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October 19, 2017

February 6, 2016

Cloaks of activism

Communist, Anarchist, Feminist, Anti-castist, Free Knowledge Hacktivist, Free Speech Advocate, Democrat, Atheist, Anti-racist, LGBT Activist, environmentalist, anti-imperialist and so many other cloaks that a liberal can wear. Ofcourse there are the opposite cloaks for a conservative person also. Amongst so many cloaks, which is the best fit for a person. A person can either have choice of renting one of the cloak for sometime or be forced to choose one of these based on his/her circumstances. Can a boy really wear the cloak of feminism, can he really internalize what a girl has to go through just due to an accident of her being born as a girl? Can an upper-caste really wear the anti-castist cloak without having ever faced with any discrimination or having to be aware of his/her caste identity in a public place? Ofcourse they can rent these cloaks for sometime, lending their voices in support but they can never represent the truly oppressed or shape their movement.

Ambedkar’s commandments to the oppressed, ‘Educate, Agitate, Organize’ represents very well as the direction for the people from the oppressed community. However, for the people from the non-oppressed who would like to support the oppressed and stand with them, in my opinion, the commandment should be to support the leaders from the oppressed rather than taking the role of leader themselves. And this ofcourse is the most challenging aspect for such a person who has always been habituated to lead and direct the decision process.

These lines from the ‘Dalit Marxist Manifesto‘ beautifully present the behaviour of an upper-caste in the dalit movement. “Such attitude is part of growing up upper-caste in India, they just can’t imagine how to look at the world without them being at the center of it, they can’t look at a lower-caste person except from above. Being progressive, radical, revolutionary are not just products of only honest, idealist and painstaking study and analysis of the world but also a resurfacing of the old theme of Higher-hood now denied to them, or they live in denial of, adjusted on a new surface.”

Gandhi and Ambedkar’s tussle in various aspects represents this very well. Gandhi did wear the cloak of being an anti-castist but he could never internalize it and so much that he always gave much more priority to freedom struggle against the Britishers than fighting the caste system within his own society. For Ambedkar, the freedom struggle against Britishers had very little significance as compared to the freedom struggle against the castist society.

This tussle between various cloaks that a liberal wears will always exist. Hence you see the feminist not talking about caste as an issue or even feminist not talking about LGBT rights as much. The environmentalists may talk about Tribal rights but will not talk about farmer suicides. Communists talk about exploitations in work place with their friends in living rooms while asking their wives to prepare food for the comrades.

Ofcourse this does not undermine their contributions to their own activism. Gandhi’s contribution to freedom struggle cannot be challenged and we can only respect him for his sacrifices and appreciate his bravery. This discussion of cloaks is still limited to people who choose to act, where as there are millions who continue to choose to be naked and whose silence allows oppression to be continued. Hence this tussle in whatever way still leads to something better for the society as against doing nothing.

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