Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Pumpkin Vs Buffalo

Pumpkin Vs Buffalo

Some newspapers of Karnataka this morning have highlighted the stopping of buffalo sacrifice in Nalliganahalli of Kasaba Hobli of Pavagada Taluk, Tumkur District. This is only one story of a cultural revolution that the Dalit Panchayat Movement has succeeded to bring about in this District and now slowly making inroads into other Districts of Karnataka. We did it without making much noise about it in the beginning itself. We had to educate our people so that they became ready to make strong assertions of their history and culture and realize their rights and entitlements without much difficulty. Except one or two villages we have managed to stop celebrations of this festival of Maramma almost in the entire District. It is through this festival the obnoxious practice of ‘free caste labour’ established by Manu Smriti is being still perpetuated all over India.

Nalliganahalli also has a very long history of celebrating this festival with pomp and gaiety. On 21 June more than two thousand people assembled from neighbouring villages for the celebration of the festival. In the crowd were the village leaders of our Dalit Panchayats. But more prominent was the presence of about 40 policemen with the Circle Inspector leading the team. People could see fattened buffalos tied in a few houses for sacrifice and for later tasty meal. The caste people who offer the buffalos to deity Maramma consider the meat of buffalo as most polluting. But they give it free to the Dalits so that all Dalits may be happy and do their caste duties free of wages for the rest of the year. All in the name of brotherhood and peace! If Dalits refuse there will be immediate violence on them. But not any more in our villages!

Caste people called up the former minister who hails from Pavagada taluk to speak to the authorities and allow the sacrifice. Our leaders and the Circle Inspector stood firm. Then the village leaders turned to the Circle Inspector himself and pleaded with him. He refused to budge. They then turned to our Dalit Panchayat leader Narayanappa who is the symbol of Dalit liberation in this Taluk. He asked them to speak to the upholders of law in this country.

“You can celebrate the festival. The law does not prevent you from your festival. But Dalits have complained to us that it is an insult on them and future generations to allow this festival, which perpetuates free caste labour. The Constitution of India does not allow such things in this country. You may celebrate in your way if you like. But instead of having your festive meal you will have only porridge in the jail this evening.” The Circle Inspector meant serious business. An unusual officer! He knows us for a long time now. The caste people brought pumpkins and offered them to the deity in the place of buffalos.

What is the cultural revolution that we are talking about? Brahminism came into this country. It borrowed Dalit cultural symbols. Emptied them of their original meanings. Filled them up with their own dominant meanings and re-circulated them among the common people. They banned education for Dalits so that Dalits may not understand the changed meanings and easily get co-opted into Hinduism. Virtual slavery of Dalits ensured!

We started educating the people. We peeled off the camouflaging meaning of Brahminism. We dug out their history from their own mouths and made them see what rich cultural heritage they have lost through the course of their anti-history in this country. We stood with them in their small struggles to build themselves up as a people with dignity and rights. Many of our friends called us mad and deserted us. Some even ostracized us from their circles. Some others joined hands with caste forces to make allegations against us. But we are one people. We stood together in this unprecedented Dalit resurgence. 

If only the Tumkur model is replicated in the rest of the country we do not have to knock so hard at the doors of the UN to come to our rescue. Our Indian rulers will have no other option but to establish constitutional rule in this country. When we speak of Dalitism we draw out only derision from Dalit leaders. How can an oppressed people be liberated with an ideology drawn from their history and culture? But we must acknowledge that with the type of present Dalit leadership in the country we may need another 200 years to achieve equality of our people in this country. Our people are ready to sacrifice anything for the sake of a bright future. Is the country ready for constitutional governance? Is Dalit leadership ready for constitutional governance through Indian Constitution or through Manu Smriti, or Bible or Quran to govern the Dalit people?

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