by Chandrabhan Prasad
Ever since Varna editors were caught postulating before Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf at his free breakfast ceremony in Agra, they have discovered a time tested refuge of “Press freedom” to justify their shameful intellectual conduct. They are into their old habit of “defining” freedom, where the Press has the spine to confront the government in a “mature” democracy. A free Press, to them is, the “conscience-keeper of the nation” or worse still of the Indian sub-continent.
Let’s analyse their perception of freedom. “At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom.” This “Tryst with Destiny” speech by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru on August 14 has been willingly lapped up by the Varna intelligentsia. The intelligentsia considers freedom from British rule in 1947 as the freedom of Indian people. Do Dalits, or should Dalits subscribe to this notion, which has been constructed by the Varna intelligentsia and imposed upon the people of India?
Consider what Dr Ambedkar had to say, “The independence of a nation exhypothesi does not tie it to any particular form of government or organisation. External independence is quite compatible with internal slavery. The worth of independence depends upon the kind of government and the kind of society that it builds up. There is not much value in independence if the form of government and the order are to be those against which the world is fighting today. More emphasis ought to have been placed on a ‘New India’-and less on ‘Quit India.’ ” This is how Dr Ambedkar defined freedom in his broadcast from the Bombay station of the All India Radio on January 1, 1943.
Thus, we have two sets of definitions, one proposed by a Varna scholar-leader, to whom freedom means the end of rule from external power, and the other proposed by a Dalit-scholar-leader, to whom, freedom meant essentially an end of the old social order complemented by an end of external rule. If the Varna definition of freedom is applied universally, then the French society is yet to achieve freedom. If the Dalit definition is to be accepted, then The Great French Revolution of 1789 must be considered the greatest freedom that humanity has ever won! The Magna Carta, obtained from King John in 1215, would be the basis of the political and personal liberty in Britain.
Both the above events have largely shaped the modern notion of freedom worldwide and both great events relate to internal questions of European society!
Needless to elaborate, Varna intelligentsia neither requires nor asks for freedom from the traditional Chaturvarna order. You see, its stakes are very high in the old order. Quite logically then, it defines democracy and freedom in a manner which does not disturb the social status quo. This intelligentsia has never allowed a discussion over social democracy and it laughs at terms like “capital democracy.” To them, freedom relates to the State and government of the time. Defiance of the State’s objectives or the government’s line of thinking is construed as exercise of the right to freedom of expression. Do these “free-thinking-editors” ever launch an assault on the question of Dalit subjugation?
Why have these freedom-loving editors not responded to BN Uniyal’s question “In Search of a Dalit Journalist,” The Pioneer, November 16, 1996? If from over 20 crore Dalits, there is not a single journalist in any of the media establishments, there is something seriously wrong with society? The editors’ silence on these issues only depicts their character. Neither do they seek to free themselves from the decadent social order, nor do they want the historically segregated social categories to enjoy any kind of freedom.
Thus, what is amply clear is this: the Varna media has Varna-centric notions of things. The classical Varna order mandates exclusion of Dalits from accumulating wealth, possessing arms and entering the world of learning. Though the order does not exist in its classical form, its impact continues to determine destinies of both-those within the order and those outside it.
Whatever changes have occurred in favour of Dalits are all due to State-mandated actions which governments implement half-heartedly. Thus, Varna media targets the State and governments and patronises the order. Does the Varna media ever support the government for its pro-Dalit decisions or criticise it for not taking them? Yet the imprisoned Varna conscience shamelessly claims to have tasted freedom.