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Aerocasteics Of Rahul Gandhi

By Anand Teltumbde

31 October, 2013

To say Rahul Gandhi is great may be an axiom. Because all Gandhis are great in India. After all, when Babasaheb Ambedkar was crowned as the century’s greatest, in a ludicrous media pageant, Gandhi’s greatestness was kept reserved. Ambedkar was the greatest only after him. Anyway, the greatness epitaph might not even be liked by Rahul who always went an extra mile to mix up with the downtrodden of this land. In 2008, while on a tour of Vidarbha, he met with one Kalawati, a widow of Parshuram Bandurkar of Jalka village in Yavatmal district. Bandurkar, had committed suicide in 2005, becoming one in a series of over 200,000 farmers’ suicides. Rahul made Kalawati a household name through his 2009 Parliament speech. On 16 January the same year, he made news by taking British Foreign Secretary David Miliband and spending a night in a Dalit hut in Simra village of Uttar Pradesh and to the annoyance of the police, repeated the feat again. On 24 September 2009, he took everybody by surprise landing up unannounced at Lucknow and then escaping to spend the night in Cheddi Pasi’s hut in Rampur-Deogan village in Shravasti district. In the morning he bathed in the open by drawing water himself from a hand-pump. Such episodes of his dalitophilia are a legion. Doesn’t it remind of the senior Gandhi, I mean Mohandas Karamchand?

Indeed Rahul Gandhi is different. Not many days ago, he had created a stir speaking out common man’s sentiment against the bill seeking to annul the Supreme Court verdict against the criminal politicians. Uncaring for the parliamentary decency he called the bill complete nonsense worth tearing and throwing away. His recent speech, while addressing a function on National Awareness Camp for Scheduled Castes Empowerment at Vigyan Bhavan, likewise has provoked varied reactions. He freaked out using an astronomical metaphor of ‘escape velocity’. He said, “If one belongs to a backward caste and wants to attain success then one needs an escape velocity to attain that success. Dalits in this country need the escape of Jupiter to attain success”.

Intriguing Metaphor

For a prince flying in stratosphere of political power a metaphor of ‘escape velocity’ may come naturally. But for Dalits, the victims of the doublespeak of priests and princes, it may not be naturally understood. Not because it was a lingo of aeronautics unfamiliar to common folks of Dalits but on the contrary it had airs of déjà vu. Of course, the Dalits gathered there applauded him with ‘Rahul Gandhi ki Jai’ but that need not be taken as an evidence of their understanding. Dalits have been in habit of shouting such unmindful jais to all and sundry, most of whom being their own tormentors. Haven’t they been fastidious Hindus although no Hindu accepted them as their own? Haven’t they been worshiping Hindu gods until Ambedkar asked them to throw them away? Elaborating his statement, Rahul Gandhi had said, “Dalits need escape velocity, we are proud of Dr. Ambedkar, he was the first person to use escape velocity”. As against Rahul’s unfamiliar astronomical metaphor, Dalits knew the astrological vedik dictum that they could escape their caste in the next birth only with the karmic points earned during this by performing their caste duty. Was escape velocity just an astronomical translation of this astrological dictum? With escape velocity you escape to a different celestial orbit of castelessness leaving behind castes. But the same was meant by vedik tenet too. You escaped your yoni in the next birth but the caste system as such remained there. It is too much to expect Rahul to understand Ambedkar, when he stands misunderstood by his own followers. But Ambedkar did not mean to escape; he meant annihilation of castes.

Surely, Rahul may not have meant the vedik deceit. He perhaps meant that Dalits need such high thrust propulsion that they escape their stigmatized and miserable existence and implied that his Congress Party alone could provide it. Perhaps he meant their empowerment as he elaborated later adding an example of Kanshiram who had taken a second step towards Dalit empowerment. He criticized Kanshiram’s progeny, Mayawati, however for having stalled Dalit empowerment by stopping the growth of Dalit leadership. He thundered, “One or two Dalit leaders cannot galvanize a movement, we need lakhs of Dalit leaders for it to progress,” not forgetting to add, “Congress party is the voice of India, We want people from Dalit community as MPs and MLAs, we want everyone to participate”. But didn’t he know that there has been no lack of Dalit MPs and MLAs all these years, thanks to the reservation system and to his empowering biradari (the ruling classes) for renewing its designated life term of ten years well before it lapsed? Their number has always been more than what Dalit population warranted. The inescapable logical conclusion is that leaders do not mean empowerment of Dalits. As a matter of fact, Ambedkar had a misgiving, which Kanshiram spoke out in his ‘chamcha raj’ that these so called leaders proved a stumbling block in Dalit emancipation by being brokers of Dalit interests to the ruling class parties. Using Rahul’s metaphor, they contributed infinite mass to the extant planet of caste to make the escape velocity impossible.

