what the brahmin can't hide, bury or burn anymore

south, karnataka. there are 17.9 lakh landless households in the state. of these, nearly 4.5 lakh are sc households, and 1.7 lakh are st households. who are the other 11.7 lakh landless households? if you ask the hindu, epw, india today, outlook, toi, hindustan times and all the other brahmin rags, they will tell you that they're mostly brahmin households..lingayat and vokkaliga households would also figure, i guess.
‪#obc‬ ‪#‎castecensus‬
west, maharashtra. there are 47.6 lakh landless households in the state. of these, nearly 9.4 lakh are sc households, and 10.3 lakh are st households. who are the other 27.9 lakh landless households? if you ask the hindu, epw, india today, outlook, toi, hindustan times and all the other brahmin rags, they will tell you that they're mostly brahmin, maratha and kayasth households..
‪#obc‬ ‎‬ ‪#‎castecensus‬
east. west bengal. there are 75.6 lakh landless households in the state. of these, 25.4 lakh are sc households and 6.1 lakh are st households. who are the other 44.1 lakh landless households? the statesman and the telegraph and the hindu will probably tell you that they're mostly brahmin, baidya and kayasth households.
‪‪#obc‬ ‬ ‪#‎castecensus‬
west, north. rajasthan. there 26.74 lakh landless households in rajasthan. of these, 7.91 lakh are sc households, and 4.39 lakh are st households. who are the other 14.44 lakh landless households? the hindustan times and the hindu will probably tell you they're all brahmin, rajput and bania households..
‪#obc‬ ‬ ‪#‎castecensus‬
north, uttar pradesh..there are 79 lakh landless households in the state. of these, 26 lakh are sc households and around 62, 000 are st households. who are the other 52.38 lakh landless households? the hindu, epw, india today, outlook, toi, hindustan times and all the other brahmin rags will tell you that they're mostly brahmin, rajput, bania households..
‪‪#obc‬ ‬ ‪#‎castecensus‬
east, again. jharkhand. there are 11.57 lakh landless households in the state. of these, 2.27 lakh are sc households and 2.61 lakh are st households. who are the other 6.7 lakh landless households? the hindustan times and toi will probably tell you they're all brahmin and rajput households..
‪#obc‬ ‬ ‪#‎castecensus‬
northmost, uttarakhand. there are nearly 2.8 lakh landless households in uttarakhand. of these, over 84, 000 are sc households and over 9,200 are st households. who are the other 1.86 lakh landless households? the hindustan times and the hindu will probably tell you they're all brahmins and rajputs..
‪#obc‬ ‬ ‪#‎castecensus
centre, north, madhya pradesh. there are over 50 lakh landless households in the state. nearly 10.45 lakhs of those are sc households, and 13.92 lakh are st households. who are the other 26.35 lakh landless households? if you ask the toi or the hindustan times, they'll probably tell you they're mostly brahmin, rajput, bania households..
‪‪#obc‬ ‬ ‪#‎castecensus‬
east, odisha. there are over 34 lakh landless households in odisha. nearly 8.7 lakh of them are sc households and over 8 lakh of them are st households. who are the other 17.3 lakh landless households? the statesman and the indian express will probably tell you they're all brahmins and karanas.
‪#obc‬ ‬ ‪#‎castecensus‬
further west or north, haryana. there are 11. 26 lakh landless households in haryana..over 5 lakh of them are sc households and 380 are st households. who are the other nearly 6.2 lakh households? the hindustan times and outlook will probably tell you they're all jat, brahmin and bania households.
‪‪#obc‬  ‪#‎castecensus‬
east, bihar. there are nearly 96 lakh landless households in the state. nearly 23 lakh of them are sc households, and 1.6 lakh are st households. who are the other 71.4 lakh households? if you ask epw or india today, they'll tell you most of them are brahmin, bhumihar, rajput etc households..
‪#obc‬ ‬ ‪#‎castecensus‬
west, gujarat. there are 25.5 lakh landless households in gujarat. around 2.7 lakhs of them are sc households, and 5.2 lakhs are st households. who are the other 17.6 lakh landless households? if you ask the hindu or the toi, they'll tell you they're all brahmin, vaishya or rajput households.
‪‪#obc‬  ‪#‎castecensus‬
chhattisgarh. there are 16.88 lakh landless households in the state. of these 4.7 lakh are st households and 3. 3 lakh sc households. who are the other 8.8 lakh landless households? if you ask the hindu or the toi, they'll tell you they're all brahmin or rajput households.
‪#obc‬  ‪#‎castecensus
‬ there are over 56 lakh landless households in tamil nadu, and around 19 lakh of them are dalit.. 94, 000 are st households. who are the other nearly 36 lakh landless households? if you ask the hindu it will tell you that all of them are brahmin.
‪#obc‬  ‪#‎castecensus
north, west, punjab. there are 14.8 lakh landless households in the state. of these, nearly 9.3 lakh are sc households, and 111 are st households. who are the other 5.5 lakh landless households? if you ask the hindu, epw, india today, outlook, toi, hindustan times and all the other brahmin rags, they will tell you that they're mostly brahmin, jat, khatri households.
‪‪#obc‬‬ ‪#‎castecensus‬
south, andhra pradesh. there are 45 lakh landless households in the state. of these, nearly 10.8 lakh are sc households, and 2.5 lakh are st households. who are the other 31.7 lakh landless households? if you ask the hindu, epw, india today, outlook, toi, hindustan times and all the other brahmin rags, they will tell you that they're mostly brahmin, reddy, kamma, raju, velama households.
‪‪#obc‬ ‪#‎castecensus‬
south, kerala. there are 25.34 lakh landless households in the state. of these, nearly 4.2 lakh are sc households, and nearly 55000 are st households. who are the other nearly 20.6 lakh landless households? if you ask the hindu, epw, india today, outlook, toi, hindustan times and all the other brahmin rags, they will tell you that they're mostly brahmin and nair households.
‪#obc‬ ‪#‎castecensus‬
north, himachal pradesh. there are 80, 222 landless households in the state. of these, nearly 28, 800 are sc households, and 3,951 lakh are st households. who are the other nearly 47, 500 landless households? if you ask the hindu, epw, india today, outlook, toi, hindustan times and all the other brahmin rags, they will tell you that they're mostly brahmin and rajput households.
‪#obc‬ ‪#‎castecensus‬
east, north. assam. there are 18 lakh landless households in the state. of these, nearly 1.7 lakh are sc households, and nearly 1.3 lakh are st households. who are the other nearly 15 lakh landless households? if you ask the hindu, epw, india today, outlook, toi, hindustan times and all the other brahmin rags, they will tell you that they're mostly brahmin and kayasth households.
‪‪#obc‬‬ ‪#‎castecensus‬
telangana, temporarily indian. there are 19.7 lakh landless households in the state. of these, nearly 4.7 lakh are sc households, and 1.97 lakh are st households. who are the other nearly 13.3 lakh landless households? if you ask the hindu, epw, india today, outlook, toi, hindustan times and all the other brahmin rags, they will tell you that they're mostly brahmin, reddy, velama, kamma, raju households.
‪#obc‬‬ ‪#‎castecensus‬

you may try to hide it, bury it, burn it - but the larger truth is out: in brahmin india - from east to west, north to south- there are nearly 6.86 crore landless households. of these, nearly 1.81 crore are sc households, and nearly 70 lakh are st households. who are the other 4.34 crore landless households? they're definitely not brahmin-savarna.

this blog is ten years old today. it was worth the wait. 


