more they push one of their key agenda centering around cow politics - which has served them well till date - the more there is possibility that their dream of Hindu Unity would see further fissures. ( Vidya Subrahmaniam describes it as 'A reverse Ram Mandir Moment' in her article on present situation in UP.http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/its-mayawati-versus-modi-in-up/article9022511.ece? ref=topnavwidget&utm_source=topnavdd&utm_medium=topnavdropdownwidget&utm_campaign=topnavdropdown) Apart from Dalits, who have come under increasing attack at the hands of overzealous 'cow protectors' and are slowly turning against the 'Parivar' itself , large section of peasant population is peeved over the fact that politics around cow has made their life miserable as they are not able to do away with cattle who have become old or have stopped producing milk. One of the couplets by Saint Tulsidas captures Hindutva's plight beautifully 'Bhayal Gati Saap Chachunder Jaisi..'.
“Rashtravadi toh hamare saath hain, humein Dalit aur pichchde ko saath lana hai.”
Everybody knows that there was nothing 'unusual' - as far as depradations unleashed by Hindutva fanatics under the name of cow protection were concerned - about what happened to dalits from Mota Samadhiyala village when they were skinning a dead cow.
One can recollect that such attacks were common even in those days when BJP did not have majority of its own at the centre. A classic example has been killing of five dalits in Dulina (Jhajjar ) - hardly fifty kilometres away from the national capital - who were similarly skinning dead cows, by a cow vigilante mob (2003) before Dulina police station itself with leading officers of the police and administration remaining mute witnesses. A leading Hindutva leader ( dead sometime back) even 'justified' the killings by citing reference to ancient Hindu sciptures claiming that in 'Puranas cows were more valued than human beings'. The killings definitely led to an outrage, there were few symbolic arrests as well but the commotion died down soon and in fact the perpetrators of this massacre were decorated as 'cow protectors'.
In fact, most such earlier attacks in recent times had been rather more brutal. To name a few, lynching of two young men near Latehar after their brutal torture near Latehar, Jharkhand by cow vigilantes ; killing an adolescent near Udhampur who was sleeping in truck by throwing petrol bomb under the suspicion that the truck was carrying beef ; near riot like situation which emerged in Palwal, Haryana because of cow vigilantes attack on a truck carrying meat or the way two transporters were fed cow dung laced with urine when they were found transporting cattles for sale near Gurgaon. Scan the internet to watch the 'valour' of these fanatics and you will find scores of such criminal attacks on innocents. Videos after videos are available which show how these self proclaimed cow protectors brutalised people for carrying cows from one place to other or because of suspicion that they were carrying beef and how their has been no action against them from the law and order people.
But thrashing of Dalits from Mota Samadhiyala village by cow vigilantes, uploading the video of their 'valour' on social media has proved to be a turning point.
Anybody can see that the Dalit Uprising which the Una incident has triggered has inadvertently or so unearthed the 'well guarded secret' behind this exclucivist project - where it is clear even to a layperson now that for Hindutva, dalits or other marginalised are lesser human beings or the 'other', whatever might be its claims about the great samrasta it upholds. There is a growing realisation that the formal posturing of Hindutva politics, where it is presented /understood in the form of religious imaginaries where 'minorities- may be Muslim or Christian - are portrayed as the 'other' is one thing but essentially the whole idea of Hindu Rashtra is an attempt to further legitimise the Brahminical project of hegemonising and homogenising of Indian society where secondary position of Dalits has received religious sanction also. An inkling of how they view Dalits and the backwards - when they are talking among themselves - can be had from the recent comments by PM Modi when he spoke at length at a meeting which was attended by 400 top leaders of the BJP, at the end of the15 day patriotism drive. Newspaper reports tell us that he called on his party to continue playing Nationalism card which is 'central to the BJP's ideology.' Perhaps the most telling comment made by him was the following : “Rashtravadi toh hamare saath hain, humein Dalit aur pichchde ko saath lana hai.” The nationalists are with us, we need to bring Dalits and backward groups." (http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/nationalists-are-with-us-lets-reach-out-to-dalits-backwards-pm-modi-to-party-2993281/)
Was it just slip of tongue or an admission of the truth that for Hindutva non-backwards, non-dalits i.e. upper castes have sole claim over nation and dalits as well as backwards to be outside its purview who need to be brought closer. (http://scroll.in/article/814769/the-daily-fix-what-did-modi-mean-when-he-said-there-is-a-chasm-between-dalits-and-nationalists)
Perhaps a marker of their continuing indifference or disdain towards the plight of the dalits ( forget those bollywood type dialogues where it was declared that 'Shoot Me but Do Not Shoot My Dalit Brothers') could also be gauged from the fact that when the Dalit Upsurge was at its peak in the state, the provocative statement by one of their own MLAs from Telangana who 'justified' the beatings and uploaded a video on facebook did not prompt them to take any action. His words were “Jo Dalit gaye ke maas ko le ja raha tha, jo uski pitai hui hai, woh bohut hi achhi hui hai [Those Dalits who were taking the cow, the cow meat, those who were beaten, it was a very good thing to happen],”(http://scroll.in/latest/812903/anyone-who-kills-cows-deserves-to-be-beaten-says-bjp-mla-raja-singh).
