no phule, no ambedkar..

..no ayyankali, narayana guru, periyar or even lohia either. and definitely no kanshi ram. no mayawati. or annadurai or even devraj urs or laloo yadav. one notices the glaring absence of a long, sustained anti-caste, mass movement in the political history of colonial and post-colonial andhra pradesh.

in the last two centuries, the telugus have produced many thinkers, writers and political activists who had risen against many kinds of oppression -- against feudal rule in telangana, against colonial rule and against zamindaries in coastal andhra and rayalaseema, against exploitation of adivasis in telangana and coastal andhra.

but there has never been a large, sustained, mass movement against caste and brahminism in recent history.

caste wasn't the primary focus of either the telangana peasants struggle, the biggest militant movement of its kind in 20th century indian history, or of the four decades old naxalite movement, both of which produced thousands of dalitbahujan martyrs.

there have been many movements, agitations against caste based oppression but none challenged caste like the movements led by all the visionaries i named earlier. now some dalitbahujan supporters of telangana think that a sociopolitical transformation will happen in a separate state because the population of the obcs in telangana is a few percentage points higher than in a united state. add to this irrational belief in the 'magical solution' of telangana the conviction that upper caste brahmin, velama and reddy politicians and intellectuals will help produce not only the 'magical' solution but also perhaps the social transformation later: is there anything illogical in the srikrishna committee report's dismissal of the idea?   

raising mass consciousness, even at the political level, against caste is a long, tough job. ask dr.ambedkar. if you can't go so far back in the past, ask kanshi ram who walked, cycled around a much larger state than telangana and andhra pradesh for nearly two decades before he got anywhere close to his objective.

and while dalitbahujan youth participate in large numbers in the agitation, nursing their beliefs, hapless dalits are being hunted down as witches in villages close to even the state capital. adivasi girls are being killed or being sold.

will the upper caste politicians or intellectuals/activists leading the movement exhibit the same spirit of brotherhood towards the 'impure' classes if the dalitbahujan youth started asking questions about the upper caste hunters of witches and sorcerers in choutuppal and elsewhere?

dr.ambedkar didn't wait for independence or political 'freedom' to press his demands for the protection of the depressed classes.

but these bands of dalitbahujan supporters will wait for the 'magical solution' that'd first empower the obcs, supposedly, and then the dalits. has the empowerment of a few obc communities, as in u.p., tamil nadu or karnataka ever ensured better progress in the war against caste? political empowerment of a few obc communities has never meant broad political empowerment even of all the obcs, leave alone the dalits. and substantial social transformation is still a long way off in all those states. and the valuable lesson we've learnt from all those states is that it is the empowerment of the dalits that should be the primary goal of any sociopolitical  movement that challenges caste: because any anti-caste political movement that is led by a few obc communities (like the yadavs, kurmis, mudaliars, gounders, vanniars, vokkaligas etc) shall ultimately result in only reinforcing caste, by only slightly altering the hierarchy.

i hope they'll revisit kanshi ram.


manoj mitta's lathi-wielding logic

If a woman who was forcibly married asks for a divorce on grounds of cruelty, can a court rule against it? Can a court rule that she cannot be liberated from her marriage, however bad, without her husband's consent? That's the kind of dubious logic the Sri Krishna Committee employed when suggesting, as its "second best option", that the Telangana region (the erstwhile Hyderabad state) cannot be divorced from the Andhra and Rayalaseema regions (the erstwhile Andhra state) unless the latter agree.
when an issue involves more than 80-100 million people, you can rest assured that there'd be more than 80-100 million opinions. and when some experts are called into apply their minds to the issue, you can be doubly sure that they'd produce several hundred pages of observations and analysis on the issue. then the woman, whose case mr.mitta so passionately (and patronizingly) makes, becomes the women of telangana, andhra and rayalaseema. she also becomes the adivasis, the dalits and the muslims of the the three regions. and the obcs and all the varieties within them. and she splits further into sub-castes: and into dominant and marginalised communities, into urban and rural women, men and children. and into the various segments and divisions of views within all those fragments. mitta finds it hard to digest all that democracy, i suppose. so he squashes it to down an easily chewable one voice: a woman whose case needs to be made (because she can't make it herself, you see).

