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3

Rape apologist is a term I have become very familiar with it. Every time there is an outrage on social media with accusations of rape or harassment made against a man, my refusal to join in or my questioning of the e-lynchings is interpreted as supporting crimes against women. Thankfully, I'm not particularly dependent on public approval for my well being, so no harm done. Yet. But this bothers me on another level. There seems something fundamentally wrong in how we see gender conflicts.

What is more important? A gender functional society or proving men wrong?

This is important to identify because the goal will determine the means we use. To prove men wrong (which appears to be the popular preference), not much is needed. You simply condemn them. Over and over. Attack them if they defend themselves, attack anyone who interferes in the process. Rinse, repeat. We have been doing this for a while. So where is the change? Where is the progress toward the goal? It is already established that men are the greater perpetrators of crimes against women than vice versa. What new thing do we prove?

My preference is a gender functional society. I am content to leave the process of fixing blame on the courts and focus my attention on how the problems can be prevented. I see no reason to judge an accused with the information available to me unless there is evidence that the legal process is being subverted. Then social effort is the inferior fallback. That too should eventually lead to the courts. I prefer to see women as individuals of varying capacity - as the feminists insist we should - see them as people. So I have no idea why we infantalize them and lower the bar of their autonomy so low that they basically trip into justice?

Not all women are powerless, truthful or fair

This particularly goes for upper middle class women in situations that are short of physical violence. Women of this class are increasingly actualized and assertive. They are most certainly capable of being the powerful person in the relationship (and thus having the power to abuse). They are certainly capable of lying, just as men are. They are capable of emotional manipulation (actually women who do this tend to be better than men at it, because men have considerably less emotional maturity and thus the skills to manipulate successfully). They can gaslight a partner just as surely as a partner can gaslight them. They are people. In all the dimensions that involves. It is very patronizing to consider them capable of being nothing more than victims, always (though the smarter the woman is, the more she will use this to her advantage).

No, I am not saying women are evil, or inherently manipulative and men are innocent. I am simply pointing out that BOTH are people. With all their flaws and vulnerabilities. If you want one of them to win and you take sides, fair enough, but let us not pretend it is a process of justice then, it is a gangwar between two sides. My preference is to hear both of them and ensure both of them are allowed to speak. To support the woman in following processes to get justice as well as support the man if he is being denied a voice in the name of protecting the woman. Hopefully at some point it resolves or goes to court where better people than me will judge.

Not all abusive men are malicious

Society raises men with some godawful defaults. Men, being on top of this foodchain have little reason to evaluate their privilege unless there is a compelling reason. This is not right. It is not wrong. It is what it is till something changes it. If we mean to change it, how are we planning to? By discarding the inferior specimen or upgrading them? Are they totally useless or do they have insights for us? What happens when a specimen did all the right things and then fucked up? Have you never fucked up witht he opposite gender? I have. I have completely missed all signs of reluctance in an inexperienced man when I was horny. He didn't refuse. I assumed consent. He didn't initiate, I assumed playing safe with a woman. He seemed horny. In reality he was attracted, but not expecting sex at all and he was not even close to feeling ready for it, let alone being ambushed by a much more experienced woman. He'd never had sex. When I realized, I felt like a lecherous pot-bellied uncle pawing at a kid. Thankfully I'm a woman. Also thankfully, I realized it before it went too far and before he was forced to speak up. I apologized. I hear it is a proof of guilt these days. It was still wrong. I did it. I learned what not to do from it. I didn't do it again. But it was completely unintended and I apologized and stopped when I learned. That is the magic word.

If we are to prevent gender violence, we need to engage with men. That needs to be a higher priority than cornering them for a lynching. Does this mean you become a "rape apologist"? No. Does it mean I forgive men if they say sorry? No. It means being aware that while you may enjoy being Jhansi ki Raani, the forgivenesss is neither mine nor yours to give. We are not the people wronged (except when we are, then of course it is our call). We best serve by keeping a dialogue open instead of shutting people up by speaking for them or not letting them speak. By supporting both, but also recognizing that women can be disproportionately more vulnerable to intimidation or violence and being protective observers. In other words, offering the conflict a safe space to play out. This can be as simple as calling an action unacceptable, but not taking sides and imposing our own preferred judgments.

