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Ambedkar Uncelebrated: Notes on Second Equality March in JNU
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praveen tulasi

 

Praveen Tulasi

praveen tulasiThe Second Equality March in JNU shall take place on the 13th of April 2015 at 09:30 pm from Ganga dhaba to Chandrabhaga Hostel

March or Rally in JNU. We have marches for equality every now and then (barring the marches led by Hindu Vidyarthi Sena, ABVP and other allied right wing student organizations). The question is, what have we achieved through the various marches for equality? Did we achieve the end result (equality)? Or did we merely register our protest? Is registering protest an end in itself? I agree that through registering a protest one begins the process but do we take it forward after the protest? Do we apply it to our everyday life and practice? For example, in the march for gender justice, almost all those who contested GSCASH elections spoke about institutional lapses and assured institutional upgradation with (some or little) integrity. How many of them actually practice gender equality within their organizational structure/s? After GSCASH elections how many of the contestants are going to be the torch bearers of gender equality?

If it is a rally related to gender, Dalits, tribals or Muslims, they send out a woman, Dalit, tribal, Muslim respectively to address the crowd. This form of mere tokenism should not be practiced in the March for Equality. Do not send a Dalit to address the students at the equality march. Do not beat about the bush with clichéd reiterations of the Ambedkar-Gandhi debate or the ideologies of Manuvad. Talk about your student organization’s endeavors for equality and whether they have been realized. How many times has the caste question been debated within your organization? How many times did the organization voluntarily take up caste issues? Did you participate in the rallies related to caste voluntarily or due to (political) exigencies? Do you take the intensity of the problem of caste as seriously as any other issue? If there were right-wing elements in your organizations did you try to eliminate them? Are you voluntarily enrolling Dalits into your organizations or is it due to criticism that there is no representation of marginalized identities in your organization?

How are you celebrating Ambedkar? Is it in the form of electing a Dalit to a (students’ union) office or is it through initiating dialogue? Did you continue the dialogue? Did the respondents respond? How many public meeting have you organized on caste and its related diseases?

This is the second equality march in JNU. Before 2014, was there no need for an equality march in JNU? After the first equality march, how much did we move towards equality? Have we taken too much on our plate?

To the Dalits (including the members of UDSF), I address the following questions. Are we trying to bridge the chasms between various progressive ideologies and organisations? If yes, please give an account of it. If not, please elucidate the reasons for this failure. Are you celebrating Ambedkar only on the occasions of his birth and death anniversaries or is there any other occasion? How do you celebrate Ambedkar in everyday life?

Just by alleging that one writer/thinker is wrong and one writer/thinker is right in their writing, how are you carrying forward the torch of Ambedkarite ideology? If someone is trying to raise a voice against Brahmanism why do you not let it resonate with similar other voices? By dividing these voices do you intend to live with the disease of caste? Or is it because you wish to expand your so-called intellectual life? Are you not sacrificing the goals of Ambedkarism for your academic endeavors? How ethical is it to discard our fellow Ambedkarites? The paths might be different but the end result will be the same. If you think that your fellow Ambedkarite is taking a wrong path why do you not invite him or her for a dialogue? How long will you prolong these needless internal schisms? Are you not diminishing these hard-earned spaces and are you not letting the Brahmanical forces expand their space? When you do not practice what you write I must compare you to none other than the very forces you condemn.

Is the viva-voce issue only to be taken up by those trying to win elections? Is it not your task? It is high time that Dalits of JNU have to understand that they can better represent their issues. When Dalits (here, I include only the educated Dalits) do not participate in the struggles for equality, why should Dalits expect others to come forward for them? Many Dalit students become members of the central committee, but why it is that only a few (three to five) of them work continuously?

To the educated Dalits: you assert that you are a Dalit only when you are in a problem for e.g. when your promotion is stopped. Why do you have to avail reservation when you have not experienced caste discrimination? Why do you avail reservation when you no longer need it? Why don’t you invite your fellow Dalits to the mainstream?

Let us not allow the march for equality become a convenient camouflage for those unequal structures which still exist despite the 45-year old evolution of JNU. These marches conceal the fact that Kabir, Ravidas, Mahatama Jotiba-Savitribhai Phule, Marx-Engels-Lenin, Periyar, Babasaheb Ambedkar, Charu Mazumdar, Manyawar Kanshiram have all been uncelebrated in JNU. Celebrating Ambedkar implies allowing all dissident voices to coalesce, permitting all testimonies against inequality and injustice to flourish, instead of amplifying one voice at the expense of another. When the ‘manifestos of failure’ are documented, those responsible for dividing dissident voices will be the protagonists.

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Praveen Tulasi is pursuing M. Phil at the Centre for Political Studies, School of Social Sciences, JNU. He is a Central Committee member Of the United Dalit Students’ Forum (UDSF), JNU.

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