30/06/09

a cure for that madness

“She is spending Rs 1000 crore on establishing statues of elephants and herself. Can there be something more shameful than this in Indian politics,” he asked.

“Of what use will be the statues in UP. The Rs 1000 crore could have helped wipe out poverty of thousands of people, provide basic amenities and education,” he said, addressing a meeting to thank voters of his constituency Sivaganga last night.

this from the leader of a party which has named universities, museums, planetariums, zoos, sanctuaries, sanatoriums, hospitals, art galleries, theatres, dams, power projects, schools, colleges, awards, streets, highways, bridges, poverty alleviation schemes, employment schemes, farmer support schemes, housing schemes, health schemes, loan schemes, airports, railway stations, bus stations, sanitation schemes, social security schemes, industrial townships, parks, elephants and tigers and other faunae, educational scholarships and fellowships, research grants, stadia, gyms, traffic junctions, office buildings etc after members of one family. with public money. apart from encouraging all kinds of congressmen, once-congressmen, also-congressmen, never-congressmen and all kinds of other slobbering enthusiasts to further spread the disease across the land, christening every kind of recognizable public nook, cranny and wilderness in the country after members of the same family.. pockmarking it with likenesses in stone, cement, plaster, metal..of that holy trinity. with money mostly stolen from the public.

i might not agree with mayawati's method, but she is desperately trying to find a cure for that madness, which is itself a new variant of an ancient plague, i think.

12 comments:

SS said...

Kuffir:

I dislike both the ancient plague and its new variants. Still:

Building statues and naming something – are they comparable in terms of money spent?

Statues of yourself versus statues of your party leaders (usually dead) – comparable?

Being upper caste doesn’t automatically mean you’ve no right to say certain things and being dalit doesn’t automatically mean whatever you do is justified.
Ad Hominem?

noni said...

valid point....

a family everywhere...its like erasing others from history who are involved in 1957 or 1947...

anu said...

Kuffir,

I don’t understand statues of any kind, Ambedkar’s included, nor would he, but the reaction to a madness is less likely the reason, it is the consistent refusal to recognize the dalits ‘erasing of history’ as Noni puts it, All the same I personally find it counter productive. However, I am thrilled that this (Mayawathi’s actions) has been questioned relentlessly by the dalits –the poor who did not vote, as well as the others. A number of articles questioning her practice have been from dalit activists and intellectuals.

This indicates to me that dalits/poor are likely to reject ‘iconization’, that in a way maybe the beginning to break the madness.

Why don’t the upper caste question this? Why would they? Democracy is a name that is superficially pasted on aristocracy. And which king or little fief can resist a little honor to himself and his progeny? The subjects are indulgent, for they might get a similar turn. Walk into any university, or research center, each department will have an icon, however ridiculous and pointless his/her achievements maybe, the name will be worshipfully whispered and 10 years down the lane, there will be a baby department/centre with his/her name. Check out the kingdoms of CNR, Swaminathan et al. This becomes totally freakish when the universities are smaller and the academic gods even smaller – It is total madness indeed, when academics who should be the first to question and reject such crap also indulge in it unabashedly.

Anyway, sad as it is, I enjoyed the flow of words in this post. Thanks :)

kuffir said...

ss,

'Being upper caste doesn’t automatically mean you’ve no right to say certain things..'

yes, that's exactly what it means. you can be an indian, a secular identity, and criticize mayawati but you can't be 'upper caste' or, in other words, practise caste (which automatically means you claim a place in the top echelons of society)and criticize people lower down for practising 'discrimination' or misusing power which, logically speaking, they can't. not in a society which acknowledges the practice of caste, which obviously means there is ordering or hierarchy (and separation).

let me put it in another way: in indian society, there are dalits because there are upper castes and not
a) there are dalits *and* upper castes or
b) there are upper castes *because* there are dalits.

if there were no upper castes, there would be no dalits.

'Statues of yourself versus statues of your party leaders (usually dead) – comparable? '

no they're not. which means you're making the same mistake as mayawati by comparing them.

some of mayawati's defenders in the media have tried to see in mayawati's statue building exercise an attempt to claim some public space for dalit icons..

but mere statues can't became an entire space, just as milestones can't become highways. the new variant of the ancient plague, caste, cloaks itself in seemingly secular garb to practise the same old ideals- from iits (superior elite education versus democratic mass education) to jnanpith (high culture and literature versus folk art and cultures)awards, all the institutions built by the nationalist parties until now foster hierarchies. or caste. even in the field of development, i've often tried to point out how the much promoted large dams cater to very few sections of indian society. in the building of the economy, how the nationalist parties have invested in public provisioning of the private needs of the upper classes of india- their jobs, their transport, their credit needs etc.,

the institutions that were built in the name of nehru-gandhis went beyond mere names- they breathed new life into brahminical ideals. even critics like kancha ilaiah and others haven't come up with a full critique of this ideology.

mayawati, by mistaking hollow icons for full spaces, has launched only a weak attack on this thriving virus. and even on the level of statues- can we really compare millions with a few?

