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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 39 New Delhi September 17, 2016

Message From Una

Sunday 18 September 2016

by Binoy Viswam

August 15, our Independence Day, was observed in the national Capital in a routine manner. The Prime Minister, in his customary address, added Balochistan to give it an additional punch. But hundreds of kilometres away from Delhi, in the Gujarat town of Una, the day was marked in a much different way. There, thousands of Dalits, the oppressed, rallied to declare freedom from oppression. They were asking: how can India be free, when Indians are not?

There was anguish, anger and determination filled in the air of Una. It was in that town, on July 11, four Dalit youth were tortured and humiliated in the most inhuman manner. The criminal vandalism was staged by the forces of Chaturvarnya under the garb of Gau Rakshaks. The mistake of the Dalits was that they were skinning a dead cow. For the Gau Rakshaks and Sangh Parivar, the skin of the dead cow is more important than the lives of living men who happened to be Dalits.

This is the deplorable situation in India, that is, Bharat, on the 70th anniversary of her freedom! The mass upsurge in Una was the natural and almost spontaneous outburst of the oppressed men and women against their pathetic plight. To mark their determination to fight for freedom from caste oppression, Radhika Vemula unfurled the national flag in the school ground at the heart of Una town. Balu Sarvaiya, father of one of the Una victims, joined her in the patriotic act with a difference. In fact that flag of freedom was placed in the hearts of millions of Indians who are committed to carry on the fight for social justice. In that way the Una upsurge would be treated as the beginning of a new awakening. When the Una March started from Vejalpur on August 5th, nobody imagined that it is going to initiate a new beginning in the history of Dalit struggles in the country. But covering 380 kilometres when it reached Una on the 10th day, estimations had changed. The March, organised by the ‘Dalit Atyachar Ladai Samiti’, could attract support from various sections of society including the Left mass organisations. The JNUSU President and AISF leader, Kanhaiya Kumar, was also there to express solidarity.

The ‘Dalit Asmita Yatra’ [Dalit Pride March] was undoubtedly a reflection of the irrepressible anger looming large among the downtrodden masses. But throughout its course, the marchers were disciplined, though at some places there were attempts from Gau Rakshaks to provoke them. Though those seemed to be spontaneous, the slogans raised by the Asmita Yatra need to be understood correctly. The most important slogan was: “Gaynu Pichade Tume Rakho, Hamne Hamare Jamin aappo” [You take the cow’s tail, give us our land]. It shows the level of awakening that has taken place among the most oppressed sections of our society. They have come to raise the question of paramount importance, the question of land! No doubt, the exploiting classes and their allies in Right-wing politics will take urgent note of this upsurge. And they are sure to work out a strategy to contain the threat.

Narendra Modi, the mastermind of the Indian Right, who was silent on the issue for about four weeks, suddenly jumped into the scene. He minced no words in blaming the Gau Rakshaks. One should recall, when three Dalit youth were killed in Gujarat in 2012, the then CM and present PM, the very same Narenda Modi, did not open his mouth at all. A question can be asked: then why did he open his mouth this time, though bellatedly? Has Narendra Modi changed dramatically in these four years? Has the philosophy of the Sangh Parivar undergone drastic changes? No, Narendra Modi remains one and the same. And there is no change in the Parivar philosophy too. If any, it has become more aggressive after coming to power at the Centre. Then why the change in Modi this time? This change can be explained only by the fact that the elections are coming in States from UP to Gujarat. In all these States, Dalit votes are going to be crucial. In Gujarat, the PM is more worried due to several unfavourable develop-ments. Hence the belated statements are nothing but the Modi-style firefighting measures. The Sangh Parivar is on its course of hunting with the hound and running with the hare!

We can see the double-role played by the RSS in the utterances of the VHP and Bajrang Dal. The army of Gau Rakshaks all along and everywhere draws inspiration from the same philosophy to which Modi swears his allegiance day and night and that philosophy of Hindutva is binding on all those who form part of the Sangh Parivar. It is interlinked so closely with the concept of ‘chaturvarnya’ which they believe is destined by God! In that strata, only four varnas, brahmins, kshtriyas, vaishyas and shudras are enlisted. All others, considered to be Hindus, find no place in the ‘sacred’ realm of Hindutva. In fact, for the majority, that is, from the lower depths among the Hindus, Hindutva is something alien. The RSS designed an idea of ‘samasta Hindu’ only for electoral purposes.

The ‘samasta Hindu’, as claimed by the RSS, is nothing but a fake propaganda. Once confronted with socio-economic realities it would burst like a soap bubble. During the period when the Mandal Commission Report came, India witnessed the real face of the RSS. Whenever the Dalits and backward communities have raised the issues of land, jobs and equality, the RSS has always betrayed them by siding with the rich and upper castes. Modi, Amit Shah together invented the theory of ‘social engineering’ with the sole aim of trapping the poor. That ill-motivated strategy is being questioned by the Dalits and poor in Gujarat and elsewhere.

The message from Una is to intensify the fight against the onslaught on Dalits. The demand for land, which is the cardinal question in the emerging socio-political scenario makes the Una uprising distinct. There is every possibility that such agitations would spread to other parts of the country. Considering the deepening of class and social contradictions, such an awakening among Dalits is quite natural.

The corporate rich alongside the social elite in the neo-liberal era is eyeing on every piece of land in their pursuit for super profits. Dalits, tribals and the poor are longing for soil to make their livelihood. But their cries are never heard by the ruling classes. An unholy nexus bet-ween the ruling classes, bureaucracy and the underworld is growing stronger by the day. With the support of the casteist regime at the Centre they have become more and more ruthless in their attacks on poor. The down- trodden have no other option but to fight this repressive combination. It is a struggle for survival. In Una they gave the clarion call for freedom from caste oppression and exploitation, and that has to to reach every nook and corner of this vast country. Gathering the fighting spirit of the time, Una declared that Dalits will come no more for skinning of cows or cleaning of sewages. They want to live a life of self- respect. This is possible only when they have land and jobs. This demand has heightened the level of the present Dalit uprising and added a new dimension to it.

What is the role of the Left in this new era of Dalit awakening? If we remain as mere inter-preters or spectators of this mass upsurge, history will not forgive us. The Communist Party and the entire Left have to pay attention urgently to this most pressing issue. Millions of Dalits and minorities are facing ruthless oppression even after 70 years of independence. At the same time the Indian working class is faced with unprecedented repression in free India. Corporate capital and forces of Chatur-varnya have joined together in creating conducive conditions for the socio-economic exploitation. Caste and caste-based repression is a specific feature of the Indian society. Communists in India are duty-bound to analyse this feature from the Marxist point of view. When we say about creative development of Marxism and applying it to Indian conditions, caste is the cardinal issue to be addressed. How far are the class relations and caste relations inter-connected, that is, between the econo-mically exploited classes and socially exploited castes? These are the areas where we should concentrate while studying the caste factor in India.

The methodology of Marxism provides the objective analysis of objective conditions. Objective conditions in India speak volumes about caste discrimination and growing caste oppression. Interconnection between the sources of class exploitation and caste oppression is also becoming more expressive. At such a point of time, Communists have no reason to sit idle before the questions of class and caste contradictions. They should understand the socio-political and economic agonies faced by the Dalits, minorities and backward communities in the country. In the fight for genuine rights and social justice, Communists should become their real comrades-in-arms. The ability of the Communists and the Left to intervene in the course of Indian political developments depends much on this preparedness.

The author, a former Minister of Forests and Housing in the erstwhile LDF Government in Kerala, is a member of the National Executive of the CPI.