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Beware of Elitist Secularism

Power without knowledge is dangerous. Secularism is another farce from which Dalit-OBCs should maintain a safe distance

Those who are talking of the progress of OBC-Dalit social groups in India are, in effect, advocating the building of an egalitarian society. We do not want the domination or dictatorship of any particular class or group in society. Brahmanical social thought envisages domination and this is against democratic culture. We intellectuals, who have gathered here at the function of FORWARD Press, are inspired by the modern and democratic principles birthed by the French Revolution. We are believers in liberty, equality and fraternity and want to build a new society based on these values. And that is why we are against the brahmanical society based on Manu’s laws.

But there is need for a rethink on some of our beliefs and principles. For instance, take Manu. It is generally believed that Manu was a Brahmin. The truth is that he was not. He was a Kshatriya. He was a king and only Kshatriyas became kings. He provided the ideological base to brahmanical social philosophy and drew up a code or got it drawn ­­­­­­­­­­­­­to implement it. The Brahmins and the Kshatriyas were in a sort of symbiotic relationship. The Kshatriyas swore by the greatness of Brahmins as they needed their support to come to power and perpetuate their rule. The Brahmins were not directly in power; just as today, the capitalists are not. Instead, the Kshatriya rulers implemented the wishes and the agenda of the Brahmins. They protected the interests of the Brahmins. Such rulers were described by Brahmins as “Maryada Purushottam”. Ram was Maryada Purushottam but he was not a Brahmin. He belonged to the Ikshvaku clan. Iksh means sugarcane in Sanskrit. Perhaps, sugarcane-growers were described as Ikshvaku. Today, Jats are sugarcane-growers. So, it is possible that Ram came from a Jat clan. This Jat king beheaded the Shudra Shambuk because he was trying to acquire knowledge. Brahmins did not want any one else to acquire the power that comes with knowledge. Take kingdoms, they matter little. But if you try to gain knowledge, acquire wisdom, you will be treated as a rebel. The Brahmins did not even spare the Kshatriyas who displayed a quest for knowledge. Vishwamitra said, “We would like to acquire knowledge. We don’t want power”. That was enough to make Vashistha pounce on him. The tales of the interesting battles between the two are a part of our scriptures.

Thus, ancient India was witnessing two sets of struggles. The first between Brahmins and Kshatriyas and the second between knowledge and power. The struggle between knowledge and power was an internal struggle. It divided the Kshatriyas into two groups: power-dependent Kshatriyas and knowledge-dependent Kshatriyas. The knowledge-dependent Kshatriyas fought against the Brahmins and were votaries of the interests of the Dalit-Shudras. The power-dependent Kshatriyas forged a joint front with the Brahmins and became the protector of their interests. In fact, they were the musclemen of the Brahmins.

Thousands of years down the line, the situation remains unchanged. Most of the states have non-Brahmin chief ministers but they all are part of brahmanical politics. Instead of their own community, they are fulfilling the interests of other communities. This is the new colonialism of politics. Colonial-imperialistic politics is masquerading as brahmanical politics. Dalit-OBCs should keep away from it. Power without knowledge is dangerous.

Secularism is another farce from which Dalit-OBCs should maintain a safe distance. The concept of secularism needs to be debated and discussed. Secular thinking is the foundation of democracy but what is being presented as secularism in our society is not secular thinking. And it has become a crude way to garner votes. This is elitist secularism, the contours of which were drawn by the Hindu and Muslim aristocrats in the 20th century. You keep mum about our “Mullavaad” and we won’t speak about your “Pandavaad”. You protect our “Topi” and we will protect your “Tilak”. This brand of secularism does not plead for spread of education among the Muslim masses. It, instead, harps on promoting Persian and Arabic and on giving more facilities to Haj pilgrims. On the other side of the spectrum, Sanskrit and Ganga are the matters of concern. What sort of secularism is this, which does not have the building of a new society on its agenda? The backward communities should reflect on this elitist definition of secularism. Kabir and Phule were very much religious but they are more useful for us. The saint-poets of medieval India attacked Brahmanism in the name of God. ‘Jaat-Paat Puche Nahi Koi, Hari Ko Bhaje, To Haro Ka hoi’ (Caste is of no consequence. Whosoever prays to God becomes his). Towards the end of his life, Babasaheb Ambedkar had immersed himself in a religious movement. But he is more useful for us.

Just look at how these secular powers behave. I will only give the example of Bengal. Some time back, Ashis Nandy had used the example of Bengal to launch a diatribe against the Dalits-OBCs. Bengal was ruled by the Left Front for 35 years in a row but in that land of secularism, no Dalitbahujan was ever appointed a cabinet minister. This is the real social philosophy of the secularists. In the 1930s, the secular forces were busy making fun of Babasaheb Ambedkar. They had even cautioned Gandhiji against including a non-essential point on his agenda.

We should reinterpret politics and history to determine what is right and what is wrong. Are we unintentionally lending strength to a grand farce? Our objective should be to build a modern society and that means a society which is informed by the values of liberty, equality and fraternity.

Published in the June 2013 issue of the Forward Press magazine

About The Author

Premkumar Mani

Premkumar Mani is a leading Hindi writer and thinker. In politics, he is known for his advocacy of social justice

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