But I don't believe that mass condemnations fulfill any useful purpose. An actual creep just adds to his bogus victim narrative and a genuinely regretful person cannot afford to hold the right stand because it will make him a target. At the same time, if the victim needs assistance and asks for it, we must extend it. If we believe she needs assistance and she hasn't asked for it, we may offer it. Beyond that, this business of targeting people is little more than a Khap Panchayat conducted on social media. Where random tinpot dictators carry out punishments on whim.

Not all wrongs are crimes

Divorce rates are rising rapidly. Relationships are breaking all the time. Almost each one of them will come to a bitter end before splitting. That is a lot of bitterness. And each one will have their own version of the story. People lie to their partners, they cheat on them, they say ugly, hurtful things, they fight, they are unfair to each other, they rewrite memories of time together through various interpretations in hindsight.... it is all human behavior. Men make passes at women, women can be so paranoid of misbehavior that they may see it in an ignorant action.

To me, a big part of what is right and wrong is intent. Whether the person intends hate or harm or whether it is an entitled idiot. Idiots can be educated. Malice is deliberate. It is in the interest of both men and women that there be education for the idiots and the punishments be reserved for malice. And I am saying this as a person who has been on the receiving end of serious wrongs at the hands of men. Some I will never forgive, others hurt more, but I knew it was an idiot, not a villain.

There is a legitimate space for counselling, for social dialogue, mediation, that is rapidly being lost in the lust to come down hard on "what we cannot accept" - it has become an exhibition of our own ethics more than a quest for functional solutions. When you see an idiot, there is no point saying his mother should have raised him better, it is better if you engage with him and help him evolve his thinking. I do that. Which is how I know a lot of people learn.

A lot of men learn the opposite too from the lynch mob culture

In recent years, I have seen men who would normally identify as "feminists" and lecture me about my sneering at feminists come to very very serious trouble over their actions with intimate partners. Actions they most certainly regret and don't defend at all. Actions they did not realize till too late were wrong. They have lost jobs, they have lost friends, they have been completely uprooted from life as they knew it. All three have sworn off intimate relationships for life. They are decent people. I have also heard a real creep say that if he's been branded as a rapist, he might as well rape. In none of the cases was the impact what one would hope for, for a functional society.

One could argue that the world is better off with them being single. Forever. It is a matter of perspective. I think people who tend to do wrong need intimacy even more than most, and they would be better off learning how to be functional with it. Who is to decide what is better? My view is that it should be the person wronged. But a truly authentic judgment by them too cannot be possible if we have a mob baying for blood and making any forgiveness look like a crime against women immemorial. Letting the side down and all, letting a man walk free, etc.

There is absolutely nothing preventing legal justice for the woman and indeed our presence should ensure that. But is it our place to push her toward one or the other? I believe not. I don't see a "virtue" in punishing men. I see a virtue in adequate amends being made, to the satisfaction of the injured party (no, I'm not talking about negotiating marriages by bullying her).

When confronted, it is invariably the decent ones who would admit and apologize if they even believe they were in the least at fault, because their ethics don't stand for harming women - and they do not like that they did it. But if any admission or apology is proof of guilt, then it is very fast education for men that even if you fuck up, don't admit. It is what the powerful do and get away with. This is counterproductive to gender relations.

