(His reply to an open letter addressed to him by Umar Khalid, student leader of JNU)
I am new to this culture of open letters, I wonder if I will get one after my every speech. At the outset, let me state that I am not writing this reply to defend myself, I will never defend myself in front of savarna leftists, who enjoy impunity in this red bastion. Silence, however, has never been an option in the dalit bahujan trajectory.
Umar, it seems that you are assuming that I am unaware of the terrorization and victimization that you and your family have gone through after the 9th Feb event. I am completely aware of how you were demonized and how your family, especially women in the family were targeted. I and BAPSA stood against this witch-hunting of you and your family and I will always stand against this kind of terrorization. Coming from an oppressed minority community myself, I understand how certain minority communities persecuted. There is no denying of the state oppression you faced, however, our political differences remain.
A careful reading of your letter emphasizes two major aspects, firstly, you mention about the caste practices and untouchability within the Muslims, and secondly, you write about the unified identity of Muslims and victimization of the community, irrespective of these differences. But you used the first argument to qualify the second argument where you transform yourself from the oppressor to the oppressed. This tendency of regarding religion as a monolithic whole is to be found even among the RSS, which acknowledges caste differences merely for the sake of it but presents Hindu as a monolith identity, which has been oppressed by the Muslims according to the RSS. Here, I can turn the table around and say that you are making similar kind of argument. Sadly, in your letter you have not highlighted a single case of caste discrimination practiced by upper-caste Muslims against the lower-caste Muslims, about which I spoke in my speech. The Pasmanda movement has always stood against such religious binary and vehemently criticized the self-serving politics of upper caste elite Muslims, when they say “Pichda pichda ek saman, hindu ho ya musalman”. In your entire laboriously framed argument, where does the person who gives this slogan locate herself/himself?
Coming to BAPSA’s stand, the statement referring to ‘dignity’ and ‘constitutional morality’ was made to highlight the fact that no religion and no mahatma could ever ensure dignity to the dalit bahujans, but only the constitution has provided space for us to claim our dignity and humanity, which has been reduced by the savarna oppressors time and again. As far as the 9th Feb event is concerned, you are selectively quoting and condemning BAPSA’s stand; we neither condemned the event nor were we part of the organizers, but we stood for the organizers’ right to speech. BAPSA condemned the ABVP by saying that it was using the 9th Feb event merely as a tool to suppress the larger movement of Justice for Rohith Vemula by once again putting to play the Hindu-Muslim binary to undermine the questions of caste. After the 9th feb event Bapsa has stood with the organisers’s right to freedom of expression. Bapsa continued to stand for the right to freedom of expression of not just you and Anirban but also SAR Geelani, in an atmosphere where other left parties except DSU, were not even ready to speak about Geelani, additionally these left revolutionaries many times attempted to stop anyone who dared to speak about this. Further, had you read Ambedkar’s stand on the issue of Kashmir and plebiscite you would not have misunderstood mine or BAPSAa’s stand, as BAPSA is entrenched in Ambedkar’s ideology. I am not surprised to see your ignorance even though you have started an organization in Ambedkar’s name. This is what happens, comrade when you start an organization to counter the Dalit Bahujan movement, this is the Brahmanic counter revolution which Ambedkar spoke of. You have given a blind eye to BAPSA’s participation in the #StandwithJNU movement, and I am not surprised with your selective observation. I wonder when you will write an open letter to either to the JNUSU, or other left organisations, or savarna revolutionaries who have categorically stated that they believe in Kashmir being an integral part of India. I am sure you are aware that the JNUSU believes in the idea of ‘Akhand Bharat’. However, you have been forging unity with these very savarna revolutionaries in countering the Dalit Bahujan unity in JNU, forgetting your fundamental differences with them. What is your stand on President Kanhaiya Kumar who believes in ‘Akhanda Bharat’, will you dare to write an open letter to him?
