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Is casteism an escape route against political criticism?

Is casteism an escape route against political criticism?
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Is casteism an escape route against political criticism?

Highlights

Constantly reminding people of their caste roots and using caste for their political ends was the defining characteristic of rulers either under British times or in post-independence India

Constantly reminding people of their caste roots and using caste for their political ends was the defining characteristic of rulers either under British times or in post-independence India. It is the same tactic, under which they are now accusing Narayana and Ramakrishna of Kamma bias (they don't even know that Ramakrishna is not a Kamma) and are accusing Narayana of being casteist and supporting Chandrababu Naidu.

A vicious campaign is unleashed in the media and social media. This is an act of cowardice. It is also a bad precedent in the present day degraded political situation. It requires open and unbiased discussion on this sort of perverted mudslinging. This sort of perverted accusations in the name of caste leads to an ugly situation, where any political criticism can be given caste colour. This causes enormous damage to democratic criticism. It is very convenient to raise the bogey of caste and faith to provoke illogical passions among people.

Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia warned of such an impending danger decades back. The British rulers used 'divide-and-rule'tactics by exploiting caste and religious differences among the people. And the present-day rulers are treading on the same dangerous path. Dr. Lohia asserted that, Indian renaissance is possible only by putting up a sustained struggle against religious dogma and the plague of casteism. That is the only way that India and its democracy can survive and prosper.

It is our historical misfortune that we get stamped with a caste the moment we are born and it sticks with us, whether we want it or not. At least you can convert to another faith, but not caste. Latest genetic study reveals that many times in the past, there was upward movement of many groups in the caste hierarchy, but Manu Dharma has put an end to it two thousand years ago. An ordinary person cannot be accused identifying himself with his caste – because it has been imbibed in to us over many generations. But any leader, who has been entrusted by the people with the responsibility to run this state or nation, does not have the privilege of touting his caste.

By doing so, he will be doing great injustice to his constitutional responsibilities. When you are incapable of answering questions in a democratic manner, caste is an escape route – it is very convenient to divert criticism by saying the other person is casteist. They believe that they can silence opponents and get away with their misdeeds. Unfortunately, those presently running the state of AP believe in and practice this kind of low level tactics. Dr. YS Rajasekhara Reddy had been in Andhra Pradesh politics for decades and was the helm of the government. To my knowledge, he had never degraded himself by resorting to caste-bias. Nor did he encourage his followers to indulge in ugly casteist spats. But only the Almighty might reveal from whom his sibling had inherited this noble quality.

History proves that it is the Communists who stood at the forefront of the fight against caste discrimination and casteism. Even before Dr. Ambedkar, it is the socialist and progressive intellectuals who encouraged and propagated inter-caste marriages to eradicate caste. And the communists, as their rightful inheritors of this great movement, had set an example by marrying out of their caste. And this is an ongoing tradition among communists. In my personal life, I have consented to the choice of my son and daughter to go for inter caste marriages with their chosen life partners. Accusing communists of caste-bias is like throwing stones at the sun.

140 years ago, Marx had the foresight to say that "caste will be used by the ruling classes in India to divide and exploit the people. And we are today witness to this orgy of caste politics. Some vested interests have a special agenda in accusing communists of caste bias – with the aim of advancing their communal and casteist agenda. Those immersed neck deep in communal politics will one day realize that their poisonous vitriol will boomerang on them.

It is the CPI which had tried to build a third Alternative to Congress and TDP in 2014, by bringing Chiranjeevi in to the fold. But our Central leadership had not given consent. And in 2019, CPI and CPM had alliance with Pavan Kalyan's Jana Sena. Where is the caste bias in this? And none accused us of caste bias at that time.

We did not have alliance with TDP in 2014 or 2019. So, according to them, if Communists are in their favour, they are without caste bias and if otherwise, they can be accused of everything under the sun. When TDP was in power, YSRCP had abdicated its responsibility as the opposition party and was busy conducting padayatras. Even without any representation in the Assembly, it is the communists who questioned and fought against the TDP government's anti-people policies. It is Chandra Babu who had jailed our Ramakrishna in Anantapur.

And do not forget that it is CPI, CPM and other Left parties who had put up sustained fight against the electricity reforms of Chandrababu. And as an opposition party, the Congress under YSR also participated in the struggle. Was Jagan's esteemed father unmindful of my caste? When YSR said that he will employ a hundred ploughs to till the assigned land allotted to Ramoji Film City, and build huts for the poor, I suggested that double the market cost of the land should be collected as penalty. And at that time, some leaders suddenly remembered my caste and began attacking me.

