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Freedom of mind is the real freedom. A person whose mind is not free though he may not be in chains, is slave, is not a free man. One whose mind is not free though he may not be in prison is a prisoner and not a free man. One whose mind is not free though alive, is not better than dead. Freedom of mind is proof of once existence.”  – Dr B.R. Ambedkar.

Baba Saheb Ambedkar, the visionary of human dignity, with his great works, explained several threats for the oppressed communities in Indian society. Today, though we are a democratic country, yet we are not free. He rightly pointed out that our lives are going to be in contradictions, the contradictions which will always keep us inactive or dead. The contradiction between social and political life will fail our democracy. Hence importance of a culture and philosophy of social empowerment before political process really empower us.

The recent incident in Potti Lanka, Andhra Pradesh, and a kapu mob attacked dalit families, here is the land issue, dalits cannot possess lands, that too near by dominant caste leader’s land. It reminds us that we are not going to escape these caste shackles even after the hi-tech growth in the country. Last week a dalit activist, aged about 25 years, an upcoming leader, was brutally murdered in Mahboobnagar district, Maddoor Mandal, Nandigam village. He was working for Congress and his only sin was asking wage for a dalit women in Gram Panchayat, who is working in local Reddy Dora’s land.. He tried to file a case under SC-ST Atrocities act, when land lord attacked him, but failed to do so as local congress MLA Gurunath Reddy stopped the registration of the case. He questioned the MLA and his stand on the incident. Local Reddy was supported by MLA Reddy, when this activist questioned his caste alliance in public, he was mercilessly butchered in his own house. This is the democracy. We can’t question any one, we can’t grow in politics, we can’t even ask wage for our labour.

In the same district, 1000 acres, belong to Dalit Bahujan were grabbed by APIIC for developing a Green Park. Another TRS leader Laxma Reddy, is behind this process. Over 350 acres assigned land for the same has already been acquired by the government just for peanuts of 5000/- to 18,000/- per acre today while they are selling the same land to private people at the rate of 2,000/- per sq.ft. 21 dalit farmers died within two years due to loss of their livelihoods and future. Total 41 farmers have died so far and the number continues to increase. Who is responsible for this? Today, hundreds of families are on roads, they became beggars, labourers in their own lands. Both elderly as well as children are in pathetic situation, completely helpless. They are raging battle for last four years, not even one politician is concerned about their issue. Shall we call it Democracy?

In the villages, still dalit women’s lives are under threat, they are targeted for any incident, committed by any person. Khairlanji incident shows what happens if a dalit man fights for his land, women are raped in public, bodies are made into pieces in great independent India. And ironically the police have taken action against the Dalits. One poor constable belonging to Mahar community was suspended for dereliction of duty. Recently in UP, dalit girl was thrown in fire for just walking on upper caste roads. Today, a Dalit youth was murdered in Barbanki near Lucknow and his beheaded. Some people say that media is bringing these issues to lime light in UP to show the Bahujan government in bad light. My question is that if the news is correct, should not we do something on it? Why we do not get angry over such incidents?

I can provide number of examples in any sector, whether its education, health and employment. organised or un organised sector. Baba Saheb already explained that we may be in political democracy but far away from social democracy. We do have our political leaders and we do have Police machinery, they themselves are suffering with this ‘caste’ democracy. Our people are reduced to just voters and they will never become decision makers in any issue.

Baba Saheb always quoted Walter Bagehot definition of democracy ..”Democracy by discussion”, he also quotes Abraham Lincoln’s “democracy by the people, for the people and to the people”. At this juncture, we have to redefine and seriously think about the concerns of our great leaders, our community future. Current situation of dalits in India shows that we are not progressed much except few middle class employees. Rural side, there is not even scratch in the ‘caste system’. The forms have changed but not much difference even in urban situation. What we can do in current day political scenario is the big question in front of us, there are few dalit leaders, who became chamchas in the hands of dominant caste leaders, there are politicians, who are always bothered about their positions, cannot open their mouth.

Can’t we produce our leaders? Ya, leaders can not be produced from upward. Leaders come from grass roots. Leaders come from sacrifices, leaders are those who walk alone at the top, who do not compromise, who are not sold to corporate and industrialists. Leaders cannot be just MPs, MLAs and Ministers. Leaders could through revolutionary writings, leaders through grass root political action and social mobilisation. Are we lacking the skills and strategies to tackle these caste politics? We all know that we are better managers than any one, we are the creators, perhaps we only lack the foresight which will save us, and we only lack money which is ruling the world. We do lack the unity in understanding tactics of dominant politics, which always try to keep us scattered and divided.

The need of the hour is to look for alternatives, demolish the old structures, old leaders. We have to identify the real heroes/heroines of our community. Lets not make mistake of “great heroes”, Baba Saheb already warned the danger behind these images.

