continuing from here
kuffir: it is difficult to think of telangana as a social movement now, if it ever was one, in my view. as a movement for positive social change, a movement that’d take the anti-caste struggle forward. the number of adherents, cutting across society, might give us a different impression, but if numbers alone constitute proof, coca cola is also a social movement. so is baba ramdev.
people proceed from problems to solutions. the dalitbahujan activists of telangana produced a solution first and then tried to frame problems to fit it. i’m not being cynical when i say that: one can find tangible evidence for that fact in the notes of b.s.ramulu’s, written in 2007.
the solution that the dalitbahujan activists offered to address the discontent of the age was telangana. and the method to achieve that was a ‘social movement’, as different from a ‘political’ or mainstream-polticians led movement. i can’t see how the ‘social’ can be separated from the ‘political’, but that was their chosen method.
how do we understand the contradictions in both their goal and method? their goal was political, a redrawing of state power sharing arrangements, but their chosen methods needed the pretense of the ‘social’… another way of expressing the disdain they’d acquired from the braminized middle classes for ‘dirty politics’. if we consider their goal ‘social’, bahujan empowerment, then why circumscribe, restrict their resources (or pool of like-minded actors, people) by imposing geographic limits on it? doesn’t globalization make it imperative for the oppressed also to build alliances? and so on.add to all those contradictions, the original sin of jumping to a solution before exploring all problems and alternatives.
the dalitbahujan content of the bhongir meeting in the mid-nineties where gaddar and others mooted the idea of a separate state, the activism and art of hundreds and thousands of dalitbahujan activists, writers, poets and artists– all this was snuffed out in translation by the time it turned into a ‘mainstream’ poltical movement.
venkanna’s song which captured the angst of the dalitbahujan so well: they stole the angst and the distress and kicked aside the dalitbahujan. though it wasn’t written for the movement, venkanna’s song carried the essence of the age, of the late nineties when the green revolution had started rotting, cotton farmers were dying and distress was spreading across dalitbahujan homes.
now the distress has spread much further– farmers are still dying. so are weavers. so are goldsmiths. so are even toddy-tappers. so are the adivasis. literature is still being produced, songs are still being sung– but they’re of ‘entertainment’ value at telangana meetings and rallies, mere ‘dhoom dhaam’.
it’d not be entirely correct to say ‘they kicked aside the dalitbahujan’. the dalitbahujans were delivered to the dominant groups as bodies, literally.
dalitbahujan activism prepared the dalitbahujans, primed them to work for a goal, so to speak, leveraging upon all the discontent of the age, and built a ready-made political cadre while working on a ‘social’ project. so the dalitbahujan movement died before the political party was formed, because it had to die anyway.. in all their efforts to negotiate with the dominant shudra castes to negotiate with the state, to do the inevitable ‘politics’, they had already given up most of their claims..
all the issues, viewed as pertinent to the dalitbahujans were discarded for the issues important to the dominant castes (irrigation etc). all the inhibitions the dalitbahujan activists had imposed on themselves– not to racialise the discourse, not to use force and violence, not to create animosities– had been abandoned to build an atmosphere ever pregnant with the possibilities of friction and conflict.
and the young dalitbahujans were delivered as bodies to the movement. because the only way they could express themselves in this majoritarian movement was as bodies, as suicides. or bodies that braved bullet, sang songs, pelted stones, spurted blood or tears, mouthed threats and warnings. dalitbahujan activism had brought all the pettiness and prejudices and avarice of the brahminized middle classes into dalitbahujan homes.
lastly, this appeal to telangana activists that appears at the end of ramulu’s article :
‘Please do not provoke the youth
Enough damage has been done so far in the Telengana
It is not patriotism to preach violence and resort to guns, and become nostalgic about the fight of 1969, without themselves leaving their cozy homes or leading even a procession, or a strike.
Many more peaceful struggles have to be conducted in the coming days.
Only after getting equipped for those struggles and gaining necessary strategy and the tactics can one grow into an effective social activist. or a leader.
They can only lead the people of Telengana for a separate state’.
can’t even call that appeal ironic anymore. telangana is one of the most poignant tragedies of the dalitbahujan movement in telangana and andhra pradesh. (written on march/9/11)
chittibabu: Sorry for the delay in responding. I am even more sorry that your opposition to Telangana struggle is bordering on cynicism despite your disclaimers to the contrary. All the virtues of your earlier posts disappeared as soon as you started quoting straight from that pain B.S. Ramulu and stopped your earlier critical and fresh thinking.
All that you can show is that neither the leadership and ideology or the agenda is dalit bahujan. This is a serious shortcoming of Telangana, no doubt about it. But seeing widespread and honest participation of dalit bahujans in the movement as nothing other than slavishness and playing into other’s hands is problematic not only because it robs our people’s agency but also because such a conception fails to register the changes from below and their potential. Kuffir saheb I request you to go back to your first two posts and elaborate on them, they are really illuminating. On a non-serious note, please don’t serve that BS Ramulu’s stuff. I think you are a much serious and sensible thinker than he is.
kuffir: chittibabu garu, i was hoping you’d read the article (in telugu) on top of the b.s.ramulu post i’d linked to… it illustrates clearly the kind of painfully irrational logic b.s.ramulu and many others in the movement have been foisting on the people.. in quoting b.s.ramulu’s views, i was not endorsing them..far from it..i think his notes are useful only as a twisted record of sorts. as for my own argument, it was not finished– i’d said, i would like to add one more post in my last comment..but it’s an emotionally tiring exercise so i think i kind of wandered off..thanks for raising the issue again.. will come back to the points you raise again.
