The 'thought cops' are on the prowl
Chandra Bhan Prasad
But I thought Delhi was more a city of middlemen?" "No, Sir. Delhi is a city of conspirators, rumour mongers and kothi politicians!"
This is how a conversation of mine, during my recent tour of Andhra Pradesh, went. I was talking to a Hyderabad-based politician, one who had had bitter experiences with Delhi's political establishments. Today, after having seen a pamphlet, the face of my Telugu friend flashed before me. The pamphlet has been authored by a very imminent Samajwadi. This ageing Varna-Samajwadi, now with HD Deve Gowda's "secular" Janata Dal, and an ex-Rajya Sabha MP, is an ardent follower of Lohia, who laid the foundations of Shudra politics in the North.
In the pamphlet, which has something to do with the Tehelka controversy, The Pioneer finds a reference, where it is described as a jati-wadi (casteist) newspaper. I thought the noted Samajwadi could have used any abusive adjective to settle his personal or ideological score with the newspaper, but not the one he chose to use. He knows me personally, he knows about Dalit Diary and also knows that the paper had come out with a twelve page supplement called Dalit Millennium, published on January 30, 2000, in which every prominent Dalit intellectual, available at the time, had written. Also, The Pioneer Hindi Weekly has allocated a weekly column to a promising Dalit journalist, Dr. Vivek Kumar - the first mainstream magazine to do so!
Then why did the noted Samajwadi choose to call The Pioneer a jatiwadi paper? Is it because the other English dailies are anti-caste/pro-Dalit or is it because, by introducing the first weekly Dalit column in India, The Pioneer has posed a credibility crisis for all the other dailies?
The Times of India was established in 1838. Has a Dalit ever been allowed to write a lead article on its edit page? A few months ago, an article on the paper's edit page mocked the very notion of reservation for Dalits. We sent in a rejoinder, but the paper refused to publish it. Has the Times ever employed a Dalit as a journalist?
The Hindustan Times is Delhi's largest circulated English daily. Has this paper ever allowed a Dalit to write a lead article on its edit page? Two years ago, the paper published an anti-reservation article authored by a former judge of the Rajasthan High Court. We sent in a rejoinder but again, the paper refused to publish it. And the present editor himself, a couple of months back, argued in his column to abolish reservations. By the way, has the Hindustan Times ever taken on a Dalit as a journalist?
At the very start of Dalit Diary, HY Sharda Prasad had opined in the Asian Age, a paper created to give jobs to bored secularists, that my column deserved to be published, at best, as a "Letter to the Editor". When we dispatched a rejoinder, MJ Akbar refused to publish it. Has the Asian Age ever employed a Dalit journalist?
Similarly, has the Indian Express ever allowed a Dalit to write a lead article on the paper's edit page? Hours before the Tehelka controversy errupted, I had mailed them an article on the social conscience of Varna-intellectuals. I had named five intellectuals: Prof Rajani Kothari, founder of CSDS, Amartya Sen for his D-School connections, Romila Thapar of JNU, Pranoy Roy of NDTV, and Vinod Mehta of Outlook, whose personal integrity is unquestionable. I was questioning their social conscience, as to how they have practiced a doctrine of exclusion all their lives. But Shekhar Gupta refused to publish it.
The Samajwadi intellectual's pamphlet points to a greater design, something similar to what my Telugu friend had to say. Dalit Diary has not hurt him alone. Most Samajwadi/Left/secular intellectuals, have been policing the Dalit consciousness. They have all condemned Kanshi Ram for having joined hands with the BJP. But they don't want their past known to newer generations. They joined hands with the Jan Sangh/RSS to form the Janata Party and made Morarjee Desai Prime Minister, who was opposed to the nationalisation of banks. Charan Singh, Laloo, Mulayam, VP Singh, they all joined up with the RSS to get to power. When the BSP did it, they were condemned.
These people want the Dalits to talk about their past suffering, to write poems, stories and novels but never to raise issues about a share in industry, trade and commerce, education or media - because they do not wish to disturb the social status quo? It is these "thought cops" who hailed Marathi Dalit literature but then derailed the Marathi Dalit movement. They want the same thing to happen in the North. Dalit Diary smelt the ploy and fought the thought cops' designs. Now, they are up against The Pioneer itself. What a society, after culture cops, thought cops, too, are on the prowl and clubbing together whenever something new happens?