With a call to Save Education, Save Country, AISA today launched its nation-wide campaign at Gandhi Peace Foundation, Delhi against the Regime of Seat-Cut, NET-Cut, Fund-Cut and the saffron policy offensive against education, employment and hate propaganda by RSS/BJP. Continue reading
Mahadalit Girl Dika Kumari Harassed, Raped and Killed in Hajipur Bihar! Bihar Government Remains Unmoved!!
Put an End to Killing Dalit Dreams of Education and Dignity! Resist Cover-ups and State Shielding of This Casteist-Patriarchal Cohort!! Ensure High Level Probe into the Conditions of Dalit Hostels across Bihar!!
Demanding Justice for Dika,
Join Protest Demonstration at Bihar Bhawan
27th January (Friday) at 2pm
“I work in the fields with a trowel and a sickle. But I wanted my daughter to study. I’m uneducated and poor but that did not stop my daughter Dika and I from dreaming of a future with dignity. That dream has been snatched from us. All I want is justice. I demand justice so that no other mother should be robbed so cruelly of her daughter.”
– Kusmi Devi, Dika Kumari’s mother
On the early hours of 7 January, Dika Kumari was battered, brutally raped and killed, her dead body thrown in a drain near her hostel in the premises of the Ambedkar Residential Girls’ School in Hajipur (Vaishali). Dika, 16 years of age, daughter of Kusmi Devi, an agricultural labourer from Bihar’s most oppressed Mahadalit Musahar community, was studying in the Ambedkar School, one of the schools run by the Bihar Government for Dalits. For Dika and her mother, their hopes for a dignified future laid in Dika’s education. Today those dreams stand shattered as Kusmi Devi tries to courageously muster all her strength to rage for justice for her daughter.
What is further disturbing and horrifying is that this happened a day after Dika’s mother had unsuccessfully tried to bring her back home after Dika told her mother that her teachers were pushing her to do “bad things” with them in return for “good marks”. Her attempts to take her daughter back on hearing the complaint were met by the hostel officials pushing her out of the premises! The same authorities did not even deem it necessary to inform her the next morning that her daughter was no more! Kusmi and her family rushed to the hostel after getting the news, to find Dika’s body lying in a gutter. Dika was sexually assaulted and brutally killed.
The police has been refusing to acknowledge sexual violence. Till now no rape charges have been filed and no POCSO guidelines have been invoked despite the fact that Dika was a minor girl and her body carried marks of violent sexual assault. The entire incident makes clear the conditions inside such schools – conditions in which the students and their parents are not seen as deserving of dignity or rights. Dika was killed to cover up sexual harassment and the Bihar police authorities are hushing up the matter.
Dika’s murder exposes the claims of the so-called messiahs of social justice and women empowerment in Bihar. The fact that Dika’s tortuous death has taken place within hostel premises cries for an immediate probe in the functioning of these spaces and calls for bringing the guilty to the book. Far from realising the gravity of the situation reflected in all the girl students vacating the hostel, the government’s response has still been of criminal apathy and silence. They haven’t even prompted a thorough and impartial probe into the state of Ambedkar schools and hostels in Bihar. The Central Government Minister Ram Vilas Paswan himself, too is yet to speak on the murder.
A few months back a Dalit boy in Muzzafarpur was tortured and brutally thrashed by upper caste boys. The violence occurred on the premises of the Kendriya Vidyalaya The Muzzafarpur incident is proof that even when a Dalit student manages to get into the Kendriya Vidyalaya hostels, there is no safety or surety against caste violence. This conveys to the oppressed communities that educational spaces are not for them or that the dreams that education may have the potential to realise will come at the cost of dignity and life. Dalit students have for long been raising demands for basic human dignity in these schools, without any response from the Nitish-Lalu Government.
Massive protests are happening all across Bihar demanding justice for Dika under the banner of AISA and AIPWA. Kajal, a young girl from the same school along with her friends and Dika’s mother are at the forefront of a sustained struggle for justice. Today, we must come out and demand justice for Dika and also ask the Bihar Government as to why it choses to abet the killers by shielding them. Dika’s classmates and hostel mates have been speaking out against the horrible conditions and casteism rampant in the school.
Why is it that the Dalit boys and girls become easy targets of not just governmental apathy but also of caste violence as was also seen when Dalit boys in their hostels in Bhojpur were subjected to arson and vandalism by the Ranveer Sena following the death of Ranveer Sena chief Brahmeshwar Singh!
We strongly demand a thorough investigation into the conditions of residential schools for children coming from poor and oppressed backgrounds and especially girls. Not just in Bihar, Dikas and Deltas are killed, assaulted and discriminated against in Dalit hostels in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and all over.
AISA demands that CM of Bihar immediately order a high-level inquiry into the murder of Dika and also into the state of residential schools and hostels for Dalit students in the state. Additionally, strict action must be taken against not only those who tortured, sexually assaulted and murdered Dika, but also against those in positions of authorities who participated in or remained mute spectators to the everyday harassment of Dika and several other girls in the residential school.
One Year Since Rohith’s Institutional Murder in HCU
Students against RSS: the Battle for Justice and Equality; Against Discrimination and Victimisation Continues!
Intensify the Agitation for Rohith, for Najeeb!
Defeat the Nexus of RSS-Puppet Administration in Universities!
Demand Rohith Act!
On the coming 17 January, it will be one year since Rohith Vemula’s institutional murder in the HCU. He, along with four more activists of the Ambedkar Students Association (ASA – HCU), was suspended from the University after ABVP (student wing of RSS) filed a complaint against them. Political vendetta and targeting was clear: no less than Smriti Irani, the then MHRD, intervened on the basis of the ABVP’s complaint. Two union ministers (Bandaru Dattatreya and Smriti Irani) instructed the HCU administration to dance to the tunes of ABVP. This resulted in the punishment of five Dalit students, violating all norms of enquiry and justice. Rohith Vemula, who made it to a Central University defeating formidable structural discrimination that Dalits in this country face to access higher education, was pushed to death.
An unprecedented upsurge followed. Students from universities all across the country demanded #JusticeForRohithVemula. We demanded punishment of the HCU VC, Smriti Irani and Bandaru Dattatreya for misusing their office to fulfil RSS’ agenda. We demanded that a Rohith Act be passed to make caste based discrimination in educational institutions a punishable offense.
Rather than listening to the demand of a Rohith Act, the then MHRD hit out from the floor of the Parliament to Rohith and his comrades. BJP-RSS-ABVP started a full-fledged campaign to vilify Rohith, denying his Dalit identity and his subsequent victimisation.
Today, students in Indian universities are facing exactly what the RSS-BJP-ABVP want to hide. Today, students in our universities are in a battle against the RSS’s road map of converting universities to prisons where ideas are curtailed, dissent is crushed and struggle for universal right to quality education, equality and freedom of expression is silenced:
- Rohith was pushed to his death in HCU. And Najeeb Ahmad, the JNU student who has been missing since more than two months, was subjected to violence and threats to his life by ABVP goons before he disappeared. Threat, violence, disappearance: this is RSS’s dream project for minorities in India. And pliant University administrations are shamelessly aiding and abetting this project. The JNU administration framed Najeeb himself as an accused, and has only issued token ‘punishments’ to the ABVP goons who assaulted him in full public view. JNU VC has instead served notice to those students who protested against the ABVP, demanding justice for Najeeb.
- Nine students from marginalised sections were suspended by the JNU VC without even any chance of defending themselves being given. The VC who himself violated procedures and forcibly imposed his agenda on the AC meeting suspended these students alleging disruption of the same.
- A Dalit school going student was beaten by his classmates in Muzaffarpur, Bihar. His crime? He scored well in exams which according to casteist norms, Dalits are not supposed to do.
- Five Dalit students and activists of EFLU Hyderabad have been charged with defamation from a faculty member because they complained of caste-based discrimination. Systematic Push Out of students from marginalised sections from universities continue. And now talking about it is deemed ‘defamatory’.
- Eight Dalit students of the BBAU, Lucknow have been rusticated by the puppet administration of the university. These students are Ambedkarite activists who have been a part of the BBAU students’ agitation to defend reservations in the university and against RSS takeover of University spaces.
- Seven students of BHU have been rusticated for sitting in hunger strike demanding 24×7 library facilities in the university. The BHU VC, who takes pride in identifying himself as a RSS sympathiser, has seen a ‘violation of BHU tradition’ in this demand. To convert a central university into RSS’s dream laboratory, the BHU administration imposes atrocious sexist rules on women students. Police action on students and explicit threats by the VC are the new normal.
- UGC has come out with a dangerous notification (5th May, 2016) which instructs universities to allot 100% weightage in viva-voce in entrance exam. If implemented, this would mean denial of admission to students from marginalised backgrounds. Subjective biases based on social prejudices determine viva marking unlike comparatively more objective evaluation in written. JNU VC has recently forcibly imposed this on the admission process. If not resisted, this would be the reality in all our universities.
