Saturday, August 16, 2014

Toilets versus Social Justice

I have compared elsewhere the dogmatic espousal of the Jallianwala baug massacre as India's justification for the abolishment of the Raj to the significantly more heinous massacre of dalits at Tsundur, which has gone unpunished to this date and about which Indian media chooses to write little. One wonders why PM Modi focused on toilets in his independence day speech, instead of focusing on social justice to women and dalits (i.e. implementation of laws relevant to cases like Tsundur in letter and spirit). Toilet shortage and problems due to it are a symptoms of a deeper problem whose root cause is social injustice. Toilets are an inadequate replacement for social justice.

To illustrate the point, I would like compare the much applauded Dandi March by Gandhi to the much less applauded Mahad Satyagraha by Ambedkar. The significance of an event is never to be measured by the amount of the overt ceremony and pomp, but by what the event represents. Gandhi chose to break the law related to making salt to assert his opposition to the injustice of the Brtish rule. His choice was strategic and much applauded then and now by his multitudes. But consider Ambedkars choice of breaking the the unwritten "law" related to water to assert his opposition to the injustice of the Hindu rule. Water is much more primary to human life than Salt. Man can survive and thrive without salt. There are enough pages on the Internet which advise people to live lives without consuming salt. Salt is not neccessary. It is a luxury. But water? Water is a neccessity for human life. The British were merely making it difficult to have a luxury item. But Hindu rules were making it difficult for dalits to get water a neccessity for human life. Even today there are enough wells and temples where dalits are prohibited. Restricting people from god and water is crime against humanity and god. The Mahad satyagraha was more significant than the Dandi march for this reason. The need to revolt against social injustice has not gone away despite independence from British as evidenced by the injustice at Tsundur (among many other cases).

As I have mentioned elsewhere, the "moderates" among the freedom fighters who advocated dealing with the social inequality among Indians before seeking abolishment of British rule were the extremists. And those "extremists" among the freedom fighted who advocated abolishing British rule first were the moderates, because the social inequality has persisted for so many years. Perhaps they never intended to rid India of this social inequality. That was probably the reason for denying separate electorates and giving reservations through the Pune pact thereby denying true representation in the democratic decision making structures. That also is the reason why there is so much lip-service (just like the so called moderates of freedom struggle) to social priorities, but the country continues to focus on expanding the pie for non-dalits. As the control of India has moved from government and public sector to private sector, the need for representation through reservation (or something else) is being summarily ignored putting social justice on a negative trajectory.

As we are now back within the rule of Hindutva - a facade for those who continue to believe that Hindu social organisation is just, it is important to remember the significance of Ambedkar's choice. Modi is basically continuing the tradition of lip-service with which Hindu India has always reacted to Ambedkars Mahad Satyagraha. All Modi needs to do is make Ambedkar's law and constitution work. But instead he wants to build toilets. His track record for social justice in Gujarat is pathetic and so there is little reason to be misled by his new found love for the Buddha, Ashoka and those suffering from lack of toilets. A toilet building Mai-Baap government is Congresi (also Hindu with minor difference in essentials) politics by a new name - expanding cake for have's while shouting about improving basic things for have-nots. Making laws work is more neccessary, but that will hurt his constituents - so he will not do it just like Congress did not.

Anyone who wants to criticize me for giving less priority to toilets, should read about Tsundur judgement first and then think about criticizing my anger over the priority given to Toilets.

For god's sake - make the laws work. Hang the guilty.
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