Unpacking the Gujarat Model !
Recently Jignesh Mewani, convener of the 'Una Dalit Atyachar Ladat Samiti' which is spearheading this upsurge was in the capital to communicate the message of the movement to a broader audience and also garner support for the Rail Roko programme organised by the front from 15 th Septemember. He underlined the resolve of the dalits that they are firm in their decision not to clean up other people's dirt, nor to lift carcasses of dead cattle. He told the audience how twenty thousand dalits had gathered in their rally in Ahmedabad and have taken a oath not to undertake any such profession which they have been condemned to do because of Varna hierarchy and are further stigmatised because of that. In a tongue in cheek comment he added
"We (Dalits) are not going to clean up people's dirt any more. Modiji, now you are welcome to experience the spirituality that is supposed to be there in scavenging."
Jignesh - who is an advocate and an activist - was referring to Karmayog, a collection of Modi's speeches to trainee IAS officers, brought out by a Gujarat PSU, in which he had said that scavenging was an "experience in spirituality" for the Valmikis (a sub-caste of Dalits). (See : https://kafila.org/2014/02/12/modi-and-the-art-of-disappearing-of-untouchability/)
Explaining the genesis of the movement and why the flogging incident of Dalits by self proclaimed cow vigilantes affiliated to a Hindutva organisation triggered the uprising he shared details of the lives of deprivation and discrimination and atrocities faced by Dalits under the much talked about Gujarat Model. According to him
- there are yearly thousands of cases of atrocities against Dalits every year
- atrocities continued to rise during Mr Modi's chief ministership which lasted for 13 years
- there are more than 55,000 dalits who are still engaged in the work of scavenging
- 1 lakh sanitation workers who are still not getting minimum wages
- dalits in 119 villages in Gujarat are living under police protection
- rate of conviction in cases of Dalit atrocities is merely three per cent.
According to him glaring example of denial of justice to Dalits has been the killing of three Dalits by the police with 'AK 47 rifles as if they were terrorists' in Thangarh in Gujarat in the year 2012 and despite the fact that more than a lakh Dalits demonstrated against these killings there was no action by the government against the accused police personnel.( As we go to the press one hears that Gujarat government has announced an SIT to look into the killings and has also raised compensation for affected families).
When someone in the audience posed a question about availability of land in the state, Jignesh shared figures about availability of land under various schemes and how dominant castes/classes have been in actual possession of such land meant for the exploited and the marginalised. According to him thousands of acres of land with the state which the it got during Bhudan aandolan has also not been distributed. He also shared lesser known provision about SC-ST sub plan which talks about 'purchase of land for its distribution to the landless' in case of its unavailability. His simple poser which struck a deep chord with the audience was that 'if under the name of Development the state can allocate thousands of acres of land at throwaway prices to the Ambanis, Adanis and the Tatas why dalits should be denied their rightful due.' He also explained how the recent changes undertaken by the state government under the land acquisition act have many 'draconian' provisions inherent in it where the 'consent' clause has been deleted - means if the government wishes to hand over land to the corporates for 'development' work, then it can simply take over the peasant's land supposedly for 'public goods', offer some symbolic compensation and need not seek her/his consent.
