'Jago' to warn Dalits against selling of votes for liquor

Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 7

When the ruling alliance and the opposition parties are trying to woo the illiterate and poor voters of the depressed classes by providing them free liquor and drugs, an NGO here has decided to organise from today mass meetings in Dalit bastis by organising traditional 'Jago' to warn them against the sale of their votes.

The Vishwa Guru Ravidass Mission, an NGO patronised by Mr Harinder Singh Khalsa, member, of the National Commission for SC and ST, and various NRIs and advocates have decided to take this step after the death of two persons after consuming illicit liquor allegedly provided by the political parties in the district. The first of the ?Jagos? was organised through the main bazars of the city to various Dalit bastis.

Addressing small meetings, Mr Shiv Ram Saroay, president, and Mr Jaswant Kataria, organiser, of this innovative awareness programme, said,?? The ?Jago? will educate the Dalit samaj and other innocent people about their exploitation by the political parties. The parties, which have ignored the education and general welfare of the Dalits are now trying to purchase their votes through drugs. We would not allow this to happen.??

The spokesman of the mission explained that there were lakhs of families in the state which are unable to manage two times meals properly. The children of these families were deprived of education due to high costs of education but had any government at any time given a thought about the pitiable plight of these children. Had any step ever was taken for their education to enable them to earn their livelihood after getting their qualification. There are no proper arrangement for the welfare and these poor people have been suffering with one disease or another.

The mission demanded a ban on liquor and other intoxicants during elections. It has asked the Election Commission to impose a ban on drugs during election period. During the meetings, the speakers asked the voters not to sell their votes for liquor or other small benefits.

Dr Amarjeet and Master Gurmeet, general secretary, and vice-president of the mission, respectively, asked them to vote only for educated and honest candidates without considering party affiliations. The other leaders never bother for them and only come to them before the election.

Mr Saroay disclosed that the ?Jago? would be organised in all parts of the state from tomorrow. It will make efforts to awake the people against their exploitation and about their right of vote and decision to elect a right person who may take up their problem in the assembly.

Among others, Mr Gurdev Chand, Mr Mohan Lal Heera, Prof Paramjeet, Mr Nasseb Chand Seeba, Mr Gurmeet Singh, Mr Malkiat Singh Janagal, Mr Dhanna Ram, Mr Manjeet Raju, Mr Gurmel Sandhu, Mr Bhupinder Pal and Mr Balbir Kumar addressed small meetings.

Dalit Panthers protest attack on office-bearer

DH News Service


Condemning the reported attack on Dalit Panthers Bellary unit Vice-President M C Mayappa at Kampli in Bellary district recently, and demanding the immediate arrest of the accused, members of Dalit Panthers of India (DPI) today staged a dharna in front of the deputy commissioner's office in the city.

Addressing the protestors, DPI Gulbarga unit President Mallappa Hosmanikar said that the Dalits at Kampli were living in fear since long. He charged that Hospet Block Congress President M Suryanarayan Rao, who hails form Kampli, was the main accused in the attack.

He said due to the continuing threats of Mr Rao, the DPI Kampli unit and other Dalit organisations had met the Bellary Superintendent of Police on January 23, appraised the officer of the matter and had sought police protection to the Dalits in Chalavadi Oni (area) in Kampli.

Even after this complaint, no protection was provided to the Dalits in Kampli by the police. However, on January 27, a gang of caste Hindus, led by Mr Rao, attacked the DPI members who were holding a meeting in Chalavadi Oni, he charged.

He said that in the attack, eight DPI members were injured while Mr Mayappa sustained serious stab injuries and has been admitted to a hospital in Hospet. Mr Hosmanikar said that even though 25 persons including Mr Rao have been named in the First Information Report (FIR), yet no one had been arrested till today.

Charging that the attacks on the Dalits in the State had increased after the Congress had come to power, he said these attacks had especially increased in Bellary district, which happened to be the home district of KPCC President Allum Veerabhadrappa. The attacks on DPI members at Kampli had come even when the Onenur incident, where a Dalit woman was paraded naked and the attack on a Dalit anganwadi worker, was still fresh in the minds of the people, he added.