chittibabu: Oh thanks Kuffir Saheb. I am thinking of writing a line by line commentary on at least portions of your earlier posts and what I think the important/interesting or infuriating portions of your later ones. Not that I have something earth-shattering about each of them but in an attempt to co-think wherever I can and try to defend what I consider the actual achievements of dalitbahujan-admittedly subordinate role played by our people- participation and maoism’s shadowy but useful presence. You are right about alluding to BS Ramulu. It of course was not, thankfully, to endorse his views but to critique him. But I think he is not even a worthy opponent in a serious intellectual context. Let us pick some serious chap instead of him.
kuffir: chittibabu garu,
you say: ‘But seeing widespread and honest participation of dalit bahujans in the movement as nothing other than slavishness and playing into other’s hands is problematic not only because it robs our people’s agency but also because such a conception fails to register the changes from below and their potential.’
it’s very necessary to understand whose agency is being robbed here by a vocal group of agitators who refuse to recognize ‘the changes from below and their potential’ that you talk about . whose voice is not being respected by being persuaded, to use a euphemism, to echo the voice of a normative ‘people of telangana’, cleaning themselves of all differences, minority-nesses..
‘social boycott’, ‘traitors’, ‘tiraganivvam’, ‘addanga narikestam’ ..that’s the language of caste. of the upper caste guardians of the social order. dhobis ‘participate’ in the movement by boycotting panchayat leaders who don’t resign. barbers refuse to shave. those are the methods of the agitation. there is also liberal use or threat of use of the disciplining strategy of ‘veli’. my problems with the casteist idiom of the telangana movement are much more troubling than a dorasaani-like telangana thalli.
if you think that’s deepening of democracy, i can’t agree. that not just the goals but the methods of the dominant groups and dalitbahujan activists should converge so completely—that’s a fact that needs serious probing. i think it’s a result of the misreading of the ‘changes from below’.
the changes from below and their potential was quite evident even before the 2009 elections and much earlier. that chiranjeevi, a much bigger believer in muhurats and ritual than kcr should bag 18% of the votes just by mouthing the mantra of ‘social justice’ should give us a fair inkling of the churning happening below. chiranjeevi then and kcr now: one has to try very hard to understand why such a large mela of veteran activists is lining up outside these fake revolutionaries. but that’s definitely where the potential is being dissipated, in the search for magical solutions.
representation of obcs in houses of legislature in a.p., has remained one of the lowest in the country ever since the state was formed. that should have caused some radical re-reading of the social order among at least some sections of those classes—all it seems to have created is what could only be called as a ‘mimic leadership’. activism that hasn’t produced even an idiom of protest different from that of the dominant groups. all marginalized groups nurse deep-rooted contradictions that they’re not prepared to face. their eager participation, and apparent solidarity, in the telangana movement is bluster, to put it mildly, to disguise their discomfiture with profounder issues.
a sure sign of a movement’s radical potential is its ability to make the dominant caste groups at least a little anxious about their own position in the hierarchy. as you know, i’ve been a follower of blogs for long. unlike in the real world, upper caste and hinduized obc participants in the telangana movement form a majority on the net—some recent survey said 85% of all indian netizens are hindutvavaadis, of sort, so the numbers aren’t surprising. here, you notice more clearly how enthusiastic, how upbeat, some of the first class of bloggers are about the movement. and how different the tone, tenor and content of those blogs/sites is from the content of the few dalitbahujan blogs. how dramatically different the first telangana is from the second, and how repugnant the second is to the first.
the groups of upper caste lawyers i see now, ever ready to spring to the defense of the ‘rights’ of agitating dalitbahujan students in osmania were, some of them, once a part of the apnss movement (in the middle eighties), an anti-reservations movement, as you know. they owned the universities then, and they still seem to do so. history is looking back to smirk at us.
i don’t nurse cynical opposition of telangana, i’m beginning to seriously wonder if india shall ever be a non-hindu country. i am convinced there is very little chance of challenging hindutva, brahminism after helping it consolidate its hold on state power at the centre through splintering of the south indian states, especially those cultures which have pre-hindu roots. in b.s.ramulu’s view, the ‘telangana thalli’ was designed to signify, unlike the telugu thalli which resembled a tamil thalli (?), a ‘bharata mata muddu bidda’..
some other ‘scholar’ was trying to claim thyagayya for telangana. that’s their sense of history and of their roots: where’s the dalitbahujan challenge to that? before proceeding further, i think it’d be fair to yield you space here, now..especially you’ve been waiting long. i’d definitely like to hear you elaborate on the useful, in your view, role of the maoists in this scenario. (written on march/19/11)
chittibabu: Dear Kuffir saheb, I happily think you regained your usual flow and back with insights. Don’t stop now, go ahead. I tried to see if there is anything I could possibly problematise in this latest post. I found none. I agree with all you have said. Only difference is that I think they are usual(and some unique) problems in details as well as in context. None of them could be controlled by anybody as long as it remains as a movement with no phase of stability either through formal success or respite-giving set backs . All of them need to be addressed and mercilessly attacked as you rightly do. Only thing is that they are not enough to dismiss the agitation for Telangana statehood as undemocratic popular mobilsation. The very fact that scores of people for sustained period of time with relatively impressive discipline, though peaceful means ask for some autonomy in governing structure and achieve it makes it thoroughly democratic and eminently supportable.