Thursday June 16, 2011 10:59:25 PM,
Asghar Ali Engineer
This is much discussed subject in
Indian politics. Why I chose to write on it in “Secular
Perspective”? Recently on internet a discussion was raging that
all those police officers who are going against Modi in Gujarat
are upper caste Hindus and not Dalits or OBCs. Perhaps the idea
was being conveyed was that upper castes are not against Muslims
as usually thought.
Generally it is believed that Dalits and Muslims and other weaker
sections and minorities should come together to fight communalism.
Attempts have also been made to form such an alliance. However, it
is not a neat solution as it is often thought. It is in fact a
mixes bag. In politics, let us remember opportunism and selfish
interests are supreme, not ideology.
It is also wrong to assume that all upper caste Hindus are
anti-Muslim. It is extremists among dalits who maintain that all
Brahmins are against Muslims and they conspire to establish a
Hindu Rashtra. Some may be of such views and indeed are. But a
sweeping generalization in this respect would be a fatal mistake.
There are several Brahmin politicians and officers who are quite
secular and sympathise with the plight of Muslims.
On the other hand, there are several dalit and OBC politicians who
do not hesitate for a moment to join hands with communal forces to
serve their own interests casting away Ambedkar’s ideology. The
most recent example is that of Ramdas Athawle, a well-known dalit
leader from Maharashtra who joined Shiv Sena and has been
addressing rallies from its platform. Until yesterday he used to
claim to fight all communal forces. Just because he was denied
‘due share’ in power by Sharad Pawar’s NCP, he did not hesitate to
join Shiv Sena and found a ‘new massiah’ in it.
Thus it would be a great mistake on the part of Muslims to think
all dalit leaders are their friends and all upper caste Hindus
their enemy. In fact among dalit parties also there are several
factions and one or the other faction joins one or the other
communal party. Mayawati who is considered dalit messiah in North
India herself made alliance with BJP twice to become Chief
Minister of U.P.
Of course in democracy there is nothing wrong to make political
alliances but to make alliance with communal forces who swear by
Hindu Rashtra and are against secular, pluralist India, amounts to
betray not only secular ideology but also to betray our
constitution, a constitution whose bedrock is secularism. Even
secular parties also make alliance with communal parties. Lohia,
Fernandes and others are obvious examples. Their hatred of
Congress drove them to the fold of BJP.
India is a vast country, one of the largest secular democracy in
the world. Its problems are highly complex and regional interests
play a large role in its functioning and regional parties often
come together to challenge parties like the Congress which has
spread throughout India. However to align with parties like the
BJP which believe in Hindu Rashtra and target minorities, is not
in the national interest.
BJP is also, after all trying to emerge as a national party which
is not in the interest of regional parties. Regional parties or
dalit parties are tempted to ally with BJP as it is weaker of the
two and can offer better terms for alliance. Unfortunately
casteism and communalism both go against healthy nationalism and
secularism. Politicians are keeping them alive in their own
political interests. Unfortunately instead of making attempts to
eradicate caste and communal identities, these politicians are
exploiting them for their own interests.
In fact truly secular politics should not be (pre-mordial)
identity oriented but should be issue-based and primordial
identities should be re-placed by values of equality, justice and
dignity. Today our elections are completely identity-based and
issues and values have no role to play and if at all it plays any
role it is incidental or at best marginal. If anything identities
have been reinforced and plays ever larger role.
Today there is movement against corruption which claims its origin
from civil society. It is debatable whether it is truly
independent civil society movement or is hidden agenda of some
political parties. That apart I feel not only corruption as is
being fought by a group of people from civil society, but also
casteism and communalism are equally or even more dangerous.
Thus three Cs i.e. Corruption, Communalism and Casteism are great
enemies of people of India and unity and integrity of our country.
Since only fight against corruption suits certain political forces
they are totally concentrating on it and keep quiet or give
secondary importance go to other divisive forces. In fact a
comprehensive movement against all three should be launched.
Besides exposing communal forces it will greatly strengthen unity
and integrity of our country.
India’s political situation is such that casteism leads to
communalism. When former Prime Minister V.P.Singh implemented
Mandal Commission, the BJP, fearing loss of OBC votes intensified
Ram Mandir issue and thus communalism became very strong and
communal violence erupted country-wide both when Advani took out
Rath Yatra and when Babri Masjid was demolished.
Babri Masjid-Ramjanambhoomi issue once again polarized Hindus and
Muslims and created hostile feelings between the two communities.
And BJP ultimately came to power in 1999 using this highly
divisive issue. Communal forces in this country are desirous of
perpetrating upper caste rule but casteism and communalism are so
entangled in this country that these forces very cleverly use
lower castes against minorities.
These communal forces know that both lower castes and minorities
pose a challenge against hegemony of upper castes they do
everything possible to keep them divided. Shiv Sena in Maharashtra
has coined a slogan Shivshakti and Bhim Shakti should come
together to fight Congress-NCP alliance. Ramdas Athawle, a dalit
leader was welcomes by Shiv Sena with open arms to topple the
People readily respond when someone launches movement against
monetary corruption but remain unmoved when struggle is waged
against casteism and communalism. Only few NGOs take part in such
struggles In fact casteism and communalism is worse kind of
political corruption and as long as this corruption is tolerated
by the people because they can deflect the fight against
corruption by using identity or what is called vote-bank politics.
Of course people are becoming quite conscious these days and it is
not so easy but nevertheless when some highly emotional identity
issue is involved it is easier to play identity politics and it
would be difficult to fight against monetary corruption. Anna
Hazare and Baba Ramdev are not after all so innocent as it
appears. Their agenda is controlled, directly or indirectly, by
communal forces. In case of Baba Ramdev it is quite obvious though
in case of Anna Hazare it is more intricate and indirect.
Though no democratic polity could be totally free of corruption it
cannot be allowed to become oblivious of its most crucial function
of governance and use identities and vote banks for winning
elections. In case of Indian democracy, nothing has remained
democratic except five yearly elections. Corruption is increasing,
no multiplying and governance has taken a back seat.
People have to take leading role – after all people are most
crucial for democracy – in fighting all three Cs i.e. corruption,
casteism and communalism if they want democracy to deliver. Today
we are, despite high economic growth we are lagging in almost all
human development indicators and we are ahead of many developing
countries on corruption index. Again it is because of corruption
that the gap between rich and poor is intolerably high. Millions
are living in places not even fit for living for cattles,
especially those belonging to dalits and minorities especially in
Also, the dalits and minorities should not allow their leaders to
play power games at their costs. Both Muslim leaders and dalit
leaders constantly jockey for their own power and neglect the
cause of their own communities. They are no less corrupt. This
should not be tolerated by these communities. Leaders like
Babasaheb Ambedkar, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad were ideal leaders.
These leaders were not after power but they made great sacrifices
to empower their communities. Today dalit and Muslim leaders
empower themselves and disempower their communities or at best
achieve something mere symbolic. The Congress and BJP leaders
start some symbolic schemes in the name of these great leaders and
try to win over votes of these communities. That is why both
dalits and Muslims, despite more than 60 years of independence
have achieved very little and still are where they were.
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