Mr Hosmanikar charged that as Mr Rao was a supporter of Mr Veerabhadrappa, the KPCC chief had reportedly pressurised the police against the arrest of the accused in the Kampli incident. He claimed that when Dalit Panther leaders had met the police at Bellary recently, the police had assured that the accused would be arrested within three days. But, till today no accused had been arrested, he charged.

The members, in a memorandum addressed to State Governor V S Rama Devi, have demanded the immediate arrest of Mr Rao and the others accused in the case. Their other demands are the resignation of Mr Veerabhadrappa owing moral responsibility for the incident, extrication of the main accused Mr Rao from Bellary, seizure of property owned by all the accused, protection to Dalit families in Kampli and preventive measures by the police to see that such incidents do not occur in Gulbarga division.

Today's dharna by the Dalit Panthers was held in all the districts coming under the Gulbarga Revenue Division including Bidar, Gulbarga, Raichur, Koppal, and Bellary, according to the memorandum.

Peaceful Democratic Fantasy

Dilip D'Souza

Oh, the fantasies we weave. Rajeev Srinivasan informs us about recent happenings at the American Museum of Natural History, whose showings -- this weekend -- of Anand Patwardhan's films have been cancelled. Why? Well, says Rajeev, they were "muckraking and shrill films", and of course Patwardhan is an "extreme leftist who portrays Hinduism as evil". Others who felt similarly "mounted a signature campaign" to prevent the films being shown. And Rajeev is "glad to say that once again peaceful democratic dissent seems to have had its effect, and the offending films have been withdrawn."

There is, as Rajeev is no doubt aware, a counter campaign to have those films shown. So is that also "peaceful democratic dissent"?

But never mind academic questions. We were discussing fantasies in which such words as "evil", "extreme", "leftist" and so forth are important ingredients. I suspect neither Rajeev nor the dudes who "mounted a signature campaign" against the films have seen any of Patwardhan's work. I would dearly love to be proved wrong, to know that this is informed dissent as well.

Now I have seen one of the two that were scheduled at the AMNH -- Ram ke Naam or In the Name of God -- and it is hard to believe that anyone who sees it would come away thinking "Hinduism is evil". ("Muckraking and shrill" are opinions. Rajeev is welcome to have those. Mine are different). Since Rajeev makes such a claim, I can only conclude he has not seen Patwardhan's films. But if you do see Ram ke Naam, you will come away with an appreciation for the way the men who propound what they call Hindutva go about their propounding.

Yes, what they call Hindutva is what Patwardhan has centred some of his films on. He follows Hindutva's people, interviews them, shows some of them addressing meetings, things like that. His films let them speak for themselves; and because they do, they are far more telling than any number of learned commentaries would be. And the tale these people tell isn't pretty.

For example, one scene in Father, Son and Holy War, a mid-'90s Patwardhan film, sticks in my mind. Manohar Joshi of the Shiv Sena and a Hindu religious leader are addressing an election meeting. They urge the Hindu women in the audience to produce eight children -- eight children! -- each to combat what they would have them, and us, believe is the dangerously rising count of Muslims in the country. This task of producing streams of kids is, Joshi would have those women believe, their very duty as women, Hindus and Indians.

Several questions come to mind. One, when Hindus outnumber Muslims by more than 7 to 1 in India, when the birthrates indicate that it will be hundreds of years before that turns around, if it ever does, what must we call it when a man waves the bogey of an impending Muslim flood? The word "lie" seems appropriate.

Two, in a country that struggles to feed and cope with its existing population, that has been working for years to reduce its growth rate to a point that it does not negate other advances, that urges couples to limit themselves to one or two children (that appeal down from two or three only a few years ago) -- in such a country, what must we call it when a major political figure urges women to have eight kids? The word "irresponsible" seems appropriate.

Three, how should such lies and irresponsibility be rewarded? I would have thought, at least a public reprimand. But Joshi? Nothing like that. He became Maharashtra's chief minister for four years and is now the country's minister for heavy industry. That's what irresponsibility brings when you claim to be a champion of Hindutva.

