It should not be surprising to notice that just as the Indian economy is getting liberalized day after day, Indian society is growing regressive quite at the same pace.
As an instance, we allowed private broadcasters to dominate television primetime. Once what used to be an instructional medium for a nascent republic, Doordarshan soon gave way to a television culture that heralded an era of perverse family-centric, monolithic, stereotyped middle-class squabbles. On another instance, India let go of its mission-centric national healthcare focus and allowed doctors to practice in private, for the rich, and to get paid by business trusts. In its latest instance, we allowed private education sphere to dictate the nation’s future, and the publicly funded institutions of learning that once strived to provide equal opportunity to all, soon succumbed to corporate norms of cut-throat competition and insecurity.
It is possibly a combination of all three (and many more such) making a simultaneous movement ahead, that is making sure that the gap between the privileged and the dispossessed is maintained and fostered.
At the same breath, as a consequence, it should not be surprising either to notice the recent demonstrations of the medical students against the proposal for reservation of seats. Not only does this movement sing to the tune of the global media hegemonists who thrive on “individualistic interests” of instant gratifications (by means of a dominating television culture), it also promotes the business sense of private concerns who place money above everything else even in basic needs such as healthcare; and nourishes the merit-myths of an unequal society in order to perpetuate exploitation of historically unprivileged people.
The ongoing medical students’ demonstrations bring out simply the worst, the most disgraceful and most selfish core that can occupy human hearts. It’s not that this is something unique to Indian medical practitioners. Such pathetic stance of elitist bias can exhibit itself on the streets any given day at any place in the world.
But these are the times when rest of the world is slowly waking up to realize the need for “affirmative actions”, and “equal opportunity policies” to not only allow the ruling class an occasion to atone for causing historical injustices to discriminated sections of society, but also to understand that the society would not progress without those whose interests have been sacrificed at its alter. And ironically, these are the times when on the roads of India, privileged students are organizing efforts to prevent historically “forced” backward class of people from joining ranks!
Basically the dichotomy is this. The indigenous, tribals and “backward” castes peoples have been systematically exploited in the land of India since ancient times. Since the days of Aryan Invasion (which is basically an Indo-Iranian phase), a section of elites who formed the ruling class (Kshyatriya) always faced unsuccessful challenges from the people who originally inhabited the vast land from Himalayas to Kanyakumari. Unfortunately, as elsewhere, these indigenous people were never known to be violent or reactionary (a horrendous Tyrant Asoka realized this when he was massacring millions of Oriya tribals in 261 Before Common Era). They had already developed their own models of collective living (so-called ancient civilizations were already in place before “Aryan” invasions, just like America was already a people of inhabited land before Columbus “discovered” it). And for the ruling class invaders that ‘settled’ in India, conquering lands were easy, but to silent the egalitarian mass of tribal people from putting up resistance was the most arduous task. Not that the ruling elites were incapable of winning small wars against the tribal people, but the reality is they needed them to build roads, clean palaces and become sex slaves. (Just as today, the state and central governments of India would much rather do without the tribal people and their naxalite inspirations, but then, who would sweep the floors and clean the kitchen and become domestic slaves of the Babus?)
The elite minorities always need the presence of the larger majority of hapless people. Now not everyone in the elite minority section may be actually ruling. And not everyone from the larger majority may be suffering. But when it comes to guard interests of their respective historical classes, they know who to stick to (barring an extremely few exceptions…and those, we shall leave to Hindi filmmakers for sensationally outlandish cinemas). On a general rule of thumb, the elite minorities to remain guilt-free have chosen two principal methods to rule over: one, to divide people and ruthlessly suppress popular resentments, and two, to create a more inclusive basis for their governance to project themselves as representative of the majority.