Wherever students are asserting the idea of a university as a space that rejects caste-based hierarchy and communal division, that defends the right to free speech and critical thinking, that upholds the idea of quality and accessible education for all – they have been attacked by RSS’s agents inside universities. The ABVP has attacked AISA activists and vandalised Pinjra Tod’s programs in DU. They have attacked students remembering Ambedkar on his anniversary in Allahabad University.
These goons have been given full protection and patronage by administrations who are puppets of the RSS. While the RSS is in a war mode against knowledge, rationality, justice and equality inside universities, students all across the country are not ready to leave an inch in their struggle to defend azaadi from casteism, communal violence, sexist rules and witch-hunt of political expressions.
When we are approaching one year of struggle demanding #JusticeforRohith, let us once again rise up in rage to demand a Rohith Act. Let us intensify the agitation against RSS’s takeover of University spaces.
On the 10th of November, the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union (JNUSU) issued the following appeal to all progressive and democratic group across the country with an aim to further intensity the movement demanding Juctise for Najeeb – the JNU Student who went missing after a brawl with hooligans belonging to the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP).
An Appeal for Solidarity and United Protest Actions
On 14th October night, Najeeb Ahmed, a student of M.Sc. Biotechnology, JNU was brutally assaulted and violently threatened by a group of ABVP students. From 15th October morning, Najeeb went missing from the campus. The disappearance of a student from a central university in the national capital after assault and intimidation of right wing lumpen is no doubt an ominous reflection of the dark times we are living in. For past four weeks, students, teachers, staff members of JNU, and citizens of Delhi have been coming out on the streets demanding institutional accountability to bring back Najeeb.
What is absolutely shocking and shameful, the partisan role of the University administration in the whole affair. JNU administration has not taken action on its own nor filed any complaint with the police regarding the assault on Najeeb. None of the University press releases mention the vicious attack and intimidation on him.
Further, the JNU administration is stooping to the lowest levels by repeatedly churning out show-cause notices and threat letters to student activists involved in the movement for Najeeb.
On the other hand, the Delhi police did not allow Najeeb’s mother to mention the incident of assault on Najeeb in her FIR (which now stands as a simple FIR of kidnapping, against unknown persons).
The JNUSU and other eyewitnesses also filed a police complaint naming the persons who assaulted Najeeb and threatened to kill him. But it is utterly appalling that the assaulters named in the complaint have still not seriously interrogated nor have their call records been investigated so far. On the contrary, Delhi Police marshalled all its forces to manhandle Najeeb’s mother and family members and unleash repression on the student protesters demanding accountability from the Delhi Police.
Further, following massive protests during last week, the Delhi Police is now churning out misleading media feeds to divert attention from its own omissions and commissions.
A student from a minority community goes missing from the university, his assaulters roam scot free and the university administration – police – ruling government remain mute spectators. The pattern is simple, clear and unmistakable. The government of the day has waged a war on campuses and on all marginalized sections and dissenting voices across the country. Yesterday it was Rohith Vemula pushed to suicide, then it was JNU students charged with sedition and jailed, today it is Najeeb, tomorrow it may be any of us. From HCU, BHU, DU to JNU- everywhere it is the same design unfolding: the RSS-ABVP goons under full patronage of university administrations and the BJP government get away with each and every vicious attack across campuses, and Dalits, minorities and dissenting voices are intimidated, harassed and even institutionally murdered.
This is the time to fight back! We must unitedly resist Modi government’s war on the dignity and security of the oppressed people, on student-youth, on universities.
JNUSU and different national Students’ Organisations have come together to organise Country-wide Protests for Justice for Najeeb. We appeal to all democratic organisations and elected Student Unions to join hands in this united call for justice for Najeeb.
We appeal to you to endorse and observe the solidarity protest actions in different campuses on the following dates and participate in the “Chalo JNU” march in JNU on 15th November (Marking One Month of Najeeb’s Disappearance).
Against JNU VC’s Total Abdication of Institutional Responsibility Towards Najeeb! Against Continuing Political Protection to the Assaulters of Najeeb! Against Delhi Police’s Gross Non-Seriousness and Misleading Media Feeds in the Search for Najeeb!
11 Nov : National Students’ Leaders Meet and Press Conference at JNU
12 Nov: Protest and Effigy Burning of JNU VC and Home Minister in Campuses Across the Country
13-14 Nov: Campaign in Different Campuses
15 Nov: Join National call of ‘Chalo JNU’
Juloos and Protest Meeting at JNU
Please upload photos and videos of your protest actions and also mail to us atmohit.jnusu@gmail,satrupa.
Mohit, President, JNUSU
Amal, VP, JNUSU
Satarupa, Gen. Secy, JNUSU
Tabrez, Jt.Secy, JNUSU
BR Ambedkar And The Challenges for India’s Democracy Today
“What you have lost others have gained. Your humiliations are a matter of pride with others. You are made to suffer wants, privations and humiliations not because it was pre-ordained by the sins committed in your previous birth, but because of the overpowering tyranny and treachery of those who are above you. You have no lands because others have usurped them; you have no posts because others have monopolised them. Do not believe in fate; believe in your strength.”
As we enter upon the year of the 125th birth anniversary of Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar, his worst apprehensions regarding Indian society and polity loom large as never before.
“If Hindu Raj does become a fact”, he wrote in Pakistan or Partition of India (1945), “it will no doubt be the greatest calamity for this country. It is a menace to liberty, equality and fraternity. On that account it is incompatible with democracy. Hindu Raj must be prevented at any cost.”
Ambedkar had the foresight to spot the danger of ‘Hindu Rashtra’ on the distant skyline some 70 years ago; today that danger is at our gates, in the shape of the Modi Raj, essentially a corporate-communal fascist rule.
RSS, BJP Cannot Appropriate Ambedkar
Modi is fond of using Ambedkar as an alibi for every assault by his Government and his party on the Constitution drafted by Ambedkar. With his Government in the dock for the institutional murder of Rohith Vemula, the Ambedkarite Marxist student activist branded anti-national by Modi’s Ministers, the Prime Minister is trying hard to redefine Ambedkar’s legacy to suit the BJP’s agenda.
Laying the foundation stone for an Ambedkar Memorial at Delhi, Modi said that Ambedkar called for labour reform as well as industrialization. In fact, Ambedkar staunchly opposed every reform that the colonial regime introduced to discipline and enslave labour, and today Modi’s Government is introducing labour reforms’ that take a leaf from the colonial book!
Modi said that Ambedkar resigned from the Congress Government’s cabinet over the issue of women’s rights. This is a reference to the Hindu Code Bill that Ambedkar drafted; he felt betrayed at its truncation and dilution by the Nehru Government. But Modi omits to mention that the staunchest opponent of the Hindu Code Bill was the RSS, which backed the Anti Hindu Code Bill Committee. The RSS organized a public meeting at Ramlila Maidan in Delhi on the 11th of December, 1949, “where speaker after speaker condemned the bill. One called it ‘an atom bomb on Hindu society.’” (Ramchandra Guha, ‘Bhagwat’s Ambedkar’, Indian Express, 10 December 2015)
Moreover, Ambedkar had burnt the Manusmriti as a symbol of casteism and patriarchy, while the BJP, RSS and ABVP defend the Manusmriti. Even Modi himself, in an article he wrote on Golwalkar in 2006, had the audacity to refer to Ambedkar as a “modern Manu” in a deliberate attempt to reconcile Ambedkar with Manuvad – the same Manuvad that Ambedkar was committed to annihilating.
The India of Ambedkar’s Dreams
For Ambedkar, the ‘nation’ was no ready-made thing to celebrate. Rather, it must be painstakingly built by recognizing and destroying the foundations of inequality and oppression. Contrast this attitude with that of the RSS and BJP, which brands any critique of existing Indian society, especially any critique of caste, gender and communal discrimination or intolerance, as ‘anti-national’ and ‘divisive’!
“We must begin by acknowledging the fact that there is complete absence of two things in Indian Society. One of these is equality. On the social plane, we have in India a society based on the principle of graded inequality … in which there are some who have immense wealth as against many who live in abject poverty. On the 26th of January 1950, we are going to enter into a life of contradictions. In politics we will have equality and in social and economic life we will have inequality. In politics we will be recognizing the principle of one man one vote and one vote one value. In our social and economic life, we shall, by reason of our social and economic structure, continue to deny the principle of one man one value. How long shall we continue to live this life of contradictions?” (Ambedkar, Speech in the Constituent Assembly on adoption of the Constitution, November 25, 1949; henceforth Speech, emphasis added)
When Ambedkar resigned from the Cabinet, upset with the Nehru Government’s dilution of the Hindu Code Bill, he said:
“To leave inequality between class and class, between sex and sex, which is the soul of Hindu Society, untouched and to go on passing legislation relating to economic problems is to make a farce of our Constitution and to build a palace on a dung heap.”
“Castes Are Anti-National”
Would the RSS brand Ambedkar as ‘anti-national’ for his bold words:
“I am of opinion that in believing that we are a nation, we are cherishing a great delusion. How can people divided into several thousands of castes be a nation? The sooner we realize that we are not as yet a nation in the social and psychological sense of the word, the better for us. For then only we shall realize the necessity of becoming a nation and seriously think of ways and means of realising the goal. The realization of this goal is going to be very difficult ….
