Tuesday, October 12, 2010

THE SACRED SHIT: A response to Dr. Anand teltumbde's writing on scavenging

I am tired of reading articles written on scavenging. Usually everyone starts with giving a glamour’s title or sub-title to their article by saying “India Stinking”, “India Untouched” , etc and end up discussing elaborately on shit, which never smells bad while discussing it. The recent article written “hypocracy thy name India” by Anand Teltumbde goes ahead from the normal once to hit the core idea of Dalit movement based on, saying they should think of changing its idea from caste to class.
Overview of Dr. Anand Teltumbde’s writings on Scavenging
Anand teltumdbe has recently wrote articles on the “Savanur “incident (Tehelka, Dalit strategy for respect has failed, Vol 7, Issue 39, Dated October 02, 2010. His writing was published in Tehelka, Countercurrents.org etc. I hope the article gave a wider publicity. And for the same reason I am responding to his writings.
Before going further I would like to summarize the article. The article begins with an elaborative information of the protest and the response after it. Then he talks of the failure of the government mechanisms to implement the 1993 law on Manual scavenging. And he also says about how the Hindu forces were trying to hijack the savanur vote bank through this incident. Later he argues about the dalit movements failure in eradicating the caste system. And the reason he give is that caste cannot unite people rather class.
What stricken me was what was the author’s intention on writing the scavenging issue? Was he concerned of the scavenging people? If so when he speaks of the failure of government laws to ban the profession, why didn’t he research the reason for failure (we cannot just reject by saying there is no commitment for the government authority)? (We should also remember Acts enacted in parliament for SC/ST are not implemented properly. What is the reason behind it).And when he says that the Hindu Sammy and BJP poured into the area, then why didn’t he analyze the reason behind these sammys going to these places.
The issue of scavenging still exists in India because people do not go further the ‘shit’ argument. Either they romanticize or sympathize the scavenging community rather politizing the issue. After so many decades for once Scavengers protested in their usual way (I say usual because most of the Dalit movements took their hereditary job as a weapon or a symbol of their protest.) The protest which should have awakened the Dalit writers to rethink their strategy, but it seems they are adamant in rethinking their stand on the same issue, and rejecting the caste factor involved in it.
I would like to take few of his point and discuss.
1. ……. Ambedkar exhorted his followers to give up clearing and scavenging dead animals, eating their meat and urged them to discard ornaments indicating their caste. Strangely, the Savanur Dalits used the very marker of their dehumanisation as the medium of their protest…..
If we look the protest from the scavengers angle, the protest will not seem to be strange. The shit they clean every day was transformed into a political weapon, as any dalit movement did. For example pariyars taking their work as their weapon. Hence, it is not strange protest, rather it was a shocking protest shown by the scavenging community to the outsiders, who never expected such a protest.

2. ….This fractal, recursive, discrimination speaks of a gross malady within the Dalit movement, a movement which supposedly aims at the annihilation of caste, but paradoxically, uses caste as its cementing force. It has failed to realise that despite sustained failure over six decades to keep Dalits united, caste is not and cannot be a force of unity; it is, instead, a divisive force that splinters…….
First of all let us understand what Dalit movement means. Dalit is not a homogeneous entity anytime, it was never a unified movement. Every sub-caste movement within Dalit community is called as Dalit movement. But all are called Dalit movements for the simple reason they read the issue on caste lines.

3. …….It is high time that Dalits realised that their caste-centric outlook when opposing caste is not only theoretically unsound and morally bankrupt, but is also strategically and empirically wrong. It is high time they shunned the caste idiom and regrouped themselves as a class…….

Let us not underestimate the caste function in India, the Mandal commission would prove the same. Every leaders vote bank in India is caste based.
The issue of Scavenging cannot be bought to class. Most often surprises me is that everyone who speaks on scavenging do agree that the profession is a Caste profession and also agree that the scavenging caste also has non-scavenging community in its caste and they too live backward as equal to the scavenging people. But the writers suddenly shift their argument towards class. Even if they think it is a class problem they why are the Scavenging people who are working in government sector live the same life. Though they are economically powerful. Therefore it is the Caste. 1,86,776(Bangi population)
4. “Living on a prayer Saints and ministers queued up to meet the Bhangis”
This was a caption given in his article, but why this is not to research more. If we look on scavenging the spear headed movement was from the RSS in Gujarat. This is an area were people should look why scavenging is always attracted by the Hindu forces.
For the same reason I would say human excreta or the shit is a ‘scared’ for these people. The Government’s stand and the Dalits stand I want to clarify here on the scavenging issue. For government it is a Scared job, The government never sincerely tried in anyway to eradicate the scavenging profession but rather they wanted to modernize the profession. I perceive the point as if the shit is a scared for the Indian rulers therefore they don’t want the people to touch it in bare hands so they wanted them to were glouses, mask, etc. For NGO’s and dalits it is a evil practice. Hence they try to eradicate the ‘scared’ profession. When Dr. Ambedkar addressed the untouchables he asked for implementation of poona act and a reservation policy. But now people who address the scavenging issue they just wanted them to forcefully leave their jobs without an alternative government mechanism to offer them.

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