Views on Mayawati and what they tell us
I have yet to meet a Savarna feminist who admires Mayawati. I’ll just cite two incidents that reassured my belief that caste trumps gender and other progressive politics.
A few years ago, at an event at Yale University, I was invited to be part of a panel to discuss parliamentary elections and parties. The conversation was mapped out in the colonial-Brahmanic discourse of the Hindu-Muslim dichotomy. The panel included savarnas and a tribal activist. After the event, panelists insisted on having a feminist perspective on the Indian elections. They criticized the Modi government for its failure to give women fair representation.
Some of those in attendance were the sort to be morning liberals, afternoon progressives, night radicals – and full-time castist chauvinists. Then the topic moved to the Dalits. They decried the state of Dalit politics in unison.
I presented my take on the political culture around Dalits and the faith in one of its behemoths, Mayawati.
As soon as they heard the “M” word, they erupted into hungry dissonance. The Northeastern tribal activist said, âMayawati is such a bad influence. It is corrupt and inefficient. Female feminists and liberal male feminists agreed.
I asked what was the proof of such accusations. No one got an answer. The activist admitted that she didn’t know much about mainland Indian politics, but had definitive views on Mayawati.
I asked them if they considered Mayawati to be a woman? Did they think that their feminist solidarity could extend to a celibate politician, who made her way in a Brahmanico-patriarchal society? Could they think of someone like Mayawati in India who had defied all known norms and set new frontiers in politics and social revolution? Is there a figure that could rival Mayawati’s status and history?
The activist replied that Mayawati was not suited to Indian politics, that she had dictatorial leanings. A Pakistani political scientist who was present pushed back, asking the activist to imagine the meaning of feminism, and why didn’t they apply the same rules to the politicians they admired.
Another incident. I was invited to speak at a conference in Washington DC One of those in attendance was a Tamil Brahmin teacher, a self-proclaimed “brown feminist” struggling against white supremacy. His views of Mayawati were so crude that they would not pass the editorial policy of this newspaper. Suffice it to note that she, an American Indian, had no relevant knowledge of Mayawati.
The same level of discomfort is observed in the case of Lalu Prasad and Hemant Soren, respectively OBC and Scheduled Tribe.
Such liberal and privileged caste scholars and activists in the West show the ancestral bigotry running in their blood.
Like Mayawati, Mamata Banerjee is a female leader of a national political party. But she has the privilege of being a Brahmin and gets an easy pass.
The Savarnas are united in their challenge to Mayawati even though it has appointed Brahmins to head the party
in Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha.
If the New Awakened Culture is truly committed to portraying marginalized identities, it won’t find a better alternative than Mayawati. She ticks all the boxes of progressivism and redemption. She is a woman, a single woman, Dalit, from a backward region and revered by the most marginalized and rejected masses of the country.
A triple chief minister of one of the biggest states, who has made inclusiveness and development the raison d’Ãªtre of her administration, but who has seen the media and experts ignore the same.
If only people start examining themselves through the critical caste approach, they could be honest enough to realize the value of BSP. If whites in America can support a black person, is it a waste of energy to think of privileged castes rallying to Mayawati across India?
If Mayawati is not an option for feminists, progressives, and awakening culture, then it is a charlatan house dedicated to eradicating the Dalit self-respect movement, and no attention should be paid. granted to their abuses peddled as opinions.
The writer is the author of Caste Matters and takes care of the âDalitalityâ section