The castes are anti-national. In the first place because they bring about separation in social life. They are anti-national also because they generate jealousy and antipathy between caste and caste. But we must overcome all these difficulties if we wish to become a nation in reality.” (Speech)
Annihilation of Caste As Essential for Democracy
While Ambedkar advocated many much-needed reforms including the Hindu Code Bill and caste-based representation and reservations, the question of the annihilation of caste was most crucial to Ambedkar’s conception of democracy. The key text where Ambedkar dealt with question has been dealt in greatest detail and most radical terms is Annihilation of Caste (Henceforth Annihilation)- a speech scheduled to be delivered at a talk organized by Jat-Pat Todak Mandal (Forum for the Break-up of Caste System) of Lahore, an offshoot of the Arya Samaj — but later cancelled by the organizers. Here we find Ambedkar mercilessly tearing apart the varna-caste kernel of Brahmanism, in the process demolishing familiar apologetic arguments like (a) casteism is bad but varnavyavastha is good, (b) caste is necessary but untouchability is bad and so on.
To start with, read this passage from Annihilation:
“Hindu society as such does not exist. It is only a collection of castes. Each caste is conscious of its existence. Its survival is the be all and end all of its existence. Castes do not even form a federation. A caste has no feeling that it is affiliated to other castes except when there is a Hindu-Muslim riot. On all other occasions each caste endeavours to segregate itself and to distinguish itself from other castes. Each caste not only dines among itself and marries among itself but each caste prescribes its own distinctive dress.”
Caste, in other words, was the worst segregator – in fact “anti-national”, as he would declare soon after independence. Gandhi on the other hand reduced the whole agenda to that of abolition of untouchability and conducted an intense ‘harijan’ campaign for the purpose. His entire emphasis was on ‘penance’ by caste Hindus for the sin of untouchability. The campaign did not allow any space for militant action by untouchables themselves. In an attempt to mobilise Ambedkar, already a rising star among dalits by the early 1930s – in his campaign, Gandhi requested the latter to send a message for his magazine Harijan. Ambedkar did not let go of this opportunity to counter the illusion that untouchability or the problem of the outcastes could be solved within the caste system. Here is the statement he sent:
“The Out-caste is a by-product of the Caste system. There will be outcastes as long as there are castes. Nothing can emancipate the Out-caste except the destruction of the Caste system. Nothing can help to save Hindus and ensure their survival in the coming struggle except the purging of the Hindu Faith of this odious and vicious dogma.”(Harijan, 11 February 1933)
But how to proceed towards this goal? Some of the religious but progressive Hindus believed that inter-caste dining and inter-caste marriages could perhaps close the gaps. In Annihilation Ambedkar first says that the latter is more potent than the former, since “Fusion of blood can alone create the feeling of being kith and kin and unless this feeling of kinship, of being kindred, becomes paramount, the separatist feeling, the feeling of being aliens created by Caste will not vanish.” He congratulates the Jat-Pat-Todak Mandal for actively promoting this and then goes to the very root of the matter:
“Why is it that a large majority of Hindus do not inter-dine and do not inter-marry? The Hindus observe Caste not because they are inhuman or wrong- headed. What is wrong is their religion, which has inculcated this notion of Caste. “[Therefore,] criticising and ridiculing people for not inter-dining or inter-marrying or occasionally holding inter-caste dinners and celebrating inter-caste marriages, is a futile method of achieving the desired end. The real remedy is to destroy the belief in the sanctity of the Shastras.…
Reformers working for the removal of untouchability, including Mahatma Gandhi, do not seem to realize that the acts of the people are merely the results of their beliefs inculcated upon their minds by the Shastras…Make every man and woman free from the thralldom of the Shastras, cleanse their minds of the pernicious notions founded on the Shastras, and he or she will inter-dine and inter-marry, without your telling him or her to do so.”
Ambedkar Warned Against Manipulative Misuse of the Slogan of ‘Nationalism’
In What Congress And Gandhi Have Done To The Untouchables, Ambedkar wrote:
“the governing class in India has placed itself in the vanguard of the Congress movement and it strives to bring everybody within the Congress fold. …[it] is aware that a political campaign based on class ideology, class interests, class issues and class conflicts will toll its death knell. It knows that the most effective way of side tracking the servile classes and fooling them is to play upon the sentiment of nationalism and national unity and realizes that the Congress platform is the only platform that can most effectively safeguard the interest of the governing class.”
Replace Congress with BJP/Sangh Parivar. Don’t you get a fair approximation of today’s scenario, with the additional aspect that that the BJP/Sangh Parivar, in the name of nationalism, defines that nationalism in terms of an aggressive Hindu majority united against minorities and dissenting voices?
“Educate, Agitate, Organise”
These words, in the order given here (which is often misplaced), appeared as the mast for Bahishkrit Bharat — India Excluded or Ostracized India — the first magazine Ambedkar published. In fact this was the motto of the utopian socialist Fabian society, about which he came to learn from his Oxford teacher John Dewey. “My final words of advice to you,” he said at the end of his speech at the All-India Depressed Classes Conference (Nagpur, July 1942), “are – educate, agitate and organize; have faith in yourself.”
Ambedkar never saw himself as the messiah of dalits and always insisted on independent rational thinking instead of blind faith on any supreme leader, including himself. “You must abolish your slavery yourself”, he said. “Do not depend for its abolition upon God or a Superman.” This approach, which stood in stark contrast against the guru worship prevalent in our country, found expression in his favourite maxim from Buddhism — atmo deep bhavo (Be a torch unto thyself or be your own guide). Indeed, this principle – very close as it is to the Marxist principle that the proletariat must secure its emancipation by itself – had its polar opposite in Gandhi’s views and modus operandi among the untouchables.
Ambedkar’s Radical Socio-Economic Vision: ‘Liberty’ For Workers and Peasants Not For Capitalists and Landlords
Not only the ruling class but even some influential Ambedkarite ideologues, with great hopes in the equalizing power of capitalism and globalization, tried to paint Ambedkar as a ‘free-marketist neoliberal’. But Ambedkar’s life and his writings are a testament to his strong opposition to capitalism and his espousal of the cause of the working class. In 1938 Ambedkar, while addressing the GIP Railway Dalit Mazdoor Conference in Manmad, had declared that the dalits had two enemies, Brahminism and Capitalism (reported in TOI, 14 Feb, 1938). When Ambedkar was unsure of his election to the Constituent Assembly, he prepared a memorandum in March 1947, published in May 1947 as States and Minorities: What are Their Rights and How to Secure them in the Constitution of Free India. This document, presented as a ‘Constitution of the United States of India,’ was far ahead, in its radical democratic social vision, of what became the Indian Constitution. This document recommended:
“Key industries shall be owned and run by the State… the State shall compel every adult citizen to take out a life insurance policy commensurate with his wages as may be prescribed by the Legislature… agriculture shall be a State industry.” The same document also advocated the state acquiring all agricultural land, dividing it into farms of standard size, and letting out the farms for cultivation to residents of the village as tenants, to be cultivated collectively.
The document prophetically observed that industrialization through private enterprise “would produce those inequalities of wealth which private capitalism has produced in Europe and which should be a warning to Indians.”
In the Appendix to this document Ambedkar observed how capitalism was fundamentally opposed to democracy:
“Anyone who studies the working of the system of social economy based on private enterprise and pursuit of personal gain will realise how it undermines, if it does not actually violate, the last two premises on which Democracy rests (i.e that the individual shall not be required to relinquish any of his constitutional rights as a precondition to the receipt of a privilege, and that the State shall not delegate powers to private persons to govern others). How many have to relinquish their constitutional rights in order to gain their living? How many have to subject themselves to be governed by private employers? Ask those who are unemployed whether what are called Fundamental Rights are of any value to them.… The fear of starvation, the fear of losing a house, the fear of losing savings if any, the fear of being compelled to take children away from school, the fear of having to be a burden on public charity, the fear of having to be burned or buried at public cost are factors too strong to permit a man to stand out for his Fundamental Rights. The unemployed are thus compelled to relinquish their Fundamental Rights for the sake of securing the privilege to work and to subsist.”
He then brilliantly refutes the argument that State control would curb ‘liberty’:
“To whom and for whom is this liberty? Obviously this liberty is liberty to the landlords to increase rents, for capitalists to increase hours of work and reduce rate of wages. …In other words what is called liberty from the control of the State is another name for the dictatorship of the private employer.” (Dr. B.R.Ambedkar, States And Minorities, Appendix I)
Ambedkar on Constitutional Morality and Rationalism
People of India will never forget Ambedkar’s historic role as the chief architect of the Indian Constitution, in arming them with valuable weapons like universal franchise and reservation, which have given the downtrodden a platform to take on the deeply entrenched structures of inequality, injustice and domination of the rich and the powerful.
In addition to his well-known contributions, Ambedkar has left behind many other potent ideas and insights, if only in brief outlines. We must develop these in accordance with our situations and use them as political weapons in the current struggle against obscurantism, status-quoism, intolerance, patriarchy, regional/ethnic chauvinism and all that, and also in our long-term struggle for a people’s democracy based on genuine liberty, equality, and fraternity.
