Dr Manisha Bangar, the vice-president of the newly formed People’s Party of India (PPI), began her week-long tour of Canada as the keynote speaker at the May 6 Vaisakhi Nagar Kirtan in Brampton. She marked the 319th anniversary of the founding of the Sikh martial order of the Khalsa by declaring, “Guru Gobind Singh’s vision of Khalsa Raj is nothing but the end of Brahmanism and the rule of righteousness by the Mulnivasi Bahujans.”
Subsequently, Bangar appeared on a number of Indo-Canadian and Punjabi radio and television programmes and stressed the need for alternatives to mainstream Indian media. “We need to expose the Brahmanical suppressive character of Indian media. Indian media has nothing but Brahman voices speaking and Brahman pens writing in favour of the upper castes sitting comfortably in air-conditioned chambers of corporate media houses. Unless we nurture a Bahujan media, there can be no true democracy in this world.”
On May 11, she joined author and South Asian affairs analyst Pieter Friedrich for a forum at the Canada-India Centre for Excellence in Carleton University, Ottawa.
Friedrich spoke briefly on “The Irreconcilability of Gandhi and Ambedkar”, focusing on how Gandhi promoted racial segregation in South Africa and defended the caste system in India while Ambedkar devoted his life to the annihilation of caste.
“Many people today talk about the need to end so-called casteism — that is, discrimination according to caste — but when we use such terminology we steer the conversation away from the real issue, which is the need to annihilate caste itself. Second, while the Indian Constitution rightly abolished Untouchability, we must remember that Dr Ambedkar believed Untouchability was merely the logical outcome of the practice of caste and, therefore, his struggle was not specifically against the practice of Untouchability but against the very existence of caste.”
Bangar in her talk addressed the climate of intolerance due to the increasing saffronization of India.
“Hindutva nationalism insists the majority has a right to subjugate all others – Sikhs, Muslims, Christians, Scheduled Castes, OBCs.”
“Every other community is being demonised. Even if they are talking about education, such as Rohith Vemula or the JNU people talking about their rights to representation in education, they are labelled anti-national. This is so with every dissenting voice. So who is not anti-national? Who is not a terrorist in the eyes of the Brahman Raj? It is only the Brahmans and the upper class. The 3 per cent as against the 90 per cent. All others are being pushed into oblivion by the nexus of the corporates, the media, and the ruling class.”
With reference to the OBC population, Bangar said, “This is a major bone of contention. These people were also known as a touchable caste, because they do not face untouchability, but, apart from untouchability, they face the same distancing and deprivation of education and all manner of other restrictions which the caste system thrusts upon them.”
Bangar also argued that OBCs are being used as scapegoats, “There is a propaganda within the media and the establishment, even through the state, that these people are responsible for atrocities against the Scheduled Castes. To a certain extent, it is true but at the same time, they are being held responsible for Brahmanism and the caste system. The victims (ie OBCs) are being made out to be the perpetrators.
“OBCs are being heavily Hinduized and Brahmanized,” said Bangar. “Religion plays a heavy role because they are kept out of education. These people are being used as Hindutva foot-soldiers in heinous violence against various religious groups. The media frequently speaks of violence in terms of Hindu versus Muslim, or Hindu versus Christian, or Hindu versus Sikh, but right now most of the violence in the country is being perpetrated by Hindus versus other Hindus.”
Bangar then stated that any real change must happen at a social rather than a legal, constitutional or juridical level. “Laws will be ineffective if the multitude of people reject or defy the law. If people believe in an unequal society, we cannot expect them to have a social consciousness which will support equality, or mutual respect, or human dignity. For law to be effective, we must change the social consciousness of the people.”
Bangar concluded her Canada tour with a series of presentations at a Buddha Jayanti celebration hosted by the Ambedkar Mission, Toronto. She was joined once again by Pieter Friedrich and Bhajan Singh, co-authors of Captivating the Simple-Hearted: A Struggle for Human Dignity in the Indian Subcontinent.
Singh discussed the ancient atrocities perpetrated against Buddhism in the Indian subcontinent, explaining how Buddhism was uprooted from the subcontinent by the Brahmanical philosopher Adi Shankaracharya, who destroyed and seized control of many Buddhist temples. “We must read our history,” he concluded. “We must have the courage to stand up for what is ours. And we want to prevent any further uprooting. We are not being rooted out of our temples now. They want to root out our bodies, our souls, our minds, our knowledge.”
Edited by Harshvardhan Siddharthan
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