maoists' brahmanic nationalism

some notes on the maoists:

a kind of meta theme that runs through the narratives of most varieties of brahmin/indian left, including the maoists, is annoyance with the market, which is understandable. they don't like capital either, which is also understandable. but it is the market which infuriates them more.. because they don't like anything other than caste, which means the janeudharis themselves, mediating social relations.
how different is the cpi ml (maoist)'s version of the indian nation from that of the congress, bjp and cpm/cpi? not very different, in fact, it should be seen as a more aggressive supporter of indian nationalism than those other political formations, for many reasons. though it speaks of unequivocal support for 'oppressed nationalities' like kashmir, north east etc., it has never shown any active interest in strengthening those struggles beyond expressing occasional verbal solidarity. and it has never ever looked at exploring the existence of other subjugated nationalities within the indian 'nation'.. it has in fact always nurtured the dream of a strong centre that would ride over 'regional' sovereignties, along the lines of the soviet union.. for instance, the bjp passed a resolution in support of a separate telangana state in 1998, the congress formed a separate telangana legislators forum in 2000 with the blessings of sonia gandhi.. the cpi ml (maoist) toed their line completely and took an active part in the agitation, sharing many fora with congress and sangh members. indian/brahmanic nationalism forms the default ideological framework of the cpi ml (maoist), despite all their talk of resistance and liberation.
telangana's population is around 2-2.5 crores less than tamil nadu's, but it produces more foodgrains than the latter.. in 1948 or so, the literacy rate in telangana was around 4-6% (around 1/3rd to 1/4th of national average) at best, now it is touching 70%, nearly, meaning the spread of education in the region has been much faster than in even kerala..aren't these two indicators enough to debunk the theory of underdevelopment? so why did the cpi ml (maoist) so strongly support the so-called telangana movement? because it is driven by the interests of strong dominant caste interest groups, across the country, who believe in the theory of 'smaller states, faster development' (as propagated by the parivar) which actually means 'weaker states, strong centre'?
the maoists say indian society has a 'semi-colonial, semi-feudal' character.. look at the first part - 'semi-colonial'. what does it mean? it could mean the indian state doesn't command full political sovereignty and is influenced by an external superior political power.. this could be said about western europe too.. or does 'semi-colonial' mean india is plundered by foreign capital, backed by said 'external superior power', for rampant loot of its natural resources like oil, various minerals etc..? hmm.. there is some export of resources from india, but overall, it's a net importer of minerals from outside, perhaps.. in fact, if the same kind of loose terminology were to be used to describe india's oil trade relationship with the middle east and even russia, you could say india itself acts as a kind of colonial power sucking up precious natural wealth those exporting countries could very well use for their own development. this exploitative colonising nature of the indian state is most evident in its mining operations in the african continent.. so what is the point of using this ambiguous term - 'semi-colonial' to describe indian society's character? dr ambedkar had said the indian masses needed to fight both 'brahmanism and capitalism'.. that makes more sense to the dalitbahujans at large. what does 'semi-colonial' mean, dear ganapathy & co? what are you trying to hide? aren't you trying to erase the brahminical character of india's ruling classes? obfuscate the glaring fact that india itself is a vast empire, a collection of colonies held together and exploited by a brahminized collective of upper castes led by brahmins?
the maoists identify india as a 'semi-feudal' society (apart from being 'semi-colonial'). this is another vague term that conveys no comprehensible picture of indian society.. the indian state recognizes no landed nobility now, formally, nor does it endorse any form of unpaid extraction of labour, formally. but there are still many instances of bonded labour in several pockets of the country, but these practices do not form the dominant mode of agricultural production in rural india. what characterizes indian agriculture overwhelmingly, across all regions, is stagnation. stagnation in productivity over a long period of nearly half a century. one major marker of this is: in the forty five years since 1970, while total foodgrain production in india grew by 2.3 times, or doubled, the number of people involved in agriculture (cultivators plus labourers) grew by 2.1 times, or also doubled.. india must be the only country in the world where the number of people involved in agriculture actually doubled.. it's doubtful this happened anywhere else in the world, on such a scale, at any point of time, in the last two hundred years, or in the entire modern era.. this almost zero increase in productivity per capita naturally means not zero but negative growth in real incomes of the producers..so why are they still engaged in agriculture, and not just engaged but also dragging in every new generation into it, as if ordered by manu ? this is a new kind of social enslavement that can't be conveyed through such woefully inadequate terms as 'feudalism' or 'semi-feudalism'.. this serfdom of nearly 200 million peasants (and their families) has no parallel whatsoever in world history. have the maoists really, truly studied this?
the cpi ml (maoist) says in its statements, more than once, that the struggles of the 'oppressed nationalities' such as the kashmiris and the various north eastern peoples should be 'supported unequivocally'.. when was the last time you saw them organize a 'national bandh' in support of kashmir or the northeast? what do their overground support organizations do to spread the idea of freedom for these 'oppressed nationalities' in the so-called mainland? very little - or nothing, among students, peasants or other working classes.. all that they do is to prop up a handful of high profile brahmin-savarna activists as the 'saviours' of these peoples. this actually goes on to reinforce the role of the brahmanic, imperial ruling class these activists come from as the only possible 'saviours', among the masses across india.
the cpi ml (maoist) calls india a 'prison-house of nationalities'. no, it doesn't define 'nationalities'. nor does it explain why it considers india a 'nation' when it thinks it's a 'prison-house of nationalities'.. it shirks away from looking at the ethnic, linguistic or caste-religious roots of these nationalities which are imprisoned within india.. it looks at them only through the prism of 'development' - some are more developed, some are underdeveloped, according to it. no, it doesn't define 'development' either. there is less malnutrition in kerala, and more literacy, than in haryana, which has much higher per capita incomes. so which state is developed, and which underdeveloped? how does the cpi ml (maoist) understand these differences? or has it outsourced its brains to the various brahmanic institutions such as the planning commission or the nac or jnu or csds or csss or various other brahmanic ideological apparatuses just as the congress/bjp/cpm/cpi do? does it consider these differences as mere 'regional differences' just as those 'national' parties do? do they have anything more to add to that bare explanation? does it look at the strength of brahmanic hegemony in both states, and try to understand the history of anti-caste struggles, or lack of struggles, in those states to understand their role in their differing trajectories of evolution? how does it justify the grouping together of these two peoples in one 'nation'? the other brahmanic parties do it without any reflection, the maoists don't seem any different.
the maoists never named the reddies, kammas, brahmins, rajus, velamas as the communities which hold excess land in the telugu speaking regions because all of their leadership also came/comes from those communities...this resulted in sustenance of disunity among the majority, the oppressed communities, who did not understand clearly who the 'class enemy' was..not just was/is the maoists' marxism very woolly-headed, even the terms they used/use to define classes in india (borrowed from 19th century europe) were/are meaningless.. they're just another face of brahmin imperialism..
now, will the maoists in maharashtra, name the marathas, brahmins, kayasths etc as those who control maharashtra's land and political economy, reigning over nearly 400 other dalit, backward and tribal communities, if they're half as serious as they claim to be..? and also show filthy rich people like kobad ghandy the way out if they want to even appear serious..and also distance themselves from various casteist brahmin patwardhans etc who make all their efforts seem very, very farcical.
one clear sign that the maoists do not want any land redistribution is that they never ever made any strong case for a caste census in india, which could have led to the development of a real, meaningful socio-economic profile of india.. in fact, most of their overground activism has been against any such caste-based analysis and policy. how can you trust their sincerity towards land reforms, when they have never bothered to find out who exactly owns excess land in all states? and whose excess land are they going to redistribute if they want the owners' social profile to remain hidden?


kerala: how caste surpassed class

by the time the land reform movement in kerala was finally translated into state policy, it had actually become a moment of 'caste surpassing class' and not vice versa. it was a movement when the most politically active jati group among the bahujans, especially sections of the ezhavas, forged a tentative alliance with the erstwhile landholding upper castes.. kerala history after that moment should perhaps be seen as a chronicle of the fortunes of this alliance as more space was negotiated, sometimes successfully and sometimes not, from the upper castes by this emerging dominant group, through time.. so what the policy achieved was actually only a formalization of of transfer of titles to peasants from this group who were already tilling the particular holdings as tenants.. land reforms across india have followed a similar pattern..they have always been transfer of full rights to a few jatis who were engaged as tenants earlier, not to the whole category of shudras or obcs or dalits, at large. these successful jatis form a minority within the shudra/obc category. this was the case in up, were the yadavs, kurmis, jats etc benefited to some extent, not all of the 70 odd obc jatis at large.. it's again, yadavs and kurmis etc in bihar, not the 130 other jatis..the dismantling of zamindaries and jagirdaries in coastal andhra and telangana benefited the reddy, kamma, kapu sub-castes.. and so on. the same was the case with kerala.. where the ezhavas and a couple of other jatis benefited more than the 70 other jatis..

so the class struggles, which had been waged earlier, finally transformed into a triumphal caste alliance when they became policy in the late 50s. all the progressive 'reform policies' in kerala should be seen as a culmination of a century old class struggles, wrongly referred to as mere caste -particularly in its reductive form, jati - assertion movements or religious reform struggles.. whether it was ayyankali's first agricultural strike or right to education movements, or the movements led by narayana guru and others - all of these can only only be understood as movements against caste or class rule. as dr. ambedkar had indicated in aoc, caste rule should be seen as constitutive of power derived derive from 'religion, status and property'. so the 1950s land reforms ensured some property for the ezhavas and a few others, while ensuring the maintenance of the religious authority, social status, property and power of the brahmins, nairs etc.. a strengthening of the caste order or caste rule through the the infusion of some new partner jatis into its fatigued body.

