Thursday, August 25, 2011

" Why Are Dalits Not Enthusiastic About Anna's Movement? " - By Bhanwar Megwanshi

Anna Hazare's `anti-corruption' has received considerable support across the
country. The `mainstream' media is awash with stories about Anna and his
fast. It is as if there is nothing else happening in India that is worth
reporting about.

But, at the same time as the media is busy projecting Anna and his movement,
a vast section of India's population—the country's Dalits, Adivasis and
religious minorities, who are at the bottom of India's social pyramid and
who suffer the most at the hands of the corrupt system that Anna and his
supporters are supposedly denouncing—have maintained a studied distance from
this movement. Not a single well-known and respected Dalit or Adivasi
intellectual, social activist or public leader has come out in support of
the movement. Nor, too, have ordinary Dalits and Adivasis. Likewise, workers
and peasants are hardly involved in the movement. Yet, despite this, the
movement and the men leading it claim to represent the entire country!

`India Against Corruption', the outfit behind Anna's movement, claims that
it is the voice of the 120 crore people of India. But, when the tens of
crores of Dalits, Adivasis and religious minorities have evinced little
interest in the movement, how can such erroneous claims be made on their
behalf and on behalf of this movement, too? One of the reasons that Dalits,
Adivasis and religious minorities feel ignored by the movement is precisely
this sort of behavior on the part of the men behind this movement,
self-proclaimed `people's leaders' who are projecting themselves as the
messiahs of the masses.

To understand why the oppressed castes have shown little or no interest in
what is being projected by the media as independent India's supposedly
largest mass movement, the movement needs to be analysed from a caste
perspective. It is striking to note that when Anna went on a fast at Jantar
Mantar, in New Delhi, the banners that his supporters put up depicted a
whole range of icons, from `Bharat Mata' to Gandhi, Shivaji and Lakshmi Bai.
But Babasaheb Ambedkar and Mahatma Jotiba Phule, the true liberators of the
oppressed castes, were conspicuous by their absence. At the venue of the
fast, slogans like `Scrap Reservations, End Corruption!' rent the air.
Dalits who visited the venue came back thoroughly disheartened on being
confronted with the fact that the movement was distinctly opposed to
reservations for the oppressed castes.

But that was not all. When the joint drafting committee for the Lokpal was
formed and five members from `civil society' were nominated for this
purpose, not a single one of them was found to be from among the Dalits,
Adivasis or religious minorities! Moreover, not one of them was a woman!
When Dalit leaders from across the country raised their voice against this,
Arvind Kejriwal, the man who heads `India Against Corruption', replied that
one needs specialists in order to devise laws.

Is it the case, Dalits demand to know, that more than 60 years ago, a Dalit,
in the form of Babasaheb Ambedkar, was available to take up the task of
presiding over the drafting committee of the Indian Constitution, but that
today not a single Dalit can be found who is thought `capable' enough to sit
on a panel to draft a single law? True to form, here, too, questions are
raised as to the supposed merit or capabilities of Dalits.

When Dalits protested against this insinuation, Kejriwal simply replied that
the government could appoint a Dalit. In other words, reservations may be
followed in the rapidly-shrinking government sector but certainly not in the
burgeoning private sector, nor in the so-called `civil society' that falsely
claims to represent the whole of Indian society. Is it at all surprising,
then, that Dalits and other oppressed castes consider this `anti-corruption
movement' to be a cover for an `anti-reservation movement' and, hence, have
distanced themselves from it? Can Anna's team, that presides over a movement
that is funded by certain corporate houses, tell us what the movement's
stand is on reservations for the oppressed castes in the private sector?
What is the condition of Dalits in Anna's own so-called model-village of
Ralegan Siddhi? Is Anna himself a supporter of the *varna* system in the
name of `*gram* *swaraj'*? What message is being sent out to the millions of
Dalits and other oppressed communities through slogans such as `Anna is
India!', `Those who are not with Anna are thieves!' and `Reservations are
the Root of Corruption!'?