One may argue that “divide and rule” has been the most potent weapon in the hands of the ruling class. From Mohandas Gandhi to Malcolm X, great freedom fighters have expressed this several times that some elite White men have always divided the world in order for them to rule. Whereas this is an accurate assessment of colonial history, in my view, there have been greater and far more effective tools of oppression in the hands of the ruling elites. And this one comes from more ancient times and has been lasting to more recent days! This one, I will call, “inclusive rule”.
To demonstrate validity, let’s go back to the days of Aryan/Columbus/White invasions. After discovering that annihilation of indigenous people creates more problems than its worth, and also realizing that the ruling class had lost all moral authority to rule in an ancient world where people were not only egalitarian, but highly spiritual (worshippers of river, sun, earth), the militarist ruling class sought an alternative solution. Why not to create a class of people who would come from within the masses, will possibly stay as the masses themselves, but yet serve the cause of the ruling class by NOT positing a division, but a coalition.
Thus the movement aimed at converting of spiritual into religious began by the ruling militarists who took definitive help of a group of “learned” people who in different religions are called differently (in Hindu India, they were declared the Brahmins). The innately spiritual tribal people were assured that it is in their own good to accept the Brahmins as the higher forms of human beings since they have attained from birth already what masses of people have been striving to attain throughout life. To a society that was unaware and absolutely seeking no God (since it found the Eternal in every element of nature anyway), such a Brahmin striving was named ‘God’. The people of the mountains and rivers were told that they did not know what they sought for, if they did not seek for that one God, who the Brahmins had a way to communicate with.
Simultaneous world history shows similar activities taking place everywhere else. The Americans (I mean, the real original ones) were forcibly converted into Christianity by invading Europeans. Bible was forced down the throats of the indigenous people who hitherto had only worshipped the elements of nature. In every continent, the Aryan/Columbus/White mix in its overtly ambitious project of conquering (count Napoleon to Asoka within this bracket) the world followed this method. NOT of divide and conquer. But of being Inclusive Rulers. From Chanakya to Machiavelli, all political treatise involved diplomatic ways to rule lands, not by causing outright divisions among people.
So, once the society was comprised of different caste structures (or liberal Hindus may say “division-of-labor” structure—as if it helps any bit), the ruling coalitions (of Kshyatriyas and Brahmins….or ….landlords and priests) continued their ruling legacies for centuries hence on, putting forth the simple proposition: “we are the mandated rulers, blessed and permitted by God to create rules of legal living”.
Today, as mandated rulers, the politicians appoint their favored people too. The judges in India still pass judgments from over a table that shows a mythological figurehead from Hindu Epic. Judges in the West still have Biblical inscriptions on the walls of courtrooms (or just outside). The ruling class since those days of brutal conquests have been parroting the same lines of “God Bless Our Land”, “God’s Own Land” etc to position their seats of power as clearly invincible and definitely indestructible. When God, in their projection is the creator, and when God wills their rules, how can their seats be overthrown?
Fortunately, these opportunistic alliances have never succeeded at ruling for long at a stretch. Despite the masterminded intelligence plans of including people in their ruling coalitions, they have only given vent to a dictum created by themselves: Power corrupts. Neither power instrument nor corruption mechanism ever existed in the communitarian ways of living in the beginning (a funny quip I have to invent here: … “In the beginning..there were peoples”!). These were the contributions of these ruling classes. And they kept felling victims to their own trap almost all the time. In name of monarchy, they fought with each other for power. Princes killed their father Emperors for power. Second queen poisoned the food of the King so that her son will fight and win battle with son of the first queen. All kinds of perverse self-centric conquests permeated this culture.