stagnation is a marker of agriculture in kerala more than in any other part of the country - it had arrived a decade or two earlier, in the 60s itself, while in many parts of the country it started in the eighties or nineties.. for instance, kerala now produces less rice than it did in the sixties, perhaps.. a large quantum of essential foodgrains come in from other states while large tracts of agricultural lands lie fallow.. this might all seem very strange, considering one would expect land reforms to increase productivity and output. in kerala, both have gone down over time.. if we analyse closely, we'll notice two subterranean facts: one, that land reforms actually arrived when a large number of the largest group of landholders - the nairs and brahmins - had already decided to consolidate their urban assets (and move away from agriculture?)..the nairs, for instance, had the highest literacy rates, perhaps, among all shudra groups in south india - right from telangana to tamil nadu - next only to the brahmins, even as early as 1911. two, the new group of tenants who had become title-holding farmers, the ezhavas and others, did not have a) the same resources as the erstwhile upper caste landholders to invest in increasing productivity, and b) a large number of these new farmers were themselves becoming more interested in urban jobs..

this caste alliance, which calls itself a communist party aiming for a 'people's democratic order' and working for the interests of the people against the 'landlord-bourgeois' dominated society represents the strongest class interest - or a combination of interests - in kerala.. it is characterized by what could be called babu collectivist interests - bureaucratic capitalists, as they would call in their terminology - plus a wide range of state-dependent commercial interests - from those involved in plantations to tourism to other such services. all of these interests share some common caste identities, and have a common vision.. we can perceive the peculiar contours of their vision by looking at the political economy they have together tried to forge in kerala over the last 6 decades - stagnation in agriculture, increase in consumption (among the middle classes, all fueled not by increased capital formation but by remittances generated from a workforce aiding economies elsewhere) without a concomitant increase in production, stagnation in industrial expansion, lots of disguised unemployment and underemployment. this represents the starkest case of what i call caste mode of production - selective adoption of modernity to fossilize social relations around caste through the agency of state power.


breaking up india 6

[notes from a forthcoming book: part 6 of a series of exercises involving breaking up india into parts to understand it better. i'm not posting all the notes, only random ones]
i'd said:
india was always considered an empire all through history - how did it become a nation?
perry anderson asks this question too - how did india become a nation? or why did india become a nation in the minds of all major leaders of the freedom movement - from gandhi to nehru - and still remains such a strong idea among even the 'most distinguished Indian intellectuals' - like amartya sen to ramachandra guha to sunil khilnani to meghnad desai - when historically it never was a nation? anderson notes:
Nehru’s claim of an ‘impress of oneness’, going back six thousand years, persisted from pre-war writings like The Unity of India to his final dispute with China, in which the Mahabharata could be invoked by his foreign office as proof that the North-East Frontier Agency had been part of Mother India from time immemorial, rather as if the Niebelunglied were to clinch German diplomatic claims to Morocco. Such notions have not gone away. The facts gainsay them. The sub-continent as we know it today never formed a single political or cultural unit in pre-modern times. For much the longest stretches of its history, its lands were divided between a varying assortment of middle-sized kingdoms, of different stripes. Of the three larger empires it witnessed, none covered the territory of Nehru’s Discovery of India. Maurya and Mughal control extended to contemporary Afghanistan, ceased below the Deccan, and never came near Manipur. The area of Gupta control was considerably less. Separated by intervals of five hundred and a thousand years, there was no remembered political or cultural connexion between these orders, or even common religious affiliation: at its height, the first of these Buddhist, the second Hindu, the third Muslim. Beneath a changing mosaic of mostly regional rulers, there was more continuity of social patterns, caste – the best claimant to a cultural demarcation – attested very early, but no uniformity. The ‘idea of India’ was essentially a European, not a local invention, as the name itself makes clear. No such term, or equivalent, as India existed in any indigenous language. A Greek coinage, taken from the Indus river, it was so exogenous to the subcontinent that as late as the 16th century, Europeans could define Indians simply as ‘all natives of an unknown country’, and so call the inhabitants of the Americas.
you'd think anderson had delivered a resounding slap to the collective face of the brahminized classes through his book. but they're not easily daunted, and ignoring totally the unpalatable parts, such as the excerpt quoted above, they quote him selectively with a lot of enthusiasm these days. because it's a trendy thing to do in academia, perhaps.

so why do all of india's modern day leaders and intellectuals lie, why don't they admit that there never was any india? anderson's essay is just one recent example, there have always been others who had questioned this 'idea of india'. anderson's scaled down, but very effective presentation of some plain facts makes it seems such a commonsensical question. why don't people ask it more often?


breaking up india 5

[notes from a forthcoming book: part 5 of a series of exercises involving breaking up india into parts to understand it better. i'm not posting all the notes, only random ones]

talking against indian nationalism while writing within its framework is naturally very counter-productive. india was always considered an empire all through history - how did it become a nation?

the empire became a nation in the same way as the brahmins became just another jati. both ideas are now articulated as common sense. the indian nation has become so much common sense that even those who have critiqued indian nationalism, from an anti-caste perspective, have not questioned this fundamental premise.

historically, aloysius says: 'The cultural unity of the subcontinent, then, is mostly derived from the ascriptive and hierarchical elements of power as dominance.'

in other words, the existence of the caste system across the subcontinent is viewed as indicative of 'cultural unity'. how acceptable is this theory of 'cultural unity', and how did it merge so totally with the idea of one nation and one nation-state, when historically there had always been several states in the subcontinent?

if a shared system of oppression were to be taken as an indicator of cultural unity, all the former colonized lands of the world should also be seen as one nation. all the former roman colonies should also be one nation. one could think of several such examples. the subcontinent itself wouldn't have evolved into the 5 or 6 nations that it is now if the theory of cultural unity were tenable.

cultural commonalities can't be interpreted as signs of cultural unity. there might be much in common, culturally, between maharashtra and gujarat or andhra and tamil nadu or bengal and odisha and all of these regions and foreign countries such as malaysia, sri lanka and pakistan and so on.

even if we assume, for argument's sake,  there is cultural unity across the subcontinent, history has provided more than enough evidence that political unity, based around this cultural unity, was always short-lived. because, obviously, the kind of 'cultural unity' that many see in the subcontinent is a very narrowly defined unity. and this unity is defined from the perspective of the dominant brahminized classes, across regions.  

cultural unity of india was the dominant classes' excuse for forging one political geography out of the largest part of the subcontinent. it needs to be understood that more than any cultural unity, the indian state is the result of the political unity of the dominant classes of india.

but, as dr. ambedkar would have said, it might be in the interests of the dominant classes to define india as one nation, but how can it be in the interests of the oppressed classes to accept that definition?


breaking up india

[notes from a forthcoming book: part 1 of a series of exercises involving breaking up india into parts to understand it better]

 if a lower caste labourer from, say, rural telangana/andhra, unable to cope with dominant caste reddies or kammas or rajus or velamas migrates to rural maharashtra, he'll face the same, more or less, kind of oppression at the hands of the marathas there. if he moves further north to haryana, he'll have to face the jats..if he goes east to bihar, he'll meet the bhumihars, rajputs, brahmins etc..

you would think all of these dominant castes were born from the same womb. they might behave in a similar fashion, but we know they all speak different languages, have different cultures, eat different food and enjoy different kinds of entertainment. and they also look different, even if they all seem to be of different shades of brown. and if you check even more closely, you'll find that they don't even pray to the same gods, if you ignore the common brahmanic gods (like avatars of vishnu, shiva, durga, ganpati etc) that most of them have taken up over the last one century. their faiths are distinctively local, and different from each other even if they're all labeled together as brahminism/hinduism.

none of them would inter-marry, and would probably go to violent lengths to stop any such alliances from happening if any couples overcome the limits of geographic, linguistic/cultural boundaries and come together. and inter-caste marriages even within the same linguistic geographies are rare.

you'd also notice that they might have dislike and contempt for each other, might plot against each other for political positions, economic interests at local, regional or central level. but they all behave in a similar fashion, more or less, towards people lower down the caste hierarchy.

how and why did all these dominant castes, which are so different from each other, come together and become one 'nation'? and paradoxically, why did the oppressed castes, the dalit bahujans, acquiesce to this formulation that they are also a part of the same 'nation', along with the oppressor castes?         


in maharashtra, dalits say no to brahmin nationalism again

this news report encapsulates what the 'national' media has been saying for a while: that 'identity politics', the only definition they'll ascribe to anti-caste politics, is dead. consider this summary:
There are around 1.8 crore Dalit-Buddhist voters in the State but only about 20 lakh have voted for Dalit parties, factions.
maharashtra's population is 11.23 crores (census 2011). dalits in masharashtra are around 11.8% (or 1.32 crores, roughly), a majority of them buddhists.. how does the 'mainstream' media come up with the figure of 1.6 crore dalit-buddhists (of a total non-existent population of 1.8 crore) not voting for dalit parties?

and are all the dalits in maharashtra voters? are there no children, people below 18 in the dalit population?around 7.92 crores enrolled as voters in maharashtra.. around 80 lakhs of them would be dalits. actually, it'd be less than 80 lakhs because unlike other sections of maharashtra, growth among the scs during the decade 2001-11 was higher, at 34.3% (as compared with the state average of 16%). that's why the share of the dalit population grew from 10.2% in 2001 to 11.8% in 2011. most of this growth could be attributed to an increase in the share of child population (or non-voters) among the dalits.

