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    Posted on 01 September 2011

    This is why Team Anna makes me nervous

    Anna Hazare’s core group appears to be instinctively anti-democracy, anti-constitution, anti-parliament and possibly anti-minorities

    Illustration: Mayanglambam Dinesh

    IN THE name of a crusade against corruption, a number of supporters of the caste system, who are also vociferously opposed to reservations for the historically oppressed castes, have got together to stir up a massive agitation against India’s democratic system, insisting that democracy must bow before their dictates. In effect, what they are demanding is that the government must do as it is ordered to by them, and that if it does not do so, they will engineer mass protests, which will make it difficult for a government to survive. These casteist forces, who claim to be protesting against corruption, are being projected by a pliant media as supposedly being the voice of the people of India, but nothing could be further from the truth. In this regard, it is heartening that crores of Dalits, Adivasis and other oppressed people have chosen to clearly stay away from this movement. They have also begun to come out on the streets to protect democracy and the Indian Constitution from the threats posed to both by this casteist movement. They firmly refuse to accept the superpower Jan Lokpal that Team Anna wants to impose on the country.

    The Anna Hazare movement shows every sign of being dangerously opposed to democracy, as the defiant rhetoric of the members of Team Anna indicates. They have been issuing repeated challenges to the Constitution, parliament and democracy. A caste-class analysis of this movement is necessary at this juncture to clarify its true nature. It cannot be that the whole country is stupefied into such blind adoration of Anna Hazare that we forget this fundamental task. It is also crucial for us to note that much of the support that Hazare is receiving is actually an expression of a general disgust with widespread corruption rather than an expression of support for a Lokpal of the sort that Team Anna has proposed.

    Some might accuse me of seeking to divide the movement at a time when it has garnered popular support by raising the question of the participation or otherwise in it of Dalits, Adivasis, obcs and religious minorities. Such Hazare supporters are bound to raise questions about my understanding of their movement. They might even accuse people, who point out the casteist nature of their movement, of being supportive of corruption simply because we do not support them.

    My simple response to them is: Who has given the right to Team Anna and its backers among the middle-class urban Savarna Hindus across India to brand every voice that opposes them as a collaborator of corruption or as lacking in merit? Is it that they still view the world through instrument of the Brahminical texts, according to which Shudras have no rights to study, speak, and even to know, understand and ask, their only task being to slave for others?

    The slogans raised by pro-Hazare demonstrators indicate that the Hazare-led movement is distinctly anti-Dalit. It is against the Mandal Commission and the caste census. It is against democracy. Banners of various caste associations were seen fluttering at the Ramlila ground, including of the Krantikari Manuvadi Morchha. Volunteers of this outfit had brought their posters with them, which call for an end to reservations at the same time as they demand the Jan Lokpal. RK Bharadwaj, fervent supporter of Hazare and a key leader of the Krantikari Manuvadi Morchha, declares, ‘Reservations are the root of all corruption. The real revolution will come when the merit-based social system of Manu Maharaj will be reinstated.’

    It’s possible that one of the aims of the movement is to create a supergovernment in the form of the Lokpal as formulated by Team Anna, to be used to trap and persecute officials, employees and leaders belonging to the minority communities

    The casteist thrust of Hazare’s movement can also be gauged from his stance on the caste question. This devotee of Gandhi is a supporter of the Varna system. He has declared that in every village there must be at least one suthar (carpenter), one kumhar (potter), one sunar (goldsmith) and one chamar (leather-worker). But Babasaheb Ambedkar had told Dalits to give up their demeaning ancestral professions, even if this meant that they had to starve to death, and advised them to leave the villages, dens of caste discrimination, and settle in cities instead. As a votary of Gandhi, Hazare seems to regard village life as ideal. His village of Ralegaon Siddhi is a case in point. For many years, elections have not taken place to the gram panchayat on the grounds that the gram pradhan should be elected unopposed. Can this be in accordance with the norms and ideals of democracy? Using this logic, might it not be possible that someone might demand that a dictator, a Narendra Modi or a Varun Gandhi, or a Raj Thackeray, be declared to be the prime minister unopposed?

    It is absolutely necessary at this juncture to point out that Hazare is being used by anti-reservation and anti-Constitution forces. The man behind this entire affair, Arvind Kejriwal, has never been known to be a supporter of Dalits or an admirer of Ambedkar. He did not even hesitate to declare that no reservation can be made for Dalits in the drafting committee for the Lokpal on the grounds that for formulating laws one needs specialisation. When Dalits protested against this, he threw the ball into the government’s court, saying that the government could appoint a Dalit. What sort of contempt for Dalits does this reveal?