He made a very important distinction between societal morality and constitutional morality. The former refers to the old, spontaneous, commonsensical morality of the dominant community — as expressed, for example, in regressive attitudes towards women’s social and sexual freedom, LGBT rights, interfaith and intercaste marriages, beef-eating, and so on. Constitutional morality on the other hand is modern, consciously developed, progressive and based on principles enshrined in the Constitution such as egalitarianism, social justice, secularism and so on. As Ambedkar pointed out, “Constitutional morality is not a natural sentiment. It has to be cultivated.” (4 Nov 1948, Constituent Assembly Debates Vol. VII)
In these days of frequent and concerted attacks on rationalism, another ingredient of Ambedkar’s world outlook assumes special importance: his commitment to rationality and the scientific spirit. One of the reasons behind his attraction towards Buddhism lay in its spirit of investigation, argumentation, dialectical approach and enlightenment. While summarising the essential teachings of the Buddha, Ambedkar wrote, inter alia,
“Everyone has a right to learn. Learning is as necessary for man to live as food is … Nothing is infallible. Nothing is binding forever. Everything is subject to inquiry and examination.”
Ambedkar on Labour Laws and State Repression
Ambedkar and the communist unions had joined hands to organize textile mill workers in struggles against the against the draconian Industrial Disputes Bill. Ambedkar’s speech in the Bombay Assembly against the Bill is a brilliant defence of the basic democratic rights of workers, and reads as a damning indictment of the arguments advanced by today’s Governments about labour laws. In that speech, Ambedkar made it clear that
“to make it (workers’ strike) a crime is to compel a man to serve against his will; [and making him a slave…To penalise a strike, therefore, I contend, is nothing short of making the worker a slave…a strike is simply another name for the right to freedom.”
He added, “… a democracy which enslaves the working class, a class which is devoid of education, which is devoid of the means of life, which is devoid of any power of organisation, which is devoid of intelligence, I submit, is no democracy but a mockery of democracy.”
His remarks on ‘equality’ in the context of the unequal situations of worker and employer, are as relevant in the context of the inequality between the privileged and the oppressed castes and the need for caste-based reservations:
“…Of course, it may be pointed out that this Bill introduces equality of treatment between the labourers and the employers, because, just as this Bill penalises the strike of workmen, it also penalises the lockout by employers….Equality is not necessarily equity. In order that it may produce equity in society, in order that it may produce justice in society, different people have to be treated unequally. This equity cannot be produced, if we propose to treat the strong and the weak, the rich and the poor, the ignorant and the intelligent on the same footing.” (Bombay Legislative Assembly Debates, Vol. 4, pp. 1330-59, dated 15th September 1938)
As Labour Member of the Viceroy’s Council,1942-45, Dr. Ambedkar initiated programs for education, health care for workers and maternity leave provisions for women workers. He set up the Tripartite Labour Council in 1942, introduced compulsory recognition of Trade Unions, the Minimum Wages Act and the worker’s ‘Right to Strike’.
On Police Firing: In the Bombay Assembly, Ambedkar’s remarks in response to an enquiry report that justified police firing resonate powerfully against those who, today, say it is ‘anti-national’ to speak against fake encounters or firings by police or army. The report had justified the firing and blamed the Council of Action – of which Ambedkar was a member – for provoking workers:
“…I am also asking therefore another question to the Honourable the Home Minister. Is he prepared to prosecute the police officers who indulged in this firing in an ordinary court of law and get the finding given by this Committee sustained by a Judge and a Jury? Sir, I like to point out to this House that so far as the law is concerned, there is no difference between an ordinary citizen and a police officer or a military officer, and I would like to read for the benefit of the House a short paragraph from a very classical document which I am sure my honourable friend the Home Minister knows, namely, the Report of the Featherstone Riots Committee. In one passage it says:—
“Officers and soldiers are under no special privileges and subject to no special responsibility as regards the principle of the law. A soldier for the purpose of establishing civil order is only a citizen armed in a particular manner. He cannot, because he is a soldier, excuse himself if, without necessity, he takes human life..”
In this speech, Ambedkar mentioned Edward Thompson, former Governor of the Punjab who was an advocate of the cause of Indian home rule and exposed the crafty mindset. He said,
“I was horrified by the argument that he advanced. …The one thing that convinced him, he said, in favour of Irish home rule was this: So long as the rebellion was going on, no Englishman could shoot an Irishman, however violent his action was, because if an Englishman shot an Irishman, the whole Irish country went up in arms. He said that as soon as home rule was granted, it was possible for Cosgrave to shoot Irishmen, and nobody rose in rebellion against it. He said that one advantage that the Englishman would have from home rule to India would be that the Indian Ministers would be able to shoot Indians without any qualms. This is exactly what is happening. This is not the only occasion when disturbances have taken place. … The only question is this: Whether, in maintaining peace and order, we shall not have regard for freedom and for liberty. And if home rule means nothing else …than that our own Minister can shoot our own people, and the rest of us merely laugh at the whole show or rise to support him because he happens to belong to a particular party, then I say home rule has been a curse and not a benefit to all India.” (Bombay Legislative Assembly Debates, Vol. 5, pp. 1724-27, dated 17th March 1939)
Dr.Ambedkar’s visionary ideas of annihilation of caste and emancipation of the oppressed, and of a thoroughly democratic India are an inspiration and invaluable resource for all fighters for democracy today: be they workers fighting for the right to form unions and go on strike and against inhuman and unsafe conditions of work; landless labourers and poor peasants resisting private militias like the Ranveer Sena and demanding justice for anti-Dalit massacres; inter-caste couples facing murderous attacks; Dalit children facing discrimination and segregation in school and society; civil libertarians demanding justice in fake encounters and police/army firings; University students fighting for social justice and resisting privatisation and saffronisation; all citizens fighting for socially and economically just policies against corporate plunder, and for secularism and against communal fascism…
For all these fighters for democracy to come together to realise a shared dream of a truly democratic and egalitarian India will be the best tribute to that great visionary Dr BR Ambedkar at this challenging juncture.
Of Saffron Brigade’s ‘Nationalism’ and Branding ‘Others’ as ‘Anti-Nationals’
Even as people across the country continue to protest against Rohith Vemula’s institutional murder, the RSS-BJP-ABVP’s predictable arrogance continues. In Mumbai yesterday, RSS workers beat up protestors in Dharavi with lathis and rods. In HCU, the Vice Chancellor Appa Rao is yet to resign. He has gone on “long leave”, and in his place the MHRD has arrogantly appointed Prof. Vipin Srivastava, the same man who headed the EC sub-committee which punished Rohith and his friends! In solidarity with the #ChaloHCU call on 25 Jan, an AISA team of comrades from JNU, Anant and Piyush have joined the HCU protestors today at Hyderabad.
We live in times when the RSS-BJP- ABVP go around distributing ‘pass/fail’ certificates of ‘nationalism’ to all and sundry. ABVP tells us that the screening of Muzaffarnagar Baaki Hai is “antinational”, and elected BJP MP Bandaru Dattatreya decides to brand Rohith Vemula and the Ambedkar Students’ Association in HCU as “antinational”, casteist and “extremist” for their dissenting views. An article in the RSS mouthpiece Organizer similarly called JNU a “den of anti-nationals”. RSS and ABVP, of course, have declared that FTII is anti-India for protesting Gajendra Chauhan’s appointment. IITs are anti-Indian because of groups like Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle and protests like Kiss of Love, and because they refuse to accept separate dining halls and bans on non-vegetarian mess food. IITs and IIMs are anti-national because their top academics and scientists have protested against assaults on autonomy. People’s doctor Binayak Sen, well-known activist Sandeep Pandey, Greenpeace activist Priya Pillai, civil rights activist Teesta Setalvad, editor Siddharth Varadarajan – all are anti-national in the RSS-BJP-ABVP dictionary. Their list of “anti-nationals” is seemingly endless. Each one of us could end up on it, perhaps, if we are not already on it. This game of vilifying and criminalising all political difference/dissent would be funny if it weren’t so dangerous. The RSS-BJP-ABVP now use the state machinery and institutional power to punish all differing opinion.
But are the ABVP-RSS-BJP, ‘nationalist’?! Do they work in the interests of citizens of this country?
Let us take just a few examples, to arrive at an answer.
- Three girls recently committed suicide in Tamil Nadu, driven to desperation because they could not pay the exorbitant fees demanded by private colleges. Instead of opposing private education corporations to open ‘teaching shops’ for profits in India, the Modi government has been cutting funds for public educational institutions. ABVP and the BJP want education to officiallybecome a tradable commodity under GATS, after which WTO diktats will prevent the Government from subsidising public-sector education! Why does Sanghi ‘nationalism’ mean love and loyalty for WTO and imperialist policies?
