Good Evening everyone. Greetings to you all on the occasion of Indian Independence Day. I am not anti Indian. I wish the Indian people every happiness, good health, prosperity and wealth.
Its on occasions like this that we take a few moments to reflect on what is happening in India today. There is no doubt independence deserves to be celebrated but there is a darker side that Independent India has not lived up to the dreams of its founding fathers.
It is argued that 71 years is not long enough for a young democracy to resolve all its problems. All the ills are blamed on the British, if not the British then the Muslims, if not the Muslims then religious minorities and then Dalits – the scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes who number over 250 million people. Not much is said about taking personal responsibility. It is always the other that is blamed.
There is a shift towards right wing politics the world over accentuated by the election of the US president Donald Trump. India had already led the charge, on a national scale, towards right wing politics since the election of the BJP government in 2014.
This lurch towards the right is also seen in Britain when the country voted to leave the European union. Clever politicians play into the fears and prejudices of people and try to befool and beguile the masses into a false sense of security. This lurch towards right-wing politics must be resisted as it threatens progressive and liberal values built over centuries.
Indian constitution burned
A strange event occurred on 9th August 2018, in India at Jantar Mantar New Delhi when the Indian constitution was burned. I say strange because, firstly, the holding of the event was given clearance by the police and secondly, the Indian constitution was burned whilst the police were present at the scene.
When burning the constitution, the Organisers were yelling slogans like :
Savidhan jalao, desh bachao ! Ambedkar Murda Bad ! Manuvad Zindabad ! SC /ST Act murda bad
Not until a FIR was filed against the mob, with video evidence, that the police took notice and swung into action resulting in the arrest of two people as reprted by the media.
The video showed 20-30 people (perhaps more) directly engaged in sloganising and burning the Indian constitution. The entire mob should have been charged and arrested under the Prevention of National Honour Act 1971 which states that whoever in any public place or in any other place within public view burns, mutilates, defaces, defiles, disfigures, destroys, tramples upon or otherwise shows disrespect to or brings into contempt the Indian National Flag or the constitution of India or any part thereof shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 3 years or with fine or both.
During their probe, police found that two organisations — Youth Equality Foundation (Azad Sena) and Arakshan Virodhi Party held the protest at Parliament Street.
No senior ranking politician of the BJP led government has condemned the burning of the Indian constitution. Mainstream Television channels have not condemned the incident and have moslt stayed silent.
The dilution of the SC/ST Act by Justices AK Goel and UU Lalit caused a nationwide protest which has now resulted in the restoration of the SC/ST act by a recent vote in the Indian Parliament
The burning of the Indian constitution came in the wake of the Indian Parliament passing that Bill to restore the SC/ST act on Thursday 9th August.
You will recall , way back in December 28, 2017, Union Minister Anant Kumar Hegde reportedly said that “Today, we follow Ambedkar ‘smriti’… it will change in the future. We are here to change the Constitution.” He later withdrew his remarks accusing the media of ‘twisting’ his comments!
So what do we see in India today under the present BJP-led Government
In India Mob lynching has been taken to a whole new dimension. The cow is sacred but not human life. In the name of Gau-Rakshak, mobs are free to roam around to kill with impunity. I wish to share with you that during the Vedic period, the cow was ceremoniously slaughtered and offered in a sacrifice to the gods. No god came down to earth to consume the slaughtered cow but humans assumed the role of god, namely Brahmins who called themselves bhudevas to consume the slaughtered cow.
Today, emboldened by the BJP in power, the rise of Hindutva ideology is threatening the social fabric of India with its escalation of attacks on religious minorities and Dalits in particular. This emboldened ideology is antinational.
Hindutva forces continue to unleash violent reign of terror and repression on Dalits, Muslims and other minorities.
The president of India , Shri Ram Nath Kovind in his Independence day speech said that Gandhiji’s most noble mantra was to point out that the power of ahinsa is far greater than the power of hinsa.
Unfortunately this mantra clearly has had no effect on the masses and those in power , especially Dalits and religious minorities continue to suffer violence.
According to the NCRB data. A total of 40,801 cases of crime against scheduled castes were registered in the country in 2015 compared to 38,670 cases in 2015.
In 2016, the rate of crime against scheduled castes of total cognisable crimes in Madhya Pradesh was 43.4 per cent followed by 42 per cent in Rajasthan, 36.7 per cent in Goa, 34.4 per cent in Bihar and 32.5 per cent in Gujarat. The all-India crime rate against scheduled castes was 20.6 per cent last year.
What is the main cause of poverty in India?