Patronizing women does not empower them

Women are assumed to be the weaker gender for historical and actual reasons. Men, traditionally being the custodians of power, are assumed to be deliberately malicious in their actions against the woman. If they apologize, it is proof, if they deny, they are victim blaming. There is no right answer once the accusation is public. But there is no option that says they did not realize the gravity of their actions till too late. This would not bother me in the least if the guilt of the man were indisputable - for example crowds thrashing molesters brings me unholy glee. I definitely believe that social rejection of crimes against women is a superior answer to solving them than judicial punishments that happen out of sight. Because social rejection is deterrence as well. Gang rapes happen because some find it entertaining and others mind their business. Growing gang rapes is the opposite of this social rejection/

Even better if the man publicly admits his mistake. Still better if the woman forces him to do it and wins and gets him acknowledged publicly as the one in the wrong with his actions. Unless there is injury or other complications in the case, I actually believe this to be the superior solution to cases dragging on for years punishing the victim further - best case, years of inconvenience, worse case, reliving trauma over and over, lack of closure. At the end of it, the perpetrator gets punished - maybe. I definitely think an immediate and public demand for accountability, getting it and punishment or apology as the case may be is better.

But this too must be a woman led process. You cannot simply corner a man and bombard him with condemnation. There is a need for victims too to learn to find their voice and us LISTENING to them, instead of barging in with our recommendations is a good start. What does she want? Does she simply want to shame him? Does she WANT him to be cornered and forced to flee or apologize? Does she want to confront him and demand answers? Does she want a public acknowledgment of the harm he did to her? You will never know, if you already know what must be done with "men like him". Nor is the woman empowered in being thought of as too stupid to lie or too dumb to strategize how to confront someone who wronged her.

The more robustly and fairly you can hold the space for the process to play out, the more dignity you afford her. Or... if she was trying to frame someone, that comes out too. Help enough women - actually help through a situation, not just comment and forget and you'll run into it. And you don't get used and end up having to bear guilt. Have you ever thought what happened in the conscience of those "well meaning" souls who went on national TV condemning Khurshid Anwar for his rape that he was denying shortly before he committed suicide? I have thought of it often. He may well have been guilty or innocent. But what happened still wasn't justice. I don't believe having an ideological obligation to support women quite covers my willingness to risk irreparable harm to men for my conscience. I don't have a side in this war. I want evolution to coexistence. There is much to learn. For men, for (gasp) women, and for us, in relatively better off situations, trying to help others.

Nor does it do women any respect to blindly go with everything they say as though it is too much to expect a woman to have her words scrutinized like an actual person. Protect them from harm, definitely. Act on everything they say? Let's skip the Pavlov for a bit. Try this. Your mom is a woman too. It is very unlikely you wish her ill. Would you believe everything she said and act on her behalf immediately if she accused someonein your family or your father ? But then you know her. You see her as a real person. Worthy of you applying your mind to her situation and offering her your highest analysis instead of blind nods. You know what she can be counted on to narrate factually and where she is likely to be overwhelmed by her perspective. Unlike your trophies of messiah showcasing. You'd give her the respect of not being blind and responding on autopilot but being the eyes examining her blind spots. You would question, ask for details, want a fuller picture before jumping in with a high stakes decision. And you would back her interest all the way, and would be her fiercest champion if she were wronged but not necessarily based on the first emotional, incoherent and one sided narration! This isn't shaming her. It is support. It is support that cares to invest deeper thinking and want genuinely beneficial solutions. Women and men on the internet are real people too. Not just props for your exhibition of rapid ethics.

Unlike the people who call me names for raining on their exhibition, I actually make an effort to engage with the victim, offer support beyond social media and even my home in cases that need an exit. I have got in the face of raging men and stood in their way with flat out refusals for access to women. I don't need to talk pretty, because I solidly act in their interest and have done it enough to know that the tongue waggers are irrelevant to what needs to be done and short of physical violence, it almost never is immediate action. Takes longer than the life cycle of a trend.

Anyway, this is another partial ramble on the subject of gender relations (I'm planning to write a book, because too many things and nuances to consider).

Moral of the story is, you believe women are historically wronged and therefore every single man to harm a woman must pay for the sins of his fathers, so to say instead of having the luxury of being someone who didn't know better in the here and now. And this is assuming the accusation is truthful, I believe that if a man or woman can be educated to be more effective with the opposite gender, it is a value addition to a society. If they cannot, there still is a need for a space for calm dialogue, developing a larger picture and a person led process toward resolving - whether with understanding or legal process. Therefore, your responses and mine, to cases brought into social media courts differ because we differ in what role we believe society should play. It is ok. You have your view, I have mine. I have no idea which is better. I am choosing based on what I know at the moment. But I have the right to hold my view, as you do yours. Disagreement with you does not amount to malintent.