“Heroes and hero-worship is a hard fact in India’s political life. I agree that hero-worship is demoralising for the devotee and dangerous to the country. I welcome the criticism so far as it conveys the caution that you must know your man is really great before you start worshipping him. This unfortunately is not an easy task. For in these days with the Press in hand it is easy to manufacture Great Men. Carlyle used a happy phrase when he described the Great Men of history as so many bank notes. I admit that we ought to be more cautious in our worship of Great Men. For in this country we have arrived at such a stage when “Beware of Great Men”. Even Carlyle who defended the worship of Great Men warned his readers how: “Multitudes of Great Men have figured in history who were false and selfish”.

Hero worshipping has made the entire Dalit-Bahujan completely apolitical. What Ambedkar said about the brahmanical elite then, is becoming true about our own leadership? Just assume if Ambedkar were alive today, what would he had been doing… what would have been his response to issues like OBC quota, to political empowerment in UP, in Maharastra where revolutionary writers like Namdev Dhasal are now in the Shiv Sena camp and writing in Samna, its mouth piece. Different sections of RPIs are now planning to collaborate with Shiv Sena, replicating UP experiment. I think it is important to discuss and learn what is happening in UP and whether such an alliance is pragmatic at national level and helpful to the community. Our problem is that we are questioning every one under the sun but are unable to have a retrospection of our own political class. What has it done? Let us do it. Ramvilas Paswan organised a mega Dalit-Bahujan-minority show in the US, just last week, so our political class is doing its work and we need what is lacking and where it failed, so that a new set of ideologically committed youth is developed. If ideas are not developed and a Dalit vision is not highlighted than we will be having non political political leaders, who will ‘represent’ our communities but will stand there for his ‘leader’ and not for us.

New heroes are coming forward with another tag, our people are again going to be trapped in the Great Man syndrome. I am not advocating that all our elected representatives are doing great job for the community. We need to educate our community to identify who has more understanding. Sometimes, our own leaders are most dangerous by diverting our people’s movements, we blindly follow them, let’s take stock of our past experience and proceed, we don’t want bad and failed leaders, whether they are ours or others.

We will follow Amedkar’s vision that we need a country where Liberty, Equality, fraternity prevailed. We work for those principles. I don’t think it is a big task, if all our politicians, judicial, police responsible persons sit together, show that they are united, take actions, that will partly solve the problem, gives signal to the government that we are united. Of course, they use all there power to destroy this unity, they catch our own leaders to act against us.

Is the issue of Dalit just lack of political empowerment? Or it is a much bigger issue of racial prejudices and human rights violation of humanity. Should the issue be confined to dalits only or should a larger humanity be part of it. What could be a pragmatic approach where our principals are not compromised and we are able to lift the moral of the community both socially as well as economically? Is it really that easy to bring all the people together? Every individual is different so we must do what we feel is good for the society rather than thinking of ‘bringing all together’, even when you bring every one together there will always be dissension and differences. Let us not blame everyone who does not agree with us as ‘enemy’ and ‘sold’, the same can be said about us. Only thing is that we need a strong political movement that could become a pressure group to question our political-social leadership.

Let us remember the sacrifices of Dr Ambedkar, who could have earned everything, as he was one of the best lawyers, with sharp analyzing skills, of his time. He could have compromised with every one. The only love he had was his books, his concern for community and his integrity. How many of the current day crop of leaders who are now enjoying power in the name of Baba Saheb have even one tenth of integrity that that great man possessed. And it was not just that, it was his sharp intellect which every one across the political spectrum respected. We need that intellect, that integrity from all of us, who work for the public life, who claim to work for people. He send students abroad, on his own money for higher education, for engineering. Now there are many among us who can do many things but remain silent. Why can not we launch a movement of our own as we have so many big people, intellectuals, bureaucrats, NRIs, and political leaders. Why can not we start a resurgent movement for our own society? It is time to introspect on this.

Actually, movement leads to organisation and not the other way round. People make organisations and failed to develop movements, that is history. Dr Ambedkar always said Education leads to agitation, when we are young, in our 20s, we question, we are angry, that is the prime time to lead our youth against injustice.. Ask them not to sit silently in helplessness but question, lead the movement. Once the movement is strong, organisation can always develop afterwards. It is like Polepally issue where its spontaneous movement of the people that has been developed and tomorrow the same people can come together and form an organisation whenever needed.

But I am confident, if we take up the campaign for democracy it will succeed as it is we who need it the most. True democracy to all our people, educate them in thoughts of radical philosophy of our leaders like Baba Saheb, Periyar, Phule, Iyothee Thass, Ayyan Kalli, Savitri Bai Phule and many more and one is sure that they will agitate against injustice done to them, they will not keep quiet. Keeping quiet and seeing injustice done is greater injustice as a revolutionary poet Paash sang in Punjab. Empowerment does not come from ‘Self Help Groups’, neither will it come through learning sewing, but through freedom of mind, freedom from religion, freedom to choose and freedom to live with dignity. And for this, we all have to work harder, prepare for sacrifices and not sit silently as helpless creatures. Time to wake up.

Jai Bheem.

Sujatha Surepally.

(Courtesy DalitForDalits.COM)