Aam Admi And Dalits
By Rahul Sonpimple
08 February, 2014
The recent astonishing emergence of ‘AAP’ in Indian politics has undoubtedly shuddered the political considerations of many after a long time; at least to the extent of reimagining an alternative politics. The AAP emerged as a political outfit from the anti- corruption protest led by Anaa Hazare and other Gandhians. Up till now, it has been effectively benefiting from the shared disappointment of the middleclass with the contemporary form of politics and governance. It is important here to note that, the media and civil society organizations have been very significant in not just in spreading of AAP’s head across but also in forming convincing opinions about the party as a vibrant alternative. With an unexpected success in the Delhi elections, AAP, seem to be finally stepping out from the protective circle of civil society and media.
Recently, the political opponents of AAP, as well as the media and a section of intellectuals have started to raise questions on the approach and methodology of the political party towards real and long standing issues like internal security, budget, policy on Kashmir, problems of SC/STs, minorities, women’s agenda etc. which have been continuing to shape Indian society and politics in unique ways. The euphoria created around AAP during the pre-elections had not allowed a rationalistic assessment of the party’s political manifesto. These concerns did not appear in the spectacle of intellectual assessments or in media discussions. The AAP leaders, in particular party president Mr. Kejriwal and ideologue Mr. Yogendra Yadav emphasized that the party does not embrace any particular ideology; rather it is a political organization of all honest and good people who believe in the problem solving approach which aims to end socio-political problems and corruption in government system.
Nonetheless, their affiliations and actions in the past and present reaffirm the party’s beliefs in Gandhian ideology. Their dream of realizing idea of the Gandhian Swaraj, in principal, does not permit claims towards ideological neutrality. The party rather seems to be seized with dominant thoughts against which the marginalized communities have put up a struggle.
Taking an account of the Dalit and other marginalized community’s perspective on the issues of development, democracy, etc .The ‘AAP’ seems to be representing the common dominant thoughts and daily frustrations of urban caste-Hindus, caused by the constitutional provisions.
The Idea of Aam Admi and Social Hierarchy:
Social stratification in any particular society with its fundamental nature reproduces margins and places certain social groups in the bottom of social ladder. Moreover social mobility for such groups in most of the democratic countries has been a concern for state and civil society and has been ensured through legal and social actions respectively. Caste in its principal has uniquely stratified the Indian society as compared to the other stratified societies in the world. As a result, power and position of an individual is mostly ascribed according to her/his caste. Surprisingly the available data, reports and tangible reality which exists in daily affairs does not allow one, at least morally, to disdain the presence and control of caste rules and norms in defining an individual’s destiny even in today’s modern Indian society. The so called upper caste-class, with help of the media and “civil society”, has succeeded to form an isolated existence of their own, cut off from the existing reality, where caste is no more a reason to define an individual and her/his destiny. The blame for the existing dreadful situation of the country is strapped on solely to the corrupt politicians and government officials. This sharing of distorted reality is peculiar to the urban middle class-upper caste. It often comes into the picture through the demonstrations against modern laws and policies formulated for the protection of rights of Dalit-Bahujans.
A relook at the political upheavals of upper caste-middle classes on the issue of reservations for SC/STS and BCs in the not so distant past, will bring forth the memory of ‘Youth for Equality’ an anti-reservationist organization, within which Kejriwal had emerged as a prominent leader of the anti-reservation movement. With the passage of time, Kejriwal seemed to be little modest on the issue of reservation, with his active participation in politics and in the company of several so called progressive ideologues like Yogendra Yadav. Yet, his recent comments on the reservation policy, reflects the common perceptions about reservation, which underplay the fundamental idea behind reservation for social equity.
Kejriwal and his colleagues have been loosely using the term ‘Aam Admi’, giving it a homogenous essence by positioning entire political class as ‘Khas’ and rest, including oppressor caste-class groups as ‘Aam’. Such a reductionist approach and homogenization not just undermines the existing socio-economical inequality among social groups but also preserves the vested interests of ruling caste. The recent incident with social justice minister K.L Puniya in Odisha where he was barred by the caste-Hindus from entering in a Hindu temple, expose the illusions created by AAP, making us to wonder about the very use of the category of ‘Aam Admi’.
