Sunny M. Kapicadu
(This speech was delivered by him in the ‘People Against Fascism’ gathering, also known as Manushya Sangamam, on 19th December 2015 at High Court Junction, Ernakulum. The following transcription is based on the YouTube video uploaded by Kerala Freethinkers Forum on 21st December 2015. Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RWWtfM-RAmU
Sunny M. Kapicadu is one of the most prominent Dalit activists and intellectuals in Kerala. He has been active in all the subaltern protests in Kerala over the past few years. He is an employee of LIC)
Respected chair and dear friends attending this meeting, I would like to mention a couple of things in relation to this anti-fascist human gathering. First, it is my firm conviction that the belief that ‘Indian fascism has not yet appeared and is only an impending phenomenon’ is emerging out of the sheer ignorance of how Indian society operates. We should know that in the whole world, India is a country which has the most fascist social order. We shouldn’t lose sight of the brutal, authoritarian, violently casteist Indian society where the thoughts, movements and even the emotions of a human being are dictated by others. We can only start from there.
If you say that it is Modi who brought fascism to India, I would say that it’s a lie.
On the contrary, Indian society is the very centre of fascism. As a ‘human being’, the desire of a savarna is to practice untouchability with lower castes. He understands this desire as his moral obligation. This is why I suspect the so-called ‘humaneness’ [referring to the title of the event, organized by mostly savarna liberal left groups – Ed]. We should question this ethical consciousness of the savarna rather than simply proclaiming that we are all humans. We should not say that we are all humans. Rather, we will all have to become humans.
Dr. B. R. Ambedkar had once famously said that all of the mahatmas of India wish to do something good for the lower castes and untouchables. But none of them think that anything should be done to the caste Hindus. Are caste Hindus so perfect?
This is the question. This is the most crucial question in the history of India. We should say that the savarnas of India should be reformed. Not scheduled castes, not Adivasis, but the Brahmin of India should be reformed. That would be historic.
If we are forming an anti-fascist front, we will have to seek the meaning of those social currents that attempted to transform the Indian society. I am not talking about reclaiming them. There is no need to reclaim; they are already present amidst us. There is no question of reclaiming Sree Narayana Guru or Ayyankali. Many years before the arrival of any Modi, Ayyankali and Sree Narayana Guru were socially established in the history of Kerala. Dalit stream is one among them. I have come here representing that stream, not as any simple human. To be more specific, we should understand and recognize that there is a social current in history which realised the importance of upholding symbols such as Ayyankali, Ambedkar, Poykayil Appachan, Sree Narayana Guru and Sahodaran Ayyappan even during the times when there were no such explosions of fascism. We should be clear on this. I don’t think any compromise is possible on this.
What I am trying to convey is that if we need an anti-fascist ideology, we will have to construct it from the discursive field of the many struggles which intensely sought to transform our society. This is not at all about cornering a particular political party. I believe that all the political parties in India contain elements of Hindutva. I can prove that to you, but this platform is not meant for that. To be clear, no political stream in India, be it the nationalist movement or the left movements, have been able to overcome the social, political and ethical consciousness of Hindutva. This is the reason why they have not been able to form any concrete opinion regarding the very crucial issue of caste. So if we assume that Hindutva can be prevented by cornering a particular political party, it is nothing but an illusion. Rather, if we pay our attention to those movements which transformed the society and reclaim the ethical values engendered by them, we may be able to built a movement against fascism.
To me, the ethical value of utmost importance among them is that of fraternity. The value of fraternity was contributed to the Indian society by various lower caste assertions. Sree Narayana Guru taught the people of Kerala to lead a life like siblings when he wrote: “jaati bhedam mathadweshametumillathe sarvarum sodaratwene vaazhunna mathrika sthanamanith” (This is the ideal place where all live like siblings without any division of caste and religious hatred). He said ‘sodaratwene’ (with fraternity) and not ‘samatwene’ (with equality). We should not miss this emphasis. In a society with rigid caste divisions, Guru taught people to live like siblings. It is this tradition which we will have to reassert as the foundation of our political vision. The name of the favourite disciple of Guru was Sahodaran Aayyappan (Brother Aayyappan), and not Samatwa Aayyappan. The reason why I stress this point is that if we do not distinguish between the values of fraternity and equality (‘sahodaryam’ and ‘samatwam’), we may fall prey to the trap of history.
When we talk of an anti-fascist human gathering, we should have the courage to problematize the word ‘human’. I don’t think that there are any such ‘gentle, respectable humans’ in Kerala. I will not accept as humans those who wouldn’t shed a drop of tear even when hundreds of adivasi children suffer and die. It is just impossible for me to consider such people as humans. Secondly, I don’t think that being a dalit makes me a lesser human. On the contrary, I conceive myself as one who is engaged in the battle to transform Indians into humans. I don’t pamper any such wrong notion to think that those who are not Dalits are better humans. I don’t see any such humans in Kerala who are respectable and gentler than us.
So, if we have to reclaim humanity, our eyes and thought should go to those social movements which passionately attempted to transform the brahmanical Indian society. That is the tradition we have to adhere to. We cannot simply tie the issue of fascism on the head of a single political party and shy away from our responsibility. A comprehensive vision on this was provided by Dr. B. R. Ambedkar. I wouldn’t say that all of you should become Ambedkarites. But I will underline the undeniable fact that it is Dr. B. R. Ambedkar who addressed Brahmanism and studied its mechanism thoroughly. We should know the reason why, after hundred years, Dr. Ambedkar is coming back to our history without any support of the state. It’s only through Dr. Ambedkar we will be able to understand this. Even if we have the aid of great thinkers like Marx, we may not be able to understand this. We need not be sad about this!
Another point I want to make is that anyone who cherishes the idea of dictatorship anywhere in their ideology are not eligible to organise an anti-fascist gathering. The idea of replacing one dictatorship with another should be done away with. There should be no dictatorship. We should strictly stick to this stance. Those political streams which imagine a future society with dictatorship of any kind are not equipped to resist and defeat Hindutva fascism. As Rekha Raj1 said earlier, they may appear a bit more reformed than the latter. I don’t expect anything more than that. We should not be in the illusion that we are living in a democratic, secular and progressive space. On the contrary, we should be aware that we are living in a very ancient and primitive space. So we should be able to capture that reason which is associated with the tradition of Guru, Ambedkar and Sahodaran Ayyappan and a future Kerala should be imagined on that basis. The only hope I share with you here in this conference is that in such a future society, we all may be able to live as humans with dignity.
I will conclude this address by pointing out one more point:
A slogan frequently raised in Kerala goes like this: ‘You can kill me, but you cannot defeat me.’ I am telling this gathering that, ‘You should not kill me; I am ready to concede defeat’. We will witness the dawn of democracy only when we declare that this earth is also for the vanquished. Instead of heroic rhetoric, let us come to the reality. Let this gathering be an opening towards that. Even as I express my disagreements, I share my great hope in this endeavour.
Thank you all.
Translated from Malayalam by Abhijith Geethanjali.
1. Rekha Raj also spoke in the above mentioned gathering. Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLUsUklBqF0. The transcription of this speech will be available in RTI very shortly.
Abhijith Geethanjali is from Kozhikode, Kerala. He did his Masters in English literature from Pondicherry Central University.