High population growth rate is one of major reasons of poverty in India. This further leads to high level of illiteracy, poor health care facilities and lack of access to financial resources. … Caste system and unequal distribution of income and resources is another reason of poverty in India as acknowledged by economists.
Dr Ambedkar: Political and Communal Majorities
Ambedkar said what’s the point in getting political freedom from the British only to continue in slavery under the caste Hindus. He demanded political safeguards for the Untouchables as he felt they would continue to be crushed by the Caste Hindus.
During his early career, he tried to stir the conscious of the Caste Hindus to introspect about their religion. He wanted to transform Hindu Society. But to no avail.
He then turned to the British as the sovereign authority to grant special protection for his people. His power of persuasion convinced the British that Untouchables are special case so deserve special protection in terms of political representation and social development. Congress Party under the leadership of Gandhi opposed the demands of the Untouchables. Gandhi went onto fast unto death on Sep 16, 1932 resisting the political demands of the Untouchables.
Gandhi conducted 17 fasts during his lifetime . None of them were fasts unto death apart from when Dr Ambedkar won over the British to grant separate electorates to the Untouchables.
Despite universal suffrage granted as per the constitution, Dr Ambedkar continued to feel helpless for his people being able to exercise their vote effectively as they were too poor and illiterate. He started newspapers and established colleges to educate them.
He demanded separate settlements for the Untouchables and also at one time out of desperation he recommended to the Untouchables they should migrate to foreign lands to escape the curse of Caste and Untouchability – subject I will return to later.
On political and communal majority, Dr Ambedkar said,
Majorities are of two sorts:
(1) communal majority and
(2) political majority.
A political majority is changeable in its class composition. A political majority grows. A communal majority is born. The admission to a political majority is open. The door to a communal majority is closed. The politics of political majority are free to all to make and unmake. The politics of communal majority are made by its own members born in it.
Today, Caste and Religion continue to dominate political discourse India.
In August, 2016, the Gujarat Government withdrew a schoolbook on Ambedkar because it contained the oaths Dr Ambedkar which he had prescribed when he denounce Hinduism to embrace Buddhism in 1956.
India’s darkest hour
You will recall that 49 ex IAS officers wrote o the Prime Minister of India in the backdrop of Unnao and Kathua rape cases and called it India’s darkest hour. It was also reported that over 600 academics and institutions also wrote to the Indian PM expressing deep concern over the escalation of rapes and murders.
Under the guise of developmental agenda the country is sliding towards dictatorship which is undermining and threatening the social fabric. This internal threat is far severe then any threat from external aggression. The very core of Indian polity is being torn to pieces by the policies of the BJP led government whether this be in the sphere of social welfare, education , human rights, law and order , judiciary.
You will recall, there was an application filed for the impeachment of the Chief Justice of India . An event unprecedented.
According to a recent NDTV survey, political hate speech has risen 500 %. Attacks on Dalits and religious minorities have escalated.
After the Bhima Koregaon incident tens of thousands were falsely arrested.
After the recent Bharat Bandh on 2nd April inflamed by the supreme court judgment that diluted the SC/ST Atrocities act , thousands were falsely arrested and charged and imprisoned.
Today, Dalits are rising to assert their Social , Political and Human Rights as guaranteed by the Indian Constitution – values that are a direct challenge to BJP-RSS hegemony and the rise of Hindutva ideology who want to impose the manusmirti upon the people of India.
In his book Pakistan or partition of India (1946 pages 354-355) , Dr Ambedkar writes that
If a Hindu Raj does become a fact, it will, no doubt be the greatest calamity for this country … Hindu Raj must be prevented at any cost
Ambedkar wrote in a memorandum on the Rights of States and Minorities dated March 24 1947 which he submitted to the sub-committee on Fundamental Rights, he wrote,
Unfortunately for the minorities in India, Indian nationalism has developed a new doctrine which may be called the Divine Right of the majority to rule the minorities according to the wishes of the majority. Any claim for the sharing of power the minority is called communalism, while the monopolising of the whole power the majority is called nationalism.
Later in the constituent assembly defending the special status of the minorities he forewarned
To diehards who have developed a kind of fanaticism against minority protection, I would like to say two things. One is that minorities are an explosive force which if it erupts, can blow up the whole fabric of the state. The history of Europe bears ample and appalling testimony to this fact. The other is that minorities in India have agreed to place their existence in the hands of the majority… it is for the majority to realise its duty not to discriminate against minorities..’
Ambedkar warned that there is danger of democracy giving place to dictatorship in India.