64% of all eligible maharashtrians voted in the last assembly elections. we could assume the dalit voters too were 64% (among all dalit voters). that means around 51.2 lakh dalits voted in the 2014 maharashtra assembly polls. and if what the report (quoted above) says is true, that 20 lakh dalits voted for 'Dalit parties, factions', it effectively means nearly 40% of dalits in maharashtra voted for 'Dalit parties, factions'.

does 40% vote sound like the death knell of a certain politics? especially when considered in the context of parties with 25-30% popular vote heading ruling coalitions at the centre and in states?

40% vote seems like a decisive vote of collective disgust expressed against brahmin nationalism, as represented by the congress, bjp and their shudra chamchas - the ncp, shiv sena and mns etc. a clear and unequivocal no to the idea of brahminized india, at its core. you could be sure that the rest of the dalit votes were distributed among the 'national' and 'regional' parties depending on the relative degree of disgust each evoked in particular constituencies. that vote doesn't respresent a cohesive politics as much as the vote for the dalit parties and factions does, and hence can be excluded from analysis in this post. perhaps, in later posts.

writing on the wall: grocery store in wardha plastered with vibrant and clear signs of an alternative worldview 

this despite all the barrage of media, civil society and academic discourse that consistently denigrates, ridicules, maligns and above all erases anti-caste politics. despite all the manipulations, scheming and open violence against, and badgering, deceitful co-optation and isolation of dalit political formations and personalities.

the results, in terms of seats won or lost, are irrelevant when seen from this understanding of the dalit vote in maharashtra. the electoral system itself, as once again made very clear by the last general elections, is designed to help only those with social, cultural, demographic and historic political capital. in such an oppressive environment, even the very birth and existence of dalit bahujan parties will always exude the spirit of heroic exploits, of man going against nature.

so that vote is irreversible, because it expresses an existential motive that goes beyond electoral politics. especially so if one were for once to believe the dumb brahminized media and academia, which can't ever get even the simplest facts (and math) right, and see this as a kind of low point in dalit politics - you can't get any lower than this, right? if even at a such a low point, 40% are saying a clear no, think of the roar you'll hear when the anti-caste parties get their act together.

but i don't believe this is a high point or a low point in anti-caste politics.. ever since the very first elections, the brahminized conception of india, as represented by the congress for a long time, always faced a dissenting majority. this became more pronounced since the sixties when the obcs flocked in great numbers to parties which clearly claimed to identify with them, or at least with the more assertive and bigger castes among them - in up, bihar, tamil nadu etc. the tide has grown much stronger ever since, with the birth of every new party.  

so the dissenting vote has always been very strong (as this was inherently a vote against the brahminized idea of india itself so it has remained the only relevant democratic voice in india, in my view), no matter what the failures or successes of the political formations and personalities claiming to speak for the dalit bahujans. 67 years after the formation of the brahminized indian state, the dalits of maharashtra still refuse to bow down to brahminical hegemony. they should be saluted.

if there was a more level electoral playing field, and dalit bahujan parties got equal access to financial and material resources, to participation in media and civil society - the brahminized 'national' and pseudo-regional parties would have been reduced to mere shadows of their present selves long ago. because the anti-caste parties are the only political formations in india that are informed by genuine secular and democratic moorings, of being rooted in an egalitarian intellectual legacy, thanks to all the social revolutionaries who gave birth to the anti-caste movement - from phule to ambedkar to kanshi ram.

but that is the paradox - why would there be any anti-caste politics if there was any level playing field in any field, leave alone electoral politics?

so no matter how many dozens of obituaries the brahminized classes might churn out for anti-caste politics, what they're in effect trying to do is divert attention from the much more clearly visible death of the brahmin nation and politics. thanks are due to the maharashtrian dalits for driving more nails in its coffin, again.                      


