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Dalit Writers Slam Anna's Movement As Manuwadi

New Delhi, Aug 20: Several prominent Dalit activists, intellectuals as well as those writing regularly on dalit issues have severely castigated anna Hazare's movement, reports Times of India. They say it is casteist in nature
PTI August 20, 2011 8:03 IST
PTI

New Delhi, Aug 20: Several prominent Dalit activists, intellectuals as well as those writing regularly on dalit issues have severely castigated anna Hazare's movement, reports Times of India. They say it is casteist in nature and against representative democracy. 

Dalit columnist Chandrabhan Prasad says Team Anna seems to have a profound contempt for constitutionalism. "The Anna Hazare phenomenon is leading us to the rejection of representative democracy itself. The movement is an upper-caste uprising against India's political democracy. That apart, vesting so much power in the Lokpal, a non-elected person, could lead to a dangerous situation," he says.

Hyderabad-based dalit-bahujan thinker Kancha Ilaiah offers similar views. "The Anna movement is an anti-social justice, manuvadi movement. The Dalits, tribals, OBCs and minorities have nothing to do with it. We oppose it," he says.Dalit activists insist that corruption means much more than just bribes and kickbacks.

"For us casteism is corruption, caste-discrimination is corruption, not filling up reserved seats as per constitutional norms is also corruption. Is Anna and his team willing to talk about all these?" says Anoop Kheri, coordinator of Insight Foundation, that helps Dalit and adivasi students in higher education.

Adds Rajesh Paswan, a JNU doctorate in Hindi, "The movement has raised fears among Dalits, adivasis and minorities that similar methods can be used to create laws against them in future." Kheri feels that the idiom used by protestors has a distinct casteist tinge.

"The language, symbols used by the movement clearly reflects its upper caste Hindu nature, a very rightwing Hindu patriotism is being used to get the entire country against corruption. And as a dalit, I have a problem with it," he says.

The activist also feels that rather than seeing corruption as a social problem that needs comprehensive social churning and cultural changes to fight against, those involved in the movement want everybody to believe that only politicians are corrupt."This is a false premise, very escapist and also dangerous for our democracy," he says.

The activist is also sceptical about the efficacy of the Jan Lokpal bill. "In a democracy we don't want anything that appears extra-constitutional, someone whom the masses of this country have no say in electing or disposing of. Democracy in India might be highly flawed but it is the only weapon in the hand of the marginalized to challenge the status quo. Whatever rights we have got, we got from democracy, and not from any self-styled 'civil society', Kheri says.

D Shyam Babu, former fellow, Rajiv Gandhi Foundation offers a slightly different perspective. He believes that the movement is not anti-Dalit.

"It is basically a mix of misplaced patriotism, ego and total disregard for established authority," he says. A positive outcome of the movement, he says, is that the government can no longer take people for granted on the issue of corruption. "But the flip side is that there is a thin line between 'popular unrest' and anarchy. This is also habit-forming in the sense that whenever a group finds a cause to highlight, it only has to enlist the services of some 'Gandhian'. Don't forget Dr Ambedkar's caution against 'satyagraha' as the 'grammar of anarchy'," says Shyam Babu.

Many protesters have named the ongoing battle against corruption as the second freedom struggle. Ilaiah differs. "This means they are recognizing Jaiprakash Narayan's 1974 anti-corruption movement and VP Singh's similar movement in 1989. Both these movements had ideological basis of socialism and social justice," he says. Prasad also counters Team Anna's claim of representing civil society.

He says, "The real question is: has India really evolved into a civil society? Was South Africa a civil society in times of apartheid? Was US a civil society in times of slavery? Was England a civil society in times of serfdom? If the answer is no, then can India with the caste system still in place, be called a civil society?"