By Nijam Gara:
Rohith Vemula! Now a name as powerful and meaningful to Ambedkarite students in the country as Che Guevara is to revolutionaries. The young man’s spellbinding last letter addressing the world has exposed the big divide facing India with the precision of a laser-guided missile and the depth of a Romila Thapar thesis. In the din that has overshadowed the incisive letter, we are fast on our way to missing the entire point and getting back to ‘business’. Since scores of writers and his friends themselves have eloquently annotated the contents of his letter, I am not going to repeat the segments of that masterpiece. Rather, my attempt is to bring back the floodlights on to the central issue that Rohith wanted to expose by giving up his life.
For starters, India is not a country of ‘unity in diversity’. There is a deep-seated, purposefully propagated chasm in the society. The history of this chasm dates back to more than three thousand years. Vedic casteism is worse than any genocide that we read about in world history, is more ruthless than western capitalism that is derided by the left and more imperial and racist than any known imperial power in recorded history of mankind. So, Smriti Irani is in fact right when she says the issue is not ‘Dalit vs non-Dalit’! But she is right for all the wrong reasons. It is not a ‘Dalit vs non-Dalit’ issue because it is much bigger than that and gets to the root of the ‘Hindu’ edifice. It is a ‘Brahminised vs non-Brahminised’ conflict. By minimizing it to a ‘Dalit vs non-Dalit’ issue, the protesters will ultimately walk into the trap of the Central government and defeat the purpose of the martyr who ignited the issue.
All of us enraged by Rohith’s death should first understand the history of Vedic Hinduism and assimilate the hard reality that this is an organized religion that persisted despite the onslaught of one of the greatest human beings the world has even known, Gautama Buddha. Brahminism was successful in thwarting the spread of Buddhism in what is today ‘India’. One must realize that this was possible because Brahminism was the foremost usurper of wealth, knowledge and anything else that is worth usurping. It is a system that has mastered the art of propaganda war and has sustained the tsunamis of such stalwarts like Periyar, the ‘Mahatma’ Phule and Dr. Bhimrao. The secret behind its victory lies in the absolute control over public discourse and more importantly in its ability to Brahminise the non-Brahmin. Now, over time, this ‘non-Brahmin’ has come to include the shudras and even dalits, tribals and Muslims. In fact, these ‘Brahminised’ sections are posing a bigger threat to reform than the Brahmin himself.
We should absorb the fact that Brahminism has created slaves out of women and shudras from the ‘Hindu’ fold and also of dalits (panchamas) and tribals (such as Nishadas) from outside the ‘Hindu’ fold. Western racism and slave-trade thus perhaps pales in comparison. And it is amazing that these sections, i.e., women, shudras, dalits, tribals and Muslims (most of them formerly shudras or dalits) are only on their path to Brahminisation but not on the opposite path of revolution. Therein lies the triumph of Brahminism in “dividing and ruling,” a tactic often attributed to the British Empire.
In this explosion of enlightenment created in the wake of Rohith Vemula’s sacrifice, these are the threadbare facts that we should synthesize. The first task is to de-Brahminise the Indian society. Brahmin is not the sole enemy anymore. It is the Brahminised system that is the enemy. The enemy is the entrenched system that seeks to expose that the dead soldier is born to a ‘backward class’ father and hence not a Dalit since his mother’s caste plays no role in the Brahmanical order. What good is a Dalit MP, MLA or an IAS officer if a student like Rohith Vemula had no recourse to reach one of them, and instead had to reach for the ceiling fan? While on the contrary, the alternative system in the Brahminised world laid out a red carpet that went straight from a campus-level ABVP (Akhil Bharatiya Vidhyarthi Parishad) activist (Susheel Kumar) to a ‘Backward Class’ Union Minister (Bandaru Dattatreya) to the upper echelons of power in the form of Union Minister for Human Resources Development Smriti Irani. It is so ironic that this HRD minister is claiming that the OBC credentials of the said Union Minister absolve him of any crime and that hence this cannot be a “Dalit vs non-Dalit issue!” Nothing proves the point more clearly then, that yes, it is perhaps a ‘Brahminised’ vs ‘non-Brahminised’ issue!
Recent history has thrown open to us this glaringly evident crater in the Indian society. The palpable anger seen in ‘civil’ society, the ebullient enthusiasm seen among the celebrities and the unbridled support provided by Indian media during the Anna Hazare drama of 2011/2012 is replaced by the dead calm or even counter anger from these same sections today after a Dalit student’s institutional murder. Even among students, the ones that bravely fought for the cause of Nirbhaya’s brutal rape and murder, voices are for the most part muted. Those causes were strongly approved by the Brahminised society but cold-blooded termination of Dalit lives and careers are in fact perpetrated by the same Brahminised society. The mainstream media has waited with baited breath to let the weekend pass so they can move on to the next soap opera on National screen. They begrudgingly covered the university protests and wrote opinion pieces carefully avoiding the bigger issues that lurk underneath.
In this woefully unbalanced power struggle where the same side has won repeatedly for thousands of years, there is no way out for the downtrodden as long as the masses and their leaders remain Brahminised. With the information revolution unleashed by social media today, it is the duty of all the students involved with Rohith Vemula’s cause to create a bulwark against Brahminisation. The struggle does not end with sacking the Vice-Chancellor (if that ever happens), or even with the defeat of the BJP. Dalits should move beyond ‘Jai Bheem’ sloganeering and idol worship of icons. Muslims should move beyond Friday prayers and ritualistic bonhomie. The backward classes should realize that there is a greater battle to be fought and shun their blind devotion towards gods that are actually their oppressors! Women across all classes and castes should realize that their enemy is the Brahminised voice that makes them ineligible to enter temples because they are bleeding from an organ that will bear the next Brahmin of the Earth. Shun Brahminisation and embrace, perhaps, ‘Dalitisation’. Only then the India that has been oppressed for millennia can ever dream of waging a sustainable battle against the other India that is still ruling the roost today. Only that will be a true tribute to Rohith Vemula!