dr. ambedkar's insights on agriculture: social economy over political economy

some not entirely random thoughts from his paper 'Small holdings in India and their remedies' published in the Journal of the Indian Economic Society, Vol. I.1918..written nearly a hundred years ago, just an year after the russian revolution. but many of these insights still don't seem to have occurred to most of our brahminized left or right..dr ambedkar wrote this when he was 27, but the humanist social foundations of his economic thinking are unmistakably there.. so much distress and such great tragedies could have been avoided! this should have become common sense of the ruling classes in india long ago, but composed as they're mostly of the erstwhile and even largely contemporary 'idle labour', its creamy layer, that he refers to in this paper it is logical that they didn't/don't comprehend his wisdom. so here are a few pickings from the paper that i most agree with (some portions were emphasized by me):
size of holdings does not matter:
To a farmer a holding is too small or too large for the other factors of production at his disposal necessary for carrying on the cultivation of his holding as an economic enterprise. Mere size of land is empty of all economic connotation. Consequently, it cannot possibly be the language of economic science to say that a large holding is economic while a smallholding is uneconomic. It is the right or wrong proportion of other factors of production to a unit of land that renders the latter economic or uneconomic. Thus a small farm may be economic as well as a large farm; for, economic or uneconomic does not depend upon the size of land but upon the due proportion among all the factors including land
faulty political economy leads to idle labour:
Those who look on small holdings as the fundamental evil naturally advocate their enlargement. This, however, is a faulty political economy and as Thomas Arnold once said "a faulty political economy is the fruitful parent of crime". Apart from the fact that merely to enlarge the holding is not to make it economic, this project of artificial enlargement is fraught with many social ills. The future in the shape of an army of landless and dispossessed men that it is bound to give rise to is neither cheerful from the individual, nor agreeable from the national, point of view. But even if we enlarged the existing holdings and procured enough capital and capital goods to make them economic, we will not only be not advocating the proper remedy but will end in aggravating the evils by adding to our stock of idle labour; for capitalistic agriculture will not need as many hands as are now required by our present day methods of cultivation.
bad social economy at the base of economic ills:
Consequently the remedy for the ills of agriculture in India does not lie primarily in the matter of enlarging holdings but in the matter of increasing capital and capital goods. That capital arises from saving and that saving is possible where there is surplus is a commonplace of political economy. 
Does our agriculture—the main stay of our population—-give us any surplus ? We agree with the answer which is unanimously in the negative. We also approve of the remedies that are advocated for turning the deficit economy into a surplus economy, namely by enlarging and consolidating the holdings. What we demur to is the method of realizing this object. For we most strongly hold that the evil of small holdings in India is not fundamental but is derived from the parent evil of the mal-adjustment in her social economy. 
Consequently if we wish to effect a permanent cure we must go to the parent malady.
But before doing that we will show how we suffer by a bad social economy
. It has become a tried statement that India is largely an agricultural country. But what is scarcely known is that notwithstanding the vastness of land under tillage, so little land is cultivated in proportion to her population.
pressure on agricultural land is caused by lack of other occupations:
Notwithstanding what others have said, this enormous pressure is the chief cause of the subdivision of land. It is the failure to grasp the working of this pressure on land that makes the law of inheritance such a great grievance. To say that the law of inheritance causes sub-division of land is to give a false view by inverting the real situation. The mere existence of the law cannot be complained of as a grievance. The grievance consists in the fact that it is invoked. But why is it invoked even when it is injurious? Simply because it is profitable. There is nothing strange in this. When farming is the only occupation, to get a small piece of land is better than to have none. Thus the grievance lies in the circumstances which put a premium on these small pieces of land. The premium, is no doubt, due to the large population depending solely on agriculture to eke out its living. Naturally a population that has little else lo prefer to agriculture will try lo invoke every possible cause to get a piece of land however small. It is not therefore the law of inheritance that is the evil, but it is the high pressure on land which brings it into operation. People cultivate the small piece not because their standard of living is low as Prof. Jevons seems to think [f.25] but because it is the only profitable thing for them to do at present. If they had something more profitable to do they would never prefer the small piece. It is therefore easy to understand how the universal prevalence of the small farms or petit culture is due to this enormous pressure on land.
capital exists, but labour lives:
In spite of the vehement struggle that our agricultural population maintains in trying to engage itself productively as cultivators of a farm however small, it is true that judged by the standard of Sir James Caird a large portion of it is bound to remain idle. Idle labour and idle capital differ in a very important particular. Capital exists, but labour lives. That is to say capital when idle does not earn, but does not also consume much to keep itself. But labour, earning or not consumes in order to live. Idle labour is, therefore, a calamity; for if it cannot live by production as it should, it will live by predation as it must. This idle labour has been the canker of India gnawing at its vitals. Instead of contributing to our national dividend it is eating up what little there is of it. Thus the depression of our national dividend is another important effect of this idle labour. The income of a society as of an individual proceeds (1) from the efforts made, and (2) from possessions used. It may be safely asserted that the aggregate income of any individual or society must be derived either from the proceeds of the current labour or from productive possession already acquired. All that society can have today it must acquire today or must take out of its past product. Judging by this criterion a large portion of our society makes very little current effort ; nor does it have any very extensive possessions from which to derive its sustenance. No doubt then that our economic organization is conspicuous by want of capital. Capital is but crystallized surplus; and surplus depends upon the proceeds of effort. But where there is no effort there is no earning, no surplus, and no capital.
to cure agriculture. create work outside agriculture:
If we succeed in sponging off this labour in non-agricultural channels of production we will at one stroke lessen the pressure and destroy the premium that at present weighs heavily on land in India. Besides, this labour when productively employed will cease to live by predation as it does to-day, and will not only earn its keep but will give us surplus: and more surplus is more capital. In short, strange though it may seem, industrialization of India is the soundest remedy for the agricultural problems of India. The cumulative effects of industralization, namely, a lessening pressure and an increasing amount of capital and capital goods will forcibly create the economic necessity of enlarging the holding. Not only this, but industralization by destroying the premium on land will give rise to few occasions for its sub-division and fragmentation. Industrialization is a natural and powerful remedy and is to be preferred to such ill-conceived projects as we have considered above. By legislation we will get a sham economic holding at the cost of many social ills. But by industrialization a large economic holding will force itself upon us as a pure gain.
how agriculture improves by the reflex effects of industrialization:
We prefer to cure agriculture by the reflex effects of industrialization. Lest this might be deemed visionary we proceed to give evidence in support of our view. How agriculture improves by the reflex effects of industrialization has been studied in the United States in the year 1883. We shall quote in extenso the summary given by the London Times: 
"The statistician of the Agricultural Department of the United States has shown in a recent report that the value of farm lands decreases in exact proportion as the ratio of agriculture to other industries increases. That is, where all the labour is devoted to agriculture, the land is worth less than where only half of the people are farm labourers; and where only a quarter of them are so engaged the farms and their product are still more valuable. It is, in fact, proved by statistics that diversified industries are of the greatest value to a State, and that the presence of a manufactory near a farm increases the value of the farm and its crops. It is further established that, dividing the United States into four sections or classes, with reference to the ratio of agricultural workers to the whole population, and putting those States having less than 30 per cent, of agriculture and of agricultural labourers in the first class, all having over 30 and less than 50 in the second, those between 50 and 70 in the third, and those having 70 or more in the fourth, the value of farms is in inverse ratio to the agricultural population, and that where as in the purely agricultural section, the fourth class, the value of farms per acre is only $ 5.28, in the next class it is $ 13.03, in the third $ 22.21, and in manufacturing districts $ 40.91. This shows an enormous advantage for a mixed district. Yet not only is the land more valuable the production per acre is greater, and the wages paid to farm hands larger. Manufactures and varied industries thus not only benefit the manufacturers, but are of equal benefit and advantage to the fanners as well." 
This will show that ours is a proven remedy. It can be laid down without fear of challenge that industrialization will foster the enlargement of holdings and that it will be the most effective barrier against sub-division and fragmentation. Agreeing in this, it may be observed that industrialization will not be a sufficient remedy for consolidation. That it will require direct remedies may be true. But it is also true that industrialization, though it may not bring about consolidation, will facilitate consolidation. It is an incontrovertible truth that so long as there is the premium on land consolidation will not be easy, no matter on how equitable principles it is proposed to be carried out. Is it a small service if industrialization lessens the premium as it inevitably must ? Certainly not. Consideration of another aspect of consolidation as well points to the same conclusion: That industrialization must precede consolidation. It should never be forgotten that unless we have constructed an effective barrier against the future sub-division and fragmentation of a consolidated holding it is idle to lay out plans for consolidation. Such a barrier can only be found in industrialization ; for it alone can reduce the extreme pressure which, as we have shown, causes sub-division of land. Thus. if small and scattered holdings are the ills from which our agriculture is suffering to cure it of them is undeniably to industrialize.


savarnas have the largest number of reserved constituencies

a study done by the hindi daily 'dainik bhaskar' reveals that there are 125 parliamentary (lok sabha) constituencies in india which elect only savarna or upper caste candidates in every election. no, not because they're savarna majority constituencies..you could say those constituencies are permanently reserved for the upper castes, by custom. and custom is always stronger in india than law, as we know. please check the heading the newspaper gives to the section of the news report which deals with this phenomenon:
सवर्ण हिंदू - 125 सीटें 
ये वोट बैंक नहीं है, फिर भी कुछ सीटों पर किसी भी धर्म और जाति से परे पार्टियां और लोग सवर्णों को ही चुनते हैं
'they (savarna hindus) are not vote banks, but parties and people choose/elect only savarnas in these seats'. how dare anyone call the upper castes in india vote banks, right? that's a term permanently reserved for the marginalized castes and religious groups in the brahminized imagination.

the number of the constituencies reserved for the upper castes (125) exceeds the total number of parliamentary seats reserved for the dalits and adivasis put together (121). while the combined population of the scheduled castes (16.6%, 2011 census) and the scheduled tribes (8.6%) in india is around 25.2%, the share of seats reserved for them in parliament comes to around 22% (2009), which obviously is less than their share in the population. but the share of parliamentary seats reserved (23%) for the savarnas or upper castes, very obviously, exceeds their share in the population (from 12.5% to 20%, according to various estimates). 

but those are not the only seats reserved for the upper castes in parliament, if one looks at history more closely. if a more comprehensive study of all the constituencies in the country (excluding the ones reserved, by law, for the dalits and adivasis) is done, one would definitely find that every single one of them, or overwhelmingly most of them, elected savarna/upper caste mps on more occasions than they chose non-savarna mps. 

those 125 reserved constituencies are not the only ones which sent savarna mps to the lok sabha in the 2009 elections, for instance. in the 297 seats that remain after excluding the reserved seats (those reserved formally, by law, for the dalits and adivasis, plus those reserved, by custom, for the upper castes), the upper caste share ranges from around 100-150 seats (in the 297 'unreserved' seats). the muslims and the obcs have to share the rest of the seats. 

as long as political parties continue to reserve those 125 constituencies for the upper castes, there is no point in voters from dalit bahujan and minority religious communities exercising their franchise there. don't vote.            


vangapandu's 'yem pillado'

found the movie ardharatri swatantryam on you tube and chopped vangapandu's song from it. t. krishna doesn't look a very convincing vangapandu.

watch it here


part 2 of interview in 'prairie schooner'

Q. What are the sources that the poets are drawing from currently? Is there a conscious rejection of mainstream rendering of texts, especially the traditional epics, etc.? If so, how? 

A. I am reminded of something Dr Ambedkar had said in his book, “Untouchables or The Children of India's Ghetto.” Let me quote:
"It is usual to hear all those who feel moved by the deplorable condition of the Untouchables unburden themselves by uttering the cry "We must do something for the Untouchables." One seldom hears any of the persons interested in the problem saying “Let us do something to change the Touchable Hindu .” It is invariably assumed that the object to be reclaimed is the Untouchables. If there is to be a Mission, it must be to the Untouchables and if the Untouchables can be cured, untouchability will vanish. Nothing requires to be done to the Touchable. He is sound in mind, manners and morals. He is whole; there is nothing wrong with him. Is this assumption correct? Whether correct or not, the Hindus like to cling to it. The assumption has the supreme merit of satisfying themselves that they are not responsible for the problem of the Untouchables. How natural is such an attitude is illustrated by the attitude of the Gentile towards the Jews. Like the Hindus the Gentiles also do not admit that the Jewish problem is in essence a Gentile problem." 
When the Dalit speaks of democratizing Indian society, the “Touchable Hindu” talks of nationalism; when she speaks of equality and the spread of education and opportunities, the Hindu posits it against merit; when she talks of rights and justice, he dismisses it as identity politics; when she argues for diversity and inclusiveness, he pays it lip service and dreams of Hindu supremacy in the region and a spot in the elite club of world powers.

