Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Free riders in the dalit movement

As I have described elsewhere, the dalit movement involves the daily struggle that dalits engage in the schools, colleges, farms, factories, offices, markets, whereby they rebel through excellence in their work to confront the prejudices. This is what the manifesto of the common Ambedkarite specifies as represented in the plethora of Ambedkar statues set up by common Ambedkarites all around the country. Essentially the Ambedkarite revolution involves rebellion through legally compliant excellent work under the constitution laid down by Ambedkar. There is nothing more needed to confront the wrong stereotypes burnt into the minds and hearts of many non-dalit Indians. It is by confronting these stereotypes that lasting social change will happen in India. Else we will merely have Gandhian token change. It is through such Ambedkarite excellence that the wealth of the dalit communities will expand and the inequalities with respect to the non-dalits will reduce. Essentially the common Ambedkarites will legally earn this wealth by growing Indian pie, rather than using non-ethical or violent means, which will be dangerous for India. The glass ceilings will be stressed through each stone (example) hurled at it by the common Ambedkarite with trust and sincerity of effort.

But as I mentioned above, there are free riding dalits, who do not want to engage in the above struggle to redeem the dalit identities in the eyes of remaining Indians, while solving the problems of the dalit community. These come in two varieties.
  • One category use benefits that their dalit identities give them under the Indian constitution, but hides this identity in later life, preventing the direct challenging of stereotypes that can result from the respective excellence that they achieve in their lives. I like to call them the Harijans. Some of  these Harijans do not achieve high stations in their life because they have fallen prey to the stereotypes about dalits, do not believe enough in themselves and do not try to achieve excellence which can cure their feelings of inadequacy which result from these stereotypes which they also believe. Other Harijans achieve high stations in their life, but do not assert their dalit identities in order to avoid creating problems in their respective social lives due to the negative aspects of these identities. This category typically uses "sanskritization" type of upward social mobility and denies any connection to Ambedkar and dalits. They are fanatic about compliance with their sanskritized identity and equally fanatic about rejecting their dalit origin.
  • The second category does not use benefits that their dalit identities give them under the Indian constitution and hide this identity in later life, preventing the direct challenging of stereotypes that can result from the respective excellence that they achieve in their lives. This category also tends to be Harijan and does not identify with Ambedkar.
I call both the above categories as free riders because both are potential beneficiaries of the revolution led by the common Ambedkarites but do not contribute to its success. After all, even if these two categories of dalits do not emphasise their dalit identities, there always are enough people who remain aware of these. These people feel that their sanskritized location in caste hierarchies are acceptable and they don't try to destroy the prejudices that this hierarchy derived on the chance of birth have embedded in Indian minds and hearts. It is the common Ambedkarites who through the manifesto described above will be destroying the prejudices that these caste hierarchies have burnt into Indian heart and minds. When the prejudices vanish, the matrimonial columns will depict this along with various other benefits that will accrue to all dalits (free riders included).

Mancur Olson described how rational choice meant that every social movement will have its share of free riders. Essentially every social movement pursues obtainment of public goods through collective action. But the very nature of public goods is that their benefits accrue even to those who did not participate in the collective action. There is an entire literature describing how individuals make the decision whether to participate in the collective action. My favourite example is Klandermans(1984).

The dalit movement needs to think hard about how to reduce the free riders by increasing the social pressure for solidarity as well as raising the profile of successful common Ambedkarites. As common Ambedkarites show case the ability to not hide their dalit identity and yet succeed significantly against prejudice in education, employment and enterprise, the number of free riders will reduce.

Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar. May his tribe increase... (A la Abou Ben Adam)

Pratap Tambay
A Common Ambedkarite.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Win win solutions to caste problems