All along, in the historical stages of progress, peoples’ revolutions, although never highlighted, made kingdoms fall, resulted in several wars where people came on the verge of eliminating power addiction among the ruling classes. But using all kinds of manipulative methods to rule was never the prerogative of the oppressed masses. Perhaps in the daily slavery, they did not have time to devise plans. Or perhaps they had grown conditioned into defeatist mindsets (these are the only two reasons why people today don’t fight the militarists either). When the coalition rules did not succeed, and indeed their inability to contain popular resentments caused them to kill each other inside kingdoms, people grew more conscious of their need to eliminate these class structures. Although, deeply uprooted from their rationalist thought processes, and perhaps blinded by religious fervors too, people still have always wanted to punish the ruling class. From Sepoy Mutiny of 19th century to Grandmother Against War of 21st, people have always fantasized about teaching a lesson or two to the ruling class combines. But ask them if they would like to rule then? The answer always invariably been: “Not interested in politics. Thank you!”. I always despised those answers, because they smack of indifference. But ask me, and I will answer very similarly too. Why? Because people refuse to play into the game of the ruling class. It’s not just for Marie Antoinette to say ‘let them have cake’. Its also peoples’ prerogative to say “let them fight and squabble and rule and die”.
Such a people have always existed. In fact, many from these people (and count me in that) accidentally or deliberately, simply do not believe that power games are necessarily a good thing. These people never believed that Kings were doing any good to the society. They provided the backbone for popular resentments and a wish to establish a form of society that existed in the beginning, lacking competition, thriving on cooperation and understanding.
Once the ruling coalition of militarists and priests came to the realization that like them, not everybody is a pig and not everyone wants to get dirty, not everyone cares about their harems and their crowns and their glories, and actually most of them are so fed up with the elite culture of writing history that they would rather revolt and take away their thrones and dump them into obscurity, the ruling class changed its strategies. Of course, the indigenous people along with their other working class counterparts forced the kings to flee. And they refused to work as bonded laborers to landlords, and work as slaves to masters. But of course before things could get really out of control, and more radical elements among the resisters could actually behead all of the ruling class folks (not out of their love for violence…but out of their love for tolerance for a peaceful society which could be established only without lecherous treacherous emperors), the ruling class left the kingdoms and created the parliaments or Houses.
The transition of ruling class from slaveowners to “elected” presidents has been extremely smooth. The transition of Royals to “elected” members of parliament has been equally smooth. The transition of feudal lords to market capitalists has been definitely smooth. The transition of priests and Brahmins to educators and scholars has been exceedingly smooth. The conversations of transitions left out the indigenous and working class peoples entirely! So much so, in fact, the transitions needed to take place without their consent.
The so-called democratic institutions everywhere in the world were founded on the well-laid out plans charted by the ruling class, which changed colors (from White British imperialists to Brown Indian capitalists) but the transfers of powers took place between the parties that agreed upon with each other whereby the dominance cycle would have to continue, with direct or indirect benefits to the ruling elites, only.
So for instance, in India, there was a transfer of power quickly done, just when the British realized that freedom movement among peasant revolutionaries were possible—people who didn’t seek power and were not affiliated to any political parties that would agree to future British terms. They came to this conclusion after several times imprisoning Indian leaders, just to test if Indian people could lead a struggle without these leaders. And spontaneous peasant uprisings everywhere suggested they bloody well could and shall. Before things could turn ugly for the ruling class (landlords, kings of princely states, Indian opportunistic leaders, Hindu fanatics, and British rulers), the (potential) ruling coalition comprising all these aforesaid categories made quick compromises. Everyone’s interests were taken care of. Landlords who had enslaved hundreds of indigenous people were let go without penalty (even their lands remained with themselves, until after Indira Gandhi was pressured by Soviet Bloc to act on these pests). Kings of princely states anyway had left their palaces fearing murders, but they were all provided security and even parliamentary tickets to fight elections. Opportunistic political leaders quickly agreed with any and every terms so that they could also enjoy the seats of power, no matter if it meant division of the country and separated families from each other and caused millions of deaths. Hindu fanatics had a field day in keeping the huge majority of country with them, to the greediest extent that they refused to even let go of a Muslim state of Kashmir. British rulers of course after tea parties and tiresome map drawings, left to a wealthier exploiter Britain most comfortably, without being tried and hung in public even for once in an Indian court for all the millions of lives they had taken (although today, Indian ruling class is very interested in Saddam Hussein’s trial)!
