Thursday, March 05, 2009

I Bourgeois

Untouchable women enjoy a night of fashion
http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/07/03/untouchable-women-enjoy-a-night-of-fashion/#comment-336791


Why the hell wasn't this reported in Indian media? Because the indian media is more concerned with suppressing the acknowledgement of the existence and treatment of dalits than in bringing it to light. Why? Because its audience, the "great" Indian Middle Class is more embarrassed than shameful of its treatment of the Dalits. They'd rather not acknowledge their existence than do anything to better the "untouchable"'s lot. A dramatic example of this of course is the middle class student's protests over Mandal 1 & 2. Obvioulsy all of the students were upper caste and it was such a blatant upper caste movement that they didn't even try to prove otherwise that it was a pan-class movement. In their disgusting diplay, the upper caste students and their parents brandished brooms and rakes to tell the media what they thought their under-privileged brethren should rather be doing.

Our NRI brethren are of course, as is their wont, even more vocal about their objections to reservation and they don't care enough to make a distinction between SC/STs and OBCs. NRIs are almost exclusively upper caste excluding at the most a few OBCs from TN/Andhra, Punjab and Gujarat. A quick run-through of the common surnames will tell you the truth.

A run through of the NRI demonstrations on the 2006 reservations issue.
http://www.friendsofsouthasia.org/caste/reservations/PressRelease_060906.html
The author writes about the hypocrisy of the demostrators far more effectively and in fewer words than I can

An IIT defending its reticence to reservations
http://www.indianexpress.com/news/badge-of-iit-is-talent-not-privilege-or-caste-iit-kanpur-staff/5246/

Sure, you can be agnostic to caste and privileges if you're an Amity University or an IIPM but you're an IIT. If the Govt. forces Air India to fly to Aizwal for all of two passengers and we look at that as a public service, how is an IIT/IIM/DU any different? An IIT is our government's construct. Our government is Our societal construct. A society that has over 160 million Dalits, over 80 million Tribals constituting a good quarter of our poulation and a wide variety of lower castes estimated at 52% of pop. by the Govt. and quoted at 35% by the National Statistical Organisation, which figure obviously the anti-reservationists use (they selectively don't use the 28% of SC/STs)

If an IIT's job is to take children of traditionally privileged parents who can afford an education in a DPS or a DAV, the extra tuitions, the Kota classes and Brilliant's tutorials and turn them into exemplars of talent, why don't we simply outsource the job to SRM university? For if it were not for these consequences of privilege, many of the IITians and DU students would find that their "merit" is the same as the the son or daughter of their sweeper. Their SC/ST brethren also labour under the stigma that their surnames produce automatically and the fact that their parents are usually blue collar or menial workers who can neither afford nor understand what their children need to succeed academically. IIT Kanpur is mistaking the symptom of its existence to its cause.

The atrocities against Dalits, Tribals and minorities aren't just systemic and institutional but also violent.
http://www.sikhtimes.com/news_012806a.html
http://www.frontlineonnet.com/fl2323/stories/20061201004713000.htm
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/779892.cms
http://www.aiccindia.org/news/gohana_incident_probe_panel_seeks_action_against_district_officials.htm
http://parliamentofindia.nic.in/ls/lsdeb/ls10/ses1/0409089101.htm

As one would notice, the violence isn't random but is brought to bear brutally when the oppressed stand up for their rights or show cognisance of their rights or show improvement in their lot beyond what is judged by the upper castes as agreeable.

The Indian Middle class is rife with hypocrisy. So are its constructs like the Indian media. Unlike Engels idea of the bourgeois, I refuse to give the Indian Bourgeois the credit for breaking down barriers and dismantling feudalism. The Indian bourgeois is more interested in keeping those barriers and constructing a modern version of feudalism.

8 comments:

Krupa said...

Hey, just bumped into this post while blogtrotting, and found it interesting bcos a) i am a sociologist err i studied sociology is more like it, b) i work for mainstream media here (in Madras). I did look around to see if the mainstream indian media covered the event. Looks like they didnt. But i can assure you that it is not, definitely not, bcos the media wants to suppress news or lead the middle class into thinking that Dalits are invisible. In fact, if our media had any access to (i can spk very safely for my publication, not bcos i love who i work for but bcos i know the industry) this information, they would have made a good big noise about it, carried exclusives after exclusives abt it, played it on television a million times. I think it is probably bcos indian media didnt have access to this event (only a guess), maybe their international partners and news agencies didnt cover it. I am not sure. And the media honestly, cares abt only one thing now, from what little i know as a features writer, and that is, exclusivity. It works hard to protect only one identity and that is its own, not anybody else's.

