Gail Omvedt comparing coverage of Mumbai terror attack with Orissa situation
Merry Christmas. Because Jesus was a social revolutionary and because Ambedkar burned the Manusmriti on this day ikn 1927 we may celebrate it as manavmukti din.
but along with joy and celebration I wish we could all think about the following:
ORISSA and MUMBAI
Two major massacres have taken place in India recently. One received 24 hour television coverage for several days, not only in India but also in the U.S. The other has been nearly blanked out of the national and world press, let alone television, though it has gone on for months. One took place in the rich "heart" of Mumbai's "Fort" area, in the opulent Taj and Oberoi hotels and several nearby buildings; those targetted were the capitalist wealthy-- though the killed also included middle class and workers caught in the crossfire. The other has been buried in the jungles and fields of Orissa, Karnataka and Rajasthan, where Dalit Christians have had their homes for centuries.
Muslim terrorism and Hindu terrorism. It might be more correct to call it "Brahmanic," except that what has been shown in Orissa, Karnataka and Rajasthan is the ability of Brahmanism to conquer and warp the minds of Adivasis and OBCs -- not to mention Dalits themselves.
Muslim terrorism is a subject of endless discussion, vows, bitterness, condemnation of the government. "Hindu terrorism" is hardly even admitted. Yet the RSS and various affiliates have been practising it on an awesome scale in the last months.
"Conversion" is the theme, and Christians are targetted. In Orissa, the Hindutva forces were able to take advantage of longstanding hostilities between the dalit Panos and the adivasi Khonds. Large sections of the Panos have converted to Christianity. The Khonds, in contrast, have been wooed to think of themselves as convinced Hindus, and to see the Pano Christians as aliens inhabiting what should be their land. The fact that the Christians have become marginally better off, more educated, and with a new sense of pride, has exacerbated the tension.
But what happened in the current attacks (some form of these has been going on for years, though the latest started in October) has no satisfactory explanation. Mobs of "Hindus" surrounded and burned the houses of Christians in countless villages, primarily in the district of the Khondmals, but elsewhere also. They were forced into the forest, told not to come back unless they became "Hindu." Many were beaten and killed; women, including nuns, were raped. Priests and nuns were special targets, but among the raped was a mentally retarded nonChristian woman who had simply been living in a home provided by the Christians. Some have been forced to eat cowdung and other quaint methods of brahmanic "penance" or prayascitta, and had their heads shaven.
The terror has continued for months, with police and state complicity. Dalit Christians have either been cowering and hiding in the forests, or shivering in refugee camps where they are told "you can go home if you become Hindus."
Attacks have also taken place in states such as Karnataka and Rajasthan. Elsewhere, when they are weak enough, Christians are also targetted, In Himachal Pradesh, for example, many have been called to the police station on charges of "forced conversion"; the intention was not to apply the conversion law which in any case cannot be enforced since almost never, anywhere in India, because there has never been evidence given to show "force" illegal "inducement" (aside from conviction and gaining a sense of self-respect) -- but rather to allow RSS goons an opportunity to beat them up. The total number of those expelled from their homes is approaching 50,000; and how many have been killed is not known.. the number seems to run into hundreds.
Why has there been no mass protest to this? A fairly simple answer suggests itself: the leadership in the resistance has been with the Christian church and with their almost unconscious participation, the pogrom has been projected as one on "Christians," not "Dalits", let alone "Indian citizens." Dalit resistance/protest has been minimal (aside from sympathy) perhaps for this reason. But this in turn has to be understood in terms of the fragmentation of caste. Dalits have protested in mass to attacks that are perceived as being on them; one case that immediately comes to mind is the uprisings all over Maharashtra following the Khairlanji slaughter. But this did not happen immediately, but only some months later – following a desecration of a statue of Ambedkar in Kanpur. The conclusion can only be that identification even among Dalits themselves is along very narrow lines, and may even be getting narrower. Those slaughtered and driven from their homes in Orissa are not seen as "Dalits," let alone Indian citizens; maybe they are seen in Orissa as "Panos-converted-to-Christianity". Orissa in any case has had few mass movements, but it seems clear that Dalits outside of Orissa do not identify with this particular community; they also do not really identify as "Dalits" but as "Chamars," "Malas," "Madigas", Mahars/Buddhists or the like.
Mayawati may find a lack in popular appeal even among Dalits outside of north India for the same reason. Had Barack Obama – a son of a Kenyan and a white American, not part of the "real" African-American community to the degree Michelle is – been born with an ex-Untouchable father from outside of India , say, a Nepali dalit and a Brahman mother, he would not have been considered "Dalit."
The narrowness of identification is a feature of the caste system in India; people have been mobilizing lately (when they are not getting mobilized as "Hindus" by the fundamentalists) as Malas,.Madigas, Gujars, Meenas, etc. etc. It can be seen even in relation to the Mumbai riots: A central minister, A. Antulay, recently resigned after an uproar came when he carged that the death of police superintendent Hemant Karkare, who had done more than any other person in recent months to make "Hindu terrorism" an accepted word, a death that has been shown to be NOT coming from the terrorists guns, was "suspicious." Antulay was right – but that should have been publicly stated by a "Hindu" politician, not by a Muslim one. So far though, only one of the "secularists" in Congress or other parties had spoken up on this issue, as far as I know.
We also have to ask, why the lack of news coverage on the Orissa terrorism? The answer that is obvious for India is the fact that the media are not only capitalist, but "upper"-caste controlled; Dalits expect no more from the "Brahman bania press" (or, as Dalit Voice editor rajshekhar provocatively puts it, the "national toilet papers."). but what about the world press? Here a different answer emerges: those who control the world media have an interest in stigmatizing and targeting Muslims,.while India is emerging as the U.S.'s greatest ally and is therefore not to be easily criticized. Cynthia Stephen Independent Researcher and writer Bangalore, India
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