- At the recently conducted WTO negotiations in Nairobi, the Modi government failed to protect and defend Indian farmers. The Indian delegation simply capitulated – not even resorting to basic minimum of demanding amendments or blocking the agreement, tactics which have been employed in the past! Even commerce Minister has had to admit that the negotiations were a ‘disappointment’. Is it a sign of nationalism to capitulate to the WTO-US-EU’s bullying tactics?
- Narendra Modi chose Arvind Subramanian as his Chief Economic Advisor (CEA) – the same Arvind Subramanian who in March 2014, had submitted written recommendations to the US Senate advising the US to initiate WTO disputes against India unless India changed its patent laws that ensure affordable medicines for poor Indians and poor people of the world, protecting them from greedy global drug corporations. (India or US? Whose interests will the Chief Economic Advisor Subramanian serve? by G Pramod Kumar, Firstpost.com Oct 21, 2014 http://www.firstpost.com/business/economy/india-or-us-whose-interests-will-the-chief-economic-advisor-subramanian-serve-1994485.html). Why does a ‘nationalist’ Prime Minister need an economic advisor who works like an US agent who wanted the US to use WTO diktats against Indian interests? The Modi government has subsequently followed Subramaniam’s advice. Patent laws are being rewritten to prevent Indian companies from cheaply manufacturing generic drugs. (See US pushes for new IP laws to help Big Pharma at cost of poor; NDA says Yes Boss, http://currentnews.in/usa-pushes-new-intellectual-property-laws-help-big-pharma-cost-poor-nda-says-yes-boss/)
- Is it ‘nationalist’ or anti-national to appease greedy MNC drug companies at the cost of the lives of India’s poor patients and people in other developing countries?
- While in Opposition, BJP ‘supported’ the protests against FDI in retail, which threatens the livelihood and survival of small shop owners and their employees. But after coming to power, the Modi Government has done a U-Turn and has assured Obama that India will continue to support FDI in retail! What is the meaning of this ‘U-Turn Patriotism’?
- Modi, on his France visit, has brokered an MoU between Reliance and a French company Dassault Aviation, for 36 poor quality Rafale Jets at exorbitant costs, that will bail out a crisis-ridden French company Dassault Aviation and allow super-profits for the Ambani! (http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/rafale-deal-to-be-signed-on-eve-of-hollandes-india-visit/) Why is the Modi Government sacrificing the country’s interests, and forcing substandard fighter jets on the country, in order to benefit a French MNC and its crony corporate?
- During US President Obama’s visit to India, the Modi Government agreed to protect MNC suppliers of nuclear equipment from being sued by Indian disaster victims! By diluting an already weak liability law Modi has, without telling or asking us, used our taxpayers’ money, our Jan Dhan, to subsidise these MNC suppliers in case of such accidents. Is it not anti-national for Modi to accept US dictation and protect US Nuclear MNCs instead of compromising the safety of Indian citizens?
- In the name of wooing MNCs to ‘Make in India’, in the name of the ‘Start-up’ India campaign, Modi is diluting labour laws and environment laws. Left and environmental activists who defend those laws are branded as ‘anti-national’! Are workers not part of the ‘nation’? Is it ‘nationalist’ for the Government to violating rights and laws of Indian citizens to appease corporates and MNCs?
Why is the RSS-ABVP-BJP so desperate to brand all dissent as “anti-national”?
There is a method behind the madness of RSS-BJP-ABVP terming all differing voices as “anti-national”. They seek to hide their huge surrenders and sell-outs of economic and political rights of India’s people by a systematic campaign of social divisiveness. Neither is this a new agenda.
During the long struggle in India against British colonial rule, the RSS was conspicuous by its absence. In RSS-speak, the movement against the British was “reactionary”:
“Anti-Britishism was equated with patriotism and nationalism. This reactionary view has had disastrous effects upon the entire course of the freedom movement, its leaders and the common people” (M. S. Golwalkar, Bunch of Thoughts, Bangalore, 1996, p. 138).
During the drafting and adoption of India’s Constitution, the RSS wanted Manusmriti as the constitution of the “Hindu nation” of their dreams. Saffron brigade’s hero Savarkar wrote:
“The worst about the new constitution of Bharat is that there is nothing Bharatiya about it…Manusmriti is that scripture which is most worship-able after Vedas for our Hindu Nation and which from ancient times has become the basis of our culture-customs, thought and practice. This book for centuries has codified the spiritual and divine march of our nation. Even today the rules which are followed by crores of Hindus in their lives and practice are based on Manusmriti. Today Manusmriti is Hindu Law”. [VD Savarkar, ‘Women in Manusmriti’ in Savarkar Samagar (collection of Savarkar’s writings in Hindi), vol. 4, Prabhat, Delhi, p. 416.]
Just on the eve of Republic day in 1950, the RSS mouthpiece Organiser published a special feature by Sankar Subba Aiyar, a retired High Court Judge, in which loyalty towards Manu’s Codes was reaffirmed:
‘Even though Dr. Ambedkar is reported to have recently stated in Bombay that the days of Manu have ended it is nevertheless a fact that the daily lives of Hindus are even at the present day affected by the principles and injunctions contained in the Manusmrithi and other Smrithis. Even an unorthodox Hindu feels himself bound at least in some matters by the rules contained in the Smrithis and he feels powerless to give up altogether his adherence to them.’ [‘Manu Rules Our Hearts’ Organizer, February 6, 1950, p. 7.]
Even after Independence when a democratic-secular Constitution was in force, RSS continued denigrating India Constitution. In Bunch of Thoughts, MS Golwalkar, the most prominent ideologue of the RSS wrote:
“Our Constitution too is just a cumbersome and heterogeneous piecing together of various articles from various Constitutions of the Western countries. It has absolutely nothing which can be called our own. Is there a single word of reference in its guiding principles as to what our national mission is and what our keynote in life is? No!” [MS Golwalkar, Bunch of Thoughts, Sahitya Sindhu, Bangalore, 1996, p. 238.]
If the RSS collaborated with British colonialism THEN, the RSS-BJP-ABVP is NOW collaborating with large corporate interests and following the dictation of imperialist powers such as the US and EU. In order to divert attention from this shameful collaboration with colonial British then and present day imperialist powers now, they routinely resort to their staple diet of hate, violence and communal division. They try to manufacture a majoritarian brahminical ‘commonsense’ and criminalise minorities, dalits, women, working class and every democratic voice speaking for rights and dignity and people’s sovereignty as ‘enemies within’, so as to divert and deflect people’s attention from the real enemies the Sangh brigade is serving.
As we approach yet another Republic Day, let us collectively reject the RSS-ABVP-BJP’s right to brand any and every differing opinion as “anti-national”. The right to oppose the death penalty, the right to eat what we want, the right to dissent, the right to expose the communal-fascist agenda of spreading hatred and division, the right to defend workers’ rights, the right to oppose discrimination based on caste, religion, gender – all these are deeply and integrally part of being a genuine, sovereign and plural democracy!
Today, as we continue to demand action against those responsible for Rohith Vemula’s institutional murder, the horrific news of 3 more suicides reached us. Three women students committed suicide in Tamil Nadu, driven to despair and death by the massive fees charged by private education “shops” masquerading as colleges. Across the country, students have been protesting against fee hikes and privatisation of education. And now, 3 women students, bearing the brunt of this mercenary commercialisation, have chosen to kill themselves to draw the country’s attention.
It is now one week since Rohith Vemula died. His tragic death brought to the fore several crucial questions. It exposed, once again, the brutal and savage existence of institutionalised discrimination and alienation that Dalit students routinely face in educational institutions. It also tragically highlighted the dangers and deadly consequences of the Modi government’s blatant misuse of institutional power to further its partisan agenda. It is precisely these issues that Rohith and several others across the country had been raising for several weeks. It is indeed a sign of our times that it took a tragic death for these concerns to be highlighted in the mainstream discourse.
We live in times where institutions are being systematically and strategically used to impose the agenda of the RSS-BJP. The official platforms as well as the academic credibility of institutions such as JNU, DU, ICHR or the Indian Science Congress are being blatantly used to further the RSS’s hate project of “cultural nationalism”, Hindu Rashtra and communal division. And as the entire sequence of events leading to Rohith’s death points out, the state machinery and institutional power were being used to target, criminalise and victimise any possible dissent. In the RSS-ABVP dictionary, to differ with the RSS-BJP is to become “anti-national” and “extremist”, and to raise the issue of caste discrimination in Hinduism is to be “casteist”. The very act of political difference and dissent has now officially become sedition. So, Rohith and his friends can be socially boycotted in HCU, and Sandeep Pandey can be kicked out from his job in BHU for his “anti-national” views!
As we approach yet another 26 December, let us reflect upon the challenges before us to achieve Babasaheb Ambedkar’s vision of social, political and economic equality. Today, the RSS-BJP is forced by its political compulsions to try and appropriate Ambedkar’s legacy. This process of appropriation however inevitably runs into trouble, as Ambedkar’s ideas and ideology clash with the RSS’s notion of “cultural nationalism”. Time and again, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat talks about the need to “review” caste-based reservations. And now, even in the midst of the huge national furore over caste-based discrimination, BJP leader and Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan reiterates this “need” to “review reservations”, thus revealing the RSS-BJP’s deep discomfort with the notion of affirmative action for socially deprived communities.