Some days I fear I'm going to end up as an ideological sanctuary for dysfunctional men in transit into gender sensitivity. Not because I won't put them six feet under and dance on their metaphorical graves (I have one hell of a ruthless streak) if called for. I totally would and I don't think anyone has any illusions about that. I think it will be because I won't, till called for, no matter what a mob thinks.

Because I'd rather society works, than finding someone to blame for it not working and having zero tolerance for any learning curve. I would rather have a presence that brings awareness and insist that the right thing be done, than simply discard people one after the other as they are found imperfect. Will be a pretty empty world then.

4

On an internet where a woman with opinions attracts a flock of men advising her on the opinions she should have, women who refuse to listen often become targets of those who decry them as feminists. And sometimes end up applying the label wrongly. As in my case. I am not a feminist. I think feminism is too focused on men, too focused on the face off with power than results, and has tepid goals.

I believe that every person on the planet should have the freedom to pursue his or her goals without interference as long as they don't harm anyone. Women face far more interference in the pursuit of their goals than men do. Often in the form of artificially imposed limits on what they should or shouldn't do, or preemptive demoralization about what they won't be able to do. Also I am a woman. So I take particular interest that women find ways over, under around or through unfair blocks to their pursuit of their choices.

Unlike feminism, I'm not bothered about men with regard to women's rights. In a country like India, where rights of everyone are trampled to some or other degree, wanting equal rights as men would practically amount to committing to limit yourself. If I'm fighting unjust limitations, why in the world would I commit to fighting them only to the degree men are able to? Besides, who died and made men the gold standard anyway? Society today is structured to suit men. Getting an equal stake in it will still not make it suit women unless women go ahead and create what fits their needs. And they are capable and they are doing it. And when blocked, they deserve the support to get past those blocks. Asking a male dominated society or government to grant women rights is totally not my game. I don't acknowledge the ownership of the male gender over rights of the female gender to grant or otherwise.

I don't care for the constant face offs with patriarchy that feminism gets into. Sure, they are necessary sometimes. But most times, it is just giving too much importance to what should be undermined, not persuaded. I prefer to get women past blocks by hook or crook and leaving misogyny to deal with it. In a magnanimous mood, I may even offer sympathy for their loss of power over women and provide some tips on surviving in a changing world. I prefer sneaky ways that avoid confrontations and spend the energy on results for women than teaching reluctant men lessons they don't want to learn.

I also find that feminism focuses on very few and specific problems women face - which usually aren't the biggest in normal pursuit of self actualization. While fighting injustice is important, the excessive focus often borders on surreal and can be very counter productive for women. And a lot of guerilla tactics women use to succeed in day to day life in real life, which I heartily endorse because they get results, would go against the ethics of feminism. Particularly under conditions of extreme repression. For example, compromising with patriarchy and wearing a 4 foot ghunghat, but using the "virtue" goodwill and negotiating the right to hold an indepeendent bank account - an area far more important that "tradition" doesn't have much "guidelines" for.

To give the bottom line, I'm interested in knowing what is the priority for the woman in question and using every trick, clean or dirty to help her achieve it, before moving to next priority. Picking battles. Sneaking in goals instead of face offs against a far more powerful and dangerous entity.

