Is Mathew being persecuted for challenging the Brahminical order?

The home ministry official, who was suspended following the Tehelka Tapes exposť, says that he is being punished for challenging an anti-Dalit policy that the government had to shelve due to his activities, says A Special Correspondent

New Delhi, March 29

Union Home Ministry Director Thomas Mathew, who was suspended on charges of aiding "Operation West End" feels that the government is targeting him for his strong Dalit affiliations and socialist political moorings. Mathew was suspended on Monday night, even before he could submit his reply to the showcause notice issued by his ministry. Mathew said that he is a Dalit activist, and as such, his beliefs could not be held against him.

Mathew was dragged into the tehelka controversy when a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-friendly newspaper ran a story saying that he had helped Mathew Samuel, tehelka's undercover reporter, several times. Thomas maintains that he knows Samuel, as both go to the same church in Delhi, and had even met him several times. He says, however, that the present government action is only because of his audacity to challenge some anti-Dalit policies of the government.

He was served with a showcause notice on March 23, asking him to respond within seven days, but even before that period expired, he was put under suspension.

Thomas maintains that he knows Samuel, as both go to the same church in Delhi, and had even met him several times

His crime, which actually embarrassed the government, was to tip off all political parties about certain notifications issued by the government to negate the Dalit's right of reservation in government jobs. The Vajpayee government was embarrassed and forced to rescind those notifications, which would have otherwise abolished reservations in promotions, and filling reserved seats with general category candidates, wherever vacancies existed for long.

Mathew, who has a Communist background, has been in the forefront of Dalit rights activism and has been the author of three books - Kranti Pratik Ambedkar, Caste and Class Dynamics and The Politics of Betrayal.

He says that the kind of matters he was handling in the home ministry did not fall under the Official Secrets Act, and hence there was no question of his leaking sensitive secret material. He had certainly leaked the anti-Dalit notifications, and fought with senior bureaucrats defending these notifications, but that has not even been mentioned in the chargesheet served on him.

The chargesheet served on him is altogether different from the charges being mentioned in the media, the foremost being his alleged involvement in the tehelka operation "to discredit and bring about the destabilisation of the government." The chargesheet asks him to explain his links with various Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI-M) outfits, including Jana Sanskriti, and alleged leak of classified information on Northeast militants.

He says he does not even deal with the Northeast, as he is in charge of the "organisation and management desk" in the home ministry, and primarily looked after the work of the Nanavati Inquiry Commission, probing the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, as its secretary.

He has also been accused of associating with Jana Sanskriti and CPI-M's publication Social Scientists, on the ground that government servants cannot participate in such activities. Mathew, in his reply, pointed out that these associations date back to his student days, before he joined the government service in 1975.

He says he can be certainly charged with destabilising Brahminical and upper caste control over the government, but nobody dares to do that. He says that the tehelka opportunity has been seized to punish him for the Dalit crusade that he carried out even after he joined government service, infuriating his seniors who were just waiting for a chance to put him on the mat.

About the charge of criticising government policies through his writings, Mathew says that his books and articles on B R Ambedkar and Dalit issues "are conceptual in nature and do not talk about a particular party or the government of the day." He finds nothing wrong in his remarks in his Hindi book Kranti Pratik Ambedkar that "Dalits of the Indian subcontinent should unite and shake the ruling Brahmin and upper castes, as Dalits have nothing to lose except the slavery (Bhartiya up mahadweep mein sabhi rashtro ke Dalit ek jut ho. Dalit kranti me shashak brahmanvadi jatiyon va vargon ko thartharane do. Daliton ke pas khone ke liye apani dastan ke alava kuchh nahi hai)."

His pro-Dalit writings had attracted Dalit leader Ram Vilas Paswan to take him on as his officer-on-special duty (OSD) during his tenure as railway minister in the United Front government. He was in the railway ministry before being shifted to the home ministry.

A post-graduate in Economics from Kerala University in 1972, Mathew had done his M. Phil. from Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University in 1990 on "economic progress". His pro-Dalit writings are credited to his posting in the Ambedkar centenary committee for several years as deputy secretary.

He has also been accused of buying properties in Delhi and disposing of a Rs one-lakh plot in Ghaziabad without informing the government, as compulsory for government servants. He, however, insists that the 200-square yard plot in Ghaziabad is the only property that he owns and that too has been mortgaged to the government for a loan procured in 1987, while the Delhi house actually belongs to his brother Verghese Mathew.

Referred by:Ajit N
Published on: April 5, 2001
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