Throughout history battles have been fought to control and impose
ownership over resources like land labor and capital. Those who win
such wars derive rents from their lower cost of utilising these
resources to generate profits and become more powerful over time due
to increase in their personal ownership over the total pool of land,
labor and capital. Competition tends to become less and less fair
for those who start late on the entreprenership. Innovation is the
only capitalistic tool to change the social ordering. The one who
manages to innovate best at least cost succeeds most in changing the
social ordering.
Most theories state that some kind of violent confrontations were
lost by dalits and the economic and social organisation imposed
over them by the winners impoverished them and marked the winners as
special aristocrats.The idiotic theories claims that dalits chose to
clean shit voluntarily and brahmins chose voluntarily to focus on
learning. These theories are not accepted by any sensible people.So caste based reservation was self awarded in the past by imposing
it through violence in the past.Now that we are in a democracy, the aim ought to make the playing
field level, so that dalit entrepreneuers have atleast as much shot
at changing the social and economic order by creating business value
through innovation. Secondly the objective should be to grow the
economy, else the battle of the ballot boxes will be limited to who
controls how much of a fixed size pool of resources or entitlements.
And if the incremental growth is distributed more to dalits, then it
will reduce the potential for violent confrontations and enable to
come to an equal level over time, without hurting the interests of
non-dalits.Hence dalits need to be involved and enabled in the creation of new
wealth. Investment in their education and in their enterprises will
create value for the whole society.That is the only win-win solution to India's problems. All the other
solutions are win-lose or enrich-impoverish solutions with potential
for violence.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Manifesto of a common Ambedkarite in face of the legacy of Gandhi

The Pune pact between Gandhi and Ambedkar resulted in the current dispensation of joint electorates instead of the separate electorates in exchange for reservations based on caste.

Ambedkar wanted separate electorates to elect representatives to a common parliament to given better quality representatives to dalits. Such representatives would have conducted the large scale social bargaining that happens through the parliamentary process necessary for the much required social change at a very high pace. Despite this device seeming to sustain the divisions between dalits and non-dalits, it would have achieved the right amount of social change much faster and reduced the divisions removing the need for separate electorates within a few generations itself

Instead Gandhi blackmailed Ambedkar to give up this demand in exchange for reservations based on caste. Pressurised by an unenlightened Bharat and India, despite knowing that this was a poorer choice for the nation, Ambedkar relented. After all India social rhetoric since independence has been about  eliminating poverty and social inequality, but the choice of Gandhian means to achieve this objective has led to failure., The fact that Gandhianism was a poor social choice is best illustrated in the quality of representatives that reservations under joint electorates have given too dalits, all  these years.

Given this legacy of Gandhi, what is the manifesto of the common Ambedkarite and why does it matter for all Indians.

The manifesto of the common Ambedkarite is to engage in social bargaining in his day-to-day personal and professional life. It is to find the Ambedkar in himself and develop the Ambedkar in himself to the stellar level that the real Ambedkar achieved in his own life. It is this manifesto of every dalit that each Ambedkar statue across the length and breadth of India expresses. Denied the social bargaining through fair representative bargaining in the Indian parliament, it is the day-to-day struggle of the each dalit whether he/she is a student, wage-labourer, private/government employee/executive/entrepreneur that seeks justice and dignity through participation on equal and fair terms in the mundane affairs of this nation. It is the slow march of such Ambedkarites distinguishing themselves through the highest Ambedkarite values (those of learning and wealth through moral means and hard work that Ambedkar embodied), that social change will eventually sweep the nation.

Why this matters to all Indians is that many Indians have lost the values that Ambedkar embodied and while following Ambedkar, the common Ambedkarites will find and create a social path not tread till this date by this nation which will finally rid it of its age-old problems. Despite allowing Ambedkar to write the laws, Indians are guilty of not giving these laws the jurisprudence they need for them to impact these age-old problems. It is the growing enlightenment and spiritual strength of the common Ambedkarites which will demonstrate to all Indians that the best interests of India lie in not obstructing the formation of proper jurisprudence and in fact encouraging more jurisprudence so that the pot of gold embedded in the Indian constitution helps India solve its age old problems without detriment to anyone. Denying justice (social as well as constitutional) to dalits and non-dalits creates a load on Indian hearts. Most Indians carry a lot of load on their hearts. It is the common Ambedkarites who through their life and work will show these Indians the way to get rid of their burdens and become free. As dalits become the elite, they will show the way to all Indians.

It is in this context that I wrote the following lines around 2004/2005.

Manifesto of a common Ambedkarite

I see pain n misery
exploitation sustainin treasury
My means are pure, my end is pure
Of my success, I am sure

Harsh words ! not my way
Immoral action ! far away
Skillful action, skillful life
Are my tools in my strife

I hate not u, I fear not u
My chains undone, I see u tied
U say u tried, I know u lied
I'll set u free, I'll be ur guide

--- Pratap Tambay