The “Touchable Hindu” still remains utterly clueless about the Hindu problem. He is the one who is consciously rejecting the Dalit discourse all the time.

Whereas the conscious Dalit now attempts to speak of all—from the Shudras to Adivasis to Muslims and other religious minorities to women to the disabled to the sexual minorities – and does it by actually going on the streets to demonstrate, build solidarity, produce advocacy literature and wrangle with political society, the Touchable Hindu becomes ever more self-absorbed, obdurate and privilege-focused.

So the sources are diverse: lived experience, the wada and the world. Pain, deprivation, humiliation, inequality, oppression, festivity, faith, protest, celebration, battles, revolution, pogroms, love, nature, labour, hopes, genocides, lynching, victories and losses from the wada, the village and the world. As Sikhamani expresses it very lucidly in his poem, “Seashell:”
Though you've separated
My ocean from me
I've assimilated the whole ocean in myself.
Whatever inference
You may draw from that roar,
I speak that language. 
Listen to the Dalit segregated from his fellow men, the poet seems to be saying: “you can listen to the infinite roars of the ocean,” just as you do when you hold the seashell, separated from the ocean, close to your ear, and listen “with patience.”

When you listen to her, you’ll also hear the roaring pain of history, as in the words of Kalekuri Prasad:
I was Shambhuka in the Treta Yuga 
Twenty two years ago, my name was Kanchikacherla Kotesu 
My place of birth is Kilvenmani, Karamchedu, Neerukonda 
Now Chunduru is the name that cold-blooded feudal brutality 
Has tattooed on my heart with ploughshares 
From now on, Chunduru is not a noun but a pronoun 
Now every heart is a Chunduru, a burning tumour; 
I am the wound of multitudes, the multitude of wounds: 
For generations, an unfree individual in a free country 
Having been the target 
Of humiliations, atrocities, rapes and torture 
I am someone raising his head for a fistful of self-respect. 
In this nation of casteist bigots blinded by wealth 
I am someone who lives to register life itself as a protest  
I am someone who dies repeatedly to live 
Don't call me a victim 
I am an immortal, I am an immortal, I am an immortal 
~ ~ ~

please read the rest of the interview here.


interview in 'prairie schooner'

nabina das interviews me for 'prairie schooner', lit magazine:
~ ~ ~
Q. Imagining that the larger community has little or no idea of "Dalit Literature," tell us something about it.

A. It’s not very difficult to imagine that the larger community has little or no idea of "Dalit Literature." That tells us something about it; that the literature of the former ‘untouchables’ should largely remain untouchable even now, when it is available in such profusion, tells us how desperately the world wants to stand still and hold its breath so that it will go away.

Does this larger community figure in Dalit writing? 

The larger community is never absent in the Dalit writer’s imagination. The whole world throbs like a bad tumor in her imagination.

When Yendluri Sudhakar takes a walk in Chicago, he hears Martin Luther King:
When I walk in Chicago
The roar of Martin Luther King's
Word flames
Rings constantly in my ears
Like a chant!
K. G. Satyamurthy ('Sivasagar’) faces death in Jaffna:
Jaffna! Jaffna!! O Jaffna!!
When the night was flying as a vulture
You blew up as a landmine
I died without realizing it
I died in Jaffna.
He is imprisoned in South Africa with Nelson Mandela:
So many prisons
But only one life
He is singing in Tiananmen Square:
The tear drop that splits
On the edge of dark night’s sword:
In the clasp of the gallows
The song that shall wake the sun!
Writes a love letter to Saddam Hussein:
The river Tigris
The Kurdistan hills
The Baghdad streets
The Iraqi grains of sand,
I love Your love for them.
 And he grieves for Santiago:
Santiago! Santiago!
What treachery stabbed you in the back?
What treachery made you stand unarmed before your enemy?
What treachery deprived you of your people’s army?
We can then say that the Dalit poet has a global scope in her work?

The Dalit poet breathes the pain of the wretched and the marginalized in Chicago, Jaffna, Santiago, South Africa, Baghdad and Tiananmen Square as naturally as she inhales the daily treachery, repression, rebellion, seclusion, and defiance of the Dalitwada. Dalitwada is the Dalit settlement outside the village which is always so planned that it can taste even the wind only after it has passed through the village first. The wada which deserves only the leftovers, the remnants, the dregs of everything, including air: who would understand the need for community better?

Who would understand the need for peace and solidarity better than someone who has been engaged in an endless, unequal war she never sought? A war so unequal that generation after generation has to depend solely, and paradoxically, on the enemy itself to sustain its continued participation? Therefore, the wars and unrealized deaths in Jaffna or Santiago or Baghdad or Afghanistan or the Congo or anywhere and everywhere else aren’t unfamiliar to the Dalits in even the most remote, totally-shut-off-from-the-world wadas in India.

Because, as Sivasagar says:
Listen! Listen to the untouchable word:
Between the village and the wada
There's a Kargil,
From grandfathers' forefathers' age,
Burning between us;
This Kargil war
Hasn't stopped, it goes on.
The war between the caste village and the caste-less wada is the oldest conflict in the world. But the world still flickers in the Dalit poet’s heart more brightly than any lamp lit across the world in memory of dead soldiers.

Pydi Theresh Babu mourns the slow death of a world being consumed by globalization:
Nothing is overtly visible
You can’t hear my breath
In my song
You can’t hear my music
In my procession
You can’t see my play
In my street
You can’t see my ware
In my bazaar
Paradoxes. Contradictions. Why should a Dalit in the wada, who should be happy to be free of the village, embrace the whole world, in such unfettered love?

How do you see these contradictions being resolved? 

As Satish Chandar sees it, the Dalit is a revolutionary staking claim over her body, land, spirit and humanity:
My land's not mine, they said,
I became a revolutionary
My body's not mine, they said,
I became a feminist
My village is not mine, they said,
I became a Dalit
She wants a whole new world, nothing less:
I am not even human, they said,
Step away
I've become a human bomb.
~ ~ ~
please read the rest of the interview here


woman bites dog

[an old draft]

a dalit woman is abused, called before a panchayat and fined because she fed a roti to a dog that belonged to an upper caste villager. the local police don't listen to her, nor does the sc/st police station where she goes next. finally, the police wake up only after the district administration takes notice.

look at how one of the initial news stories looked at the issue. you would think the dalit woman was the heroine of the story, no? but what's this title - 'Dog cast(e) away after Dalit touch' - where does the woman figure in it?

let's look at how the reporter probably saw the story.
~ ~ ~   

this is the sad tale of an upper caste dog which lost caste because it hobnobbed with a dalit:
BHOPAL: A dog's life couldn't get worse. A mongrel brought up in an upper caste home in Morena was kicked out after the Rajput family members discovered that their Sheru had eaten a roti from a dalit woman and was now an "untouchable". Next, Sheru was tied to a pole in the village's dalit locality. His controversial case is now pending with the district collector, the state police and the Scheduled Caste Atrocities police station in Morena district of north MP.
this is also the sad tale of the dog's owner who was cheated of his right to just compensation:
The black cur, of no particular pedigree, was accustomed to the creature comforts in the home of its influential Rajput owners in Manikpur village in Morena. Its master, identified by the police as Rampal Singh, is a rich farmer with local political connections.

A week ago Sunita Jatav, a dalit woman, was serving lunch to her farm labourer husband. "There was a 'roti' left over from lunch. I saw the dog roaming and fed it the last bread," Sunita said. "But when Rampal Singh saw me feeding the dog and he grew furious. He yelled: 'Cobbler woman, how dare you feed my dog with your roti?' He rebuked me publicly. I kept quiet thinking the matter would end there. But it got worse," she said.

On Monday, Rampal ex-communicated the dog. A village panchayat was called, which decided that Sheru would now have to live with Sunita and her family because it had become an untouchable. Sunita Jatav was fined Rs 15,000.
also interwoven with the above sad tales is the sad tale of the panchayat which did not get due respect...
An outraged Sunita and her brother Nahar Singh Jatav rushed to Sumawali police station. They were directed to take the matter to the SC/ST Atrocities police station in Kalyan. "When we went there, the officer asked us why we fed the dog," recalls Nahar. "So we went to the DSP in the SC/ST Atrocities department and submitted a memorandum to him, as also to the district collector. But no one has registered our FIR so far.
and all those sad tales ended in the sad tale of the police who were harassed into action because of all the 'political' pressure imposed on them:
DSP SC/ST Atrocities (Morena), Baldev Singh, recalls, "We got a complaint in which it has been alleged that a dog was declared untouchable and a dalit family fined for feeding it. We are investigating the allegation," said the officer.
we are investigating. such a laid-back approach. does he realize the trauma the dog went through? 


