In the light of the recent anti NRC-CAA protests, while a lot of discourses on nationalism and citizenship had come to the forefront, in the form of citizens reclaiming the streets through protests and demonstrations, asserting their rights as equal citizens of the country, the opposing political parties holding regional and national protest demonstrations, students observing strike on their campuses, the obvious demonization of the fascist government, what also came to the forefront was how the dissenting population perceived the fascist leaders of our country. It would be a mistake to say the ‘lens’ had been cleared off of sexism, classism and casteism expressed through slogans.
Liberals might find these irrelevant or trivial in the face of such a national emergency, and tag such a narrative to divide the protests, but, it becomes even more crucial in times when we are fighting against Islamophobia, Brahminical patriarchy and social and political discrimination. While it is unfair to generalise that the whole population resorts to such biases, efforts have been made to uncover the deeply ingrained figments of patriarchy, classism and casteism that need to be done away with.
Your Social Location Does Nothing To Dislodge Power
A feminist intervention (no matter how much you may disdain because nation comes first), refuses to sabotage the movement with sexist and casteist slurs to be thrown in the face of power. Power as we should all know by now disciplines no matter how much your liberalism opposes it, no matter how much you view yourself as a ‘free individual’ in the face of state repression, you end up alienating yourself as your slogans ridicules other minorities and in the process you are even easily controlled by the state no matter how much you dissent.
A feminist intervention (no matter how much you may disdain because nation comes first), refuses to sabotage the movement with sexist and casteist slurs to be thrown in the face of power.
Your bubble of privilege isolates you and doesn’t help in making the movement a movement for all. The question is, could you afford such privilege which brings you to the brink of non existence and make you, yes you an individual, face state politics? The ‘solidarity’ you talk about falls flat on the ground because the first step to solidarity is being self critical, self aware of your own privileges. Let’s not repeat what our ‘nation builders’ did in their bid to decolonise our nation as we today find ourselves colonised not by British imperialism but our own so called ‘traditions’, ‘values’ that are so ‘Indian’ and Hindu, that they have killed raped brutalised dispossessed and annihilated histories, memories, bodies, lands, homes. Your freedom comes with a cost. Let’s not become tools in the hands of capitalism but remember, you wouldn’t have been a free vocal functional citizen without an army of people making it possible.
Why Should You Step Out Of Your Privilege?
During our nation building there were counter currents that directed the nation to think beyond the nationalist fervour. One of them had been Babasaheb Ambedkar who raised a very pertinent question in the light of affirmative action to fight discrimination against minorities. At a time, when the anti colonial movement was led by the Congress, Ambedkar dared to step out and view the movement differently and rightly so, because being a Dalit he could view the different layers of colonising structures and ideas that shackled the Indian mind and action.
It was not out of vain that the Movement for Independence was tagged as representing the ideals of the upper caste, upper/middle class Indian men. It was not out of vain that Periyar displayed the black flag on the eve of Independence. It was not out of nothing that the Mandal Commission happened in the 80s and so do the shifts in feminism. During the protests following the mandates of the Mandal Commission slogans read, ‘We Want Employed Husbands’ ‘Quota Doctors’ and so on, which gave off the anguish of the educated privileged class of Indians and were outright casteist and sexist. Due to the use of these dangerous derivatives the so called progressive political actions failed to ensure empowerment of the minority.
We have lost Rohith Vemula, Payal Tadvi, Fathima Latheef and so many in their youth fighting institutional casteism and Islamophobia. We have raised slogans against the above, protesting against the government for its anti minority attitude but where are we exactly located in this?
And till today, we see deaths even in the urban spaces and in the so called progressive institutions, arising out of casteism and religious xenophobia. We have lost Rohith Vemula, Payal Tadvi, Fathima Latheef and so many in their youth fighting institutional casteism and Islamophobia. We have raised slogans against the above, protesting against the government for its anti minority attitude but where are we exactly located in this? Let’s take a look at some of the slogans we didn’t think twice before raising.
The Chai-Wala Question On Secularism
While criticising the government could very well be done on the basis of its brahminical patriarchal ideology, the above poster precisely uncovers the savarna prejudice for those who didn’t have the privilege or chose not to be a part of the degree holding population which mind you is still concentrated in the hands of the upper caste or the upwardly mobile.
One can’t be bashed simply because one isn’t lettered enough but strictly on the basis of one’s ideology and one’s politics. Above all, what Marxism have we possibly learnt and practiced if even in these times we are reproducing class divisions? It would have been something to call Modi, a seller of public rights to corporates and something to just ridicule him because he used to sell tea. Your cosy post lecture evening ‘adda sessions’ wouldn’t have been possible without your roadside tea stall so please have some sense. You have set out to fight casteism and classism with counter casteist and classist slogans, which would lead you nowhere.
“Modi Potty Kha Le”
‘Potty jokes’ are not always cool because the above slogans has implication which is out right shaming the people who are still forced to do manual scavenging because they are born Dalits. While some might find them ‘creative’, for most, it’s a casteist slur. As citizens, of course we are not to bear with the autocratic rule of the BJP but take a few steps back when you reproduce your disgust towards ‘shit’. Next time when you blow your lungs out for the safai karmacharis protesting in your campus or your society, think twice if you really ‘humanise’ them deep down your savarna mind.
The One With Rape/Sex Slurs
Stop your anti-feminist politics right there. The above posters don’t belong to an informed politics of dissent. They belong only to one place: in drunken (and sober) masculine brawls where men mock each other by using rape jokes on each other’s mothers and sisters. How different is the above? Have we normalised rape culture then? We are struggling each day to reflect on ourselves to stop using such sexist slurs but end up promoting the same to intimidate our adversary. Such intimidation only perpetrate and strengthen institutional patriarchy and actually prove women are only sexual objects and could be used as mediums to humiliate masculine ego.
It Is So Bad…
The slogans above had been so dearly embraced that it’s even hard to believe who all ‘didn’t’ join the trend. ‘Its so bad even D-School Is Here, St. Stephens Is Here, IIM Is Here…’ the list never ends. And more surprisingly they seem to promote their privileges shamelessly in protests where people are joining across professional and political lines. But what they deemed to be most important isn’t the widespread collective but standing apart by shamelessly flagging their ‘worth’ in the protest. Like how much of ignorance could have possibly driven us to even think about something like this?
The BJP keep ridiculing us as the ‘Khan Market Gang’ and finally the ‘gang’ is here. There are men and women protesting days and nights facing police brutality and state terror in the most untold manner in Shaheen Bagh, Lucknow, Park Circus, at everywhere, and your so called merit won’t make any difference to people. The people lie on the streets at the barricades at the front lines of protest, taking bullets for their identity and existence and for the constitution. You won’t find ‘people’ in your cosy ivory towers of education. Please come out!
The reason why such an issue is to be pointed out doesn’t need to be retold. Those of who found them unproblematic, it’s to time to at least try to acknowledge that politics whatever it might be, isn’t without biases prejudices loopholes. But in these times, these biases can’t possibly make their way as what we are facing today is the blatant expression of the same prejudice that we have allowed to grow and nurture us and now it feeds off us. The NRC-CAA attacks identities and make some humans more legitimate than others pushing large populations to the margins. The fight is to prevent the marginalization.
Such slogans only alienate the privileged few from the struggle against marginalization ideologically and in the long run strengthen the divisive politics of the BJP. The fight is not against the some act or some register. It is a call for complete destruction of the ideas and prejudices that had galvanized the power holders to impose something like CAA NRC NPR on the Indian population. So it is best if we as participants use our privileges in helping with the mobilization and not for our own ‘road shows’.
Featured Image Source: Twitter