mitta should understand the difference between two people and a hundred million people. a recent article by ram puniyani on the ideology of the rss says:
According to this ideology a Hindu industrialist and the Hindu beggar are supposed to have similar interests! A Muslim entrepreneur and a Muslim sweeper or beggar is supposed to have similar interests. So a Hindu king in History and poor Hindu farmer-Shudra are on the same page. It looks at history as unified Hindu community standing against others and so on, as if all Hindu Kings were hunky dory with each other and supping with the Shudras and poor peasants of society. The communal ideology, irrespective of any religions in whose name it operates, changes the horizontal social differences into vertical ones’. The society has divisions according the rich and poor, privileged and deprived. According to this ideology what matters is the vertical divisions according to one’s religion. This ideology as such focuses on issues of identity and undermines the real worldly problems. It is an attempt to undermine and sweep under the carpet the unjust social system, where the major contradiction is social and economic. It is a way to hide one’s birth based privileges under the guise of religion. Religion is a potent instrument as faith is its central component. Abuse of faith for political goals generates blind social hysteria, which is used to promote the political and social agenda of communal organizations. This pattern applies to all the faith-religion based politics. 
mitta too reduces all horizontal differences into a vertical divide between telangana on the one hand and rayalaseema-andhra on the other. and further vulgarizes it by reducing it into a marital issue between one woman and one man. and mitta's choice of the figure of a woman to represent telangana in his folksy, khap-like, analogy: please note that there's no vertical division between mitta and the woman. he's her natural spokesperson, of course. in mitta's worldview, as all horizontal divisions between vast millions of people should naturally collapse into one coherent vertical schism, it's also very 'democratic' that all women (read: all those segments, divisions and fragments i talked about earlier) of telangana..and elsewhere should bow down, collectively, to men like mitta. or the hindu/patriarchal/upper caste 'majority'.

trust the times of india to never rise above its pimply-faced market.


the price of magical solutions

he's mostly been moonlighting as a politician, and not even for a very long period. until one year or so ago, he was a full-time businessman, or robber baron (as some critics would call him). look what he has to say to the 125 year old congress:
Jagan openly mocked at the Congress and the state government in Andhra Pradesh. “I am doing Congress a favour by asking my supporters (MLAs) not to resign. Had I wanted, I could have done it a long time ago. I am a gentleman. So I am doing a favour to the Congress party.” He did not mince any words in making his intentions clear.
for the first time in its long history, the congress must be feeling very sorry that it is in power in andhra pradesh. i don't think such a situation had ever risen in any other state, for that matter, in the past. given a chance, it'd rather be in the opposition benches again, i think, stoke wild aspirations and make vague promises about a new state, and win elections as it did in 2004. yes, given a chance, it'd definitely like to go back to 2004. given a chance, i think, it'd prefer to roll over and die now. but it seems like jagan and many others wouldn't give it even that chance.

dangling 'magical solutions' before the masses could ensure some temporary successes -- you tell jobseekers telangana would give you jobs, you tell farmers telangana would give you water, you tell the poor telangana would bring you wealth, you tell everyone telangana would bring you everything-- like an election or two. but when the masses come to collect, you can't tell them that there are no magical solutions. that you'd been fooling them all along.

the congress can't choose the srikrishna committee's best option, united andhra pradesh, and garner winning votes in telangana for some time. it can't choose the second best option, bifurcation, and hope to survive in coastal andhra and rayalaseema. but how did the congress manage to so dexterously antagonise people of all regions? even now, it's not the anger of the people it's worried about, it's the displeasure of the dominant caste groups in the state that worries it. 

i am not predicting that the congress would die in andhra pradesh. only that congressmen would disappear in droves into jagan's mob, or the trs for a while or... the survival of the congress until now has always depended on how happy it could keep the dominant castes in the state, distributing power and pelf evenly between regions, more or less. so the dominant castes in andhra were okay with telangana as long as it remained an election promise, but when the dominant castes in telangana saw in this promise an opportunity to corner all power over the economic 'engine' of the state, hyderabad, the entente between both groups started getting weaker. but i think the weakening of the alliance between the dominant groups in the state is temporary: they've many common social and economic interests. but what has suffered more grievous damage is the congress's reputation as an arbiter, a keeper of peace and balance, among these groups. the telugu desam, 25 years ago, had won the confidence of at least one group among these castes and managed to also groom leaders from among a sizeable section of the backward castes. the tdp too would suffer now because, as the srikrishna committee has observed, 3-4 large backward castes are also seeking a firmer place among the dominant groups. 

what was the telangana movement all about? it was, like i always said, about power-sharing. not about neglect, or poverty, or discrimination or colonization. certainly not about the people.


some substance, much sentiment and lots more magic

7.2.10 Hence, while "organised sentiment" was nevertheless highly visible, the grievances of people were often of a general nature. These have been objectively investigated by the Committee and found to have substance on some counts but not all. The developmental progress of Telangana region has generally been found to be robust especially for the last three decades (see details in Chapter 2). However, objective investigation does not easily take care of emotion and sentiment. The present movement has provided people the space to articulate many grievances which are a result of recent development trajectories that have led to greater Hyderabad-centric development as well as deepening of some inter and intra-regional inequalities during the process of growth. Political inequities and the desire for a greater share in political power, combined with the feeling that the historic Gentlemen‟s Agreement was violated, feed into the movement. Popular sentiment easily latches onto well defined "enemies" (in this case the "Andhras") and magical solutions – a separate state of Telangana, which would automatically provide water, jobs and education.
elsewhere, the srikrishna report, also hints that it is 'robust' growth which has fuelled the separatist sentiments (and ambitions) of upwardly mobile groups in some areas (in north telangana, especially). the babri masjid tragedy was the consequence of a long chain of political decisions which upheld the superiority of sentiments over facts. for the lest ten years, the ruling classes have again started finding much logic in sentiments. brace yourselves. some magical solutions might soon hit you.
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