From Manu To
06 March, 2005
headgear sported by Lalu Prasad Yadav while campaigning in the recent
Assembly elections wasn't meant to protect him from the cold. Such a
style is deployed only on such occasions where a person is either challenged
by a violent enemy or prepares to unleash violence on his foe.
In north India, the oiled lathi is a symbol of an impending invasion,
a preparation for a violent clash, and not of peace. During the last
Parliamentary election, Lalu held an officially designated lathi rally
in Patna. The followers were directed to oil their lathis, considered
more reliable during a violent conflict.
Who was this message being conveyed to? May be, the dwijas and the Dalits.
Certainly, the shudras/OBCs were not the targets. Mulayam Singh Yadav
had once launched a halla bol campaign, meaning 'attack!' His Raja Bhaiya
saga is a well-thought-out political gimmick to appease his social base.
Neither Lalu nor Mulayam are criminals, but their constituency demands
that leadership must be contemptuous of the rule of law and challenge
the State. To that particular social category, shudras/OBCs to be precise,
the State must be an extension of the village society and Governments
must submit before local social institutions.
In this context, two recent developments are worth a consideration.
Ram Vilas Paswan was fighting the most crucial battle of his political
life. In the Bihar elections, he was seeking to form a social coalition
of the Dalits, Brahmins and Muslims. He was, in fact, fighting the Mandal,
of which, he was the chief spokesperson when V P Singh unleashed it
in 1990. Battlelines were visible: Paswan's Dalit constituency was pitched
against the OBCs.
In yet another development, the BSP held a Brahmin conference in Allahabad
on February 20, when the election process was still on. In a Press note,
the party hailed the Brahmins for being "at the forefront of social
change in the country", and representing "Manavvaad (humanism),
Needless to say, Mayawati and Paswan are the two best known Dalit politicians
in the nation. Since Mandal, Paswan has been in the company of shudras/OBCs.
Mayawati has grown with anti-Brahmin theoretical posturing. However,
cracks began developing when the BSP forged a pre-poll alliance with
the Samajwadi Party in the early '90s and joined the coalition Government.
Under Mulayam, atrocities against Dalit soared. She quit the Mulayam
Government and formed an alliance with the BJP, the official vehicle
of manuvaad. That happened thrice.
Both Mayawati and Paswan felt there was nothing wrong with the shudras/OBCs
and that, actually, Mulayam and Lalu were the ones unleashing violence
on Dalits. So, while killers or rapists would often be shudras/OBCs,
Brahmins would come under criticism. Since Brahmins created the hierarchical
varna/caste order and spiritually sanctified it, there was every reason
to hold them accountable for the ills of the Indian society. Every Dalit
grows with this consciousness. Every Dalit movement bases its ideological
position on these lines.
However, what was amiss in the consciousness building was that, some
time, the creator of a system may become a victim, making his earlier
position redundant. The US is most scared of a possible nuclear attack.
Shudras replaced Brahmins from political power structure, Dalits now
had a new ruling social block.
At the level of consciousness, Dalits lived two lives: One, of derived
experiences where Brahmins must always be the culprits and, two, of
lived experiences, where the culprits are often the shudras/OBCs. The
former outlived its relevance. For instance, if a Yadav assaults a Dalit,
there is no way the victim would file an FIR against a Brahmin.
As per the derived experience the victim should pick up some Brahmin
to name in the FIR. Finally, as politicians, Mayawati and Paswan read
the ground realities: "Why is a Brahmin with a criminal record
despised in his own community, and why a shudra without a criminal record,
loses respect in his own community?" As social minorities, Brahmins
and Dalits can see the threat coming from a common social category,
and hence, this journey from Manuvaad to Manavaad. Only if Muslims,
Brahmins and Christians understood this, they can lead their communities
to this potentially great coalition of social and religious minorities.