The Liberals and the Bahujans
There was this article in the Indian Express yesterday by Mihir Sharma which basically says liberals don’t have to feel guilty about not supporting Mayawati for PM because Mayawati and the BSP don’t have a “programme”. That desire for a new, revolutionary “programme” sounds Stalinist to me. But more than that, it is revealing about the picture of the good Indian liberal that the author has. The good Indian liberal seems to be completely unaware of the five letter word, Caste; s/he does not appreciate what untouchability means for millions, what the monopoly over the power structure by upper castes means for the ‘majority of the oppressed’ (Bahujan). This good liberal sounds like a foreign-educated babalog who is not very different from someone we have met before.
But wait, I don’t have to continue this rant because in the same morning’s HT, Ashutosh Varshney had what could be an excellent rejoinder to the Mihir Sharma piece:
Poverty is not just a low-income category in India. For most poor people, it comes with the denial of human dignity. The largest proportion of the poor in India has historically come from the Dalits, OBCs and adivasis, groups that have customarily suffered humiliation and discrimination in a vertical Hindu social order. Being treated badly is not the same as being poor, and that’s why the politics of poverty has taken the form of the politics of dignity. To describe its political thrust, every lower caste party has always used some version of the term ‘samman ki raajniti’. (In the US, when issues like this arose with respect to the African Americans, it was called the politics of civil rights.) [Read the full article.]
That is the central programme of the BSP, so to speak, and the Indian Express liberal can’t appreciate it because s/he’s not experienced it. The loss is entirely his.