Dalit, Adivasi and religious minorities are curious to know why Anna Hazare
and his followers did not care to go on a fast when heinous atrocities were
committed against their people. Why not when Dalits were brutally massacred
in Hazare's own state of Maharashtra, in the remote village of Kharilanji,
which set off mass protests by Dalits across Maharashtra and beyond? Why not
when, under the guise of Salwa Judum, the government was seeking to crush
Adivasis protesting against oppression by branding them as Naxalites? Might
this indicate that Anna and his team have no interest at all in the
injustice and oppression that millions of Dalits, Adivasis and religious
minorities have to suffer on a daily basis? By praising Narendra Modi, who
permitted the brutal murder of several thousand innocent Muslims, Anna has
clearly shown that communalism and fascism, too, are not issues that he is
interested in struggling against. Anna did not sit on a fast to protest
against the suicides of tens of thousands of impoverished peasants in his
own Maharashtra. Given all this, is it surprising that Dalits, Adivasis and
religious minorities are, by and large, simply not interested in joining his

The oppressed castes are wary of Anna's team and its demands for another
reason. The Lokpal that Anna's team is demanding will be so powerful that it
will possess all sorts of powers—to hear complaints, to investigate
allegations, to arrest, to tap phones, to snoop in on emails and SMSes and
even to impose punishments. This enormously powerful body will be even
superior to the country's Legislature, Executive and Judiciary. The
Constitution speaks of the separation of powers of these three wings of
governance, but the Lokpal that Anna's team is demanding would clearly
subvert this structure by imposing itself, in an Unconstitutional manner,
over and above the three wings. While from a village-level *patwari* to the
Prime Minister, everyone would be answerable to the Lokpal, the Lokpal
itself would be answerable to no one at all. This clearly indicates that
under the guise of Anna's `anti-corruption movement', an uncontrollable mob
is seeking to set aside the Constitution of this country and Constitutional
provisions and do away with democracy.

Babasaheb Ambedkar was the Chairman of the Drafting Committee of the Indian
Constitution, and so Dalits have an emotional attachment to the
Constitution. If a movement sets itself above the Constitution and
challenges democracy, a key pillar of the Constitution, Dalits will refuse
to support it. That is why Dalits and other oppressed caste groups remain
indifferent to Anna Hazare's movement. And, because of this, the movement,
despite claiming to speak for the whole of India, is nothing of the sort.
Rather, it may be considered the voice of just a section of the
English-speaking middle-class Savarna Hindu minority.

(Translated by Yoginder Sikand)

Bhanwar Megwanshi
is a noted social activist from Bhilwara, Rajasthan. He
edits the Hindi monthly `*Diamond India'*, a journal that deals with
grassroots' social issues. He is associated with the Rajasthan-based
Mazdoor-Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS), and can be contacted on 09829646720


  1. Very good angle of the story. What about Kejriwal? friends say that he was on leave for 2 years from central govt job and took up social service. If that is so, it amounts to cheating govt and he has no locus standi to fight against corruption. can u throw more light on this?

  2. Kejriwal took leave for this and later quit.Govt. was aware of this and he did nothing in secret.It was all out in open. He wanted people to use RTI effectively and started educating people on this.He could have been a I.R.S office enjoying power&perks.Who has locus standi to fight corruption- Aandimuthu Raja&Muthuvel Karunanidhi, Mayawati,Kalmadi and Lalu Prasad?:).When farmers lands were acquired in NOIDA which dalit leader protested. Why they did not condemn Mayawati govt. for its brutal action against protesting farmers.Where were Bhanwar Megwanshi and others like Ravi Kumar then.
    Did Thirumavalan or Ravikumar go on fast against Salwa Judam or against proliferation of deemed universities or against privatization and land grab in the name of SEZ or when Binayk Sen was charged with sedition .Where were these dalit leaders when government launched Operation Greenhunt.It was Nandini Sundar,Ram Guha and EAS Sharma who filed a PIL against Salwa Judam in the Supreme Court.None of the organizations that claim to speak for dalit,OBC and minority did that. Is not VCK part of UPA.

  3. Absurd and biased allegation by Mr:Bhanwar Megwanshi . I HAVE VISITED Ralegan Sidhi a couple of times .Anna is deadly against alcoholism , and rather harsh. Unfortunately the some of the drinkers happened to be Dalits.
    Please visit this page( if you are not able to visit Anna's village.He hates un-touch-ability.
    Do not spread Untruth.