Feminism today works on TV. The ground reality in India is vastly different. A girl who falls for the propaganda to believe she has the right to wear what she wants WILL end up catering to the male gaze in the name of her "right", often sacrificing hard authority for acceptance and approval. Because what is "fashionable" caters to the male gaze. In the process, if her boobs get taken more seriously than her marksheet or if a rapist who is fully wrong ends up wrecking her life, it doesn't really matter who is wrong, because she will foot the bill regardless. Where are the voices explaining what women who wield power know from hard experience? That like you can dress to convey authority and professionalism, you can also dress to convey sexual permissiveness - which is what a lot of fashion does? Where are all the feminists who insist "I never ask for it" explaining how they dress strategically to present themselves advantageously in situations? Even to the point of conveying aloofness to imply authority? Merely stating the extremes of what is allowed is not empowerment. Knowledge is power.Having a competent strategy for situations that may put women at a disadvantage is power. Yep, you can totally flaunt your body if you want. Here is how and when to do it, so you get the results you want, instead of having to dodge gropers or having your brother arrested for your murder. THAT is empowerment.

We have a lot of theory - which is good. But there is little tying it to hard practical life experiences. Most of the conversations are in the stratosphere in a country where a woman can tell her friend "last night was fantastic. He totally raped me" - implying vigorous sex and not a rape at all. Where are the initial conversations that set definitions and ground rules on consent before the esoteric stuff on what the slightest rape is?

So no, I'm not a feminist. I'm a whatever worksist. Including falling in with patriarchy to mitigate risks for the more important stuff that must not fail. My idea of winning strategies is those that succeed before people wanting to block them even realize the move was made. And if they do realize, I'll choose my attacks, not meet them on their turf. The goal is success, the blocks are a waste of time and to fully be avoided as far as possible.

If you think women should know their place, I'm not a feminist, playing by the rules of a male dominated society. I'm much, much worse.

Not sure how to do this, given that this is a data free hatchet job by Manu Joseph. So it isn't like he is claiming that his absurd claims are backed by data to begin with. Still, because I'm irritated enough, doing a limited take down of yet another attempt to trivialize the gravity and causes of farmer suicides with the Parliament in session (during or just before Parliament sessions is the season for hatchet jobs on farmers - probably to improve acceptance for anti-farmer policies coming up?).

All quotes from Manu Joseph's fantasy piece on farmer suicides in the Hindustan Times.

If an active cricket ground exists, it would be watered on most days, or it would die. So why this fuss before the tournament? Also, the calls for the cancellation of matches are comical for a simple reason — it is on the days of the matches that the grounds are not heavily watered.

Frankly, I agree with Manu Joseph that there are bigger problems than cricket in the face of drought. For example, the state allocation of water prioritizing industry over domestic consumption in blatant disregard for law or rights and a court limits (not cuts off, mind you) water to breweries long after people have spent months making careers out of seeking water to survive. However, the idea that a cricket ground consumes less water when there is a match is ignorance of the highest order, because he seems to think that facilities for a crowd of spectators and worse, media and teams camping out (who in our VIP culture won't be assigned a couple of buckets a day) don't consume water and all the water in a cricketing event is actually only the water poured on a lawn.

At this point, Manu Joseph dismisses the first veteran of his piece. Sunil Gavaskar.

Sunil Gavaskar, whose relationship with the BCCI, it is reported, has collapsed and whose lucrative contract with the board may end, wrote in his column, “The issue of drought is one such where many lives are at stake.” (True). “I am no expert on ground and pitch preparation…” (True) “…

What Manu Joseph does not realize is that Manu Joseph is no expert on ground and pitch preparation either and does not bother with any disclaimers about his lack of knowledge. Probably because it would involve not writing this absurd piece to begin with. Gavaskar may not be an expert on ground and pitch preparation, but Gavaskar knows cricketing events and probably realizes they are not as water free as Manu Joseph's piece is fact free.

This is a mystifying exaggeration — the suggestion that if matches are held in three cricket grounds in Maharahstra the lives of farmers would be at risk. But it is a popular view.

Absolutely no explanation for why Manu Joseph calls this an exaggeration. No mention of available water that people are ignoring and dying as a hobby. No mention of how much difference in water consumption there would actually be and what constitutes exaggerated. Absolutely no evidence anywhere that Manu Joseph has been to drought hit areas, studied so much as what drought means to reach his expert opinion. Manu Joseph has water in his tap and people are making too much of a fuss. And we actually have newspapers giving space to this entitled garbage. An interesting question of how editorial decisions happen in corporate media. Forget the stand taken by an article, but do newspapers no longer require claims to be backed by evidence?

