(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
January 30, 2011
Combat Machinations of Castist Forces
THERE are reports of the Haryana chief minister Bhupender Singh Hooda succeeding in pursuading the agitators to agree for lifting the weeklong rail and road blockage, as we go to the press. Several villagers of Mirchpur, supported by others, had blocked the Jind –Ferozpur railway line near Julani village of Jind district. Later with several khaps jumping into it, more roads were also blocked, thus affecting directly almost half of geographical territories of Haryana. They insist that all those arrested for arson and murder in Mirchpur incident were innocents and hence be released. What really transpired between the chief minister and Mirchpur committee at Kaithal on January 24 is yet to be made public, it is understood that Haryana government has conveyed its readiness to take certain steps towards bringing about a ‘compromise’ between the aggrieved Balmiki community and the perpetrators of arson in April 2010.
It is to be recalled that in the ignominious Mirchpur episode of Hisar district, more than twenty homes of Balmiki community were burnt to ashes by some people of a particular caste led by vandals. Most heinous part of the orgy of violence was the tragic death of a handicapped girl student and her aged father.
The most outrageous incident of dalit atrocity obviously came in for countrywide condemnation across political spectrum by justice loving people, mass media etc and taken cognisance also by the higher judiciary. Strangely enough, it was none other than Haryana chief minister himself who calculatedly refrained from condemning this ghastly crime and rather stopped only at calling it ‘unfortunate’. As a matter of fact, it was this very casual and irresponsible attitude of the politicians at the helm that ultimately brought this case to the point of total fiasco as far as imparting justice to the victims was concerned.
The Congress (I) government’s lack of commitment to the rule of law and lukewarm attitude towards social justice has been giving rise to recurrence of such episodes in the past and more particularly this time also. The administration initially was quite reluctant to arrest the culprits. The CPI(M) state committee had demanded the main culprits to be identified and arrested so that victims could get some sense of security. But it was not done, obviously at the instance of political bosses.
Such inaction on part of the government came to be severely criticised by the high judiciary and all justice loving people. Then they made indiscriminate arrests taking the total accused to one hundred. It is believed that many among the arrested were not involved in perpetration of the crime. This naturally has generated anger within the village and family members of the falsely implicated youth. It is actually this aspect of the whole development that was exploited maximum from the side of the actual culprits. Women were made to gherao the bus of members of parliament of various parties who went to Mirchpur to meet the affected families. About a dozen witnesses were pressurised into turning hostile while deposing in the trial court at Hisar. Local pressure was increased on the Balmikis to submit affidavits denying involvement of those facing trail. These developments forced them to flee from the village and seek refuge first in Hisar and then in Delhi. In this situation, the Supreme Court ordered the transfer of trial to Rohini court in New Delhi and all accused too were transferred to Tihar jail. This step drastically reduced the maneuverability of the dominating side and made them quite nervous.
The rail and road jam continued for over a week causing incalculable difficulties to the common people. There have been strikes, bandhs and satyagrihas against government policies, which have also been organised in the past by political parties, trade unions etc, but the essential services were usually exempted from being disrupted. Moreover, such actions in the larger interests of the public are declared well in advance and for a specific period. But in those cases, the sick, the elders, maternity cases etc. were often not stopped from being shifted. Such insensitivity on part of the agitating crowd has left a wide- spread criticism of the means that were resorted to.
Secondly, the high headedness displayed and glorified in the name of caste for over a week has sadly left the caste divide in Haryana further deepened. This aspect actually has to be tackled and combated by all democratic and progressive forces during the immediate future.
Apart from this, what the media or newspaper editorials have generally missed is the backdrop and context of series of other similar incidents of atrocities on dalits and weaker sections during recent decades like Duleena, Gohana, Harsaula etc. Besides this, what is more important for the sake of grasping the ongoing phenomenon is to understand the scenario in Haryana including aggressive caste mobilisation in the name of Gotra or Khap and the way caste sentiments were generated by the means used during the agitation launched demanding reservations for Jats, only recently.
One has to take into account the larger picture not in Haryana alone but in the rest of the country as well. As a result of neoliberal path of development, the vast trail of destruction has come about in all spheres of life of the people. Agricultural crisis is fast affecting the economic condition of the peasantry. Price rise and unemployment continue to compound the miseries of ordinary people. Disparities are more visible now than ever before. Poor peasants, dalits, women and other weaker sections are made to bear most of the brunt. They are facing continuous marginalisation not only economically but also are made more vulnerable socially as well.
The pent up anger is bound to find expression in united struggles aiming at reversal of the anti-people development trajectory in favour of the overwhelming majority of people, rather than the corporate sector and big business conglomerates. Such manifestation can be seen in resistance against land acquisition at a dozen of places in Haryana alone.
We can also simultaneously take note of a definite sense of assertion among dalits and women for self dignity and for a share in whatever developmental benefits accruing to others. Let us remember that it is the accumulating anger coupled with sense of assertion which is sought to be diverted in caste consolidation or other narrow and parochial identities. It is in this specific context that the most regressive form of identity politics is systematically being practiced by all kinds of forces including several NGOs of various hues with dubious credentials. Sectarian social identities are sought to be accorded legitimacy in order to keep the suffering people disunited and unorganized; illusory and pseudo consciousness constantly being reinforced in order to keep the class consciousness at bay.
Vested interests among all castes are investing overtime at caste consolidation and every act of excess or atrocity is seen from the caste prism only. So there is a dangerous trend of judging the social excesses not on merit but by the faulty vision of the caste affiliation of the offender and the victim.
It is, therefore, incumbent upon all mass organisations and democratic movement to remain more vigilant against machinations of castiest divide being practiced as a political strategy these days. They will have to give more attention to social issues of caste and gender discrimination along with demands of economic exploitation and livelihood related issues.