To the poser that if Dalits leave their 'traditional profession' which grants them some sort of 'economic security' he quoted Ambedkar who had asked his followers during the historic Mahad Satyagrah (1927) that they should get ready to 'die of hunger' to live a life of dignity but should never undertake such stigmatised professions.
Gujarat Model: Dalit, tribal, OBC landless denied surplus land, Patels “received” 12 lakh acres
Fresh facts have come to light suggesting that, in Gujarat, there has been extremely questionable progress in the allocation of surplus land to the landless, acquired from big landlords under the Gujarat Agricultural Land Ceiling Act, 1960. Based on RTI applications, the district registrar of land records, Junagadh, has admitted that out of 11 of 16 villages for which information was sought, “no survey of surplus land has taken place” for the last 24 years, hence there was no allocation.
In another instance, in Navsari district, Gujarat government declared that between 2006 and 2008, while Modi ruled the state, it had “allocated” land to 7,542 landless beneficiaries, but a year later, it admitted the land titles were yet to be given to 3,616 beneficiaries. “However, now, on the basis of an RTI reply, we know that things have not changed even in 2015.
In an article published in “Dalit Adhikar”, a Gujarati periodical, Jignesh Mewani says, “Information with us suggests that the Gujarat government, in all, acquired 163,808 acres land under the Gujarat Agricultural Land Ceiling Act, 1960, and we feel most of it has been allocated to the landless only on paper. The landless, mainly Dalits, tribals and belonging to the other backward classes (OBCs), haven’t yet got actual possession of land.”
Mewani says, “Chief beneficiaries of the land-to-the-tiller policy have been upper caste Patels. About 55,000 Patels were allocated 12 lakh acres of land declared, mainly in Saurashtra and Kutch regions of Gujarat. But as for Dalit landless agriculturists, they have received not even 12 inches of land. Only a very small section, which is very close to the powers-that-be, has gained.”
According to Mewani, “Let us give a sample of the Gujarat government’s good governance: We made in all 65 RTI applications between 2011 and 2015 to find out facts about allocation of just 6,500 acres of land in different villages. Yet, officials are refusing to give copies of land titles which may show that land has been actually handed to the beneficiaries.”
Associated with Jan Sangharsh Manch, a Gujarat-based human rights organisation, Mewani says, “Of the 163,808 acres of surplus land, 70,000 acres of land is under dispute with the revenue tribunal, Gujarat High Court and the Supreme Court. While this land may not be allocated, there is a need to answer as to why the rest of the land, too, remains unallocated.”
In fact, says Mewani, there are 15,519 acres of surplus land, on which there is “no dispute” at all, yet the Gujarat government is “refusing to act,” ..
Jignesh's claims about continuous denial of justice to Dalits or the great hiatus which exists between claims by the government and the actual situation on the ground is a fact which even earlier reports by NHRC have admitted.A cursory glance at its 2009 report had declared that Gujarat accounted for 3,813 complaints of human rights violation of the total of 94,559 cases from across the country, which was less than only Uttar Pradesh and Delhi. (Indian Express, 20 th March 2009).
A 23 page confidential report submitted by the state Social Justice Department to the State Chief Secretary and legal departments provides glaring examples of ‘mishandling of cases registered under Prevention of Atrocities Act against SC/ST. (Express, Sep 15, 2006). The rate of of conviction of cases under the Prevention of Atrocity Act against SC/ST in Gujarat is mere 2.5 per cent while rate of acquittal is 97.5 per cent.
The report provides details of how cases are not investigated properly by the police and the hostile role played by public prosecutors during time of trials.
– Act clearly stipulates that offence which are registered under this act cannot be investigated by an officer below the rank of DySP but more than 4,000 such cases have been investigated by Police Inspector or Police Sub Inspector.