It is not a popular view, BTW. Most people hate it. 60 kilometers from the heart of Bombay, I get half an hour of water - non-potable - a day. I earn enough to make ends meet and have the luxury  of home delivery for drinking water. Men, women, kids from our oh-so-posh looking society are routinely found at a water filtration gig round the corner, filling 10 liter cans for 3 rupees and ferrying the water home. I am nowhere near the officially drought hit regions of Maharashtra, where taps have run dry right after the monsoon and people have been ferrying water for MONTHS already. Perhaps Manu Joseph would like to ferry water for a week in an air conditioned car before calling these concerns exaggerated or merely popular opinion (as opposed to his fact free expert opinion, I suppose).

Perhaps the fact that many of the deaths from drought are from drowning may prove Manu Joseph's point that there is plenty of water and people are making a fuss? There are kids drowning in the silt in water reservoirs. Falling into wells. Kids who aren't in school to begin with, because they are needed to find and bring water home, right along with the adults. How many of these kids will need to search harder, walk farther? How many adults will die of heat stroke and heart attacks as the search for water makes them wander more in temperatures regularly over 40 degrees? There is already risk of water riots as desperation grows. How many of the quests for water will be made longer with tankers supplying water to desperate localities moved to lucrative providing for cricketing events? [link added because hours after I write this, an expose shows how water for the distressed gets sold to whoever can pay for it]

There is much veneration of farmers in India by those who are not farmers. These are the very people whose greatest fortune was that their grandfathers or fathers ejected their progeny from the agrarian economy.

There is also much dismissal of the plight of farmers in India by those who are not farmers. These are the very people whose greatest fortune is to be so comfortable in life as to see no difference in resources spent on entertainment and food. A lot of these overnight experts are those who find their agricultural know-how based on specific facts and arguments cherry picked and promoted by industries who would prefer to marginalize farmers. Who lack any basic knowledge on the subject to know when they are being fed handpicked bullshit or how they can verify it. Whose world view is so limited to their personal experience that they have little but contempt for anyone wanting attention or sacrifices or even inconvenience for problems that they don't face.

[Ignoring the exhibition of incompetence on diet except for one line, because it will derail the main track of this piece here. If you are interested, comment away and I'll do a separate piece on this other glorious piece of logic.]

The human body does not require rice and wheat. In fact it does very well without grain.

I challenge Manu Joseph to provide details of one meal that someone under our poverty line could afford that does not involve grains or meat (asked to give up just before this quote). Because dear friend, if rural India could afford a diet of nuts, they wouldn't be desperately running after water tankers, they'd order home delivery like you and me. And if you think people can survive without grains or meat or nuts - wait.... lemme guess. you're talking of a desk jockey lifestyle like yours without much need for energy? Cabbage your way out of that paunch? BTW, vegetable growing needs more water 🙁 Ask me. I have 3 balcony gardens for food and watering in summer is a pain. The grasses grow much easier than these lush beauties (I assume you know grains grow on grasses).

There is more, but I'm bored now. Ending with this masterpiece of propaganda (the art of repeating a falsehood till it starts sounding true)

Let me repeat an assertion this column made earlier while arguing that farmer suicides are primarily a depression story where poverty only plays a role:

“In a country where most people can be termed ‘farmers’, it is not anomalous that most people who kill themselves would be ‘farmers’. In fact, what is anomalous is that a huge majority of farmers who commit suicide are male. If both official and activist statistics are considered, it would appear that women in impoverished farming communities are among the least likely Indians to commit suicide. Activists who ascribe social, economic and political reasons for suicides would never be able to explain why.’ In most nations of the world, including India, the number of men who commit suicide is several times more than the number of women. this pattern is reflected in the gender ratio of ‘farmer suicides’.

