Tag Archives: Hindu

The Ideology of Male Indispensability: Upper Caste Experiments with Patriarchy

by Chittibabu Padavala

We men are the least qualified to speak about an issue like this. It’s time for us to listen. It must be so, even if women are just screaming and not ‘making sense’ TO US.The barbarity, inhumanity, cruelty and maleness at its usual worst has been rightly and powerfully denounced by more than one woman and including some of the distinguished Indian English writers and shown it all for what it is in the context of the violations of women participating in a New Year Party. If a situation is such in which some people from the perpetrator category (men) tell the protagonists of the victim category (activists/advocates/supporters of women’s rights) how best they can protect themselves from our atrocities, we Marxists say, we have reached the point of thinking and acting in terms of “Patriarchy”, “structures”, “systems”, “reproduction” etc. or at least be attending to them. But that is not all.

The attempted orchestration of Nirbhaya II in Bangalore seems to have turned into another “Kiss of Love” disaster or worse. It is only a matter of time that this Bangalore botch-up almost certainly will bring the worst backlash.Well, Nirbhaya movement came in the wake of a genuinely widespread outrage and the simmering new political shift, soon to take power in elections, was part of it. An atrocity of that kind is one of the very few issues that unite all sections of always fragmented Indian society in condemning them. Additionally, the victim was murdered after being tortured. She must have fought to her death rather than succumb to the demands of her torturers/abusers/murderers, an inference that is most appealing to the prevailing sentiments of Hindusphere.

Even governments, while worrying about damage to their reputation with electoral consequences, tend to do as much as they could, even while lacking the means and mentalities required for the task at their disposal, at least until the political and community connections, corruption, bribes etc. come in at the trial phase.Even Kiss of Love, for all its downright fakery and a breathtaking dishonesty, was planned by people with a sense of organisation/mobilisation and successfully managed to mobilise people in impressive numbers in more than one part of the country, even if in relatively free spaces. It had something positive and affirmative to practice and to display, however wrongly their slogans or targets are chosen.

The attempted Nirbhaya II in Bangalore in the wake of mass molestation during the usual New Year parties has none of those strengths. To begin with, it is not even definitive that such a mass atrocity actually took place.This false and farcical Nirbhaya II only has the strength of justice, power of an undeniable point, only in abstract unmoored in the events it invokes, even if it is unappealing to most people in society. It then failed to move masses and probably succeed only in bringing the most disgusting forms of backlash, far faster than if this Media-NGO cultural coup did not botch it all up.It is not difficult to discern the characteristic manipulations of all upper caste Hindu rebellions and because they are oozing out of everything they are doing and saying. Ersatz yet fluent passions is a constant in their campaigns. Things have not changed with the upper caste elite campaigns in their basic contours from the time they invented anti-Reservation mass mobilisation in the late 80s Gujarat. The meritorious each time ‘originally’ re-invent the basic model in each new case.

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Police trying to disperse the crowd during New year celebrations in Bengaluru city in India. Photo Courtesy : AFP

When Hindu Nazist cadre set out to do the same, or better, to do the real one, on a larger scale, more blatantly, on cameras, in the name of protecting great Hindu culture and morals and punishing the immoral and degenerate Western culture, none of these gender warriors would be so aggressive and radical in their denunciations of patriarchy and hounding of the government.Though not many seem to give sufficient weightage to it, these days whenever Congress (or similar non-ideological party) is in government, the Hindu Left, Liberals and indignant educated/enlightened citizens suddenly become uncompromising revolutionaries and come up with the most pickiest of oppositional stances.If BJP or CPM is in power, they would not even think of doing so. Because Congress can’t unleash its ideologically-hardened and incited crowds, doesn’t go to extreme and obsessive lengths to impose its interpretation of things, like CPM and BJP governments do, typically with the help of their respective cadre. Additionally, governments headed by these two ideological parties counter attack their opponents. Moreover, these two parties employ their own mass media or use their people in the media to undo one-way attacks these coup-hatchers can afford only during Congress (or the similar party’s) rule. So these Left/Liberal/Citizen types don’t plan media coups of Bangalore kind when the government is known to counter-attack or aggressively defend itself.