'Ad Hominem?'

no. i was talking of a party, an institution built by the upper castes of india, which practises caste. that is, it believes in non-democratic ideals like hierarchy, of which authoritarian leaders are a sure sign, etc.,

noni,

yes, erasing is as important as projecting.

kuffir said...

anu,

'but the reaction to a madness is less likely the reason, it is the consistent refusal to recognize the dalits ‘erasing of history’ as Noni puts it...'

i didn't say reaction, i said 'cure'. and the pursuit of a cure for the madness (of monopolising public space, or memory or history complements the hogging of resources, power etc., or simply, caste) is a shared goal among dalit bahujans who seek equal space everywhere- me and mayawati included. i feel it is a historical necessity. this blog itself represents, in a very, very minuscule fashion, such an effort. i don't differ with mayawati on her goal, as i've pointed out clearly in my post (last line). i said i'm not sure about her method at this moment.

SS said...

Kuffir:

Thank you for the response; much obliged.

I agree that there are Dalits because there are upper castes. But it does not follow from this that the validity of your argument depends solely on your caste. My comment was not really about Chidambaram's caste but about the way your argument referenced it, i.e., because he’s upper caste his argument is invalid.

Perhaps a naïve was of looking at things, but, no matter how eloquently you put it,

universities, museums, planetariums, zoos, sanctuaries, sanatoriums, hospitals, art galleries, theatres, dams, power projects, schools, colleges, awards, streets, highways, bridges, poverty alleviation schemes, employment schemes, farmer support schemes, housing schemes, health schemes, loan schemes, airports, railway stations, bus stations, sanitation schemes, social security schemes, industrial townships, parks, educational scholarships and fellowships, research grants, stadia, gyms, traffic junctions, office buildings etc

are institutions of public good, irrespective of who they are named after and irrespective of the caste of the person responsible for setting them up. Let Mayawati set up these and name all of them after her; and erect her statues in front of them as well. No one will grudge her them, especially not those people whom she claims to represent. Are they served in any way by her statues? I agree that some of these institutes are modern agrahaaras (IITs, IIMs central universities). But if you’re going to tell me roads and traffic junctions and poverty alleviation schemes stand discredited because of the names they carry . . .

Iconisizing, whether it’s Madame Tussauds or the totem in a tribal village, is a human trait, whether or not intellectuals approve of it. Every political party will indulge in it, and Mayawati is no exception. (They are not in the business out of the goodness of their hearts, kadhaa?!) But Mayawati seems to forget that she is a political leader and that iconcizing has to (at least seen to) be earned, not assumed. If Mayawati wants to claim her space in history, let her. She is no different from upper caste leaders in this.

I am willing to see Mayawati’s statue-frenzy as a symbolic act. But are you willing to see that she and Chidambaram are on the same side of the power divide? Let her build a school/university/IIT for Dalit children and put up statues of herself in every blessed room. But no. She believes that she needs do none of this, that she deserves to be worshipped MERELY BECAUSE SHE IS MAYAWATI. That is a far worse insult to her people than . . . need I say this? Gross and unjustifiable, no matter what charitable, intellectual, or politically correct argument you use. And this is the truth no matter who says it, no matter who does it.

Mayawati has not proved to be any different from the upper caste parties. Nor is she averse to aligning with them. Remember how she offered her support to the UPA govt?

Also, Kuffir, perhaps you have a better understanding of these things, but I think that we in India have our own definition of secularism. It does not mean 'casteless', but an acceptance of all castes. For many Dalits, their struggle is not about rejecting their caste but of asserting it and claiming respect for it. Dr. Ambedkar was perhaps the only man who believed in the annihilation of caste. And I have no doubt that he would have been a very sad man if he’d lived to see Mayawati.

I doubt very much that a disease can be cured by more of the disease.

I appreciate your view although I don't agree with it. And thank you for the space to air mine.

anu said...

Kuffir,

the immune systems 'reaction' to a pathogen is the beginning of the cure.....

This was on my mind when I commented, that it may not be the primary or initial reason, agree with the rest, i too have no idea what is the best way to seek equal space and resources, I did read Badri Narayans 'Women heroes and dalit assertion' i understand the historical necessity part, but find it a drain on energies when the few who have got negotiation space build statues, it feels like squandering of the minuscule power that was within her grasp.

