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All the myths about Kerala

 

Chandrabhan Prasad

Brahma Satyam, Jagat Mithya: This is one of the three slogans the Adi Guru Shankaracharya had offered while according "religious" cover to the Chaturvarna order in the early ninth century in India.  Shankaracharya was born in Malayali land and was an accomplished myth maker. According to him, "The world is not real, real is only Brahma." Then he went on to elaborate how things we see are only reflections of Brahma.

 When the elephant had disappeared, they commenced on their journey once again. While they walked, one of the disciples is said to have posed an uncomfortable question to the guru: "Sir, if everything is unreal, why did you run from the elephant?" Came the reply, " My dear disciple, like the elephant, the very act of me running away was also unreal!"

The great myth maker was born in today's Kerala and it could be only coincidence that Malayalam society is wrapped in several layers of myths still waiting to be decoded. One of the myths about Kerala is the egalitarian nature of its society. Modern day Kerala came into being in 1956 under the States Reorganisation Act when the princely states of Travancore, Cochin and Malabar merged into one. In the first Assembly elections, the communists, under the leadership of EMS Namboodripad came to power - the first time communists ever captured power through the democratic process. Since then, the communists and the Congress have ruled over the state for an equal number of years.

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Varnas only celebrate their intelligence

 

Chandra Bhan Prasad

A few years ago, a former foreign secretary had said, "Dalits don't fit into the Indian Civil Services' culture." What the retired (Varna) civil servant seemed to be saying was: a civil servant is meant to govern people and not serve them.  This seems to be the culture of the Varna order. But even then, some of them do defy Varna morality and serve the people: they distribute contraceptives, organise yoga classes for prisoners, turn into national heroes and walk away with a Magsasay. The Dalits, on the other hand, have served society for ages and even when they do get into the civil services, don't learn the culture of governing. They keep serving.

I know of stories about the commendable intelligence and concern shown by three Dalit IAS officers, who have even been able to use new age technology to their benefit. Training in formal knowledge has eluded Dalits since time immemorial. The systematic exclusion of the Dalits by the petrified Varna systems was more perfect than any computer programme. Computer programmes have bugs but the Varna system does not. The Varna system's juggernaut rolled on until Vasco da Gama's discovery of India.

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The Dalits lose their mirror & Ramdhan

by Chandrabhan Prasad

Despite having been close to becoming the first Dalit Chief Minister of UP, Ramdhanji has died an unsung death. On May 23, 2001, Dalits lost the mirror which most truthfully reflected the social contradictions of the "cow belt". Read More Ramdhanji supported Indira Gandhi to the hilt during the Congress' first split in 1969. The Rightist wing, led by Kamraj, SK Patil, Nijalingappa and Atulya Ghosh, was opposing Indira for her economic policies, which included the nationalisation of private banks. They had the ideological backing of Morarji Desai who, too, was opposed to the idea of nationalising private banks.

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BJP and its suicidal tendencies

 

Chandra Bhan Prasad

(Originally published in The Pioneer on August 28, 2001)

Was LK Advani's Ram Rath a ploy to fight the Mandal Commission or only a tool with which to mobilise Hindus around the Ram Mandir issue? What must have been an electoral calculation - a subtle opposition to Mandal will earn the party upper caste votes - actually began to work when the Congress begun hobnobbing with "Mandal" parties! Read More But did a Hindutva design bring the BJP to power? With the Babri demolition, Hindu mobilisation had reached its zenith. Yet, the BJP was not able to capture power.

That must have shaken the BJP's belief in Hindutva. The BJP had by then realised that a rabid anti-minority policy wouldn't bring the Hindus into its fold - as Varna/Caste identities still prevailed over Hindutva.

This atmya-gyan forced the BJP to dilute its Hindutva card and instead, play the caste card. In this new awakening, the BJP seems to have charted out a new plank - one which says that anti-Dalit sensibilities can be used to garner the support of the upper castes (15%) and OBCs (46%) who, together, make up about 61 per cent of India's population. The BJP seems to have, temporarily, succeeded as it holds power at the Centre. But what the party has not foreseen, is that Shudra platforms such as the TDP/DMK/Samata/JD(U) etc are only building up their strength after the collapse of the Third Front, and that they are likely to challenge the BJP in the near future - as they have historically always challenged the upper Castes.

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They 'the people', we 'the untouchables'

by Chandrabhan Prasad

 

It can happen only in India. In the US or South Africa, it will be beyond anybody's imagination to indulge in any race-related discourse without involving Blacks. Last Sunday, Star News organised a debate on caste in We The People, hosted by Barkha Dutt, otherwise a fairly "secular" person by persuasion and self-consciously a liberal.

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A safe distance from peace activism

by Chandrabhan Prasad

Late in the evening of September 1, the Kingsmead stadium at Durban witnessed a keen contest of ideas and agendas. That evening, the World NGO Forum finalised the Declaration, which was to be submitted to Mary Robinson, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

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