Then what is wrong with such selective seizing upon of the opportunities? Isn’t it that social movements and campaigns, particularly the un-armed or non-violent ones, can only operate when the government at least has some pretense of respect for the opposition and public opinion, civil society etc? Isn’t it that our criterion cannot be objectively what is the worst injustice to fight rather than what is showing the most promise and potential to move people and mobilise them, involving thus mobilised people to understand and take up the related and larger issues? All of that is true. Only trouble is that the people who pull the coups should show some awareness of it. It seems, in Bangalore botch-up, they don’t.One woman witness, very articulate, North-Indian sounding, was repeating in a TV call in that “they were outsiders”, even without the prompt from the anchor or anything to warrant it. By outsiders, she might have meant not the kind of people who live in posh localities, or maybe they are from Karnataka but outside Bangalore city. The Right to City effortlessly transforms itself into an Exclusive Right to City in moments like this.

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A CCTV video grab of the molestation event at Kammanahalli near Bengaluru in India.

Interestingly, the assertions assume the form of unimpeachable principles of individual autonomy, individual rights, choice, inviolability of person, ‘right to Night’ and right to public space for women without the alienating gazes and intrusions, freedom of movement and fun-making and all such un-qualifiable matters of rights. Of course, all of them are true and some of those who dub the whole Bangalore events in these terms are honest or honestly mean them. Such matters of right do not depend on any qualities of those who are entitled to them nor could they be made subject to any qualifications and conditions.But there is an unacknowledged undercurrent Hindu principle, drawn straight from the Code of Manu and other sacred Hindu texts. To put it simply, the idea that freedoms and rights, even the basic and fundamental ones, can be privileges, exceptions, special provisions for some people in some places.Since Nehruvian modernizing and “secular” arrangements, these upper caste elites until yesterday availed these freedoms AS privileges, they constructed narratives of modernity and attributed it to modernity alone and told themselves and even others that they were good enough to be modernizing, thus having them all. Thus invisibilised Manu, at least for themselves, allows them to define their privileges as a defense of freedom, of modernity and individual autonomy.

In this convenient Hindu UC imagination, the people with enough power to off set exaggerated and partial stories through the presence and influence in mass media, NGOs and other opinion-making mechanisms, the assertion of elite power to limit the right to city and send clear message to certain skin-colours, body types, looks, sartorial, class and caste markers to erect a vague class wall, marking a boundary, issue a threat by arm-twisting a eager-to-please government in power appears an appropriate and even workable strategy.To complicate the matter, if the upper caste gender warriors have English Media in their hands, the police and citizens have cc cameras. At least certain claims can be verified. So far, the surfaced definitive evidence points to only one instance of an atrocity of a lone woman in a bylane and not to a mass molestation in the places where it was claimed to have taken place.Understandably, there are more advocates than the witnesses.Anyone living in the real world and not in the hyper-privileged protected places all their lives, even in their vacations, knows that mass molestations are a regular and constant in all places where crowds form and on the move from festivals to recreational events to patriotic gatherings to partying events.Such systematic and long-standing problem can be addressed with a little bit of patient ground work with a small team and a camera for a couple of days, if these warriors are patient and responsible enough to do some leg work, rather than in excessively believing in their own verbal power to bring fundamental changes, though limited only for themselves.

This is also a city with the highest concentration of NGOs in the country, probably in the world, if one is not completely caught up in their own Brahmanical confidence in effecting changes without getting out of their desks, they could have partnered with some of these to do the necessary homework. It is clear that these Hindu elite gender warriors thought of giving it a try in what they perceive as the methods of Hindu Nazists: rumour-mongering, spreading panics to move crowds to frenzied action, after all, our goals are incomparably honourable than theirs, they might have told themselves.Hindu Nazists, alas, before spreading lies and rumours to move people to extraordinary actions, do patient organization building, grooming contacts and all such stuff. They are less of idealists than the Hindu Left/Liberal/Moderns. They are into the business of really changing the world, not just trying to construct a cultural SEZ(Special Economic Zone) for a section of society. If imitating the Hindu Nazist methods is bad enough, failing even to do so is worse. The worst is when Hindu Nazist crowds indulge in much bigger atrocities, openly announced and openly perpetrated, with full impunity.