The history of Dalit Bahujan assertion is witness to the politics of stigmatization which is levelled at them by the savarna left, right and centre. From Ravidas to Savitribai, from Ambedkar to Periyar to Kanshiram, all were stigmatized in some way by savarna regressives as well as savarna progressives. The Dalit Bahujan unity and assertion challenges not just the savarna Hindu but also the caste politeness of progressive left savarnas. It is in this context that Ambedkar was termed as an agent of imperialism, a colonialist, a bourgeois and an anti-national by upper caste left, right and centre. The Red savarnas have either stood against Dalit Bahujan assertion or attempted to appropriate it for their self-interests, and JNU is no exception. Whenever the Dalit Bahujans in JNU dare to speak against the upper caste hegemony of the left and right, they have been termed as ‘castiest’ by the right-wing and termed as ‘backed by ABVP’ by the left. I was aware that I would be targeted by the left savarnas for challenging their caste hegemony. The slandering has stooped to such a level that the savarna leftists are saying that I and BAPSA are backed by ABVP. This is nothing but history repeating itself. Any sensible person can understand this politics of stigmatization which has been historically used by the oppressor against the oppressed. Let me once again reiterate what I spoke in my speech, “we don’t differentiate between Ram and Sri Ram”, like your fellow comrades do. For us we need neither Ram nor Sri Ram. Whether it is cultural or political, Ram is always oppressive. I hope you can understand who is closer to right wing ideology? I am amazed to see the unity of Red Savarnas across religion, region, gender and most importantly across ideologies, forging a unity against dissenting Dalit Bahujan voices. It is interesting to see how red savarnas have come together forgetting their very own internal differences, which many time appear worth dying for.
On your suggestions about fighting unitedly against colonialism, imperialism and privatization, Dalit Bahujans have long been fighting these oppressive systems, most importantly they are aware about who the oppressor is. Please deconstruct this typical savarna, leftist, Mai-Baap attitude which reeks of caste arrogance and antiquity where the Jajmans decide what is in favour of the Dalit Bahujans or against whom they should fight. I would urge you and your savarna revolutionaries to fight against internal caste colonialism and caste imperialism which savarnas have been practicing from centuries; rather than bothering about the welfare of Dalit Bahujans.
Most importantly, Comrade, as is typical of savarna left, you have once again forgotten to address, even in your open letter, the issues in context of which my speech was made. Let me remind you the speech was made in context of the red savarna’s backstabbing of Dalit Bahujan’s issues of OBC reservation, viva voce, deprivation points and other issues of social justice. Sadly, revolutions have come and gone in this Red Bastion, but the issues of social justice like OBC reservation, viva voce, and the forceful drop-out of SC/ST students, gender discrimination have remained. I wish your letter addressed my questions on the hypocrisy of savarna left on issues concerning the SC/ST/OBCs. Still my major concern is why the discussion on OBC reservation & viva voce were given an inferior priority vis-à-vis the HLEC, when it is agreed by all that both HLEC & social justice are of equal importance? How long will the Dalit Bahujans have to wait? How many more AC meetings will be convened? Which will be a convenient year for red savarnas to solely prioritize these issues of social justice? When is the ‘revolution’ going to come for Dalit Bahujans?
Lastly, I must say your open letter proves that the Dalit-Bahujan unity is threatening the upper-caste supremacy in JNU. And as always, let me tell you solidarity will never come at the cost of social justice.
Jai Savitri Jai Bhim Jai Birsa Jai Mandal
~ Rahul Sonpimple, BAPSA
P.S.: From my village to my slum, from my school to my university, me and my community (we don’t own fields & factories) live without social capital and caste privileges, so for me it is more important to fight for social justice rather than writing responses to savarna revolutionaries. Comrade, rather than working on the oppressed please start projects to civilize and humanize the oppressors, who will be more easily accessible to you. So unless you write an open letter to your savarna colleagues with whom you are working on your revolutionary projects, please do not write open letters to dalit-bahujans, they can fight their own battles.
Rahul Sonpimple (email@example.com) is an M.Phil candidate at the Centre for the Study of Social Systems, JNU, New Delhi.