While reservation is a very tricky concept that involves centuries of oppression and denied opportunities, and yadyadayada i honestly feel that TN's overlooking of even the "creamy layer" clause is more than obnoxious - as cliched as it sounds 69% reservation AGAINST a minority community sounds rather vengeful to me more than anything else. While i also understood, studying what i did, that reservation is DEFINITELY needed, but that there will be compromises - in terms of achieving equity (not equality, i don see tht happening ever). For many of our country's dalits this reservation is the big catch 22. While this society refuses to acknowledge them for who they r, the state recognises them ONLY bcos of who they r. And when they convert the stigma converts with them, while they also lose out on reservation. So long as out politicians play dirty games, and i am sure that esp in TN, reservation is merely an act of vengeance in the tradition of the on-going dravidian movement, there is no hope for equity! And it is high time the govt engaged qualified social scientists to address this issue, instead of engaging in mindless policies that look good as PSAs right ahead of election! There- my two pence or annas.

Nirmal said...

@ krupa I agree there are lots of knots about the concept of reservation.
I see 2 primary problems that have been dogging it
1. Assuming (safely) that the institutions with the mandate of actually implementing the reservations, like the boards of IIMs, IITs, AIIMS, nationalised banks etc. etc.., are populated by people who are loathe to implement it; how can we expect the reservations to show any real benefits? Its like asking conservative white anglo saxons in the Bible belt of the US to help implement voter registration for blacks.
2. As you said Dalits, Tribals and C have a problem of identity. A professional Tribal in a urban workplace will still not be comfortable revealing s/he is a tribal because of the stigma of "quota". I've seen it happen and some dalits and tribals have said this to me only because I so obviously support reservation.

Now from sociologists to well meaning politicians to AIIMS students in all their righteous anger have discussed alternatives. But till we do come up with a good one, I think whatever we're doing should go on. Even the Dalits who've made a ripple if not a splash like our chief justice don't address their identity in public. If like Condi Rice he could just stand up and say "Yes I got a leg up from reservation in college... but its been all me since then" that would definitely help.

We in India are very community based.. whether its a Gujarati supporting another's crashed business or a Tam-Bram showing the ropes to his nephew on how to become a CA or a Bengali sponsoring his brother's friend's nephew's daughter to emigrate to the US, we do it based loosely at least for our communities. I think with even this piddling dishonest implementation of reservation, one day we'll have a critical mass, say 15-20% of any dalit/tribal/OBC community who will be professionals/business owners. We can then give up on reservation and put the onus on that critical mass to pass on the benefits of the leg up they were given to their community.

Krupa said...

True. Of course, one totally agrees that the reservation at our institutions will help in bridging perhaps a small fraction of the historical discrimination, but the current system will perhaps work better if the same dalit/tribal is given access to the same kind of high "quality" primary and secondary educaion. An argument that the state seems to think irrelevant to the reservation dialougue. My aunt is the headmistress of the adi dravidar welfare higher sec school in kanchipuram district. I am helping her currently raise funds, and this is abysmall, for building classrooms, for raising a compound wall so that children dont cross over directly and fall across onto a railway track! You send these children to separate "welfare" free schools yes, but who takes care of them? Are you equipping that child to deal with the pressures of a competetive tomorrow even under quota. A lot is being done, thru UNICEF now, but it is a shame that they had to take this initiative. Sarva Siksha Abhiyan is for NGOs to raise funds from international sources.
In this day and age when we are pioneering the bottom-up approach across development sectors, i dont know why school-level education is ignored. Kapil Sibal seems to want to do something. I doubt if he will! Singapore, so far, is the only country that has understood the importance as such of holistic, quality education. Every state-sponsored school's classroom is wired up there. And as a result, the best of the talent gets absorbed into various fields, irrespective of social bgs. THAT is what one needs to look at achieving. Deliver quality instruction from the beginning. Where is even a question of resistance to acceptance in the later years? (This is turning into an essay-writing competition now. lol.)

Nirmal said...

he he. wouldn't call it a competition anyways. I completely agree with the requirement for good primary education. That's the first step of course.
but consider this - we have a "middle class" of 70 million people (liberal estimate). most of our economy, our "shining india" is centered around this 70. the rest actually subsidise our lives letting us live middle class lives by taking pittances for services. does this 70 million really have the determination to take quality education to 0.9xx billion people?
Sure some of the kids from govt. schools might be unable to withstand the rigours of an IIT/IIM. But will they be any less qualified than the non-quota kids that joined these institutions in the 60s, 70s, 80s? didn't the batches that graduated during those decades go on to create the bulwark in our reputation as engineers and managers? the idea is to make our oppressed come up socially and economically. Education is not an end in itself in a developing country. It has to have an agenda.

A publicly funded school system can never compete with a DPS or a DAV. These kids can never compete with a Kota class or brilliant tutorials class. They have just as much raw intelligence as any kid from a DAV but however we try, we can't emancipate but a tiny tiny fraction. So we need to design it in such a way that SC/ST/OBC/Muslim people don't completely depend on our ability to provide them "quality" school education. I think the only way to break these millenia old bonds is to proselytise among them that its not their "fate" to be poor. Something of an Indian version of the American dream and then provide them with tools, education, vocation, quotas whichever to try to realise that dream.

Nirmal said...

Well that's a lot of talk from me :) Aside from my ranting please don't assume I actually get off my chair and do anything.

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