Bangalore has some of those very few pockets in the country where modernizing, educated, professional women can take refuse from their suffocating patriarchal families and hassling neighbourhoods, with relatively low or infrequent levels of interference.Like elsewhere in such spaces, they provide some absolutely common-sounding but rare freedoms for Indian women, where they can just walk into a bar and have some fun or be on her own without accompanying males to protect them or preying or annoying men hovering over them. Such spaces everywhere allow for mostly upper caste/rich/middle/upwardly mobile women students or professionals the uncertain breathing spaces without having to go through the almost impossible fight to win their minimal freedoms within the family – thus either losing more freedoms or losing the securities of family structures.This model of having only benefits of patriarchy while escaping its daily cruelties and absurdities is coming to an end. Sadly for Hindu UC elite educated professional women, this end is coming when patriarchy is no more a matter within and of the family, kin and neighbourhood but aggressively promoted and worsened by the Hindu Nazist state and its trained paramilitary cadres and their incited mobs.These women will en mass be forced back into the most rigid of the family-kinship traps or no less oppressive friendships, live-ins, co-residential arrangements to stay away from the families. Now the forced choice or no choice is threateningly simple: you either reject patriarchy fully or succumb to it fully.

Though it escapes the campaigners of “notallmen” or not-all-Bangalore types who understood that the campaign got screwed by the campaigners themselves but can’t bear to face or tell the truth honestly, by 70s itself it was feminist and women rights common sense that male power is a ‘system’ and those bad men who oppress women force them into the embrace or the protection of ‘good’ men. In this mutually reinforcing relationship or division of labor among men, very often the same men play protectors to ‘their’ women while persecuting other women to push them back to ‘their’ good men. The bottom line is male indispensability.The time-tested method of upper-castes, of foregrounding “their” women (subjectively experienced among the upper caste elites themselves, of course, as women taking charge of thing even in matters public) whenever they want to assert themselves but their men lack the appeal or acceptance is also gone. Hindu Nazist specialty is precisely to attack the privileged upper caste women first to subdue and limit them back to their families and one of the successful things they invented is to tap and provide a channel for the anti-elite, anti-modern feelings and prejudices of their foot soldiers.

Chittibabu is a Dalit Marxist scholar based in Goettingen, Germany.  For more on Dalit Marxism and updates please see this Facebook Page.

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A Dalit Marxist Manifesto

Unlike many of my comrades, I have this peculiar problem of leftist trolls, rather than the rightist ones. Since I do not believe in the usefulness of discussing with fascists and their apologists or the deniers, I focus exclusively on those who are supposed to be fighting fascism or who I think belong to potential or real constituencies against fascism.To dramatize a bit, we Dalit Marxists say: you either smash fascists if you can or be finished by them or at least run for your life. You don’t waste time trying to convince them. Not even for the benefit of those overhearing the conversation. That would give a dangerous impression that fascists are worth talking to. Admittedly, we Dalit Marxists have it a bit easy in this regard. We are most unlikely to be born into or of a family or kin of fanatic Hindu fascists like most Hindu communists are.

However, being a Dalit Marxist is risking a double misunderstanding, and one constant humiliation: you will have to explain always that you’ve got nothing to do with that philistine Anand Teltumbde and other such Dalit agents or imitators of upper-caste leftists.The double misunderstanding in question needs some background. When a typical upper-caste leftist hears the word Dalit Marxism, s/he would wonder what this crazy thing is. Marxism is Marxism, what is Dalit or Muslim or Marathi about it? It doesn’t matter that upon approaching a leftist-sounding person in India, the typical upper-caste leftist tries to figure out if the comrade is China-type (Naxal) or Russia-type (CPM) or some updated version of the division. You can be assured that this ideal-type upper-caste comrade never asks herself why all Communist parties in India are ‘of India’, while they should be internationalist through and through.