Let me make it amply clear that communists will criticise and struggle against anti-people policies and never on the basis of caste. With Jagan Mohan Reddy attaining power, caste politics and attacking people on the basis of caste has reached a crescendo. And he has an army of blind and self-interested followers to implement his evil agenda. All along, communists are putting up fight against the anti-people policies and surrendering to vested interests by those in power. But YS Jagan has this dictatorial tendency and could not tolerate democratic criticism. He seems to be the rightful heir to Hitler and Mussolini.

The communists had opened up a public debate and put up fight against land grabbing by the rich and powerful in Visakhapatnam and elsewhere under Chandra Babu's government. As a result of our struggle, the government had appointed a Special Investigation Team (SIT). What is the fate of this SIT Report? The land-grabbers were protected by the TDP government. And now, they have taken shelter under the present government.

It is CPI which was first in passing a resolution recommending that Amaravati should be the capital. The TDP government had declared Amaravati as the capital and YSRCP had supported it. Even today, CPI stands firmly behind the decision of Capital City. Whatever might be the stand of TDP, CPI is firmly behind the decision on Amaravati as the Capital City. But YSRCP had changed its stand and is playing viscous games. The peasants who had sacrificed their lands for the Capital City were hand-cuffed and we vehemently opposed this. And the YSRCP government is trying to politicize and blackmail people over this, by issuing warning and threats.

Or, take the case of the appointment of State Election Commissioner. Only the Parliament has the power to remove him abruptly, not even the President of India. But still, YS Jagan had the temerity to take an unconstitutional decision. And the CPI had opposed this unconstitutional act of the AP CM. YSR CP reacts by attacking us of caste bias! As a citizen, the AP CM can express his dissent over the decision of the Supreme Court. But does it warrant calling a press conference?

CPI is not opposed to action on Ex-Minister Accennaayudu for any impropriety while in office. But how came he was brought all the way from Srikakulam to Vijayawada under escort in a car as if he were a terrorist? The pleas of Acchennaidu that he was recovering for an operation fell on deaf years. How can you justify this? If the same treatment were to be meted out to you or your ministers, at a future date, when you are in opposition? How will you react? We will take the same stand now and in future.

Recently, hundreds of acres of land under GITAM University in Visakhapatnam, was taken over overnight and demolitions carried out. Who will gain from these demolitions? Does not the government follow a standard procedure set out to tackle illegal encroachments? What is the case with Idupulapaya? How did it suddenly become holy place? Who was behind the morphing of this land in to a pious place?

As soon as the Telangana Government took office, KCR had ordered demolition of private buildings in Ayyappa Society lands in Hyderabad. At that time, myself and our Chada Venkata Reddy had protested. KCR had a meeting with us and explained the story from Kisara to Ayyappa Society. He told us that it is the YSR family members who had illegally occupied the land and why CPI should fight on their behalf?

50-60 per cent of the houses in Ayyappa Society were built by local people. YSR's family members might be owning a few buildings. We questioned the mad act of demolitions. These buildings had not come up overnight. The administration is equally culpable in allowing illegal occupations and constructions. We told KCR, that instead of resolving this issue utilizing BRS, resorting to demolitions is political vendetta and sheer waste of the nation's resources. Can you accuse our party of supporting YSR family?

As an opposition party, CPI will criticise and put up a fight against all anti-people policies of the ruling parties and governments. CPI will never carry the ruling party on its shoulders, whether right or wrong. The main vested propaganda of YSRCP is that we are a B-Team of TDP. Why has it not entered your head when Congress had come together with the Left Parties in the fight against TDP government?

CPI has got its own political programme and takes a principled stand on all issues concerning the people. We may go for joint struggles with other parties. If the present YSRCP government takes up development work that benefits the state and people, we welcome it. And we will not hesitate to criticize and put up a tough fight when they resort to anti-people policies. As the main opposition, TDP may put up a fight against the government. But till now, we had not gone for any united action with the TDP. But at the same time, it does not mean that we are carrying TDP on our shoulders. Does this kind of perverted criticism pass of as political strategy?

And now the BJP government at the Centre is going to sink the whole Polavaram project into oblivion. And they have come out with Anti-farmer Bill and Anti-people Electricity Reforms. And both YSR CP and TDP fell over each other to support these nefarious and poisonous Bills in the Parliament. Does it mean that YSRCP and TDP have become clones of each other? Instead of defending the interests of the people of AP, these two parties are busy currying favours with Modi. Dr. Ambedkar's foresight that the ruling political parties will resort to mudslinging and communal divisions in the face of political opposition is ringing true in our ears today. And more so in the case of Andhra Pradesh. This is perverted politics and can do enormous damage to polity and the ruling party. The sooner they shed this caste perversion, the better it is for ruling party and for the people of the state.

(The author is National Secretary, Communist Party of India)

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