Four, who should we condemn here? The man who makes this exhortation at a public meeting, uses it to find votes? Or the man who films him doing so? Or let's put this another way. Who despoils an ancient, wise faith? The man who, in the name of that faith, tells an absurd and irresponsible lie? Or the man who films him doing so?

Easy answer to question #4, at least for Rajeev and fellow campaigners: Anand Patwardhan. The film-maker.

Be sure, by no means are Patwardhan's films the second coming of Snow White and 101 Dalmatians. He makes films that are meant to provoke, to set off debate and thought. That they certainly do, given the way Rajeev and his signing friends have reacted to the planned AMNH screenings; given also the way they have been received wherever Patwardhan has shown them, the battles he has fought to have them broadcast.

But think for a minute. Why did the signature men not say, simply: "We don't agree with these films. There is another side to Hindutva that we would like discussed as well." That would have been the truth, because what they find offensive is Patwardhan's depiction of a Hindutva they support -- which is fair enough; after all, nobody is happy to have their pet likes shown up. Unfortunately, saying that would also have been far less effective than what Rajeev did say. Yes, far more effective to claim that Patwardhan portrays an entire faith, one followed by every sixth human, as "evil".

Think how angry Rajeev has managed to make his readers with that claim: far more than if he had said, simply again, that the film criticizes what we are told is Hindutva. (Which it does, unashamedly.) That -- stimulating the anger -- is the reason to say Patwardhan paints Hinduism as "evil".

And this matter of peaceful democratic dissent. Nothing wrong with that, of course. If people are unhappy about the screenings, they have every right to start a protest campaign. Only, what happened to the AMNH was just a step or two removed from being peaceful and democratic.

When the originator of the counter campaign sent his collected signatures in to the AMNH on January 30, the curator of the exhibit wrote back: "Unfortunately, the films were cancelled owing to threats of violence." Some people I know in the States called the museum to find out more. They learned that the films had been "postponed" (which is how the AMNH Web site now describes them) until "better security" could be arranged. One person who called was "told by the museum that there had been threatening calls ... from unidentified callers and the museum did not want to jeopardize the safety of its visitors".

Hmm. So some of the "peaceful democratic dissenters" were not being quite so peaceful and democratic after all. Quite apart from being too lily-livered to use their names as they made their threats over the phone. And that, too, in the guise of protecting Hinduism.

Ah, the fantasies.

So let's ask again, shall we? Who despoils an ancient, wise religion? The man who made these films? Or these others who, in the name of that very religion, anonymously threaten American museum officials with violence?

And what's been quite ignored in all this? The two films that were to be screened. The AMNH has these blurbs about them:

We Are Not Your Monkeys: The song "We Are Not Your Monkeys", composed by Daya Pawar and sung by Sambhaji Bhagat, offers the dalit (lower caste) perspective on the Ramayana epic. Now Daya Pawar was one of Maharashtra's most revered poets, an eloquent man mourned widely when he died suddenly a few years ago. To pretend voices like his don't exist, or to prevent others from hearing them, is ostrich Hinduism: itself a slap in the face of the traditions of Hinduism.

In the Name of God: This film presents an incisive account of the movement by Hindu nationalists to rally ordinary citizens around the purported birth site of the Hindu god Rama in the north Indian city of Ayodhya. It details the campaign waged in the late 1980s and early 1990s by the militant Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Organization) to destroy the 16th century Babri Mosque and build a temple to Rama. Presenting a range of views, the film highlights how Hindu nationalism and militancy is primarily an upper-caste and middle-class phenomenon. True: even if I had not seen the film already, this blurb gives the impression that it is critical of the agitation to demolish the Babri Masjid. But that's just the point: to move from that to a claim that it pronounces Hinduism "evil" is a leap of considerable, and perverse, agility.

Finally, Hindutva's heroes lose no opportunity to tell us that the demolition of that 16th century mosque was actually a great redemption of honour. Which doesn't quite square with shutting down a film that depicts how they went about that redemption. Just as it didn't quite square with the way they attacked several journalists in Ayodhya on that very day -- December 6, 1992 -- of redemption.

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Published on: February 09, 2002
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