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Dalit Marxist scholar Chittibabu Padavala

Anyway, the typical comrade doesn’t express this irritation at the contamination of the word Marxism with, of all things, the word Dalit. Most of the upper-caste communists will have nothing to do with Dalit Marxism because the very first word puts them off doubly. In the second and engaging-Dalits-type, some of them being the indoctrinating enthusiasts, have already learnt that speaking to, even touching, a Dalit doesn’t actually harm them. In fact, it helps to acquire some ‘radicalism capital’– self-righteous edge over other rivals in the academia or in other fields – or to exude a more-multi-cultural-than-thou kind of airs if one can speak of a Dalit friend, preferably in the context of telling ‘others’ (not quite, because they are of same caste/class/color/accent cluster), how they together had beef in a Muslim slum.

There must be one small category of people among these, a theoretical possibility that cannot be ruled out though experience tells us the opposite, who really want to try their persuasion skills, a kind of training in radical argumentation and recruitment.There is a certain undeniable injustice in subjecting that small upper-caste leftist section which actually tries, for all the ills and ill will of Hindu Communism, to engage with Dalits and Dalit Marxism. Yet, this category of comrades is no less infuriating because of their over-confident stupidity and predictably manipulating behavior from the word go, and till the end. A sample of them, from a much bigger pool of examples we accumulated or put up with, seems to believe that Dalit Marxism is half-Dalit and half-Marxist.

One almost hears a fair-skinned smart sophomore who had already attended two campus or college processions and one wall-poster workshop and innumerable discussions with classmates in the college and hostels, shouting to a Dalit Marxist: ‘Good you have already crossed half-way mark, boy, you will get over with that Dalit bit if you try, no problem, we will only help you!’

My suppressed anger and muted cries to make the upper-caste comrade notice that my ‘full-timer’ experience alone is longer than his entire adult years would not shake an iota of his self-confidence. He would be, in a moment, stretches his hand to me, launching his mission of saving me from the caste and its narrow-mindedness, through Savarnasplaining (a la Solnit), expecting me to notice that what matters is class, state, and economics, above everything else. The upper-caste comrade would also patiently point to me why ‘identity politics’ is a bad thing, and why we must think about ‘larger’ and ‘broader’ issues.

The difficulty in accepting so stretched a hand towards me from our upper-caste comrade is that it is not to shake hands with me but to pat on my shoulder and to nudge me to ‘really real’ things than the ones I feel strongly about, owing to my ‘understandable’ experiences which I must as much unlearn as learn from. Grudge, you know, is not revolutionary. ‘Understandable’ here stands for ‘underdeveloped’ and ‘unacceptable’.

The trouble with such ‘me’ here is that the image is exclusively in the eyes of the beholder. The empirical me and real me don’t resemble the picture in the comrade’s imagination. Such attitude is part of growing up upper-caste in India, they just can’t imagine how to look at the world without them being at the center of it, they can’t look at a lower-caste person except from above. Being progressive, radical, revolutionary are not just products of only honest, idealist and painstaking study and analysis of the world but also a resurfacing of the old theme of Higher-hood now denied to them, or they live in denial of, adjusted on a new surface.

The trouble is that the Dalit Marxism is not half-Marxist and half- Dalit. It is fully Marxist and fully Dalit. We are in no way keen on meeting our upper-caste comrade halfway. We are in the business of bringing Marxism back to where it belongs: lowest in stature and biggest in numbers of the Hindu society, the lower castes. This also means releasing Marxism from the shackles of upper-castes. Marxism can and must do better than being monopolized by the upper-castes and be abused as a tool for their upward/forward obsession. Not that upper-caste Communists do not mean to improve the world from what it is now. Some of them surely do. Only that it is easy for them to imagine a communist world than to their marginality in society. It somehow cannot be put into their minds that such pathological self-importance is a direct product and clearest expression of upper-caste privilege and upbringing.