Let's skim the upper caste creamy layer

(This is the second part of the article 'The compulsive need to oppose reservations', continued from here)

What does Pratap Bhanu Mehta really want? He wants 'alternative paradigms' other than caste based reservations to be considered. Why? To build a sense of 'common citizenship'. His worry is 'we are also about to do that to the state', by which he means we're infusing caste into the state.

Perhaps he did write, talk about these ideas before 2006, but one gets the idea that it was the second phase of Mandal reservations introduced during that period which provoked him to think more on the issue. Was the state clean until then?

If there were no reservations, he would perhaps have not thought so hard on caste and citizenship. Reservations have forced him to compulsorily think about caste. Doesn't that make reservation itself an effective alternative paradigm?

Alternative paradigms, but same location

But how does he plan to create alternative paradigms? That's not always clear from what he says in this article or from his earlier writing, despite his obvious interest in the subject of reservations. But one key point can be deduced: even though he says he doesn't share the grounds on which many of the arguments against caste based reservations are made-- 'unthinking usage of an abstract idea of merit'-- he makes all his arguments from the vantage point of merit. He's not thinking of any 'alternative paradigms' away from that location.

This perpective binds him to a very hypocritical stance: while he talks about de-casteing our 'modern secular institutions', he doesn't talk about lessening the tendency of those institutions to embrace and favour upper caste elites. He isn't talking about puncturing the disproportionate sense of entitlement that the instrument of merit infuses into the privileged communities, only about how the Dalit-Bahujans shouldn't make any claims on the basis of their disprivileged, 'compulsory' caste identities.

Commenting on the Supreme Court judgement which finally okayed the second phase of Mandal reservations a few years ago, Mehta said:
The court has, in deference to the legislature but in line with its own precedent, upheld reservations. It has upheld the constitutionality of the 93rd Amendment and 27 per cent quota for OBCs. But it is in modest ways forcing the government to rationalise the system in at least two ways: the exclusion of the creamy layer from the OBC quota and an injunction that the inclusion of specific groups be reviewed every five years. The rationalisation imposed is modest. 
That's probably one issue that probably bothers Mehta a lot: the creamy layer. One can assume Mehta prefers rationalisation too, that he approves of the skimming of the creamy layer. But why should any student who wishes to study further be denied the chance to do so? The popular logic runs thus: only the truly needy and deserving should avail of reservations. The well off should be excluded.

Mehta obviously believes, like many others, that a lot of rich aspirants from the reserved categories corner all the reservation benefits. He also believes, while writing on the quota for minorities, 'particular castes in the categories of SC and OBC have disproportionately benefited from reservation'.

Creamy layer individuals and creamy layer castes. His 'alternative paradigms' should resolve those two issues, perhaps? All alternative paradigms suggested in the past, including the 'deprivation index' method promoted by Yogendra Yadav, have neccessarily focussed on assuaging those two major anxieties of upper caste opponents of reservations and so-called defenders, upper caste again, of 'affirmative action'. Alternative paradigms?

But there isn't any substantive evidence that only rich aspirants, and a few castes across categories are grabbing all benefits of reservations. Those are at best assumptions, especially the first, and not even very intelligent ones at that. Can we build any alternative paradigm on the basis of such assumptions? You definitely cannot build any alternative paradigm based on the prejudice on which those assumptions are predicated.

Let's skim the upper caste creamy layer 

Let's look at the first assumption first: it's impossible to convince the upper castes of India that only rich, lazy, incompetent and untalented people among the reserved categories, the so called 'creamy layer' in other words, are not eating away all the seats and jobs offered through quotas. Are only rich, lazy, incompetent and untalented people among the upper castes grabbing all the 'general category' seats and jobs offered? 

That question would seem absurd to most upper caste opponents of reservations. Why? Because they obviously believe no one can succeed without hard work and merit. But why do they think the success of the reserved category students or applicants is not because of hard work and merit? Because they know they're rich, lazy, incompetent and untalented.

That kind of reasoning would be universally recognized as racism; but no, not in India. Therefore, the Dronacharyas in Delhi University, for instance, think nothing of stealing thousands of reserved seats every year, and admitting many more thousands of upper caste students than sanctioned by the government. And you can be quite sure they are quite proud of doing that, as proud as Oskar Schindler must have been adding more and more condemned people (to be rescued) to his list, except the people being 'rescued' here are from the classes which do the condemning, mostly.

Let's ignore 'lazy, incompetent and untalented' for the moment: but are none of the people in the general category lists rich?

Their parents and grandparents and their parents and grandparents etc have been 'meritorious' through generations without making any money? That couldn't be true. Why would they continue to strive so hard to prove their merit, generation after generation, to grab the best educational opportunities and jobs if they were not going to make some money from it? Why go through all that hard work for nothing?

It is reasonable to assume at least some of them must be rich, even if not all of them like the successful quota grabbers from the reserved categories. Let's skim that creamy layer.

But many among the upper castes might object to that. How can meritorious students from the 'general category' be skimmed? Well, how can meritorious students from reserved categories be skimmed? If the rule is that only rich students corner all reserved seats, then it is very reasonable to assume that only rich students corner all the general category seats too.

Let only poor candidates from all categories get all the opportunities. If it makes good sense to skim rich aspirants from the reserved categories in order to benefit the truly poor and marginalized, then it makes much better sense to skim them from the general category because there are quite possibly more rich aspirants there. Why? Because more marks mean richer candidates, right? And as all of the candidates in the general category score more marks than the creamy layer of rich aspirants in the reserved categories, they must all very obviously be richer than the first creamy layer.

If this proposition militates against the fine sensibilities of people who worship merit they should think about all the poor, needy, very deserving upper caste aspirants who are deprived of opportunities because of those rich, meritorious freeloaders.

The second assumption-- particular castes in the categories of SC and OBC have disproportionately benefited from reservation-- is quite ironic really. Because reservations came about because a few, particular castes were hogging all the opportunities; and those few, particular castes still continue to hog most of the general category seats, on an average, and also steal seats from the reserved categories in huge numbers, wherever possible.

But Mehta isn't going to talk about that. In his view, only the reserved category is tainted by the impurity of caste. When he talks of cleansing our 'modern, secular institutions' of caste, he means only those parts of those institutions which have been unwisely thrown open to accommodate the lower castes to whatever extent.

In other words, he has no issues with how the 'general category' is constructed, how it has been monopolized by a few castes for the last couple of centuries, ever since the British first admitted them into their institutions by reserving some seats for them, because they were too unmeritorious to get in otherwise. When the 'general category' has such a long history of caste, Mehta doesn't spare even a brief glance at it. How modern and secular is his conception of our modern, secular institutions?

Caste has been stifling the egalitarian potential of our modern secular instititutions even since they came into existence, and the introduction of reservation itself, as pointed out in the beginning, should be considered as the exploring of an alternative paradigm. How can tinkering exclusively with reservations, while ignoring the flawed nature of the 'general category' or merit, be considered as a solution to rid our institutions of caste?

If anything frees these institutions of the stagnant miasma of caste to some extent, breathes some refreshing air of modern ideas like egalitarianism and diversity into them, it is the system of reservations. The general category is the seat of caste, not the reserved categories.

 To be continued.
Cartoon by Unnamati Syama Sundar.

Also published on Round Table India.


The compulsive need to oppose reservations

Pratap Bhanu Mehta wants to break down the 'tyranny of compulsory identities'. Shouldn't reservations be the last place to begin then? Reservations happen when the state finally decides to pay attention to what caste has done to a lower caste individual. A whole life precedes it: a life spent facing and struggling against, in varying degrees, many structural efforts to incapacitate that individual. Shouldn't we begin at the beginning, then? From the 'scandalous failure to prepare the preconditions for advancement'?

What are these preconditions? Mehta mentions: 'Access to primary education to access to public goods, financial support, and a robustly growing economy that provides opportunities for mobility'.

Ignoring the superciliousness in Mehta's tone which seems to indicate the implicit belief that Dalits or other backward sections of Indian society have never seriously considered or agitated for the resolution of those issues, you will probably admit: how can there be any disagreement on all those issues? But how do we get there from here? It's quite clear it is very difficult to get there from here, because we haven't got there in the last 65 years. But the ruling classes, as represented by people like Mehta, should understand that a major reason why we are still stuck here, still discussing reservations, the symptoms, is probably because they have never paid as much serious attention to, or expended as much passion in, discussing causes as they have deprecating reservations. We're still here, because the ruling classes most probably like it here.

Reservations are still here because the conditions which create the compulsory identities are still here. And what sustains those conditions? Following Mehta's train of thought, we could say the answer is: the lack of opportunities. And what causes that shortage of opportunities? One reason could be the inability to create them. Another less obvious reason could be the unwillingness to create them.

