Ram Dayal Ahirwar
Political and social theorists are in support of subaltern theoretical development in India as an emancipatory project for the socially, religiously, gender-wise, and regionally marginal. But within the strand of Dalit politics, there are lots of contestations, there are independents, groups of activists and public intellectuals who have problematic dispositions towards words like Dalit, Bahujan, Shudra, DBA, Navayana, Kabir Panthi, Aadi, Satnami, Ravidassia, etc. Two strands are less contentious: first, the Dravida movement in the south which has vibrancy derived from the image of Periyar E. V. Ramasamy and second, the Ambedkarite movement, with the legacy of legendary Dr. Ambedkar.
Apart from these entities, I am not mentioning here the various political parties who have attained certain stature at the national and regional level. While conceptualizing the contemporary subaltern theoretical progress, my emphasis is first upon those who accept the principle of sovereignty and diversity within the marginalized across the country as well as in the diaspora, and second, those strands within the socially underprivileged who made valuable contributions in terms of time, efforts, money, and sacrifices.
Image Source: Sant Ramanand Memorial Stambha, Guru Ravidas Tisredharam stahn, Katraj, Pune, MH, India.
Let us look at two examples: first, the Shahidi of late Sant Ramanand Ji (BBC, 2010), the strongest figure of Dera Sachkhand Ballan, Jalandhar, Punjab. He was shot by a fringe Sikh group at Guru Ravidas Gurughar, Vienna, Austria on 24 May 2009. In response to the loss of Sant Ramanand Ji, his followers agitated against the Punjab state government and national Government demanding justice for the community. These protests erupted in violence in which two youth lost their lives (Polgreen, 2009). The second example: during the 2nd April 2018 agitation by the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in response to the weakening of SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocity Act- 1989) by the Supreme Court of India on 20th March 2018 (Dr. Subhash Kashinath Mahajan vs The State Of Maharashtra) which resulted in martyrdom of nine youth from the community (TH, 2018).
Now after taking note of these two examples I have a few questions: What is the strategy of activists from socially marginal communities to identify and propagate the right strands of the movement? Most of the social movements across the world are born in response to atrocities by the Savarna Hindus or privileged caste Hindu elements–then how to ally with them regionally and nationally? Why should not we integrate social movements? Movements derived from thoughts of indigenous historical figures from socially outcast communities like Guru Ravidas, Kabir Shaheb, Guru Ghasidas, and many more?
Image & Source: Ashthi remains of Sant Ramanand Ji in a Golden Kalash, at Sant Ramananad Memorial Stambha, Guru Ravidas Tisredharam stahn, Katraj, Pune, MH, India.
To answer similar questions, I have three submissions: first, let’s support all the regional strands of Dalit Bahujan thoughts. Make leaders from these strands responsible for engaging diplomatically at the national level. The Dalit Diaspora is privileged in many senses as it is highly educated and financially sound and vocal. So, before intervention in the internal subjectivity of the movement in India, always keep in mind that your responsibility is to bring closure to the different movement strands across the country.
Second, public intellectuals from the Dalit-Bahujan-Buddhist-Dravida-Ravidassia strands should reach common agreements rather than criticize each other. Only then will their contribution reach some concrete, result-oriented end. Such an approach not only benefits the larger community but also the families of all such activists. Because when an activist working toward social causes is unable to support his own family members, in the end, their own families themselves suffer a lot of hardship.
Third, the generation which is in a preparatory mode or is alienated from the movement because they face everyday challenges of getting a good education, basic support while choosing modes of their survival and employment which is the biggest hurdle they face. So what should they do? I would say, they must read and prepare themselves for individual sustenance, for family support, and also equally keep in mind that the lost dignity of society, which was the dream of Dalit-Bahujan icons during their lifetime, is now the responsibility of these youths to regain.
While remembering Shahid Sant Ramanand Ji of Dera Ballan, Jalandhar, Punjab, whose effots to commemorate Guru Ravidas Maharaj’s birthplace near BHU campus, Seer Govardhanpur, Varanasi, UP. We must remember, his sacrifice was to strengthen the sovereignty of the community and the ideological thoughts of Guru Ravidas in a dignified way. In the end, the thought of whatever you carry remains here. If the land of Doaba in Punjab is known as a stronghold of Ravidassias then it’s because of their hardcore support and sacrifice. If any atrocity happens with any individual then the voices of resistance come from Doaba, Punjab first. The whole movement of the Bahujan Samaj Party and affiliated sister organizations began from the land of Punjab. Saheb Kanshi Ram was from Punjab. If you admire the Bhim Army then the biggest support for it comes from that area only. Whatever Ravidassia ideas you have these days, they come from the reality of Punjabi society.
Engage proactively with the movement on the ground before starting criticism. Engagement with the objective of working towards sovereign subaltern thought and its various strands.
Polgreen, L. (2009, May 25). Killing of Sikh Leader Sets Off Riots in India. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/: https://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/26/world/asia/26india.html
TH, C. (2018, April 03). 9 dead as Dalit protests over SC/ST Act rock north India. Retrieved from https://www.thehindu.com/: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/many-dead-as-dalit-protests-over-sc-st-act-rock-north-india/article23418008.ece
Ram Dayal Ahirwar completed MA in International Relations from South Asian University, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi. He also holds a Bachelor of Engineering degree from RGPV Bhopal and has worked as Project Engineer, at Wipro Technologies Pvt. Ltd. Pune and Hyderabad (2013-2015). He is interested in subaltern political thoughts and is inspired by the Dalit – Bahujan philosophy. He is associated with the Ravidasia ideological movement across countries. He hails from Rampura Village in Chhatarpur (Bundelkhand) District of Madhya Pradesh and is a first generation learner from his family.