Therefore, for the benefit of such comrades, their thinking, their programs, let us clarify what Dalit Marxists stand for. Unlike you Hindus, we Marxists are committed to a politics of clearly stating what we want to do. In an Andersonian(Perry Anderson) spirit, we will make our point not merely as a statement of any abstract principle, but through an instructive case that gives the impression of an ideal meeting ground for both of us – Dalit Marxists and Hindu Leftists.

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Indian Left during a rally. Image Courtesy : Theredhammerwordpress.com

Hindu communists start an all-India Dalit organizational network! If the shamelessly slavish performance of one of its constituent organizations is anything to go by, it might be one more of a series of cruel Communist jokes on Dalits, projected on a national scale, or even worse.It is tempting to assume that the initiative might be a good thing given the Hindu fascists being in power, and that it is better for the guttural and well-entrenched anti-fascism of Dalits and professionalized, iron-fisted discipline of the Communists to come together and even merge.

Aren’t we the ones castigating Hindu upper-caste Communists all these years for neglecting ‘caste problem’, and in their complicity with caste status quo, its continued perpetration in wider society and even charging the communist upper-castes with the crime of reproducing the same old caste hierarchies in their own ranks even more rigorously?

Isn’t it the oft-repeated Dalit Marxist line to say that there are many Hindu temples Dalits can enter in this country but no single politbureau of any communist party that lets Dalits in? Isn’t this all-India confederation of Dalit organizations something to be welcomed? Even if it is too late and too little, don’t we have to support it and strengthen it? Even if this is seen as hypocrisy, isn’t the hypocrisy a tribute paid by the evil to the virtue? Can’t we dare to imagine that the social processes so unleashed and its resultant new political sensibilities can have a life and momentum of their own? Isn’t it cynical to rule out any good coming out of this gesture, by precluding the potential of Dalits making the best of this?

One of the main sources of the vitality, humanity, resilience, responsiveness, endurance and effectiveness of Dalit organizations across India is that most of them are never organizationally affiliated to any political party, let alone to any – invariably Hindu and upper-caste – Communist party. This allows them to keep away the typical problems that come with rigid structures of organization and top-down approaches the Indian communist parties suffer from.

This happy situation doesn’t let any uniform policy, form of struggle or demand, grip the Dalit activism, as in the case with the most work of the most Communist-affliated front organizations that reduces them to become irrelevant and ideological in their local, specific situation.It is a major part of the explanation for Dalit activism’s superior creativity, humane organizational functioning, freedom from bureaucratization, decency in mostly avoiding and occasionally conducting in-fighting without any communist-style waste of energies in maligning similar and fellow organizations, brainwashing, isolating dissenters, boycotting the recalcitrant and obsessive indoctrination.Since caste-inspired, caste-inflected oppression and exclusion are always and everywhere very specific – with the activists having to each time, in every case, decide on who are opponents, who are friends or neutral parties, and so to what extent, how much of it can change and how – Dalit activism typically doesn’t easily fall for usual communist infirmities like stupid belief in policy or argumentative uniformities.

Before any postmodernist steps in seeing some potential here, let me clarify that Dalit activism’s basic target of struggle is neither Capitalism nor Indian state but Hinduism and non-Dalit society. In fact, sometimes we find the first two less antagonistic to our lives, goals and politics than the latter and, in some conditions, as useful for us against the first pair. Every Dalit activist in this country knows, unless she is fed excessively on the philistine Teltumbde’s work, or still to get out of the ideological slavery of Hindu communist parties, that our main oppressor is society around us more than the state or globalization.Communist-style uniform policies, centralized-command structure, half-feudal/half-militaristic hierarchies and abject cadre surrender and slavishness are neither possible nor useful for Dalit activism as we have to use our own minds and grasp of each empirical situation, agitation or mobilization without resorting to handed-down pre-fixes for all situations, and without any exclusive focus on uniform, impersonal, ‘hidden’ structures like class, capitalism, neo-liberalism etc.