Let's explore the less obvious reason first. The ruling classes have from the very beginning stood by the ideology of merit. Remember, Nehru wanted to build a 'first class country in everything'. You can't create opportunities for all when you swear by the exclusivity inherent in the ideal of merit, can you? This is a contradiction that champions of merit like Mehta can never see.

So when he talks about 'access to primary education' does he really understand, how the ideology of merit subverts that idea? That a caste system of varyingly 'meritorious' schools doesn't ensure equal, or equitable, access to primary education to all? Shouldn't Mehta have written this 'Dear Dalits' article when the RTE Bill was being debated rather than now, when the quota in promotions is being mooted? Why are you so in love with the symptoms, Mr. Mehta? But such has been the sincerity of reservation baiters for a long, long time. If they had been truly committed to the causes they boisterously espouse they would have started looking at the design of the education system in India first. A comment by a popular blogger turned novelist, on the social media, seems to illustrate clearly the narrowness of the thinking of these reservation baiters:
The demand for reservations in promotions after 60 years of reservations in educational institutions and jobs is a proof that reservations have failed.  
He seems, like Mehta, to be another symptom lover again, disguised again as a lover of causes. All kinds of media, right from those driven by satellites to those catalysed by water coolers, are full of such profound anti-reservations wisdom. But he is right in recognizing that something has failed, and thankfully, is also much less sanctimonious than Mehta in expressing his views. What has failed? Reservations?

If the education system, even after 60 years, can accommodate students from reserved categories only under compulsion it clearly means the education system has failed. A system which seems to produce only largely 'unmeritorious' lower castes against largely 'meritorious' upper castes: isn't something wrong with that system? Any objective outsider would consider such a system deeply flawed at best, or intentionally racist at worst. To reiterate, reservations are not a failure, the education system is.

Our deeply flawed education system didn't grow out of nowhere, it grew out of a deeply flawed society. Why don't you look at our society as a whole, Mr. Mehta, instead of harping on what happens in the sphere of public employment which concerns less than one per cent of India's population? Or in higher education in central universities, the exclusive club within a club, which concerns much less than even 0.1 per cent of people in India?

The question that naturally crops up, considering the tendency, among the upper caste dominated middle classes and their shallow intellectual leaders, to rile against reservations every time a yawning gap in representation is sought to be even partially filled by an ever dilatory state: are the ruling classes truly prepared, and willing, to create more opportunities for all? Even in areas where shortages have been eliminated-- like in undergraduate medical, business and engineering colleges where many seats are going a-begging-- you'll find deep resentment against reservations and students from the reserved categories. Why? 

Around 3 lakh engineering seats remained unfilled in the country, last year. For the last few years, tens of thousands of engineering seats are going unfilled in just the three southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, and now this year, the figure would be more than a couple of lakhs. Seats remain unfilled in Maharashtra, and in Uttar Pradesh, and across India. There are many medical seats that remain unfilled too. A similar situation exists in institutions offering other popular courses in law, business etc.

So the first reason, inability to create more opportunities, can't be a cause of 'lack of opportunities', at least in the field of higher education. There are enough opportunities for everyone and more; but why do we still hear such virulent and very loud complaints against reservations in our public sphere? It's not just a few 'public' intellectuals like Pratap Bhanu Mehta who seemed to have made successful careers out of reservation baiting, there seem to a whole range of social, voluntary organizations that seem to thrive entirely on agendas which, directly or indirectly, oppose reservations. The Hazare-Kejriwal movement is a prime example.

This is the reality: in higher education, India has moved beyond the era of shortages, but the Pratap Bhanu Mehtas of the 'merit-excellence' business still seem to be stuck in it. They don't want students from the reserved categories in higher education even when there are more than enough, much more than enough, seats in higher education. This paradox can't be explained through logic, because this antipathy seems to be founded on purely emotional grounds. This opposition is founded on hatred, it'd seem.

 To be continued. 
 Cartoon by Unnamati Syama Sundar.

Also published on Round Table India.


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Caste isn't efficient or capable

Aakar Patel explains why Brahmins and Vaishyas dominate India's corporate boardrooms:
My view has long been that these are our only two capable castes. It is largely from merit that they dominate. 
Pitted against such sheer unabashed racism, the arguments of the Sangh Parivar ideologue Gurumurthy, who has long been an advocate of caste as a 'development vehicle', seem like refreshing, unbiased wisdom. In fact, Gurumurthy's oft repeated paeans to caste based enterprises offer the most efficient refutation of Patel's Two Supercastes theory.

Gurumurthy has been studying industrial clusters in India for over a decade and one conclusion that can definitely be drawn from his observations is that individuals from castes across the varna divides are capable of becoming 'capable' entrepreneurs, not just those from an elite group or two. He says, in this article from The Hindu:
An empirical study was conducted in some 25 caste-based industrial clusters in different places in India by a team of academics and professionals trained in modern business under the aegis of the Tamil Nadu Swadeshi Academic Council. It showed that whether it is the Jatavs of Agra and Kanpur, or the Nadars, Naidus, or Goundars of Tamil Nadu, or the Patels of Gujarat, or the artisan Ramgadiyas of Punjab, they have risen as competent entrepreneurs – many at the global level – mostly by leveraging on their kinship-based social capital. Most of them have had very little education. It is the community that has acted as the knowledge provider thorough kinship and social network.
Jatavs, Nadars, Naidus, Gounders, Ramgadiyas, Patels: Dalits, backward and intermediate shudra castes. Who isn't capable? 

Patel should read Gurumurthy a little. And Gurumurthy should also read a little about research that doesn't agree with his views. For instance, Abhijeet Banerjee and Kaivan Munshi, in their paper 'How Efficiently is Capital Allocated? Evidence from the Knitted Garment Industry in Tirupur', presenting some of the evidence (page 20) from a study of Gounder and non-Gounder (or 'Outsiders', as the study calls them) garment manufacturers in Tirupur, say:
 (1) The average Gounder firm that was set up during our sample period (1991–1994) started with almost three times as much fixed capital as a comparable Outsider firm.
 (2) At all levels of experience (by which we mean the number of years since the firm went into business as an exporter), the average Gounder firm owns more fixed capital than the average Outsider firm that was started in the same year, though the difference is small for firms that have been exporting for more than 6 years.
 (3) At all levels of experience, the capital intensity of production in an average Gounder firm (measured both by the ratio of fixed capital to exports and the ratio of fixed capital to total production) is between 1·5 and 2·5 times that of an average Outsider firm that was started in the same year.
 (4) Output (measured both by exports and by total production) is initially lower in firms owned by Outsiders compared with firms owned by Gounders that were started in the same year, but grows faster with experience and crosses that of the Gounders after about 5 years.
 (5) In contrast with the cross-community comparison, within each community, firms that invest more maintain higher levels of output at every level of experience. 
To sum up, roughly, the Gounders employ more capital than the Outsiders but dont get better results than them. Caste isn't efficient.

But the Gounders can start garment units more easily, get easier access to capital and labour, rely on better co-operation from local authorities, and can stick around longer (even if they are not as efficient as the Outsiders) because of what the researchers call the 'community effect' (or plain old caste loyalty, in other words). But despite all those advantages:
 In our data the Outsiders seem to outperform the Gounders. This is easiest to see by comparing the Gounders and Outsiders who have more than 5 years of experience. The Outsiders in this category own less capital stock than the corresponding Gounders. Yet they produce significantly more. Moreover, the growth rate of output is higher for the Outsiders with more than 5 years of experience compared with the corresponding Gounders, which rules out the possibility that the Gounders are trading off current productivity for future growth. Finally, these Gounders use more capital per unit of output and own more capital stock at every level of experience: everything else being the same, this should give them a higher growth rate. The slower growth of the Gounders is therefore in spite of this additional advantage. 
And so on. How truly capable is the corporate Brahmin or Bania? India's share in world trade now hovers at less than 2%. Despite all their advantages, built over a two millennia old foundation of education, land, wealth and power, the very 'capable' Brahmins and Baniyas leading all the organized capital of India don't seem to be so very capable, after all.

The Gounders ('80 per cent of whom are not even matriculates', as Gurumurthy says, but 'compete at the global level, exporting knitwear garments valued at over $2 billion'), representing less organized capital, seem more efficient than the Brahmins; and the Outsiders in Tirupur seem more productive than the Gounders. India's economy definitely needs more and more doses of Outsiders, in boardrooms and classrooms, to make it truly efficient or capable.

 Cartoon by Unnamati Syama Sundar.

Also published on Round Table India.

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