Letter to the President of India.
April 30, 2020
Dear Hon. President of India, Shri. Ram Nath Kovind ji:
You and I come from the same lineage. Our people have led epochal fights against the bane of untouchability.
Their lives were legislated by the horrendous codes of degradation and suffering overseen by the wretched, casteist Brahminical regime.
The media keeps asking me to comment on you; they would love to hear me criticize you so they can then have their churlish moment of fun. What a pity! I have refrained from these low blows because as a fellow Dalit, I value you.
Let me make this clear. I am writing this open letter to you because our tradition encourages honest, candid talk and heart to heart conversations. Neither do we believe in smear campaigns, nor in backchat. Many Brahmin and dominant caste people, who I sometimes call friends, lack the guts to do what I am doing. They would never muster the courage to call out their own through the legacy of the caste lens. I am less concerned about cowards. That is why I wanted to have this #DalitLove talk.
Just the other day, as every day for us, another news story perturbed me. A 11th standard science student in Rajasthan was going to deliver food for her family who was employed in the farm. On her way she was brutally raped by the monsters of her village and was eventually murdered. We lost a hope that day, a bright daughter of our country who could have grown up to become a doctor, a scientist, an astronaut, or — who knows — the country’s first Dalit female president.
But the caste injunctions were so strong that the rapists found her and finished her life, a violent end of the bright life. Let’s for a moment think about her parents, who so carefully brought her up. She must have been the laadli that they loved to have in the house. Her chuckle in the house would erase all the pains and hardships of their hard day of labor. Her father and mother must be full of pride to have their laadli pursuing further education. She was set to become the first-generation achiever. Sadly, we are now deprived of the opportunity to celebrate her success. Instead, now we mourn her violent murder and face the scary dark truth that she was murdered because she was a female Dalit student.
I am one of those who makes the entire casteist society shudder. My presence in educational institutions and public spaces creates intolerable fears and invokes insecurities in every particle of their body.
You and I are all that caste society dreads. We are its nightmare. They cannot make any sense of us. Their ancestors, I fear, failed to plant the seeds of egalitarianism and justice in their minds.
You are my elder and I will continue to revere you for being from my community. I will not indulge in the pathetic platitudes of self-hatred and self-loathing. I, for sure, have confidence that you are doing your best, even if that best is not visible to my eyes. I do hope, as a younger person of the same community you will offer me assurance and protection.
Your courageous stand against casteism and bigotry needs to shine through the midnight umber, like a dove slashing the moonlight.
There’s something else. The other day I got an email from the Commissioner of Police, Mumbai. The message was blank, and it was sent to Jt. Commissioner Law & Order copying me. I’m not sure what to make of this. Perhaps the commissioner likes the analysis in my columns and is impressed by my writing skills. If so, he should have said as much in the email. Whatever it may be, I am a lover of my grandma and in these circumstances, she would have said something like this: “you have far greater things to do”. She knows that her Babasaheb has given her enough rights that she can face the might of caste cyclone infused by the institution of state.
I had promised myself to not bore you with statistics and numbers, but I cannot finish this love letter without citing a few facts that remain with me like the aftershocks of a horrific nightmare.
The number of crimes committed against Dalits is heart crushing. Every 15 minutes a crime is committed against Dalits, every day 6 Dalit women are raped. In these statistics you and I are not excluded.
Babasaheb fought against M K Gandhi for getting us our rights and we got an unfavorable compromise in the name of reservation. That was one of the ways for us to seek rightful equality in an otherwise heavily segregated country. He said, “castes are anti-national”. Those who practice caste are truly anti-national.
I think we should have representative democracy. That is, we should know the percentage of each caste group living in this country. Based on those figures, we can then engage with redistribution of resources, so that no one stays poor, hungry, uneducated, unhealthy, and oppressed.
If Scheduled Castes are 18% then the reservation should be 18%, so is with OBCs who should get their due share and likewise with Brahmins, Baniyas, and Kshatriyas.