Let us have a look at some facts:
A new study has confirmed how higher education in India remains a highly discriminatory space, where SC/STs, OBCs, minorities and women are STILL severely underrepresented both among teachers and students.
All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) Report (2012-13): The AISHE survey, conducted online by the Department of Higher Education, MHRD, covered 633 universities (public and private), 24,120 colleges and 6,772 standalone institutions. The survey’s finding show that the representation of Muslims, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribe and Other Backward Classes in higher education teaching jobs is way below the proportion of their population even after 68 years of independence. (http://thewire.in/2015/09/08/higher-education-is-still-a-bar-too-high-for-muslims-dalits-10214/)
Representation Among Teachers
- According to the Survey 62.5% of teachers in higher education are upper caste Hindus. A mere 6.95% teachers are SCs, whereas the SC population is 16.6% according to the 2011 Census. 1.99% teachers are STs, while ST form 8.6% of the total population. 21.92% teachers are OBC while NSSO 2006 showed OBCs to be 41% of the population. 3.09% teachers are Muslims while Muslims form 14.2% of the population. 3.2% of teachers are from other minorities.
- The overall representation of women among teachers at the national level is 39% – when it should be over 50%. SC, ST, OBC and Muslim women are even more underrepresented.
What about representation among students?
SC students constitute 12.2%, STs 4.4%, OBCs 30.05% and Muslim students 3.9% of the overall student body. The enrolment of women students has improved, with 44.89% students being women, but India still has a long way to go for achieving gender parity. The AISHE data shows that Muslims are the most underrepresented at both state and national levels when it comes to student enrolment in higher education.
What about the much-touted Modi’s Gujarat model?
6.7% of Gujarat’s population are SCs, while just 4.79 % are teachers. 14.8% of Gujarat’s population are STs but just 3.62% of teachers are STs. 9.7% of Gujarat’s population are Muslims while just 1.18% teachers are Muslims. And just 1.81% of students are Muslims in Gujarat.
Even in West Bengal, which has seen prolonged CPI-M rule, the representation SC/ST/OBC/Muslims is poor.
23.5% population in WB are SCs but a mere 5.49% of teachers and 16.08% of students are SCs.
5.8% of population in WB is ST but just 0.77 of teachers and 2.86% of students are STs. 27% of the population of WB are Muslims; but just 3.01% of teachers and 9.04% of students are Muslims.
In Kerala also Muslim representation in higher education is extremely low. 26.6% of the population is Muslim but just 6.72% teachers and 10.34% students are Muslim.
The study confirms that India has failed even to fulfill the reservations for SC/STs and OBCs as mandated by law. Clearly, far from the need to “review” and do away with reservations, the facts and the data show that far more work needs to be done to ensure genuine social inclusion.
The following issues HAVE to be addressed:
- Continued denial of mandated reservations in admissions and faculty appointments. In the massively proliferating private educational institutions, there exists no provisions for reservation at all.
- Discrimination in schools: Dalit children are very often brutally punished in school, denied access to water supplies in the school, made to sit separately in classrooms, and forced to manually clean the school toilets.
- Thorat Committee report and recommendations on discrimination in higher education: The Thorat committee report clearly showed the multiple dimensions of discrimination even in ‘premier’ institutions such as the AIIMS, with 72% of SC/ST students in AIIMS saying they faced discrimination, and 88% reporting various forms of social isolation. Yet, the recommendations of the Thorat committee have NOT been implemented – and tragic suicides of Dalit and tribal students continue.
- Shocking Paucity of Enabling Provisions of Hostels and Financial Assistance: We find systemic attempts to deny proper funding of infrastructure and other mechanisms, which are essential to encourage and allow students from deprived backgrounds to avail of educational facilities. These structures, particularly social welfare hostels, remain perennially underfunded and poorly managed.
- Scholarships and Financial assistance: Even as every ruling party speak the rhetoric of social inclusion and justice, a very miniscule proportion of SC/ST students have access to financial assistance schemes such as the Rajiv Gandhi National Fellowship. Far from universal coverage, across the country, approximately ONLY 2000 SC/ST students are awarded the RGNF fellowship! A similar situation besets the implementation of pre-matric and post-matric scholarships for SC/ST students.
- Massive reduction in funding of SC/ST sub-plans: The Union Budget (2015-16) has allocated Rs 30,851 cr. for SC Sub Plan and Rs 19,980 cr. for Tribal Sub Plan. This falls much short of the officially accepted requirement of allocations in proportion to population share. The National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR) pointed out that, as per the SCSP/TSP Guidelines, the SCs should be allocated Rs 77,236 cr. towards SCSP (16.6 per cent of the Plan Outlay), and the STs should be allocated Rs 40,014 crores towards TSP (8.6 per cent of the Plan Outlay). Thus, Dalits have been denied 61 per cent of the due amount under the SCSP and 53 per cent has been denied to Adivasis under TSP.
Defeat the Dangerous ‘Mere Paas Mantri Hai’ Syndrome:
A grave danger we face today is the misuse of institutional power to further the RSS agenda, and to simultaneously squash any differing and dissenting view of this agenda. The power and might of administrations and institutions and the state machinery now criminalise dissent. Nothing portrays the state of affairs as poignantly as the death of Rohith Vemula. At the heart of the entire sequence of events in HCU is how ABVP and its party bosses in the Union Ministry dictated a pliant HCU administration to criminalise and witch-hunt students who hold a different ideological and political viewpoint. An elected Member of Parliament, BJP’s Bandaru Dattatreya, acts on a complaint raised by the ABVP (affiliated to the same RSS that Dattatreya belongs to) and terms the Ambedkar Students’ Association’s dissent as “anti-national”, “extremist” and “casteist”. The entire local RSS-BJP machinery joins in this campaign to vilify dissent in HCU. Dattatreya writes to the MHRD, and the MHRD in turn writes five letters to the HCU Administration within three months on this issue. Clearly, the entire RSS-BJP machinery, from top to bottom, got itself involved and used the official state machinery as well as institutions to further its own agenda of crushing and punishing dissent. Nothing can be more dangerous to the very idea of democracy.
In the few days that have passed since Rohith Vemula’s tragic death, we have witnessed protests in campuses across the country. As we all now know, Rohith and four other Dalit research scholars and activists of Ambedkar Students’ Association (ASA) were punished by the University of Hyderabad (UoH), based on fabricated charges. This punishment was clearly a result of the severe pressure exerted by ABVP, BJP MLC Ramachandra Rao, BJP MP and Union Minister for Labour Bandaru Dattatreya and HRD Minister Smriti Irani. Rohith along with other students had been agitating to demand revocation of the unjust punishment, when he committed suicide.
In order to try and contain the massive protests that have emerged in the wake of Rohith’s death, a series of lies, slander, and communal division is being floated by ABVP-RSS-BJP, as well as the MHRD.
They are trying to claim that ASA and Rohith’s opposition to Yakub Memon’s hanging was the reason and trigger for the entire issue. This is patently false, and a part of the ABVP-RSS’ habitual tactics of spreading communal divisions in order to garner support. The trigger for the sequence of events leading to Rohith’s death was a protest in HCU when ABVP forcibly stopped the screening of a film Muzaffarnagar Baaki Hai in DU. The reason for this subterfuge is clear. The ABVP-RSS desperately need to do this, and to portray Rohith as a ‘terrorist sympathiser’ and ‘anti-national’, in order to hide and justify their role.
They tried to question Rohith’s caste status as a Dalit. Contrary to the RSS slander machine, it has now been conclusively established that he was a Dalit. The MHRD minister claims that his death was not a ‘Dalit versus non-Dalit issue’, flying in the face of all evidence.
Smriti Irani’s Press Conference yesterday is FULL of lies and misinformation. She stated for instance that the Head of the committee which punished Rohith was a Dalit. This, and her other claims, are LIES, and have been painstakingly pointed out by the SC/ST Teachers’ and Staff Association in HCU. In fact, in protest against Smriti Irani’s campaign of lies, 10 Dalit faculty members have resigned from their administrative positions in HCU.
Smriti Irani claimed that 5 letter written by MHRD on this matter in 3 months is a ‘routine procedural matter’. Coming from a Minister who has NEVER once intervened in the several instances of ABVP’s violence in various campuses, or on any of students’ demands such as the non-NET fellowships, this is purely absurd!
ABVP’s Muscle-flexing and RSS-BJP Interference : In the midst of all these lies, let us once again examine the FACTS.
In August last year, the ASA had held a protest march in HCU against the ABVP’s disruption of the screening of the documentary Muzaffarnagar Baqi Hai in Delhi University. An ABVP leader had called the ASA activists ‘goons’ for the same. The ASA had demanded an apology – and the ABVP leader had apologized in presence of the campus security. But later, he claimed he had been beaten up by the ASA activists.
The HCU Proctorial enquiry had found that the medical reports as well as statements of security staff did not show any evidence of the ABVP leader having been beaten. The HCU Chief Medical Officer, who is a Dalit, has also accused the HCU VC for being casteist, and deliberating ignoring him.
