On two kinds of corruption
Udit Raj argues there is one more kind of corruption the media has forgotten about
No other personality in India enjoys non-governmental celebrations for a birth anniversary at such a mass scale as does BR Ambedkar. If the Uttar Pradesh government had not imposed restrictions on the installation of more Ambedkar’s statues, by now they would have been found in every nook and corner of the state.
This popularity, however, does not mask the tension that lie in the Dalit movement today. One can see contradictions in the behaviour of his followers when, on the one hand, they still languish in the practice of caste system and, on the other hand, are busy erecting his statues and organising seminars and public meetings to discuss caste issues.
Crusaders against Corruption:
Anna Hazare and BR Ambedkar
Ambedkar primarily fought against social and mental corruption. The questions raised by him are yet to be answered. The nation did not take him seriously because of his Dalit background and, therefore, his thoughts do not haunt the majority of people.
Anna Hazare fasted against a different kind of corruption; will the fast help in the eradication of corruption? The material corruption will not vanish till the issue of mental corruption is solved.
Truth is bitter and some truths taste worse. If the British had not ruled India, Ambedkar would not have been born. A free India has not allowed any Dalit to reach that position that Ambedkar enjoys. No doubt, the British exploited their colony, but they ensured the dignity and better participation of Dalits in polity and society. When the Simon Commission came to India, Ambedkar and his followers did not oppose it. They rather tried to articulate the grievances of the untouchables. As a result, he was invited to the Round Table Conference in London. Had he not been invited to the conference, the concerns of Dalits would not have surfaced in the mainstream.
Gandhiji was born in Gujarat. But, this state is not only known for communalism but for caste wars as well. Very few people will agree that Ambedkar’s thoughts are more beneficial to humanity than those of Gandhi. If there was no caste-based reservation in government jobs and politics, the story of Dalits and tribals would have been more pathetic. It is needless to point out that they form 25 percent of India. Their social and political exclusion cannot help the nation to grow strong. Gandhiji, Jai Prakash Narayan and others carried on incessant battle against corruption, but what change did it bring? Hazare has admitted that if he were to contest election, he will lose his deposit.
The point to be noted here is that without the removal of mental corruption, material corruption will continue in society. Hence, the emphasis should be on changing the mindset of people. This is what Ambedkar emphasised to build an honest, scientific and rationalist society.
A naive person may find it difficult to agree with the idea that mental corruption is more dangerous than other forms of corruption. But, our social system is based on falsity. The pre-condition to fight material corruption is to hit hard the social inequality and mental dishonesty.
Caste prejudices prevail in every walk of our lives. In 2009, I sat on a fast unto death on the issues concerning Dalits, like reservation in the private sector, with thousands of followers at Jantar Mantar: but, where was the media? Last November, the same Anna Hazare came to Jantar Mantar on the same issue, but not more than 100 people turned up to support him. He, very often, sits on similar dharnas in Maharashtra against corruption, but most of the times he manages to attract between 50 to 100 people.
Today, he is the hero of the struggle against corruption, but one should notice that the major role in this struggle was played by the media. No doubt, Hazare and the media deserve many thanks, but when someone initiates a struggle on the issue of Dalits and tribal and backward communities, he becomes a zero, and not a hero.
Everybody knows that corruption has increased in the country. Privatisation and globalisation have accelerated corruption. Dalits and tribals have been further marginalised. It is difficult to know what their plight would have been if they were not represented in government jobs and politics. To this day, their exclusion remains from the media, art and film fields, industries, export-import trades and many other streams remains a big concern. Privatisation has reduced the total number of Dalits and tribals in government jobs.
However, the story on the other side is not too encouraging. Many so called Ambedkarites are never tired of blaming the upper castes for discrimination in society, but in their own deeds, do they follow the concept of casteless society and nurse rationalism? From the outside, Hinduism looks like any other religion, but in its core is the idea of caste. Ambedkarism has a little similarity with Hinduism, in the sense that overtly it looks like the caravan of equality and casteless-ness, but most Dalits have not severed themselves from idea of caste.
The Uttar Pradesh government is busy in constructing monuments, memorials and parks in the name of Ambedkar, Gautam Buddha and other personalities related to social change, but, on the other hand, the caste divide is also increasing. Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati declared in 2008 that her successor would be from the chamar caste. First, in democracy there cannot be room for declaring the legacy, and, secondly, this declaration is more in the nature of Brahmanism. Why can’t any Dalit from any caste succeed her?
While celebrating the 120th birth anniversary of Ambedkar, his followers should see to it that they imbibe the values that he stood for, lest it remains only a ritual and, at the end of the day, the difference between the values of Ambedkarites and Brahminism remains narrow.
Udit Raj is the national chairman of the All India Confederation of SC/ST Organizations and the Indian Justice Party.