Now the potentially pernicious effects of this Hindu communism’s incursions into Dalit activist field are not difficult to discern, it might be impossible later to fight back if we are not alert now. First attack will be on the temperamental autonomy of Dalit Organizations and their constitutive creativity and inbuilt immunity to dogmatism. Second one will take the form of a seduction: Hindu communists offer us unity on a national scale but will only bring in uniformity. This only means training Dalit activists in turning away from empirical realities and possibilities around and learning how to parrot centrally formulated slogans when prompted by higher-ups.

Another predictable danger in this attempted Hindu colonization of Dalit activism through communist bait is, turning our sphere of work from humanizing Hindu society to fighting faceless capitalism/globalization, forfeiting the Dalit-specific rights and concerns, in favor of building the so-called unity of people.Yet another menace in this stealthy and conspiratorial takeover of our slowly growing representational space in the media is, instrumentalization of our issues for communist blackmailing and embarrassing techniques against governments, used opportunistically.

The biggest and deadliest danger in communist patronage/leadership/usurping of Dalit concerns is the immediate abortion of something absolutely important, the upper-caste communists will surely achieve with disastrous effects, if not counteracted.When the ongoing genocide of Muslims created conditions and a demand for much-needed coming together of lower castes and Muslims, Upper-Caste communists with their innate incapacity to understand fascism, ineradicable unwillingness to fight it anywhere outside media and legal domains, will keep Muslims and lower-castes separate.

While all the time preaching to lower caste activists broader perspective and prescribing universalism as against our narrow ‘identity politics’, the Hindu communists are specialization-hungry professionalizers. Unlike the Dalit activists who participate in every single struggle for justice in their realms with a broader sense and grasp of social issues and all-round political education and experience, the Hindu communists severely impose specilization on the activists with one-sided expertise, a pathological inability to work without pre-existing structures or models and also without orders and permissions from above. For all their shouting at the top of their voices of the virtues of unity and universalism, their actual training of cadre follows the Taylorism of professionalization with its inevitable fragmentation of the cadres.

Then, isn’t it the time for us to come together, close the ranks and fight fascism? Dalits must reject this communist colonization precisely because of the fundamentally irreconcilable approaches to Hindutva fascism. Hindu Communists are not against Hinduism but only against Hindutva version of it. We reject both. We consider that Hindutva poses immediate and pressing deadly threat but Hinduism is more pernicious, though a deeper yet long-term problem. This tricky but deadly difference requires us to respond to Hindutva without delay but treat Hinduism as the main and ultimate enemy.

When Hindutva overreach will ultimately spell its doom and open up possibilities for a Post-Hindu India, Hindu communists with their fanatic belief in a good, non-violent, tolerant, even multicultural Hinduism will be our first enemy, something that surely comes in the way of moving towards a post-Hindu India.For Hindu Communists, Hindutva is a problem of Capitalism. For us, it is only one of the many avatars of Hinduism. Hindutva is, from our perspective, a Hinduism that takes its own religious core very seriously. For Hindu Communists, Hindutva is a perversion of Hinduism. For us, Hindutva is more honest and authentic version of Hinduism. It represents the extension of what old Hinduism does to Dalits round-the-clock in all walks of life to new victims: Christians and Muslims. While old Hinduism’s killings of Dalits are to set examples, Hindutva’s inexorable dynamic is to eliminate its new victims.

Hindu Communists believe that Hindutva is divisive. We point out that what they are doing is unification of a religion and a nation. We say that unifying, ‘uniforming’ drive of Hindutva can only be combated by inherently divisive, conflictive force of caste. The Hindu Communists reject both caste-based mobilizations and religion-based mobilizations. We charge that they not only fail to stop Hindutva (they helped them come to power in the first place, but that is a different story), they successfully discredit and preclude the only possible opposition, the Muslim and lower-caste combined mobilization against Hindutva, thus helping fascists.

This post was written by Chittibabu Padavala on November 25, 2014 for flyingfootage. wordpress.com and is reproduced here due to popular demand.  Chittibabu is a Dalit Marxist scholar based in Mumbai, India.