Reports NOW show that the HCU administration has stated in an affidavit in the court, and the Hyderabad police has also supported this claim, that the ABVP leader’s claims of massive assaults on him were ‘exaggerated’. The police reports clearly state that there was NO evidence of massive assaults on Susheel Kumar, ABVP President in Hyderabad (Times of India, 21 January 2016 online reports, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/hyderabad/ABVP-mans-injury-claims-false-police-say/articleshow/50661841.cms).
Yet, despite all these facts, the entire witch-hunt by HCU administration started unfolding under political pressure. To begin with, the BJP MLC Ramachandra Rao intervened, forcing the Proctorial Board to recommend suspension of five Dalit students including Rohith Vemula.
Subsequently the earlier Vice Chancellor revoked the suspension following protests and dialogue with students, and ordered a fresh enquiry. Meanwhile Union Minister for Labour Bandaru Dattatreya wrote a letter to the HRD Minister claiming that the UoH had become a den of ‘casteist, extremist and anti-national politics’ and falsely peddling the deliberate lie that ASA students beat up ABVP leader Sushil Kumar when the latter protested against ASA protests against Yakub Memon’s execution.
The MHRD under Smriti Irani then wrote no less than 5 letters in literally 3 months to the UoH over period of three months, demanding a response on “anti-national activities” on the campus! In this matter, the HRD Minister followed the same pattern she had earlier done, when she wrote to the IIT Madras to seek action against the Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle following a letter by an RSS person branding the APSC as anti-national.
A new Vice Chancellor was appointed by the BJP HRD Ministry at the Centre soon after. He, in a payback mode, bypassed the issue of a fresh enquiry, and instead used the Executive Council (which the VC himself chairs) to suspend the five students – clearly under pressure from the HRD Ministry, Union Minister and BJP-RSS lobby. Not content with this, the EC also ordered what amounted to a social boycott of the five Dalit students – barring them from accessing the library, hostels, common places, administrative building, and from contesting students’ union elections.
The brute might of state power was also to be seen in the fact that Rohith was denied dignity even after his tragic death. As per the custom of the particular community that Rohith belonged to, he was supposed to be buried, not cremated. The police snatched his body from the students and misled them about the place of cremation. The cremation took place, not at the designated place, but at some other place, without consulting his family. His family and friends were not even allowed to pay him their last respects.
There have of course been several tragic suicides of Dalit students before, in HCU and elsewhere. The question in this particular case is: Unlike other cases, WHEN have two Union Ministers, and state machinery acted to precipitate matters in the manner we have outlined above, leading to and causing a suicide?
The entire saga will probably go down as the most vicious and grossest possible misuse of public office.
It is this state of affairs that has led to the suicide of Rohith Vemula. Rohith’s suicide note speaks of his desire to be a science writer and reach for the stars, but his sense that his birth itself was a ‘fatal accident.’ When a Dalit scholar is made to feel that even in a Central University, he can be ostracized, falsely accused, punished without evidence, and subjected to a social boycott and denial of rights thanks to the ‘fatal accident’ of his birth, it is indeed a shame.
Rohith Vemula’s death leaves us with several questions. On the one hand, it is yet another grim remainder of the terrible, institutional discrimination and alienation faced by Dalit students who enter our higher education institutions against all odds. But what this tragic episode reveals is the absolute dangerous use of state power by the ABVP-RSS-BJP, which they are known to use in every educational and university campus. Now, we are in a situation when the entire state machinery is being blatantly used to punish, victimise and ostracize ALL differing and dissenting opinion!
Cult of Criminalising All Differing Viewpoint: Take the ABVP-BJP’s use of Rohith’s opposition to Yakub’s killing to somehow brand him an ‘anti-national’ and punish him. As many of us have pointed out, there has been wide public condemnation of Yakub’s killing, in Delhi, Hyderabad and across the country. So, going by this logic, all those who raise democratic concerns differing from the government can now be termed ‘anti-national’ by the ABVP-RSS, and the entire state machinery can be used to victimise them even to death! It is indeed a ‘Mere Pass Mantri Hai’ muscle-flexing syndrome.
AISA demands that all those responsible for the victimization that led to the suicide of the Dalit scholar – including the ABVP leader who made a fabricated complaint, the University authorities, the VC, the Union Labour Minister and the Union HRD Minister be punished, and the Union Ministers who used their official position to pressurise the UoH administration to witch-hunt the Dalit students branding them as ‘anti-nationals’, leading to the death of Rohith Vemula, be sacked from their posts with immediate effect. Continuing punishment against all four Dalit scholars be immediately revoked and Rohith’s family be compensated.
Resist Serial Political Targeting and Victimisation of Progressive Student Activists Across Campuses Under the Diktats of the Saffron Regime!
Down with the Victimisation and Ostracisation of 5 Dalit Research Scholars by the UoH Administration Under BJP-ABVP’s Political Diktats!
Yesterday, as a united student protest was going on against the victimisation of 5 Dalit research scholars by the University of Hyderabad’s administration, the news of the tragic suicide one of Rohith Vemula reached us. Even as we collectively mourn the shocking and tragic loss, let us not fail to nail those responsible. Rohith along with four other students had been indicted by the UOH Administration without any evidence. Even the administrative enquiry report mentions this clearly. And yet they were evicted from their hostels, barred from entering public spaces in the university, and participating in student union elections.
This action didn’t happen in a vacuum. A series of letters and communication between the UOH Administration, local BJP leaders as well MHRD reveals that the decision for this vindictive action was taken at the behest of the ABVP-BJP combine. No less that BJP MP and Union Minister Bandaru Dattatreya has been writing letters to the MHRD for the past few months demanding action against ‘anti national’ ‘extremist’ and ‘casteist’ members of the Ambedkar Student Association in HCU. The victimisation of the Dalit students at the University, and the subsequent death of Rohith Vemula is a consequence of this targeted witch-hunt.
The HCU administration, ABVP-BJP and MHRD be held responsible for this horrifically condemnable role in this entire sequence of events. AISA has given a call for observing 19th January as National Protest Day. We call upon all students to unite and ensure that those responsible for Rohith’s death be punished.
Saffron Emergency in Campuses
Our educational system is currently facing an unprecedented crisis. With communal fascist forces in power, the entire state machinery and bureaucracy is being used to further a divisive communal agenda, to defend exclusion and growing lack of access to educational institutions, hostels and scholarships. In campus after campus, all democratic spaces of discussion, dissent and social inclusion are being scuttled, and the dangerous process of saffron infiltration and indoctrination continues unabated.
In the recent past, at IIT-Madras, the administration (acting on the letter of the MHRD) banned the Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle (APSC), which the administration was forced to withdraw after country-wide protests. At FTII, the historic resistance of the students to saffron appointments has been met with every kind of brutal response–intimidation, victimisation, lathi charges and arrests. At EFLU, an emergency-like situation exists. Students are suspended for participating in peaceful protests, there is a total ban on public meetings, seminars and all democratic activities, and even facebook posts critical of the Modi government’s policies have led to suspensions and rustications! At IIT-BHU, Prof. Sandeep Pandey has been removed from his faculty position for daring to hold ideological views contrary to the ruling powers. The rustication of 5 Dalit students culminating in loss of a life in UoH is the latest in an ever-growing list of dangerous saffronized intimidation in campuses across the country, at the behest of the BJP.
As students, we are of course more than familiar with exactly who indulges in violence and hooliganism on campuses across the country! In DU, ABVP ransacked the DU History department and assaulted the Head of the Department (2008) for the History department’s ‘crime’ of inclusion of A.K. Ramanujan’s seminal essay the ‘300 Ramayanas’! They have regularly threatened, intimidated and beaten up students and left activists for their ideological views and struggles for students’ rights, latest being the assaults on AISA activists during a protest against the imposition of the retrograde CBCS in DU and vandalism to stop the screening of the film Muzaffarnagar Baqi Hai.
Who can forget the abuse and violence that students camping at UGC were subjected to by the ABVP members on the intervening night of 22-23 October? ABVP’s elected Union representatives from JNU and DU were attacking students demanding the right to education!
In Allahabad University, again, ABVP’s Union representatives engaged in physical violence to stop a programme related to #OccupyUGC. None of us have forgotten how ABVP activists were involved in the vandalism and lynching leading to the death of Professor Sabharwal in Ujjain some years ago.
Steady Sanghi infiltration in universities and use of state power have ensured that the very same university administrations which immediately suspend or rusticate progressive activists based on spurious complaints made by ABVP, NEVER take any action on ABVP’s violence and hooliganism!
In the latest incidence of state crackdown on dissenting voices, the Delhi Police brutally lathicharged and threw water cannon on the students protesting against victimisation of dalit students in HCU resulting in the death of Rohith on 18th December in Delhi. DU AISA secretary comrade Sudhanshu was beaten on the head and is severely injured.
In the backdrop of this dangerous trend of muzzling of democracy across campuses, saffronisation and commercialisation of educational institutions, we are also witnessing a remarkable resistance. Across the country, each and every act of saffron intimidation and harassment is being countered – from JNU and IIT-Madras to FTII, EFLU, Allahabad, and UoH. AISA and RYA once again appeal everyone to join national protest day against the institutional murder of Rohith Vemula on 19th December 2016.