Rahul’s Faulty Physics

One must appreciate Rahul’s invoking frontier science to provide solution to the caste problem. Unfortunately, he does not seem to be adequately versed with either. He said Dalits needed escape velocity. It is the first level blunder in diagnostics committed by everybody in relation to the vexatious problem of caste, which he simply repeats. It is not Dalits but the Indian society that needs escape velocity to get over this problem. The entire logic behind the positive discrimination, the necessity of which at the tactical level cannot be undermined, follows this line of diagnosis and mistakenly accepts it as the strategic solution. It always takes Dalits as lacking in something, suffering from some disability and therefore needs to be helped by the society. The logic needs to be turned around on its head: It is the Indian society that is sick with the disease of casteism and Dalits rather want its faster recovery. The disease, particularly when it is of cancerous type as casteism, needs to be rooted out and cannot be escaped from, least by any limb. Ambedkar was right in his diagnosis that castes had to be annihilated; he went wrong in his thinking that he could escape it merely by renouncing Hinduism.

Rahul would get it all wrong. His fundamentals of astrophysics are also defective. The escape velocity (rather speed as it is a scaler!) is applicable to inert objects and assumes away atmospheric friction. The Dalits or societies, like ballistic missiles, which have their own propulsion, may not need as high velocities as given by the formula for escape velocity. They can escape extant orbit with much lesser speed with planned propulsion. Metaphorical mistake lies in mystifying the magnitude of propelling force to unwarrantedly high level. If the society is determinedly propelled towards annihilation of caste, it could very well do it within its modest means. The second assumption is more crucial. In astrophysics, the atmospheric friction is assumed away because it is negligible in comparison with the main forces. In societal contexts, this may not be so. The cultural inertia of the caste system and its diminishing role in production relations are one thing but its rejuvenation through the modern institutional structure would pose huge frictional force in annihilation project, which may overwhelm the intrinsic mass of the caste system. Through the persistent onslaught of colonial and post-colonial modernity the classical caste system was weakened to a great degree but it suddenly found its place in the newly constructed modern institutional superstructure. It is going to pose formidable resistance to any propulsion seeking to take off the societal ship out of the orbit of the caste system.

Of Antics and Emancipation

Rahul Gandhi’s unusual dalitophilia is dismissed by some as antics but must really be appreciated. It may be done for image building but there is an element of sincerity in it that cannot be denied. After all, it takes mettle to live like an ordinary Dalit in a village even for a night without a camera around as he did in Rampur-Deogan. He is also right in describing Dalits as “reed ki haddi” (spinal column) of the Congress at another occasion. It is true that Dalits have supported Congress electorally for too long. But when he speaks of the need for doing more for them, the natural question that arises is why the Congress has not realized this before. The track record of the Congress vis-à-vis Dalits leave much to doubt. From the days of benign Mahatma Dalits have faced huge antipathy from the Congress and still they kept on cooperating with and supporting it. Ambedkar gave up his great win in the Round Table Conferences and agreed to sign the Poona Pact but the Congress continued with its trickery. He had to expose it all in an exasperating account in What Congress and Gandhi have Done to the Untouchables in 1945. And still just after two years he cooperated and accepted a ministership in Nehru’s cabinet. He also forgot all animosity and became a statesman to painstakingly prepare the Constitution. The Congress could make a contrary claim of having ignored Ambedkar’s antagonism in offering these opportunities to him. True, but they were not devoid of its strategic interests. Ambedkar soon realized them and had to resign from the ministership ending this bonhomie. The Congress has fooled people by promoting capitalism under the garb of socialism for full four decades. After reaching the country to the brink of bankruptcy, it is again the Congress that has unleashed social Darwinist neoliberalism that has no theoretical space for the non-competitive people.

It might become a prince ready for coronation to think that empowerment is doling out food or shelter to the poor. But it is a feudal conceit. If Rahul Gandhi is really sincere, he should get over his naiveté and think of attaining escape velocity for India to take itself off the caste orbit.

Dr Anand Teltumbde is a writer, political analyst and a civil rights activist with CPDR, Mumbai


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