    Kejriwal remains silent on a key Dalit demand – reservations for Dalits in the private sector. Moreover, he is said to be opposed to reservations in government services. Kejriwal’s close relationship with the vociferously anti-reservation Youth For Equality, a key actor in the Hazare-led movement, is well known. No Dalit or Adivasi has been promoted to leadership positions in his own organisation, Parivartan, and in India Against Corruption, which is solidly backing the Hazare campaign. Not a single person from the Dalit, Adivasi, obc or religious minority communities has been incorporated into the core team of the so-called anti-corruption movement. But, of course, people from these communities have been granted the opportunity of service to the movement as volunteers at the venue of Hazare’s demonstration in New Delhi – to clean up the rubbish, carry loads, spray water and so on. After all, such manual tasks were assigned precisely to these people in Manusmriti itself, and so it is barely surprising that the same Shudras should be doing the same work here, too. From all this, the implications for Dalits and other oppressed castes if Hazare and Kejriwal’s Jan Lokpal comes into effect are clear.

    This much is, then, obvious: that Hazare’s so-called anti-corruption movement is distinctly casteist, supportive of the Varna system and opposed to Dalits. It is thus possible that it might soon transform into an anti-reservation movement. It is not far-fetched to suspect that certain forces propelling the movement seek to scrap democracy through the institution of the Jan Lokpal, as devised by Team Anna, because genuine democracy is a menacing threat to the ruling class and caste elites. It is also possible that one of the aims of the movement is to create a supergovernment in the form of the Lokpal as formulated by Team Anna, which can be used to trap and persecute officials, employees and leaders belonging to the Dalit, Adivasi and religious minority communities.

    DALITS ARE increasingly seeing through the gameplan of the Kejriwal-Hazare team and are beginning to stridently oppose it. In Hazare’s state, Maharashtra, Dalit groups are demonstrating against this anti-Constitution movement. Days ago, a massive demonstration of Dalits and people from other marginalised communities was organised in New Delhi in order to save the Constitution from the threat posed by this movement. Activists of some Dalit groups are also on hunger strike at Jantar Mantar to support the Constitution and to condemn those who are challenging it. But the so-called mainstream media has not provided them coverage. It has shamelessly suppressed the voices of Dalits who are protesting against those who are bent on subverting democracy because it wants the whole country to go the Hazare way. Why? Because the movement indicates the revival and assertion of Manuvad, and this is what those who control most of the media ardently desire.

    What sort of anti-corruption people’s movement is it when, under its guise, crowds of unruly people come out into the streets? When leaders of the movement are instigating people to gherao the houses of mps? Is this a banana republic? Can law and order be surrendered at the feet of Hazare? Why did the media add fuel by providing 24-hour running commentary on this whole affair? Why is the corporate sector funding India Against Corruption? Why are a seemingly unlikely set of companions, ngos and funding agencies, on the one hand, and so-called sadhus, babas and religious institutions, all excitedly bent on turning Hazare into a messiah? Why has Team Anna left out rampant corruption in the media, in ngos, in corporate houses, and in religious bodies like mutts, temples, waqf boards and churches, from the purview of their proposed Lokpal?

    Hazare’s hunger fast is not a novel development as far as Dalits are concerned. Many decades ago, MK Gandhi went on a hunger fast – to protest against the demand of Dalits, led by Ambedkar, for separate Dalit electorates. By going on that fast, Gandhi betrayed the Dalits. And today, in the name of the so-called second freedom struggle, and under the guise of fighting against corruption, Hazare goes on a fast, making demands that would lead to the subversion of the Constitution, with dangerous consequences for the Dalits and other oppressed peoples.

    Today, Team Anna and the movement that it is spearheading have emerged, despite their populist face, as a potent challenge to democracy. They insist that the country must run according to their dictates. Is the intention of some forces supporting the movement to create chaos and lawlessness? If that happens, Dalits, Adivasis and the religious minorities would be hit most. Is this, then, as many conscious Dalits fear, part of a larger Manuvadi conspiracy to destroy democracy, which the dominant caste-class combine regards as the biggest threat to their hegemony, which is today being increasingly challenged by the historically oppressed peoples of this country?

    That is why Dalits and Adivasis, the most heavily-burdened victims of corruption, have chosen to stay away from this movement. They have realised the threat to democracy, as well as to reservations, that this movement poses and are refusing to get fooled by its rhetoric against corruption. They have said a loud No to the unconstitutional Lokpal as envisioned by Team Anna and the lawless movement that, ostensibly in the name of curbing corruption, is backing this demand. They are aware that in the name of this Jan Lokpal an alternative constitutional structure is being imposed, which would prove a monster as far as they are concerned, not hesitating to brutally repress their voice of dissent, their quest for liberation, their dream of equality and freedom.

    Translated from Hindi by Yoginder Sikand
    Bhanwar Megwanshi is also associated with the Rajasthan-based Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS)
    [email protected]

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    Posted on 01 September 2011



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