A recent paper published by the World Inequality Database shows that 10% upper caste households own 60% of the country’s wealth. Of these, Brahmins earn 48% above national average. Brahmins are allegedly less than 5% of India’s population.
I often wonder how one caste group can incur so much control and yet remain unchecked by the state and untouched by social stigmatizations. I am sure this causes you sleepless nights too.
Because I am a man of justice, I do not like to see such injustices brought upon me and my country. That is why I am frantic about inequality. Inequality is antithetical to independent democracy.
You once lamented that there were an “unacceptably low” number of women, SC/STs and OBCS in the judiciary. Let me tell you, that has not been corrected. Right now, as we speak there is no Dalit Chief Justice in any of the High Courts in India. It was recently reported that over 400 judges of 1079 are yet to occupy the seat in 25 High Courts in India.
Why would there be a slipshod to fill these posts unless, of course, administration is uninterested. The courts in India are feudal. The landed castes and dominant classes dominate the positions of lawyers and therefore they ascend into judicial posts. It is extremely difficult for Dalits or backward castes without adequate support to fill the sought-after posts. I am saying this out of my exposure and experience as a law graduate.
The Supreme Court recently got a Dalit, my fellow Maharashtrian, after a decade long gap in 2019. What horrible things were done in those ten years? We’ve got to come out with a summary of those judgements. In any case, the Supreme Court itself is tainted. The four senior judges of the same court had to attend a press conference to tell the country that everything was not well in the apex court.
Add to that there is no Adivasi sitting on the bench of the Supreme Court, which is beyond appalling. So now I am left to hope that some kind and gentle soul with ‘dominant caste’ background will look at me favorably to pronounce justice to me and my community. Why am I put on such pities?
It is unfathomable for my logic to surmount the fact that a Madhya Pradesh Brahmin can adjudicate the constitutionally mandated future of SC, ST, OBCs. How can a person untouched by the tentacles of caste and untouchability oversee a case that has not concerned his life experiences at all? It’s like asking a boys club to pronounce the verdict on female issues. Wait, but that’s exactly what happens. Well, I lost there.
Let me also try to give my two cents on the draconian laws that declare its own citizens as terrorists. Under these draconian legislations, a cop is given the wholesome right to decide the future of an individual. Keeping aside the provisions of fair justice, and criminal procedures one is dragged into the long and cumbersome procedures of court battles where the process becomes punishment. Sedition laws in IPC added with the UAPA, PSA, AFPSA, and NSA are extremely dangerous to common people’s democracy. Criminalizing poor people’s issues is to eliminate their presence in the country.
I am a student of history and looking at the present scenarios why does it feel like we are living in the times of British ruled India wherein the likes of Tilak and Gandhi too had to suffer the iron of state.
As a departing thought, I would betray the cause of Indian democracy if I do not express my concerns to the public and private media industry. Let me tell you how bad it is. People have lost trust and do not believe in anything that comes on screen. Democracy loving individuals, independent media ventures, comedians, YouTubers, social media channels and What’s Apps are currently carrying the heavy burden of dispatching the media. Our honorable prime minister, Mr. Narendra Modi has not faced the media. Yes, he may have a differing opinion of the media, but that doesn’t mean he can rusticate the health of democratic accountability. Even President Trump faces the media, he might disagree with them, but he has not kept himself aloof from public accountability.
There are far many issues I would like to discuss. One of them that is urgent is the environmental catastrophe. I say this as an Indian but also as a fellow inhabitant of this planet. There are certain natural disasters that humans make.
You and I know this phase is going to pass and time is going to be the prime judge. A self-respecting person will never betray the time. I do not want to inherit a broken country far compromised on the principles of compassion and forgiveness.
Our legacy — I mean yours and mine — is predicated on these sacred values. We ought to now inject these into the masses.
With profound respect and admiration to you and Savita ji. I wish you both a very good health. Till later.