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Why are national, global issues a domain of only a Gupta, Sharma, Jha or a Mishra?

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat* 

Every year various magazines, online portals and newspapers bring out a list of ‘powerful’ people for our consumption. These are brought out on particular occasions after being “judged’ by a few “selected” or “knowledgeable” people who go through the work and achievements of such people during the year in order to come to a conclusion.
The history of ‘powerful’ people of the world actually started with “Time” and “Newsweek” magazines. Most of their writers have been western commentators. Indian commentators till now hardly contributed to such an exercise. But things are beginning to change, as various Indian commentators and experts have found their way in doing such an exercise. Many a time one is surprised with several of their inclusions and exclusions.
Indeed, the fever has lately caught up in India. This year’s “Indian Express” list of the most powerful Indians appeared biased, perhaps a deliberate attempt to denigrate the Gandhis. It looks as if the newspaper decided to play the game for the BJP. There is reason to believe that this way a ‘liberal’ looking media is proving to be more dangerous than the likes of Arnab Goswami and the Republic TV.
Indeed, liberals do not counter the legitimacy of the Brahmanical classes. They just try to defend the existing superstructure by diverting issues by givinga different ‘angle’. Except for making the ‘powerful’ happy and ‘building’ up a few new ‘brands’, these lists are nothing but an exercise to keep the ‘audiences’ and the ‘readers’ glued to the media so that they too have a feeling of ‘inclusion’.
Most of these ‘lists’ are actually the ‘vision’ of ‘intellectuals’, but TV channels often resort to this exercise by asking people to vote. A few years back, CNN-IBN started voting for the ‘Greatest Indian’. They carefully did not bring Gandhiji into the picture. The ‘fight’ was between Jawaharlal Nehru and Baba Saheb Ambedkar.
In the final count of votes, Dr Ambedkar won with heavy margins. Gandhi was not a “participant”. That is how the Brahmanical elite manipulates things. They try to project Gandhi as the topmost icon, who is ‘unquestionable’, though allowing people to vote for Ambedkar and Nehru.
Time and again, these magazines change their tactics to look ‘progressive’ and ‘inclusive’. But these changes correspond to the political situation in the country. They provide a feeling that they ‘care’ for the marginalised. After the Mandal Commission report, most of the newspapers vehemently opposed OBC reservation, yet some Hindi papers started giving space to Dalit-Ambedkarite writers. “Pioneer” provided a column to Chandra Bhan Prasad on Sundays exclusively on Dalit issues.
More recently, “The Indian Express” asked Suraj Yengde to curate a column on caste-race matters. After the death of Rohith Vemula many newspapers published stories and personal narratives of ‘Dalits’, a clever way to confine such writers to Dalit issues alone, without realising that there are extraordinary people who can write on any subject. The Brahmanical media, however, wants to limit them to the Dalit identity. As it is an issue of visibility, many become prey to such tactics.
Indeed, as Dalit middle classes grow, the media and other spaces will be made available to them – not to challenge the Brahmanical hegemony but put them in a separate ‘Dalit’ cell, like the political parties do. They would be called to speak or write on when particular issues of Dalits arise, as if they don’t understand or know any other national or ‘international issues’, which are a clear domain of a Guptaji, a Sharmaji, a Jha saheb or a Mishraji.
The Brahmanical media wants to limit Ambedkarite scholars to their Dalit identity. As it is an issue of visibility, many become prey to such tactics
Yet, the fact is that Ambedkarism has been the ideology which India’s ruling castes have always seen with suspicion, denying it a space. It grew up because of dedicated Ambedkarites and their groundwork. Today, we few rememberspirited legends such as Advocate Bhagwan Das, LR Balley, VT Rajsekhar, K Jamanadas, Raja Dhale, JV Pawar, Sadanand Fulzale, Bojha Tarkam, NG Uke, Vijay Surwade, Manohar Mauli Vishwas, Baby Tai Kamble, Shanta Bai Dane, Kumud Pawade and others, who kept the spirit of Ambedkarism high and flying. Most of these legends never got an opportunity to air their views in the so-called ‘national’ media.
In fact, person like VT Rajshekar started “Dalit Voice” after resigning from “The Indian Express” in the 1980s while LR Balley started “Bhim Patrika” to carry forward the mission after the demise of Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar in 1956. Bhagwan Dass compiled the work of Baba Saheb and brought collected works of Dr Ambedkar. There were numerous magazines and journals in various parts of the country which were being run in the name of Ambedkarism, not necessarily on Bahujan issues.
VT Rajshekar used to call ‘national media’ as India’s ‘national toilet papers’. We grew up admiring him, though many of felt that isolation cannot help the Dalit cause. Yet, it is a fact that the Ambedkarite literature and power grew without getting legitimacy from the Brahmanical elite. That is why late Kanshiram was extraordinary as he never went to get a ‘certificate’ from these ‘manuwadi’ media and politicians.
In recent years, “Round Table India” has done tremendous work to provide space to aspiring Ambedkarite Bahujan scholars allowing them to make a niche for themselves without any certification from the ‘intellectual’ elite of the country. Can we ignore the phenomenal work done by Lokmitra through Trailokya Baudh Mahasangha and Nagaloka and his dedicated team of activists such as Mangesh Dahiwale and Priyadarshi Telang?
My friend in Odisha, Manas Jena, has been writing a regular column for “Pioneer” for many years and it is a well-received column. Another friend Dr Goldy M George has been contributing through not only ground work of the Dalit Mukti Morcha but regularly writing thought-provoking issues. Of course, Brahmanical media fear independent and assertive Ambedkarites.
However, the fact is, not all who are being ‘projected’ as Dalit icons or heroes are Ambedkarites. Two years back, American media as well as many in India ‘celebrated’ the ‘autobiographical’ work of an expatriate Indian in America. It was hailed as a landmark book. The fact was, while the book shared the author’s own experiences and that of her uncle who happened to be part of the ‘revolutionary’ movement, the author actually despised Ambedkarites and Ambedkarism, as she came from the ‘left’ background.
If the Dalit movement is acknowledged world over today and respected, it is because of Dr Ambedkar’s monumental work and guidance to the people as well as the dedicated work of Ambedkarites. Travel to the United Kingdom, and you will find how Santosh Dass, Gautam Chakrawarty, Arun Kumar, Devinder Chander and others have kept the flag of Ambedkarism high. They don’t run ‘professional’ organisations, nor are they attached to any ‘university’, but with their work with the community they have kept the Ambedkarite movement in the northern hemisphere alive.
While the dominant media and individuals are free to bring out their list every year, or perhaps once in a while, I can also provide some suggestions, and friends can work on that. We can have a list of powerful 100 Indians in the service of Brahmanism. This list can have some Dalit, OBC, Muslim, Christian, Adivasi names too. And there can also be a list of 50 non-Dalit Ambedkarites, 100 Ambedkarites in the service of humanity – including in literature, social work, journalism.
Any takers for my suggestions?
---
*Human rights defender. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/vbrawat, twitter: at @freetohumanity, skype: @vbrawat

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