The winners took it all, and loser people stood small. These small people were soon called names in the free India. The dominant argument went that India would progress quickly if the government would not spend money on these low class people. The elite Brahmins who had declared the indigenous and tribal people as ‘Untouchables’ shivered at the idea of allowing them a place in the Indian mainstream. ‘They were good only for the jungles, after all!’ So in every possible fields, attempts were made to keep the ‘backward’ castes (whoever devised that term clearly thought of ‘his’ caste as a ‘forward’..sic! because its not meant in just the economic sense) out of focus. When they could not stop Ambedkar, they projected Nehru. Although Nehru was actually progressive, he was since 1930’s dominated by Ballavbhai Patel in Indian politics. So even as Nehru sat on the throne, Patel ran the show after doing the country a favor by integrating the princely states (whose kings were anyway thrown out by the revolutionary masses) with Union of India. When Communists came to Kerala, they together dismissed its legitimacy. When Dravidian languages raised their heads, they installed a first president of India who was a Hindi fanatic and Hindi-fied the country. The Hindi-Hindu-Hindustan slogan went hand in hand with the ruling combines.
The structure changed, but the coalition never changed. Although the BJP might be cribbing about not tasting power for three decades, it should take heart that greater Hindu representatives were always ruling over India in the garb of Congress. S Radhakrishnan, the first vice president was an authority on why Hinduism was the best religion in the world. Religious, casteist perverts continued the same rampage directly in the ‘free’ India which they used to carry out on behalf of British imperialists in the days of colonial India. The structure had just been changed. Not replaced.
The history of this so-called Independent India is now nearing 60 years. And the original inhabitants of India, the indigenous peoples even to this day are being sacrificed at the alter of ‘development’. Be it the great redundant Dam on Narmada or be it the shining McDonalds at nook and corners, the tribal people have no place in India’s landscape to go to. They are being denied rivers they have worshipped for generations. They are being charged the same taxes (or more) that they paid to the landlords earlier, now in more sophisticated manner. They are being displaced and sent to the city outskirts to live in inhuman slums. Forced to sell their own children in want of food. If their child has a talent, (like Buddhia) its being targeted to be killed. They have no ways and means to compete with the city-dweller upper caste coalitions who know how to order a ‘Maharaja Mac’. They end up becoming rag pickers, sex workers, and domestic slaves.
All this, not because we never did not have policies in place to reserve seats for these oppressed people. In fact, Indian policies for reservations (thanks to the only backward caste guy in the entire constituent assembly—BR Ambedkar) were in place long before the US opted for Affirmative Actions to benefit the Black population at education and workplaces. But the fact remains, the “Inclusive Politics” diplomacy works to put up an illusive front, and whereas it says the law is there, it does not guarantee that it’s implemented. Just as the law is harsh on rapists, but rapists get away anyway. We have reservation policies in place, its just that it does not get implemented.
For instance, let’s begin from the latest scenario. With growing privatization, the law for reservations will not hold good. Private concerns do not give a damn to government regulations (partly explains why they are called private, and not public). Of course, they do encourage workplace diversity and end up recruiting many women candidates. In effect, these candidates are chosen not on basis of caste, but on gender alone. And whereas that’s a good beginning, it’s still like the second wave feminism where white women got equal rights as white men! The backward caste women never stand a chance to get employed in this case. That’s the reason why I have always opposed the Women’s Reservation Bill in Indian Parliament, because it will eventually lead to wives and daughters of royal families ruling the country. It’s another story they are already in such a large population in parliament. The Indian mainstream media acting as their pimp, keep criticizing lower caste Rabri Devi, but puts Her Highness Rajmata Vijayraje Scindia of BJP on Page 3.
Educational institutions are increasingly becoming private, hiring teachers by providing them higher scales and better facilities to groom students. They are interviewing parents before admitting children and finding out if the parents are rich and ‘English’ enough first! (Sic!)