I will now return briefly to my earlier comment citing Dr Ambedkar’s advise to the Untouchables to escape the curse of Caste and Untouchability they should migrate to foreign lands
Most of you will be aware that CasteWatchUK began a campaign in 2003 to outlaw caste based discrimination in Britain which the British acknowledged does exist.
After a long fought campaign the British Government caved into pressure from Hindus and Sikhs and announced on 23rd July 2018, it will not be implementing the caste law as envisaged by Equality Act 2010 Section 9(5) but instead the government will now be taking steps to repeal the Caste provision.
The government ran a public consultation from 28 March 2017 to 18 September 2017.
Of the 16,138 consultation responses, analysis indicated that:
• 8,513 respondents were ‘in favour of relying on case-law’; • 2,885 respondents were ‘in favour of legislation’; • 3,588 respondents rejected both options; • 1,113 respondents were ‘not sure’ which was the better option; • 1 respondent was in favour of either option; and
British Government says that a separate Caste provision is not required and suggest caste could be covered by an existing ethnic origins provision. This means reliance is placed on case law to develop. This means the victims will have to go through expensive long drawn legal battle to get justice. This alone is a massive deterrent for victims to seek justice to the delight of offenders who can continue to abuse and harass people on the basis of caste.
In a press release , I said that : Government has not lived up to its bold commitment ‘that no one should suffer prejudice or discrimination on any grounds , including any perception of their caste’ and sold out to the opposing side, no doubt for political reasons with an eye on Hindu and Sikh votes , a section amongst them were the main antagonists. No doubt Government also had an eye on trade and commercial overseas interests.
The National Council of Hindu Temples stated that it ‘ welcomes the Governments conclusion and the proposed course of action, regarding the issue of “Caste Discrimination” Legislation’
The NCHT stated that ‘ we established links with the Sikh and Jan communities and working very closely with the HFB, amongst other groups and together managed to encourage over 8,000 British Hindus to respond.’
It further adds that ‘ Our thanks also go to Hon Bob Blackman MP, Chair of the APPG for British Hindus and the Hindu Parliamentarians and community leaders, who stepped forward to teach the community about Parliamentary processes and who guided and supported our forays into the arcane waters of statutory legislation. Finally on behalf of the Hindu Temples of the UK, we are grateful to PM Rt Hon Theresa May, her Government and Secretary of State Rt Hon Sajid Javid for arriving at an entirely just conclusion.’
Statement from Prakash Shah, Anti Caste Legislation Committee:
The government’s decision came after it consulted whether the legislation’s duty should be enacted or whether only the intervening case law, through which the courts had already read ‘caste’ into the Act’s ‘ethnic group’ provision, should be retained. In so doing, it misleadingly presented the choice as being between the two options. The source of this choice probably lies in the suggestion by prominent Hindu lawyers that the coming online of recent case should allow the legislative duty to slide. Among these are Manoj Ladwa, informally Prime Minister Modi’s attaché for British affairs who campaigned for the London Mayor’s electoral contest, and Jayesh Jotangia, who leads the secretariat for the All Party Parliamentary Group for British Hindus.
The signal was given at high levels that well positioned Hindus would be satisfied with the ending of the legislative duty, while the case law could be retained without attracting opposition. The Government latched on to the plan, buying time enough for the case law to be finalised.
It is clear from Shah’s above quote that the British pronouncement to reach the repeal decision was connected to PM Narendra Modi.
Statement from Equality and Human Rights Commission :
Victims of caste discrimination will continue to have limited legal protection by the government ruling out a change in the law and restricting the scope of protection to what can be interpreted through case law. The government has missed a crucial opportunity to improve legal clarity and has taken a step back by looking to repeal the duty to include caste as an aspect of race in the Equality Act 2010. This is inconsistent with the UK’s international obligations to provide for separate and distinct protection for caste in our legislation. While we welcome the government’s commitment to produce guidance for employers, service providers and landlords on the sort of conduct that would be unlawful under the Equality Act, it does not replace the need for separate and distinct protection against caste discrimination in the law.
I issued a further statement :
The present Tory government not only lost its moral authority but holds parliament in contempt that you can see the way it manages Brexit. British parliament passed the caste law to protect victims of caste
discrimination and empowered minister of the crown to implement that decision not to repeal that decision. The government sat on that legislation for 5 years and now rides roughshod over parliaments decision.
The Tory governments in the past had expressed to abolish human rights and with it the EHRC . It lies in their natural instinct to stem the flow towards equality and human rights in general.
The EHRC announcement did the honourable thing to uphold the principle of human rights and in particular Equality by declaring support for caste discrimination protection. Our campaign to outlaw caste discrimination remains unfinished business.
Thank you for your time.