Ajith Kumar AS,
I read your letter on the Round Table India website that was addressed to “whomsoever it may concern” and being concerned, I choose to reply.
I can act all intellectual and Brahmanical over this or I can simply lay it straight. Your letter was a hatchet job on TM Krishna over his caste. You saw his caste in the manner in which he wrote and chose to attack him over it, with scant regard for his message that you were attacking in the process.
While contempt and a sense of being misappropriated or somehow lorded over by Brahmins that dalit fundamentalists promote for Brahmins is something that bothers me for the sake of dalits, this letter is not about that, it is as a citizen of India. I think I’ll use that royal “we” as well, since it bugs you. Feel free to make an exception for yourself, but not dalits as a whole, because you have as much right to speak for dalits as TM Krishna has for Indians.
I don’t think dalits will universally have a problem with a call to condemn violence being made to the Prime Minister, the way you seem to have. If they do, they are free to state it as well.
As a citizen of India, I do not think India’s interests are served by discrediting a voice calling for sanity in the face of communal violence.
The only other thing I want to mention here is the absurdity of the allegation you make on TM Krishna in order to discredit him and thus devalue his message.
The privilege/power/social status of the Brahmin/caste Hindu self hides itself by claiming as “we citizens” who “have been abused, ridiculed and trivialized”. This is how progressive upper castes confront the shame of the privilege they enjoy. Who among the “Indians” enjoy full citizenship? Who are denied citizenship? Why certain communities are always asked to prove their loyalty to the country or that they are “Indians”? These questions are never being addressed. By talking for the victims Krishna presents himself as a victim – the “citizen”.
It may have escaped your notice, but people condemning the rising crimes by Hindutva fanatics are indeed across castes and religions. As are victims. Narendra Dabholkar, a victim of this fanaticism, was a Brahmin. As is Nikhil Wagle, who got threatened for questioning Hindutva zealotry. I am a Brahmin and have often spoken up for the rights of all sorts of citizens and faced the anger of the Hindutva brigade for it.
A reader recently pointed out that those opposing religious or caste discrimination among Brahmins face far more risk than dalit activists – who get more ignored, while we threaten to split the consensus fanatics count on and must be silenced.
Us suffering differently from you does not make us fake. Nor is a call to stop inhumanity a claim of personal victimhood.
As Brahmins, we have our own style of speaking, as do you. Attacking us because we don’t speak like you does not make you inherently correct, it just is an ad hominem attack.
What you did, in effect was asserted your copyright to object to suffering for dalit by making it explicit that a Brahmin did not have the right to do it.
And you used a nasty personal attack as your weapon. The letter was not about TM Krishna’s caste, his music or what you read into his inclusion. You could have objected to it upfront whenever he did it, instead of use it to discredit his words on another subject you wanted him to not have legitimacy on. Because, in your bigotted little narrow world, an unworthy Brahmin must be on the side of oppression whether he wants to be or not.
Your attempt to hold the copyright on victimhood was excellent, but I read your letter and unlike many others, I do not hesitate to confront fundamentalism regardless of the identity of the fundamentalist. To me, caste equality also means the same contempt for fundamentalists as upper caste or Islamic fundamentalists. I won’t trivialize dalits by going “Never mind, what harm can a dalit do to a brahmin’s reputation?” Because I listen to your voice, and respect it, I also have a problem when it is hostile or unfair. Because the harm you did wasn’t to a Brahmin, but to the overall interest of India when you did a hatchet job on someone objecting to hate crimes. Incidentally, dalits also suffer from hate crimes from the same band of zealots you undermined condemnation of. Your action helped your real oppressors, as opposed to someone you attacked just for his caste.
TM Krishna was indeed abused, ridiculed and trivialized by the same caste and religion supremacists that killed and then defended the killing in Dadri. The idea that because you were harmed, others not you are faking and hiding among “real victims” has been done by Islamists and Hindutvawadis and KKK and a dozen agents profiteering from radicalizing communities they represent before you.
What you in effect did with your open letter was to neatly separate the dalits from a whole because a Brahmin spoke for it. Your validity to refuse inclusion of dalits from this group is no greater than TM Krishna’s for including all Indians, dalits included. Being able to do a personal attack does not make you right.
Perhaps you see a part speaking for the whole as an appropriation because that is what you are trying to do with a blog called “Round Table India – for an informed Ambedkar age”? It isn’t called Round Table Dalits. Is that your subtle psyops agenda which is why you interpret someone else doing it as sinister? Because TM Krishna clearly did not even explicitly try to represent dalits or any specific identity beyond citizens.
In effect, what you achieved was saying, TM Krishna, speak for yourself and your caste when you demand the condemnation, we and our castes demand no such thing. It wasn’t TM Krishna looking down at dalits, it was YOU who went out of your way to invent a suppression based on his caste and refused to be included.
What would you call someone who explicitly excluded themselves from a condemnation of crimes against dalits? That is what I think of you when you exclude yourself from a condemnation of a crime against an Indian. A Muslim in this instance.
And no, I don’t recognize your authority to exclude dalits when Indians as a whole are mentioned. Nor would Ambedkar, I think.
Blogger. Indian. Brahmin.
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