S. M. Dhabarde
Once upon a time there was a Brahmin journalist. Let us call him Happy Sage. Happy Sage was extremely happy with his own life. Why wouldn’t he be –he was born with knowledge! As a journalist, Happy was extremely pained and distressed to see the ‘degraded’ status of his caste fellows in a democratic nation. Happy felt aghast at the thought of Brahmins becoming new untouchables. Happy was extremely moved by the plight of the poor Brahmins and wrote passionately about their ‘wretched’ conditions. Happy spoke truth to power! Happy showed the courage to take bold steps in the otherwise politically correct society. Happy suddenly emerged as the true hero for the Brahmins. Happy’s caste-brethren took a sigh of relief– finally, someone saw our ‘pain’. Happy soon realised that there is not much market for talking about the pains of his own community. It was this time around that he saw a business opportunity in publishing literature produced by the Dalits – the real untouchables who have been oppressed by the Brahmanical structure. Happy immediately masqueraded himself into an anti-caste warrior, made friends with Dalit organisations, scholars and poets.
Happy spoke passionately about the oppression of the Dalits. Dalits who were listening to Happy were so moved that they treated him as their fellow. Dalits badly needed a professional printing press – Happy became an instant hit. Why not? In addition to the anti-caste language, he also used the radical nomenclature, The New Vehicle, to reach to the Dalit market. Dalits celebrated him and he happily enjoyed their hospitality. After firmly establishing his position as the anti-caste publisher in English language – Happy came out with his real fangs. Happy began publishing non-Dalit topics and works of his own caste-brethren that looked ‘beyond’ caste. After all Happy must have felt suffocated with the impurity attached to the topics he was working with. There is a limit to how much a cow urine can purify! However, Happy was shrewd and kept one foot in the Dalit market to justify the use of the anti-caste name given to his publishing house. Happy took upon himself to take the most radical Dalit icon Ambedkar to the global stage– damn it, nobody in the West knows about the anti-caste icon. Happy along with his caste-brethren had already sensed that writings on Ambedkar are trending. It is a big market!
Happy made elaborate plans and decided to republish the most important text for the anit-caste movement – the Annihilation of Caste. Happy decided that the AOC needs a fresh introduction but it has to be from his own caste brethren– after all he needed wider acceptability. The savarna woman chosen for the job had no clue about the anti-caste movement let alone about Ambedkar. How does it matter? After all knowledge is based on birth and not worth! With much fanfare Happy launched the annotated version of the AOC! Happy was on the top of this world. Happy was looking forward to a grand welcome by Dalits – finally someone has taken Ambedkar to the globe.
Happy’s ego was massively inflated with this ‘new’ book. Happy was hoping that the book will keep him at the massive heights for being this great saviour of Dalit writings. Happy knew that the balloon has to gradually come down but only to be welcomed by his fans and followers. The savarna world applauded him as if nothing of this sort has been published before. However, Happy was infuriated – Dalits were raising questions about the content of the introduction and were critical about it! Happy was confronted with true knowledge seekers who had turned hostile. Such a blasphemous act! How can the ones who did not even have the right to listen to the knowledge criticise something written by the ones born with knowledge! Happy became aggressive and defended the divine right of the author! Happy didn’t take into account the fact that he was in a different age – damn these social media platforms! Happy began to lose his moral strength. Happy was desperate and looked for help. The savarna world happily extended their support. Happy tried to lobby with the Dalits for his defence. None came forward – they were all infuriated with Happy’s reaction. Dalits felt, how else is a scholarly text to be treated. Isn’t criticism important for the growth of knowledge.
Happy was no longer happy as his oppressor mask was revealed. Happy lost his moral capacity to talk to Dalits. Happy decided to go slow and prepare for an attack and went underground. Happy returned with silent steps and republished Ambedkar’s writing on Hinduism but with an introduction from a Shudra scholar who was respected among the Dalit-Bahujan masses. Happy began his hunt for poor Dalit students looking for academic publishers. Happy trapped these needy and smart students and is now out with a new book. No more criticisms from the Dalits. In the middle of this launch of celebratory book, Happy publishes another book by a savarna scholar on Ambedkar and Gandhi and recruits a Shudra scholar to write its preface. Now, Happy is strategic enough to recruit at least one Dalit scholar or artist during the book launches he is organising across the country. Happy is silently claiming back his lost moral space and with this he has announced that the Brahmin is back!!
The writer teaches at a reputed academic institution.
Image courtesy: Bhavin Patel