Idea of Swaraj & Ambedkar:
With an intention to realize the Gandhian scheme of Gram Swaraj which Gandhi himself envisaged from the idea of ‘Ram Rajya’, AAP with its Gandhian sympathizers rhetorically endorses the decentralization of power, where the power of governance and rights of democracy will be in the hands of the local people/community. Consequently, the AAP has been experimenting with these ideas in the localities of Delhi, which resulted into adversities for African-women immigrants of the city. The unsettled positions on decentralization and giving of power to the local communities have always been contested within the long standing Gandhi-Ambedkar debate on the Gram Swaraj. Although, Gandhian ideas have always been sustained by the political patronage of the ruing caste-class, Ambedkar’s predictions on Gandhian Gram-Swaraj still find its relevance in the operating violent reality of rural India. For Ambedkar, villages were an oppressors' paradise. "What is a village but a sink of localism, a den of ignorance and narrow-mindedness’’ said Ambedkar. Gandhian concept of Gram Swaraj i.e. Village Republics were a cause of the “ruination of India”. They were nothing but “sink of localism and of ignorance and communalism”. However, Ambedkar’s views on Gram Swaraj have gained little attention in our intellectual tradition and in civil society activism. As a result Gandhi’s unfinished dream of “Ram Rajya” through Gram Swaraj was subsequently institutionalized in the form of the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act (1992). Ambedkar’s views can be evoked once again in the light of endless cases of discrimination and oppression against Dalit/women sarpanches by local dominant communities. Yet the celebrator of local culture and self-righteous Gandhian ideals seems to be untouched with such stark reality. Yogendra Yadav is one of those admirers, who with his co-workers in AAP, is struggling to propagate the Gandhian dreams of Gram-Swaraj. In a recent interview with CNN-IBN in Jind, Haryana, while responding on the question on involvement of local community in decision making, he ignorantly differentiated human rights issue of Dalits only with the extreme form of caste discrimination and suggests community involvement should be restricted in those issue while there should be complete involvement of community on infrastructural issues in the community. Ironically, many times Dalits who are sarpanch or members of a gram sabha-panchyata sameeti, are not allowed by local dominant castes to participate in any kind of decision making process. In multiple instances Dalits raising a voice against political exclusion at village level have had to pay heavy prices for their assertion. Surprisingly, Yadav, while endorsing the Gandhian dream of Gram Swaraj, with his aspiration to become Chief Minister of Haryana, seems to be oblivious about the fact that Harayana is one of a most feudal and oppressive state for women and Dalits. The recent protests by Dalits in Jind, against the series of brutal gang rapes of Dalit women in the district, seemed to have skipped the attention of ideologue. All most all political parties headed by upper caste, talk about Dalits but none of them have ever agreed to solutions provided by Dalits themselves and AAP seems to be following in the same lines with its Gandhian agenda of Swaraj.
Fake anarchism and real revolution:
As discussed above, media has not only played an important role in spreading AAP’s head across but in the process it has been actively distorting thoughts and ideologies which have largely been one way or other used by the oppressed communities to reimagine a just society. With the high amount of passion media mostly electronic first named Arvind Kejriwal as a Socialist and is now celebrating his political protest against the Union Home Minister as Anarchism. Interestingly, once again Kejriwal with his self-righteous attitude has labeled himself as an antichrist which is seemingly another strategy to score the image of a martyr for the upcoming general elections. Although, there have been longstanding intellectual engagements on the necessity and compatibility or even fallacy of such ideological armaments, the basic nature of any revolutionary ideological scheme restrains itself within the structural or individual reform of any particular stratified society. While anti-stateism is central, the philosophical arrangements of anarchism considered as the basic foundations of society as constraining the natural development of individuals. In addition, one may notably argue that, the Indian society, marked by the stark caste reality as it’s super and supra structure both, requires to be considered as a solid constrain in the natural development of entire society. Accordingly, labeling Kejriwal as an anarchist would be the mockery of any revolutionary ideology, since Kejriwal and his party’s stand on caste and Dalits is rooted in the Gandhian paradigm which has been opposed and disdained by the most oppressed group- Dalits in the country.
The governing belief on morality, of what is right and wrong, in India have predominantly been crafted with Brahamnical textures of thinking patterns and hitherto sustained by the caste elites. However, with the introduction of constitutional morality in general and modernity in particular such dominant currents of Hindu morality have also been pushed into the realm of contestation. It is quite evident that caste in the discourse of political morality, neither in the past nor in the present, has ever been a willing choice of any mainstream political party or social organization headed by upper caste, it is rather a pressure created by the Dalit-Bahujan struggle against injustice and oppression. As a result, social justice as a revolutionary concept has been narrowed and limited only to the issue of reservation.
The recent anti-corruption protest by Anna Hazare and his companions and the subsequent emergence of AAP in political arena have been loaded with dominant beliefs of political morality which deem corruption only as a governance phenomenon. They have managed to escape from the fact of social and religious corruption which blatantly exists in the society, imprisoning Dalit-Bhaujans in the water tight compartments of caste. The issues like misuse or lapse of SCP/TSP money by both state and central government, vacant posts of SC/ST quotas in government intuitions, one caste group monopoly on small and big business, caste group holdings important administrative posts, caste group work as a safai karamcharis in government departments, unequal pattern of land holding according to caste, and many other issue related with caste, according to Kejriwal and AAP leaders do not qualify in the category of corruption and moreover fail to be the issues of “Aam Admi”. The rhetoric of Aam Admi by AAP is limited only to urban upper caste-middle class. With such an exclusionary ideology and attitude, AAP and its leaders have already formed a Dalit-Bahujan hostile camp.
Rahul Sonpimple is an Academic Associate, Institute of Rural Management Anand (IRMA). Gujarat
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