Not just activists, any sane person can't get this logic. That depression is the cause of suicide, but not loans or policies and political maliciousness. I mean, why would you be depressed if your months of physical labour resulted in loss? Why would you be depressed if you couldn't repay loans? Why would you want policies to cover your risks? This logic can only come from someone living in a "normal" where hardwork is not necessary to survive, a good way of dealing with loans you don't repay is pulling strings to get them restructured and bailouts are necessary to save jobs, so not like you want any favors.

No matter how many times you repeat it, fact is, most people in India are not farmers. This bogus statistic is based on some expert claim made by another columnist on economics who found his agricultural gene just before a Parliamentary session with a GM food decision coming up and has been copied by every overnight agricultural columnist whose sole agricultural writings come when policy decisions are up for grabs and have never spoken to the family of a farmer who committed suicide or, for that matter, laid feet on agricultural soil for their journalism. Not seen a single person who actually has knowledge of the subject ever buy this nonsense.

The reason for that is that the IDIOT interpreted 54% of Indian population being sustained by the agricultural SECTOR (this includes everything from distributors of pesticides to tractor mechanics and wholesalers of grain) as farmers. Whereas, the fact is that the farmer suicide problem is largely between small and marginalized farmers, whom we are losing rapidly, even as the number of suicides increases in a shrinking population. But this bogus argument remains popular among subsequent idiots who don't verify the bullshit they are fed with when they have propaganda to peddle. You are not the first, and you will not be the last. The activist types don't give a fuck, but bogus data pisses me off, so I suppose I must call this out every time I see it.

Disclosure: Not commenting on the comment about P. Sainath because conflict of interest. I am happy to share that since yesterday, I am on the payroll of the People's Archive of Rural India founded by Sainath, which sadly now will seem like I am defending him in situations like these, when it would just be objecting to rubbish before.

Note: I normally reference and provide data for my posts, but I believe a fact free article at least requires a rebuttal where you have to do the hard work yourself to verify things I say and discover a hundred more horrors I didn't say.

6

There is an article in a blog dedicated to Dalit rights activism titled "How should a Brahmin-Savarna respond to a Dalit voice?" I took exception to it on Twitter and ended up breaking India's "laws" on how Dalits should be spoken to. This apparently means I am a Brahmin supremacist.

Some things upfront. I have a problem with the term "Dalit-expert". For me, Dalits are people, and I have not seen the term "expert" used with people unless they are an anthropological rarity. It is mostly used for objects, methods, etc. I think it dehumanizes Dalits and I'm hoping it is the author's sarcasm, because I have no idea what the Dalit intellectuals are up to (just like Brahmin intellectuals). I don't follow their writings beyond the occasional whatever strays my way.

Secondly, I have a problem with the identity of Dalit being reduced to "oppressed" just as surely as the Hindutva agenda reduces Hindu to "attacked". To reduce Dalits to "oppressed" is in many ways worse, because it denies that they bring anything valuable to the table (other than Dalit literature). Hindutva at least makes some effort to showcase Hindus otherwise. A lot of knowledge in the world has survived because of its Dalit custodians. Dalits live, laugh, love, make meaningful contributions, do crimes, thrash their wives, get drunk, die to save another, exploit or nurture their children, are great or terrible neighbours and more. To reduce them to the "oppressed" creates perfect helpless victims out of them to blame someone for, but denies them any value of their own.

Thirdly, reducing Brahmin-savarnas to oppressors conveniently dehumanizes them as anything beyond what you object to. As though they don't live, laugh, love, create art, worry about inflation, get humiliated by poverty, face marital rape and honor killings and more. Like what Hindutva does to Islam. It conveniently ignores tremendous caste prejudice among Dalits - which when pointed out results immediately in a shifted goalpost to "Brahminism". But I have not noticed any contempt that calls a Dalit evil for oppressing another Dalit. It is a very effective weapon for carpet bombing hate, as though to be born a Brahmin is something haters choose, while poor Dalits are helplessly born in their caste. Fact is, most Brahmins don't meet enough Dalits to have an opinion, and most of those who do lack any real power to oppress, even as it is true that those who do discriminate go unchecked.

