Despite deriving their power from Dalits and the marginalised, the principal parties in Uttar Pradesh have turned away from the real issues confronting these sections, says Dalit writer Kanwal Bharti on his recent arrest
My recent arrest has superbly exposed the well crafted illusion of socialism as professed by the Samajwadi Party (SP). I was arrested under Sections 153 and 295 A of the Indian Penal Code for criticising the Uttar Pradesh government’s decision to suspend IAS officer Durga Shakti Nagpal. I was also charged under Section 66A of the IT Act, a fact that became known to me only after I received a copy of the Police FIR from the district court.
Surely, there must have been something particularly malicious in what I wrote on my Facebook wall to invite such stringent charges. Malicious enough that I now share the above two charges with none other than the young demagogue of the Bharatiya Janata Party — Varun Gandhi. The fact that the charges against Mr. Gandhi have since been withdrawn and that it has been done through the active complicity of the SP is well known, thanks to a sting investigation by Tehelka.
Azam Khan’s hegemony
What has irked the government the most is not the criticism I levelled against the U.P. government on the issue of suspending an IAS officer, but another comment of mine on Facebook that exposed the government’s hypocrisy during a similar incident which took place in Rampur.
On July 23, a 200-year-old “Islamic Madrasa” was brought down in the foulest manner possible in Rampur. Regardless of the fact that the building was a historically important one, it was demolished without following any due process of law. Raising this issue on my Facebook post of August 2, I questioned that if an IAS officer could be suspended on allegations of demolishing a mosque wall in Noida, then pray, why was no action taken against any official for a similar action in Rampur?
The reason was the complete hegemony enjoyed by the SP’s Muslim face, and Minister for Minority Affairs, Mr. Azam Khan, in Rampur. The demands for booking me under the National Security Act, stirred at the behest of Mr. Khan, brought to the fore the unabashed and authoritarian style of the Rampur MLA’s functioning.
‘Wretched of the earth’
In India, the overwhelming majority of Dalits and other marginalised sections of society are extremely poor. So, it is not surprising that these “wretched of the earth,” who earn their living through a hard day’s labour, get attracted to the egalitarian slogans of socialism.
U.P.’s two principal parties, the SP and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), owe their power to these “wretched of the earth.” While the former party is a self anointed custodian of the Muslims, the latter proudly asserts its Dalit power. The BSP considers the roots of its politics embedded in the writings and teachings of Baba Saheb Ambedkar. For the SP, the roots lie in the ideas of Ram Manohar Lohia. Both Ambedkar and Lohia deeply believed in socialist ideals and both had, albeit, different visions of forming a caste and classless society in India. For instance, Ambedkar’s vision of socialism is inconceivable unless a rigorous struggle is waged against Brahmanism along with capitalism.
But the politics of the marginalised in U.P. is completely in the hands of the upper castes, whose primary interest is not to challenge caste-ism but to get further benefits out of existing caste divisions. Hence, it is no wonder that this same class can be seen riding the “elephant” when the BSP is in power or “cycling” around while the SP rules the roost.
It is due to the increasing political influence of the Hindu upper castes, that the “elephant” becomes the “Ganesha” and the “Cycle” celebrates “Parshuram.” The privileged sections among the Muslims have succeeded in influencing U.P. politics in two ways. First, by restricting the politics to the domain of religion and second, by limiting the political rise of the lower and backward sections among the Muslims.
Both Ambedkar and Lohia firmly believed that politics must be based in the concrete analysis of people’s social and economic conditions. If we follow the precept, the chief problem which Dalit, backward and other marginalised sections face is of dignity, education, employment and housing. Neither the BSP, nor the SP, has done anything substantial to address these issues. They have no programmatic understanding of dealing with the growing influence of neo-liberal policies, and have long succumbed to the logic of market economy.
Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav must understand that socialism does not follow from merely distributing various allowances and laptops, or hobnobbing with goons and all kinds of anti-social elements. He must understand that suppressing democratic voices and curbing the free expression of the citizens can be anything but Lohia’s teachings.