The midnight order by Modi government removing CBI Director Alok Verma comes in the wake of latter’s attempt to investigate the Rafale scam in which Modi’s affinity with Ambani, the Indian partner of the arm’s deal along with his involvement, in spite of being prime minister, as the middleman in the emerging scam is being discussed widely.
Today we hear Modi’s and Amit Shah’s poisonous propaganda about immigrant Muslims in North East, however Vajpayee has been the true missionary and classical champion of the Communal-Casteist-Fascist politics that combined Hindutva corporates and corporatisation of Hindutva through his art and craft. Vajpayee was utterly loyal to RSS. He believed in a nation based on the ideology of Hindutva - in Cultural Nationalism, in Hindu Rastra. For his entire life he consistently worked to convert the concept of Socialist Secular Democratic Republic of India into Hindu land. The pitrubu and punyabu as referred by Savarkar framed the kingpin of his ideology. He was closely associated with Golwalkar popularly known as Guruji. He followed every aspect of Hindutva in letter and spirit.
We believe the only reason why Azad and his associates have been targeted for imprisonment is the fact they refuse to be intimidated by the threats of both private armies of the upper-caste as also strong-arm methods of the state machinery. Like Malcolm X, the visionary leader of the black community in the United States, Azad is searching for ways to protect Dalit rights fearlessly in a way that is not only constructive but also effective.
Going beyond mere rhetoric Azad organised Dalits into the ‘Bhim Army’– named after Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar, one of India’s greatest intellectuals, who drafted the Indian Constitution. The Bhim Army’s main work has been to form over 300 study circles among Dalit students in western Uttar Pradesh to spread education and organise self-defence against violent attacks by high caste groups.
Azad was initially arrested on charges of ‘inciting violence’, following clashes between upper caste Rajputs and Dalits in Saharanpur district of Uttar Pradesh. In November 2017 the Allahabad High Court granted bail in all four cases against him and his associate Kamal Walia, observing the charges were false and politically motivated. The police could not provide evidence of Azad’s specific role in the incidents of violence or of possessing weapons of any kind.
The regime however promptly re-arrested Azad under the draconian National Security Act (NSA), that allows the state to put away anyone without bail for a year. The NSA is in a long line of Indian laws like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), that violate all known norms of civil rights and are used by the Indianauthorities to suppress democratic dissent.
Worryingly there are reports of attempts to break him both mentally and bodily while in prison, including through instigated attacks against him by other prisoners. Azad has also had to be hospitalized once due to ill-health and has expressed fears state authorities may try to physically eliminate him, under some pretext or the other.
We feel Azad and the Bhim Army’s fight is not just about India’s Dalit community but for preserving Indian democracy and Constitution itself, under severe attack from extremist political groups seeking unchallenged dictatorial power. The serious threat posed to the life of Azad is similar to that faced by countless other human rights defenders throughout India, in places like Kashmir, Chhattisgarh and the North-East.
It is in this context that we, the undersigned, call for Chandrashekhar Azad’s immediate and unconditional release from prison and the dropping of all false charges against him. We also call upon all those concerned about the state of human rights in the country and the fate of India’s democracy to join the campaign for Azad’s release.
Statement of writers, film makers, artists, students, academics and leaders of social movements expressing deep concern over the continued, unjust imprisonment of Dalit activist and Bhim Army leader Chandrashekhar Azad ‘Ravan’ by the UP government. www.countercurrents.org.
Last week, that reporter and I were astonished to find ourselves at a forum, inside a church near Harvard University, where an activist group of Dalit Americans unveiled a survey titled, ‘Caste in the United States’. The reporter has yet to hear back about his grant proposal to fund his series, but he’s the kind of journalist who gathers string for ambitious stories. He was there with his microphone, recorder and questions.
The first of its kind, the survey found that the caste system had indeed penetrated south Asian life in America, appearing to confirm the reporter’s story idea. I was intrigued because caste was a theme of my coverage of India as a foreign correspondent two decades ago. But was the survey valid?
After I sat down in the room crowded mostly with young people of different races and devoured a couple of samosas, the first thing I did was review the methodology in an appendix to the 49-page report. The sample size was 1,200, more than sufficient for a national survey in the United States.
The venerable Gallup polls rely on national samples of 1,000, for instance. In India, a country four times as populous, samples need to be larger, but 1,200 was big enough for the United States.
The limitation on the Equity Labs survey conducted online is how the sample was drawn. It was not a random sample. The authors did broad outreach through their contacts and other south Asian organisations to obtain a sizeable but self-selected sample.
The authors appear to recognise the survey’s limitations; they do not report a margin of error. It would be prohibitively expensive, if not virtually impossible, to conduct a random survey of Dalits and low-caste south Asians in America, given their small percentage in the overall population of 300 million.
That said, the survey stands as a preliminary, impressionistic picture of casteism operating in the United States. A recurrent theme in the findings is the shunning of a people once called “untouchables” at workplaces, schools, romantic relationships and houses of worship.
Two-thirds of the Dalit respondents, for example, said they had experienced “caste discrimination” where they had worked —perpetrated by other people of south Asian descent. Not surprisingly, just over half the Dalits reported they were doing what African-Americans would call “passing”, hiding their caste identity.
Caste bias has survived in America, despite the country’s egalitarian creed, because immigrant communities of all kinds can and do retain some of their traditional practices. Civil rights laws do not explicitly ban discrimination based on caste. It was not seen as an issue in America when those laws were written.
Most specific examples cited in the report were about acts of personal prejudice, not the kind of institutional discrimination that would be vulnerable to a legal challenge under such laws. But other examples described the effects of a “hostile environment” at workplaces or schools, which would be covered under civil rights laws. And physical assaults mentioned in the report could be classified as “hate crimes”.
A couple of findings did surprise me. Nearly half the Dalits have postgraduate degrees, compared to about a quarter of Brahmins. I would have expected something like the reverse.
The reason appears to be related to India’s reservations: Three-quarters of Dalits said they had benefitted from affirmative action in their countries of origin. India’s leadership class might want to contemplate why so many Dalits were taking their reservation-enabled educations and leaving, perhaps never to return.
The survey report’s authors, Thenmozhi Soundararajan and Maari Zwick-Maitreyi, make modest recommendations that American institutions raise awareness about caste bias in their ranks. Colleges are asked to add caste to their anti-hazing and anti-bullying policies, and religious institutions are advised to establish reporting and monitoring procedures to root out caste prejudice.
A bolder approach would be to call for caste to be added to national and state civil rights laws that bar discrimination on specific grounds, along with race, sex, religion, colour, national origin and, in some cases, sexual orientation.
That addition would be harder to achieve and would require increased awareness of casteism as a first step anyway. The US Congress passed the seminal Civil Rights Act of 1964, after all, only once a media-savvy movement swayed public opinion.
Kenneth J. Cooper, a senior editor at WGBH in Boston, was South Asia bureau chief of The Washington Post from 1996 to 1999