We have been debating tirelessly on ways to abolish caste and other social evils that currently permeate society. These include raising voices against caste-based oppression, forming political parties and contesting in elections while also forcing the government to develop and implement policies that will give the Bahujans their fundamental rights. Thus, we have come a long way through decades of struggle in gaining rights. Still, the country’s present political scenario is not looking hopeful to the Bahujan aspirations for breaking the shackles of caste.
The government is openly showing its motives as a corporate stooge that dances to the whims of Adani, Ambani and other Brahmin Bania masters. For starters, the diluting of labour laws enables state-sanctioned exploitation of Bahujan labour.
The implementation of NEP further marginalizes the Bahujan children and extinguishes their hopes of upward social and economic mobility. A proposed EIA will potentially rob the Bahujans and Adivasis of their land and livelihood. The implementation of CAA and NRC may deprive the status of citizenship and the privatization of vital public utilities while destroying the already weakened public healthcare system are a few instances.
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Armed with grassroots organizations like RSS and corporate-funded media outlets, they have complete dominance in creating narratives they want the public to believe. They also have a well-oiled IT cell to spread fake news against any dissenters who dare to raise voices against them. So even though there are voices in the society that are growing against these government policies, a lack of grassroots organization and shared vision is sometimes lacking.
This doesn’t mean that all the opposing forces against the fascist regime, which is murdering our democracy, should be centralized under one political entity. Instead, it is time to think about precisely the opposite. The expansion of democracy has meant to be merely a political tool used while casting a vote once every five years. It is time to teach an idea of democracy in all aspects of life – political, social and economic and decentralization of all aspects of society.
Anarchism as a political philosophy rejects all coercive and oppressive forms of hierarchy, be it caste, class, colour, creed, clan, gender, age, orientation or country. It says that every system of power hierarchy should be scrutinized and made to justify its existence. Any system that fails to explain itself and is trampling the individual’s freedom will have to be abolished. The idea of questioning oppressive power structures is inherent to the concept of anarchism.
It prohibits a system where even a party or a few leaders decide how society will function. Instead, it focuses on decentralizing power to local bodies and communities and tries to make decisions at the lowest level possible, Consequently eliminating the concentration of power into few. It also shares the view that people who are most impacted by policies and decisions are the ones who are most capable of making it.
Historically, humans have developed to live in societies that didn’t have the kind of huge inequalities as it exists today. There is an intrinsic instinct to cooperate and help each other, visible when a disaster strikes or the self-organization that appears out of nowhere in organic movements against oppression. Solidarity and mutual aid are the foundations of an anarchist society. The “right to well-being” of all human beings, meaning “the possibility of living like human beings, and of bringing up children to be members of a society better than ours” (Kropotkin, 1892).
Today, two examples of societies that function close to anarchist principles are the Zapatistas of Mexico (Nacional, 2002) and Rojava in Syria (Democracy, 2018). Extreme corruption, colonization and environmental exploitation forced the indigenous people of Mexico to form an autonomous region where people directly form communities and decide the policies. Similarly, the people of Rojava, battered by the civil war, have created an autonomous region with direct democratic ambitions.
Their ethics are based on an anarchist and libertarian socialist ideology promoting decentralization, gender equality, environmental sustainability and pluralistic tolerance for religious, cultural and political diversity based on democratic confederalism.
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One of the principles of direct democracy is that there are no elected representatives for a fixed term. Any selected member will just be a spokesperson of the community and can be withdrawn immediately if he goes against the decision taken by discussion and deliberations. The means of production will be owned by workers and run by worker councils. Conflict resolution mechanisms and alternative systems of judiciary exist within the community run by the members.
There won’t be police or other systems which grants power to one person or group to take away the life and liberty of an individual. Instead, power will be distributed equally or rotationally, which is controlled by the community. During the current BLM protests worldwide, it is clear that police is just a tool employed by the ruling and propertied class to control the lower class. There is the mass class for defunding the police and transferring the resources to community welfare projects.
We need to look at how these communities organize themselves in the face of an oppressive regime and develop innovative ways to decentralize and create institutions that we are brainwashed to assume will work only if they are centralized. For example, decentralized community gardens provide food for the community, which they maintain.
Likewise, systems of education, community defence, criminal justice systems, industry and healthcare can be decentralized. We need to focus our efforts on building such grassroot level communities that function in the principles of solidarity and mutual aid. We already have systems of mutual aid in our communities. All we need to do is to transfer these tendencies to all the systems we live by.
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The Indian social mentality of following a leader or waiting for a saviour needs to change. Any system which can consolidate power in the hands of the few can change into authoritarianism. Even if the leaders are benevolent and have the will to serve the people, there are systems of coercion that exist in our society. Economic, political and social power resides in the hands of the few that will bind the leaders from doing their duty to the Bahujans. The leaders and parties we look up to keep failing and disappointing us time and again.
Now, action needs to be taken directly at the grassroots level by the Bahujans by creating communities and networks of solidarity and mutual aid and practising decision making and direct participatory democracy. The culture of outsourcing decision making to politicians or other ruling classes needs to stop. This has to start at all sectors of industry, agriculture and services, and within the family.
We can’t turn to the state for protection anymore as it is the state apparatus systematically abused by the ruling castes to exploit Bahujan labour to create their wealth. Therefore, along with the efforts to educate Bahujans through social media and other means to sensitize them of their exploitation, action needs to be focused at the bottom-most level to inculcate the habit of participatory democracy at individual, family and community levels, respecting the liberty of the individual.
The fight for the annihilation of caste cannot be won unless all unjust power structures in the society cease to exist and power is decentralized and distributed to the people directly, where individuals themselves can organize and make decisions about their lives without being coerced or exploited to create wealth for others.
The article was previously published on Roundtable India.