A call to left-liberals

Their silence on questions of caste could make them complicit in oppression of Dalit-Bahujan

Written by Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd | Updated: October 17, 2017 1:25 am
kancha ilaiah, kancha ilaiah attacked, kancha ilaiah book, kancha ilaiah hyderbad, vysya community, samajika smugglurlu komatollu, india news, indian express, indian express news The bench dismissed the Public Interest Litigation filed by the Arya-Vysya community to ban my book, Samajika Smuggerlu — Komatollu (a Telugu translation of a chapter of my book, Post-Hindu India) 

The 33-day long attack by the monopoly Bania capitalist class, in the name of the Arya Vysyas (not Dravida Vysyas) on my person, soul, brain and body days is a new chapter in the history of caste barbarism in India. From September 10 to October 13, when the three-judge bench of the Supreme Court delivered its verdict on my book, I underwent daily torture, faced death threats and was confronted with abuses. The bench dismissed the Public Interest Litigation filed by the Arya-Vysya community to ban my book, Samajika Smuggerlu — Komatollu (a Telugu translation of a chapter of my book, Post-Hindu India).

This verdict has given a new life to the freedom of expression in India at a time when intellectuals, writers and journalists in the country were living in an atmosphere of fear. The verdict encourages scholars from oppressed communities to conduct research on castes and communities without fear. It would be self-defeating for the left and liberal intellectuals if they do not debate caste at a time when the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP led by Amit Shah have put the caste agenda on the national stage. Eschewing such a debate would also render any discourse on politics, culture and economics, impossible. And that would be inimical for democracy.

The dilemma of left-liberal economists in the context of the attack and fatwa against me by the Telugu Desam Member of Parliament, T.G. Venkatesh — who is also a leader of the Arya Vysya community — shows how deeply ingrained caste culture is in people’s lives. The Bania caste dominates business in the country — some of the country’s top industrialists are from the community and so are village-level grocers.

The community dominates the grain, gold and other commodity markets in most parts of India. The BJP and the RSS are known to have links with the community. Its dominance also extends to politics in Delhi. The agitation agitation against me was organised from above. The silence of those who argue that their politics and struggles are directed at achieving class transformation, or a socialist revolution, could make them complicit in “class collaboration”.

This is especially since my discourse is closely intertwined with class-cultural economics and I have highlighted the casteist moorings of Indian business. If this dominance of the Banias is not challenged, the BJP will continue to win elections for decades. The top business houses shifted their support from the Congress to the BJP after the UPA-I mooted the idea of reservations in the private sector in 2006-2007. The lower castes that actually form the core of class politics have been exploited in caste-based cultural markets in systematic ways for long. When the left-liberals waver, the lower caste masses doubt their intentions.

According to an article, “Corporate Boards in India -Blocked by Caste?” by D. Ajith, Han Doker and Ravi Saxena in the Economic and Political Weekly (August 11, 2012, Vol. XLVII, No. 31, p.41)) 46 per cent of corporate board members in the country are Banias and 44.6 per cent are Brahmins This shows the absolute control of the two castes on the industrial and financial power in the country. There is need for serious studies to find out the ways in which the demonetisation has benefited top capitalists.

The Bania businessmen of today are not the same as those of Mahatma Gandhi’s time. Gandhi never had ambitions of ruling the country in a political sense. He was a moral reformist politician, whose agenda has been turned upside down by Modi. The BJP’s appropriation of Gandhi — in contrast to the earlier RSS — is to consolidate the Bania political, economic and social power.

The BJP projects the monopoly capital, the bureaucracy, the non-agrarian social forces as nationalist and the soldiers as markers of that nationalism. War tanks are being installed in campuses of educational institutions. Dubbing Dalit Bahujan students as anti-national is part of the party’s agenda. The footsoldiers who fight on the borders are from the Shudra (OBC), Dalit and Adivasi communities. Wars, whether against mighty China or the not-so-strong Pakistan, have to be fought physically by footsoldiers.

The parents and the kith and kin of such soldiers suffer enormous economic problems and joblessness. There are no jobs in the government sector. And all the so-called nationalist intellectuals are against reservations in the private sector and the so-called nationalist industry is happy with that position. The left and liberal economists have not taken a firm stand on reservations in the private sector.

Is it nationalism to deny a job to the footsoldier’s brother or sister in the private sector? When the entire economy is privatised, where do the SC/ST/OBCs, whom the BJP claims to love so much, get jobs? That too in an education market where there is a huge difference between private English-medium schools and regional language government schools? The government has stopped many foreign foundations that help the Indian poor.

These questions can be debated only when they are linked with “caste cultural economics”. It is time that the nation wakes up before the anti-poor upper caste nationalists destroy the nation itself.

The author is a member of T-MASS that works for social justice and reservation in the private sector

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