I am not in the least bit interested in a tit for tat behavior pattern, the dalits seeking change is not just to balance the economics, it also aspires for a way living that is morally grounded and repeating the grossness of the upper caste behavior is a big no for me.

Gandhi Cap said...

Just wait for a couple of more years and Mayavathi will be history. The Bahunaj formula is now decimated. The Bahujan + Sarvajan formula much more so. Tyag Mata Sonia Gandhiji and Krantiveer Yuva nayak Rahul Gandhiji have already started roping in the Dalits into the congress fold. The OBC's are going to abandon SP for congress. Why would any one support a dead horse. Muslims have no option but to support congress else congress will unleash the monster of Hindutva through BJP. No prizes for guessing whom the upper caste fellows will vote - the congress of course.
The only hope for Mayavathi is a resurgent Hindutva and a fractured mandate. That's not going to happen since the Nuke deal is already signed and there are bigger forces in play. Its going to be goodbye to Mayavathi pretty soon.

kuffir said...

ss,

please don't thank me for responding- i felt it important that i clarify my views on certain issues that you've raised.

'but I think that we in India have our own definition of secularism. It does not mean 'casteless', but an acceptance of all castes. For many Dalits, their struggle is not about rejecting their caste but of asserting it and claiming respect for it. Dr. Ambedkar was perhaps the only man who believed in the annihilation of caste.'

underlying your view is the presumption that there can be parity across castes. there'd be parity across castes only when there are no castes- caste means the separation of the community into groups, assigning them ranks and dividing privileges and responsibilities among them. why would anyone at the top give up privileges or accept all other castes as 'equals'which is actually the same thing?

if 'an acceptance of all castes', as you say, was possible, there'd be more or less equal division of power, resources and opportunities among all castes. parity, in other words. do you see it now?

the interpretation of secularism in india was redefined as 'acceptance of all religions'. there was no such common understanding on the question of caste- the poona pact was reached only when the separateness of dalits, even if nominally, was accepted..and gradual elimination of caste was among the assurances given by the hindu congress leaders. if elimination of caste was never a goal of the indian state, and if all castes (, or their separateness,is to be accepted- then there is no alternative for all castes who are now underrepresented (which means the majority of them as it turns out now after sixty odd years of democracy), in all fields, but to ask for separate constituencies of their own. and proportionate shares in govt jobs, educational institutions etc..

is that what you mean by 'acceptance of all castes'?

SS said...

Kuffir:

Yes, indeed, secularism in India is redefined as “acceptance of all religions” & yes, no understanding has ever been reached on caste.

But let me clarify my use of the phrase ‘acceptance of castes’. It was in response to the following in your comment:

you can be an indian, a secular identity, . . . but you can't be 'upper caste' or, in other words, practise caste . . . . and criticize people lower down … etc.

If I understood your comment correctly, you seemed to view ‘secular’ as opposed to being ‘casteist’. It was this use of secular I was referring to. It was in response to this that I said that ‘secular’ in the popular understanding has not really meant ‘casteless’ but ‘acceptance of all castes’.

You were opposing secular (complete rejection of caste) with practice of caste.

All I’m saying is that that is not entirely how the caste debate has worked out in public understanding. (I will admit that this is a limited view, based on my limited understanding and my limited exposure to public understanding.)

>> underlying your view is the presumption that there can be parity across castes
>> if 'an acceptance of all castes', as you say, was possible

No, I’m not saying that it is possible and I don’t believe that there can be parity among castes. Perhaps what you mean is that the idea of ‘acceptance of all castes’ is untenable because of the inherent inequality in the system. Which I completely agree with.

‘Acceptance of all castes’ is of course a convenient façade for the upper castes to assume, because it allows them to appear charitable while perpetuating status quo. But not all those oppressed by the caste system wish to reject caste either; instead they want for their caste the same privileges that upper castes enjoy. (Mayawati belongs in this category.)

Not that there’s anything wrong with this. Except that such “tit for tat behaviour”, as anu calls it, can only set the struggle back several decades, no?

And yes, reserving land, positions, jobs, resources, etc. reflects the state’s tacit preference for this ‘acceptance of all castes’ ideology over the annihilation of caste.

Dr. Ambedkar was right – there can be no political revolution without social revolution. When even someone as powerful as the Mahatma refused to see this, how can one blame Mayawati?

Thank you, anyway. The discussion has been enlightening.

noni said...

Hi. you can add to ur list
latest news....
that NCP Sharod Power proposed as to named "new sea link" bridge in Mumbai on Rajib Gandhi and Congress CM accept it

kuffir said...

noni,

thanks for the tip :)

 
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