Healthcare industry likewise is hiring doctors and grooming them to be the best, funding their researches, sending them abroad, installs sophisticated machineries, and caters to elite clients alone. Basically the best doctors are today affiliated with private practice, flatly refusing to treat the poor, who need the treatments the most owing to their circumstantial disadvantages and lack of access to other healthy platforms.
Privatization of Indian economy is not an accidental phenomenon. It’s a very well envisaged part of the ruling combine that has historically ruled. The land-grabbing, convent educated, wealthy, upper-caste social bulls and butterflies of India find it extremely convenient to maintain their own class status. To that extent, they are willing to go to any end. They are the ones who created the class society on basis of language (Sanskrit vs Pali or Hindi vs Assamese/Oriya), religion (Hindu vs Islam), caste (Brahmin vs scheduled castes/tribes), education (Engineering/technology vs Humanities), economics (landowners vs landless), geographical location (North vs the rest), employment (bureaucrats vs ragpickers/constables) etc.
And now they want to make sure of few more things in order to secure their seat belts all the better. They have orchestrated an extremely elitist demonstration which is causing havoc in daily lives of millions of people in India. They are blackmailing the entire country to decide once and for all, on the issue of reservations for backward caste people. And with the convenient middle class mentality that they have been able to create now, the decision will soon be against reservations. And that will be yet another victory in their history books. And yet another struggle of the oppressed against the mighty, that will never be taught at classrooms. For the time being, if you need a chapter, draw a leaf from SCP’s simply outstanding analysis about the need of reservations and the criminally redundant positions taken up by the elite students. Click here to read this excellent post.
Reminds to me, if the country had given equal support to the Tribal people who came on the streets to protest against police state’s organized killing of 14 innocent people and the subsequent mutilation of their body parts to evade post-mortem charges at Kalinganagar, we would not have seen these elite medical students on the streets. They should have been by now serving the villages of the same indigenous peoples who need medical assistance, and bloody well deserve it.
These medical professionals are examples of the most ungrateful humans. Before their conscience pricks, they should realize few things: that they are not smart from the womb, that they are being groomed to be doctors, and that a certain number of seats does not mean that that’s the number of people who are talented in the country. They should also not confuse talent for a skill, with merit to qualify for the skill. They should realize that indigenous people have a lot to bring into the medical profession through their crude understanding just as some elites have introduced convoluted Ayurveda as an alternative form or just as someone like a Deepak Chopra introduces Hindu ways to healthy living. The world should know of the elementary nature cures, which can be introduced by people from the rural areas only. For this of course, we must ensure the so-called medical entrance tests to be reconfigured to include questions pertaining to tribal and Other Backward castes’ history and their history of struggles with medical facilities and seek their judgments on how to improve healthcare system in India, and stop asking frivolously complicated European algebra questions…
The police will surely not kill 14 of these students (since they are children of bloodsucking bureaucrats and tax evading businessmen, and because their lives are not worth just fifty thousand rupees like the Orissa Chief Minister estimated as the cost of tribal lives he took away). But the police must put all these disturbing people behind bars and the Supreme Court of India must act immediately to forbid these people from practicing ever in their life as doctors. In my humble opinion, they should start working as janitors on the roadside as they are good to take to streets so often, and for that they need to sit for national entrance tests too. For the rest, who do not qualify, I am sure some of them will ‘attempt’ (and of course never commit!!!) self-immolation acts already enacted by the dramatist par excellence Rajiv Goswami during Mandal issue.
It’s a shameful chapter that the history of India has to go through, and down six generations, children reading history books will know how grossly pathetic Indian civilization actually has been, evaluated from the lens of mainstream culture—a thoroughly racist, casteist, sexist, patriarchal, elitist country based on systematic discrimination, state sponsored fraud, and oppressive regimes. And where the oppressed are killed by police bullets and sympathies go for the reactionary elites.