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Dalit-Backward (Bahujan) thinkers versus Dwij domination

Is it feminism to celebrate a murder? Is the reinterpretation of a myth centred on the use of a woman by brahmanical patriarchal forces to serve their interests anti-women?

As our readers are aware, FORWARD Press had to face victimization at the hands of the police on 9 October 2014, following a complaint made by certain Brahmanical elements. A large number of intellectuals had raised their voices against the police action and the protests continue. In this context, we are publishing edited excerpts of an article published in Jansatta, New Delhi, on 1 February 2015.

An article titled Mithak, Sanskriti aur Itihas: Forward Press ke Bahane (Myths, culture and history: In reference to FORWARD Press) written by Apoorvanand was published in the December 2014 issue of the popular Hindi literary monthly Hans. Caste arrogance and intellectual cunning seem to be the two prime ingredients of this piece. Using the police action against FORWARD Press and the Durga-Mahishasur myth as excuses, the article has launched a vicious assault on Dalitbahujan intellectualism. Though many quotations have been used in the article, it basically banks on D.D. Kosambi’s writings and masquerades as an academic work. On the face of it, it appears to be siding with the Bahujan reinterpretations of the myths but it questions the scholarliness of FORWARD Press and also tries to attribute motives to the observance of Mahishasur Martyrdom Day at JNU. It says that the observance was aimed at “instigating the people”. The writer also flaunts his Brahmin credentials, followed by a detailed description of how he shed his brahmanical inertia, courtesy of progressive ideas. A girl student is used to counter the questions raised by FORWARD Press on the myth of Durga, with feminist formulations.

Fountain penOne of the concluding observations of the article is, “Is it possible that bitterness would not be one of the products of any attempt to challenge a dominant discourse?” If that is so, why does the writer see the motive of “instigating people” behind the observance of the “Mahishasur Martyrdom Day” by All India Backward Students Forum at JNU? Is it because the organization’s name includes the word “Backward” and that the function was not born of the progressive consciousness of any Dwij! FORWARD Press openly says that it is a magazine of “Bahujan consciousness”. Is this the reason the writer sees political rather than scholarly motives behind the magazine’s committed opposition to the myth of Durga? The writer has liberally used D.D. Kosambi’s quotations to buttress his Gnostic (academic) arguments. However, he is forgetting that besides Kosambi’s formulations, direct quotes from the Puranas and excerpts from many scholarly articles were posted and links given on Facebook in support of the campaign of FORWARD Press. Most of these online supporters were Bahujan thinkers and they included the editor of this magazine. Mahatma Phule would come nowhere near matching Apoorvanand’s stature, as far as university degrees and the ability to give one’s writing an academic colour by raining quotations go. It is another matter that Phule’s opposition to these myths is the subject matter of many academic research works.

He has raised some feminist questions, quoting one of his girl students. But before that, has he cared to go through the contentions of those who organized functions all over the country to oppose the myth of Durga? Is it feminism to celebrate the murder of someone? Is the reinterpretation of a myth centred on use of a woman by the brahmanical patriarchal forces to serve their interests anti-women? Is an interpretation of the association of the prostitutes of Bengal with the myth of Durga an anti-women campaign? Will every woman, who is a product of the patriarchal system (which in case of India is brahmanical patriarchy), be a feminist and her every question be a question of feminism? (As we all know, cultural creation is a widely accepted theory of feminism.) Won’t then a sadhvi woman fully devoted to her husband qualify for the feminist tag? I wonder why this article brands an innocent question as a feminist issue. If the writer had spent only a fraction of the time and energy he must have spent on collecting quotes of D.D. Kosambi, on understanding the underpinning of the campaign of FORWARD Press or of the organizers of the Mahishasur Martyrdom Day, this campaign would have not pained the feminist corner of his “progressive but, after all, a Dwij mindset”. The organizers of the event observe it in a progressive manner, without the involvement of any priest. The organizers strictly adhere to an unwritten rule that the function, held to oppose the celebrations of using a woman for a murder, should be in the form of an intellectual debate and that a woman should chair it.

The question is: why are doubts being raised about the Dalitbahujan intellectuals and their movement on this issue? Is it because the threads of the discourse are slipping out of the hands of the Dwijs? Or because the Ambedkarite movement and consciousness have become so strong over the last three to four decades that Dwijs have been forced to take notice and oppose it? Or because their easygoing progressivism is under a cloud and they are facing tough questions?


Published in the April 2015 issue of the FORWARD Press magazine

About The Author

Sanjeev Chandan

Sanjeev Chandan, editor of leading feminist magazine Streekaal, is known for his feminist-Ambedkarite writings. He has been writing on current affairs for BBC and several Hindi newspapers and magazines. His collection of stories 546veen Seat ke Stri and poetry collection Stree Drishti are under publication.

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