– Acquittal of the perpetrator because victim not identified as member of SC or ST community. Reason, not attaching caste certificate of the victim with the case papers
– Public prosecutors false claims before the courts that act has been modified by the state government altough it is known that it is a central act
– Granting of anticipatory bails although there is no such provision in the act. Interestingly the Parliamentary Committee on SC and ST affairs had also expressed concern over such anticipatory bails granted ‘in atrocity cases in the state of Gujarat’.
In fact a detailed and systematic study of 400 judgements done by Vajibhai Patel, Secretary of Council for Social Justice (March 2005, Year 11, No.106, http://www.sabrang.com) had compelled the government to work on this 23 page report. It tells us that utterly negligent police investigation at both the higher and lower levels coupled with a distinctly hostile role played by the public prosecutors is the main reason for the collapse of cases filed under the atrocities act. It is worth noting that he has meticulously documented these judgements delivered under this act since April 1, 1995 in the Special Atrocity Courts set up in 16 districts of the state. The study also blasts the common perception is that the inefficacy of this law is due to false complaints being lodged or compromises between the parties, in actuality it is a complicit State that has rendered the Act toothless.
'Keep Cow's Tail With You, And Give Us Our Land'
..on March 20, 1927, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar led the Mahad satyagraha – for drinking water from the Chavdar tank at Mahad. This was the “foundational struggle” of the dalit movement, a movement for water – and for caste annihilation.
In his statement at the time, Dr. Ambedkar put the movement in the broadest possible context. Why do we fight, he asked. It is not simply for drinking water; drinking the water will not give us very much. It is not even a matter of only of our human rights, though we fight to establish the right to drink water. But our goal is no less than that of the French Revolution. ..
And so dalits went to drink the water at Mahad. They were met with ferocious repression: at attack by caste Hindus followed. The dalits retreated, came back several months later on December 25 for a renewed struggle, and since the collector had given an injunction against any further attempt, Ambedkar decided to honor this and instead burned the Manusmriti. A fitting climax to the first battle of dalit liberation!
Dalit Uprising in Gujarat and the manner in which it has rattled the state government and has severly impacted the BJP's well laid out plans to consolidate its support base among Dalits has been a whiff of fresh air for every peace and justice loving person in this part of Asia.
What has caught imagination of the people is the key slogan of the movement which says 'Keep Cow's Tail With You, And Give Us Our Land'. It is a single slogan which encapsulates question of caste discrimination as well as communalism and puts forward a positive demand to fight material deprivation - which has been an integral part of the sanctified hierarchy of caste.
The emphasis of the movement that Dalits leave the 'stigmatised professions' - which has condemned them to be the lowest position on Varna/Caste hierarchy - and wholehearted participation of thousands and thousands of Dalits in it , the militancy it has added to the Dalit movement has broken a new ground in the dalit movement.
No doubt that there was lot of spontaniety in the movement but the way it moved ahead and has added new edge to dalit assertion could not have been imagined without the young leadership which took charge. Their inclusive approach also helped them rope in activists of other organisations or attract many such people who are opposed to or uncomfortable with Hindutva politics on a common agenda of . Inclusiveness of the movement was also evident in the fact that Muslims - who have been put in very miserable condition post 2002 carnage - also joined the Azaadi Kooch to Una. Many welcomed it on the way in large numbers and also travelled to Una in their hundreds for the 15 th August independence day rally held there.
A less discussed aspect of this upsurge is the fact that dalits are merely seven per cent of the state's population and have not had a long history of militant movement but despite these limitations the impact of the movement has been phenomenal. Not only it compelled the BJP to change its Chief Minister for mishandling the movement but it also disturbed its dalits outreach plans elsewhere.
