The propaganda minister in Nazi Germany, Joseph Goebbels was so sharp in his thinking that we have come to quote his famous aphorism regarding the plausibility of a lie being conceived as truth if proclaimed often. What is more, we see innumerable imposters of him in our country, wearing clothes stitched from saffron to red to all possible colours. It has become difficult for us to recognize the truth on our own. I was struck by this fact the other day when I saw everybody, including some Dalits, acknowledging the ‘dalitness’ of Ram Nath Kovind, the presidential nominee of NDA. We are truly into a fascist era, big time!
Look at some of the responses from across the political spectrum on Facebook:
By making Ramnath Govind, a dalit as The President of India – BJP sends a clear message….
So, all those who are asking whether Kovind, the NDA presidential candidate, has any stand on the all round attacks on Dalits, are presumably ‘uncomfortable’ that a Dalit is being made President….
The market value of a stooge Dalit is determined by the collective labor of All Ambedkarite Dalits against Hindutva….
Many such responses could be spotted if you just scrolled down your social media pages. The general trend is that the left, liberal sections are asking the oft-repeated question, ‘what about Ram Nath Kovind? And many ‘Dalits’ are responding that Kovind is being used to forestall the dalit uprisings gathering steam in every part of the country. It is true! But, are we forgetting the question ‘who is a Dalit?’
In theorising who a dalit is, the Dalit Panther’s Manifesto (1973) characterised him/her as one conscious of his/her political, economic and religious exploitation. One wonders whether the weight given to ‘consciousness’ here is lost on deaf ears, on both the right and the left. Many dalits themselves seem to fall prey to characterisation of anybody belonging to the marginalised and oppressed sections as a dalit. This trend is visible in the discourses around the nomination of Ram Nath Kovind as NDA’s presidential candidate.
If asked, ‘what is common between Udit Raj, Ram Vilas Paswan and Ram Nath Kovind?’ is your answer ‘they are all dalits’? Then, it seems to me, there is something seriously wrong with our own thinking. Isn’t the right wing professing the same? Aren’t the left, liberal sections proclaiming the same? Are we to fall into their traps and argue that ‘dalits are being bought by them to crush dalit mobilizations? Think of the danger here. Has ‘Dalit’ become a commonsensical word to refer to anybody coming from social groups who are recognized under Scheduled Castes? If so, should we see this only as the success of the political mobilization of the oppressed or, should we also see the game underway here. If anybody can signify ‘dalit’, where is the political warrior raging against the brahminical forces?
I think we need to sit back and assess the situation a little more carefully. We are very conscious of mobilizations of the most oppressed and the marginalized against the brahminical forces. We know that the brahminical forces would go to any extent to crush the assertions of the oppressed. They too know well that caste forms the fault line and stumbling block in constructing and sustaining a brahminical Hinduism.
Since Udit Raj and his ilk are not politically conscious to be ‘dalits’, we should see them not as dalits, but as particular individuals coming from their respective social groups in the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes as listed in the constitution. It is true that such people are being used tactically to crush the Spring that is spreading across the country. But, they are daydreaming if they think that they can crush the consciousness of a rising people using some bootlickers.
Wasn’t Ambedkar hitting the nail on the head when he said that the ruling classes have tried all their means at their disposal to arrest the rising consciousness of the oppressed? Ram Nath Kovind and many others in these fascist times are the ploys Ambedkar referred to. Beware of them: they are not dalits, they can never be. And the ‘dalit’ cannot be disintegrated by such tactics, because ‘dalit’ is the fruition of a consciousness, a Spring spreading across the country, not just the flesh and bone inhabiting any name or person.
Originally published in roundtableindia.co.in