On 21st of October the students from different universities of Delhi stormed the gate of UGC in an outrage against the UGC’s decision to discontinue non-NET research fellowship. They occupied the inner premises of UGC demanding scrapping of UGC’s decision to discontinue the Non-NET Fellowship. The students stayed days and nights in the UGC premises and built up what has become the historic #OccupyUGC movement.
Interestingly the decision to discontinue the research scholarship was taken in the 7th October meeting of a UGC committee which was formed to decide ‘increase in the fellowship’. This abrupt and shocking decision united students from universities across the country and generated an unprecedented movement against fund-cut and commercialisation of education in India. Along with students, the occupy at UGC saw mass participation of teachers, elected Teacher Associations from all universities in Delhi, activists of people’s movements and the common people of Delhi. The #OccupyUGC movement, in fact has spread to colleges and universities across the country. Protests are being organised in Hyderabad, NEHU Shillong, Chennai, Mumbai, Kolkata, Wardha, AMU, Allahabad, Pondicherry, Chandigarh, Sagar, Rohtak and elsewhere in solidarity. Regional offices of the UGC across the country have seen spirited protests by students. With every crackdown from the police, the mass participation in the movement has only swelled.
Scrapping of Non-NET Fellowship: A Blow to Research in India The non-NET fellowship which is given to research scholars in Central Universities is a life-line in pursuing research for the students. Generation of new knowledge by original, quality and rigorous research by full-time researchers is essential for any developing society. Since Independence, public-funded universities had been envisioned for the purpose of promoting cutting-edge research by full-time research scholars. Scholars devote crucial years of their life in producing research for the society and the non-NET fellowship is only a “minimum wage” that is barely enough to sustain the daily needs of the scholars.
The recent policy shift of cut in public funding and drive for private funding will have two-fold effect : (a) it will push out students from common and deprived backgrounds from the arena of higher education and research and (b) with corporate profit motive dominating the arena, autonomy of ideas and sensitivity to social needs in a diverse and developing country like ours will be severely compromised.
So the decision to scrap the Non-NET fellowship generated mass protest all over the country. In response to the protest, the UGC and the MHRD have only been issuing diversionary notices, ordered lathi charge on students rather than meeting them and listening to their demands. The UGC and the MHRD along with the student organisation of BJP/RSS- the ABVP have been spreading that the fellowship will be ‘continued and a Review Committe has been formed to look into different aspects of disbursing the fellowship’. But the protesters have refused to be convinced by the lies spread by government machinery and the ABVP. Students have correctly pointed out that the mandate of the so-called Review Committee (as specified in different UGC/MHRD notifications) is to actually reduce the scope of the fellowship by introducing economic/merit or other unspecified restrictive criteria.
The #OccupyUGC movement has categorically rejected the farcical mandate of the Review Committee and articulated that :
- Getting into research rather than getting employed after graduation or masters degree is not an easy decision for students in India. Pursuing research only becomes possible when there is institutional financial support. Pursuing research is also creation of knowledge for the country and society for which the students should be duly paid. Thus any restrictive criteria in giving research scholarship will only make it impossible for students to pursue research. Students from marginalised communities and women who get into higher educational institutions after fighting out societal discriminations and family pressure will be the worst affected. Moreover, when every students has to go through a screening process to get into research in any Indian University, why does the UGC need to introduce any other criteria? Thus the movement has rejected the mandate of the review committee to introduce any restrictive criterion in disbursing research fellowship.
- The fellowship must increase from the present scale of Rs 5000/8000 to Rs. 8000/12000 for M.Phil./Ph.D. commensurate with increase in JRF. The fellowship must also be linked to inflation index for all future purposes.
- The fellowship must be expanded to all state universities without any exclusionary criteria and with an increased rate.
Massive Fund-Cuts in Basic Science Research: At this hour when a massive movement is going on against the scrapping of non-NET fellowship, disturbing news is coming about fund-cuts in science research institutes. • Ministry of Science and Technology has directed CSIR (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research) to generate 50% of research funding on their own.• IIT’s have also been asked to partner industries for funding research. (The Hindu 28 Oct 2015). • CSIR has announced that no ‘travel grants’ will be given to the researchers this year due to budgetary constraints (CSIR website). • SERB (Scientific and Engineering Research Board) is also not giving revised amount of UGC-NET fellowship (SERB website). • On the contrary, to satisfy its obsession with ‘rankings’ the govt. is channelizing funds for select elite institutions thereby denying the same to others. (Economic Times 30 Oct 2015). • AICTE in the name of ‘quality’ has decided to cut down total UG Engineering seats by as much as 40% over the next few years, from from 16.7 lakh now to 10-11 lakh! Clearly, this is yet another move to open space for the foreign private players seeking entry via WTO! The combined effect of such across the board cuts in public-funding for basic sciences will push the science research into the clutches of corporate interests. Needless to say, this will restrict the access of common students into research and dictate the content of research by corporate sector’s profit greed and not by people’s need.
Impending Negotiations at WTO – Higher Education to be Transformed into a Commodity from a Right : It is not surprising that the decision to scrap fellowship comes in the month of October, just 2 months before the 10th Ministerial meeting of WTO at Nairobi, Kenya in December 2015, where the BJP-led central government is preparing to enter into a ‘binding commitment’ to make higher education a ‘tradable service’ at WTO! If the Indian government finalises its deal with the WTO, it would essentially mean that India on its own is agreeing to declare the country’s Higher Education as ‘tradable service’ open to global profit mongering corporates. To be precise, higher education in India will no more be treated as a ‘public good’ which the government should provide to its citizens for national self-reliance; rather it would be treated as a ‘tradable service’ in the global market which has to be sold by big profit driven corporates and bought by students at exorbitant fees. It would render higher education a commodity and students to customers. Presently in India a minuscule minority of students can reach higher education. The vast majority of young people hailing from common, poor and socially marginalised communities such as the SC/ST/OBC, minorities and women are deprived from even accessing higher education because of inadequate number of affordable public funded higher education institutions. Under the WTO regime, it would become impossible for students from these backgrounds to even dream of getting higher education.
Surrender of country’s sovereignty to WTO: WTO was constituted to serve the interests of the developed countries at the cost of accessibility of people in the third world as well as under-developed countries to basic rights. Along with a paradigm shift in higher education from being a right of people to a commodity, commitment to WTO in higher education would also mean a complete surrender of the country’s sovereignty to decide upon its own higher education based on need of the people of the country. The international laws of WTO regime and its supervisory bodies will make sure that governments of the nations under WTO do not formulate policies in contravention that has been decided by the influential global powers.
Fund-Cuts in Education and WTO Conditionalities: The paradigm of ‘free trade’ under WTO regime will compel nations to provide a ‘level playing ground’ for all service providers in respective sectors. For higher education, this would mean that the government will have to take active steps to ensure that public-funded institutions are treated at the same level with private and foreign corporates offering higher education. There will be a steady erosion of all existing subsidies and affirmative policies in public institutions, as any public subsidy will be considered a violation of the ‘level playing ground principle’ vis-a-vis private and foreign ‘traders’ in higher education. What can be more tragic and condemnable than the fact that after almost 70 years of hard earned independence the government of India is going to compromise the sovereignty of its people to have a say on the higher education of the country to the hands of WTO legal instruments? The recent moves to scrap/restrict research fellowship and massive fund cuts for science research are thus nothing but steps by the central government to send a ‘compliance report’ to its masters in the WTO.
The government is preparing to push the country’s future in such a direction without even taking the consent of the parliament or state legislative assemblies or the people of India. The world has recently seen how the people of Greece gave their opinion regarding Greece’s commitment to the EU. Is it too much to ask for the people of this country to be informed about the provisions under WTO and be consulted before the government proceeds to sell out education in the upcoming WTO meeting of December? Why is the government not making the details of the terms of negotiation public? Why are things being done in such a secretive manner? In the land of Bhagat Singh and Babasaheb Ambedkar, such a sell-out of country’s sovereignty, and compromise of the government’s responsibility to provide higher education and ensure social justice MUST Not be allowed.
In the month of December the farcical Review Committee on UGC research fellowship is supposed to submit its report. December is also the month when the our Ministers will fly down to Nairobi to sell out our Higher Education at WTO. It is utmost necessary that we ensure a complete chakka jam of the UGC-Central Government machinery to ensure our right to education. Join a series of united Protest Actions:
Nov 18 : Mass Deputation from UGC to MHRD (called by # OccupyUGC),
Nov 26 : Rally at Parliament (of FEDCUTA,AIFUCTO,National Platform in Defence of Education),
Dec 8 : AISA’s National Call Delhi Chalo -All India Resistance Camp (with AIFRTE),
Dec 9 : Protest Action (called by # OccupyUGC with AIFRTE)
Keep Higher Education Out of WTO! Stop Fund-Cut!
Restore, Enhance, Expand UGC Non-NET Fellowship!