Remember barring the historic struggle led by Dadasaheb Gaikwad - a close Comrade of Dr Ambedkar - in late 50s in Maharashtra where issue of land was highlighted, rare have been the occasions in post independence times that issue of material deprivation of dalits was creately integrated with socio-cultural discrimination and political marginaliation.Una has changed the picture. It has also raised many unheard of slogans in the dalit movement. 'Dalits of the World Unite', 'Workers of the World Unite' or 'Jai Bhim', 'Lal Salam' and Jai Savitribai'. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jqgA75o5PE)
Analysts have rightly put it that dalit movement in recent times has largely remained limited/focussed on what can be called issue of 'Identity/Asmita' but Una marks a new beginning where issue of 'existence/astitva' has also come to the fore. Possibly gone are the days when 'victimhood' was highlighted or rhetoric of 'Brahminism down-down' was repeated ad nauseum and a careful silence was maintained about economic issues. As a revolutionary activist shared in his email '[a]n important thing to note is that the Una Struggle can also be seen as part of a continuum where social movements connects itself with anti-systemic struggles.'
Definitely the Una struggle which has sent shivers down the spine of the Hindutva Supremacists cannot be seen in isolation. It is rather a continuation of growing dalit assertion against Hindutva depradations especially after the ascendance of Modi led regime at the centre. The realisation has slowly sunk in that not only it wants to attack affirmative action programmes but its economic policies - coupled with its regressive sociocultural agenda - are bringing ruin to the dalits and other marginalised sections of society. It is becoming more and more clear to them that the people in power want a docile/pliable dalit polity which can dance to their tunes. They want Ambedkar but not the real one but his sanitised version. How much they are scared about real Ambedkar and his ideas can be learnt from a decision of the Anandi Patel led government. It literally dumped four lakh copies of Ambedkar's biography which it had printed for massive distribution as the author of the book had also included 22 vows which Ambedkar recited with his followers at the time of conversion to Buddhism.
And this realisation has given rise to a tremendous reaction. Ranging from the successful campaign against derecognition of Ambekdar Periyar Study Circle active in Chennai IIT by the management (https://kafila.org/2015/06/05/no-to-ambedkar-periyar-in-modern-day-agraharam/), or countrywide movement - where students and youth were in the forefront - after the 'institutional murder of Rohith Vemula' (https://kafila.org/2016/01/22/long-live-the-legacy-of-comrade-vemula-rohith-chakravarthy-statement-by-new-socialist-initiative-nsi/), or the massive mass mobilisation against demolition of Ambedkar Bhavan in Mumbai by the BJP led government or the 'Zameen Prapti Movement' in Punjab led by revolutionary left where Dalits have come together to form collectives etc, one can easily see that such assertion is increasing in its intensity and militancy.
..In Punjab, the share of the Dalits in the 1,58,000 acres of Panchayat land is 52,667 acres. There are also legal entitlements for them in the Nazool Lands. However, the actual possession of these lands has remained with the landlords and rich peasants. As per the agricultural census 2010-11, the SCs in Punjab, who are a third of its population, owned just 6.02% of the land holdings and 3.2%of the land area of the state. Of these operational holdings also a large proportion (nearly 85%) are said to be unviable due to the small size of less than 5 hectares.
Since 2014, the Dalit peasantry organized under the banner of ZPSC (Zameen Prapti Sangharsh Samiti) and holding its red flag with the blazing sun firmly aloft, has begun to assert their claim over what is rightfully theirs. These lands used to be auctioned to dummy candidates of landlords; a gaushala in Sangrur district has been given land for 30years at the rate of Rs 7000 an acre by the Akali-BJP Govt. of the state where as the price for Dalits is over Rs 20,000an acre. This spreading struggle in districts of South Punjab has been met with police and landlord repression , false FIRs against ‘unknowns’ but the struggle rages on like a spreading blaze.
If the unexpected shift of a section of Dalit masses - for various reasons - towards BJP was an important factor in its ascent to power in the year 2014, this growing assertion of dalits is a proof that they cannot be hoodwinked anymore. With the real agenda of these Hindutva Supremacists out in the open - which is witnessed not only in its attacks on right to life and right to livelihood of every exploited and marginalised section but also in its hurry to co-opt Ambedkar but bulldoze every element of dalit assertion - the battlelines have been finally drawn.
And the unfolding Dalit Uprising has added new lustre to it.
(Note - *translated from original Gujarati by G K Vankar, http://roundtableindia.co.in/lit-blogs/?tag=sahil-parmar)