I oppose extremism without discrimination, and I do Dalits the respect of reacting to fanaticism among them with the same contempt as for Hindutva or Islamism instead of "jaane do, they don't matter".

I have several problems with this article and the overall fanatical thinking that some Dalit activists promote. Ironically, I had a few dozen handles ganging up to fling accusations at me, and I was the oppressor because.... I am Brahmin. That is the towering perception I have got every time I tried to engage with any Dalit intellectual - not that I make a habit of engaging with identity warriors, but the few times I did. That I am not good enough, that I don't think well enough like "them", that I represent oppression and to basically fuck off. Why? Because I never hide that I was born Brahmin from those who hate Brahmins. That is all it takes. It is the same. I'm a "sickular" to Hindutvawadis and "atheist" to Islamists. Never fails. Mere existence is a problem.

Responding to specific quotes in the article:

...do I have the right to suggest how the Brahmin-Savarnas should respond to a Dalit voice? That is, can I build an ethics for the Brahmin-Savarnas? I think I can. I think I should.

Sure. Everyone has a right to an opinion on whatever and whoever you choose.

In fact, the question I am trying to formulate in this article is a question of 'how to engage with the Other'. The Other here, of course, is the marginalized Dalit community.

But do Brahmin-savarna writers writing in support of Dalits and against discrimination, marginalize Dalits? To the best of my knowledge, NONE of those who speak against caste discrimination practice it. From top journalists to random tiny twitter handles and people in real life. To us, Dalits are as good as anyone else. We aren't engaging with an "Other", YOU are. I am Brahmin, you are Dalit and it is fine. We are both products of our birth which we did not choose. But we can get along fine, including shared goals and mutual respect. It is you who is even dividing writers on a similar subject on the basis of their birth and assigning legitimacy on the basis of that. Not saying don't do it, only saying don't assume your imagination is our reality.

Even more contemptworthy is to take potshots on the basis of identity and then duck behind laws. I refuse to infantalize Dalits by ignoring hate as though their opinions have no consequence anyway. File your cases or whatever.

Backstory: The Dalit activist outrage is about me retorting to the title of this article by calling Dalits "unclean". Apparently, they have not figured out what savarna means. So, "Brahmin-savarna" is not casteist to them. But "Dalit-opposite-of-savarna" is an outrage. You cannot really call people savarna without implying that others not them are not. Why do you say "Dalit-bahujan"? Why not go "avarna" "asprusha"? Think about it. Inequality isn't unidirectional. Sneering or respecting privilege or lack of it is all inequality.

how should a Brahmin-Savarna respond to a Dalit voice?

"With great reverence" appears to be the summary of the paragraph that follows. Something like "Be aware of it constantly, never dismiss it no matter what, read the Bhagwad Gita/Quran/Bible/Ambedkar's works. Understand how you are inherently an asshole and need to be very careful to fix the Dalit version of the Biblical original sin of being born at all."

First: the self-appointed academic Dalit-experts should aim to strongly facilitate the Dalit's right to articulate himself. Otherwise they would end up committing the same epistemic violence usually committed by the 'non-experts'.

No idea what "Dalit-experts" should do, but no amount of logic will explain lack of facilitation as violence - epistemic or otherwise as though any subject to do with people can have one correct voice. Dalits as an island unto themselves serves none.

Second: the Brahmin-Savarna Dalit-experts should constantly ask themselves: how do the Dalits themselves, and not how some academicians, think about the expert's academic interpretation of the Dalit experience? Do the Dalits agree to the kind of representation of their reality put forward by the academicians?

Fair enough, as long as they are not expected to parrot the same as own view. Do Brahmin-savarnas agree to the kind of representation of their reality put forward by Dalit intellectuals? Should their agreement matter? Should the lack of agreement by Brahmin-savarnas mean that the Dalit intellectual's opinion is invalid?

A self-help tool called the Johari window, looks at perception of self by self and others is often used to help people resolve conflicts in being "misunderstood" (among other things), where their view of themselves and that of others creates dysfunctional conditions that don't allow them to thrive and cause distress. It looks at information available about a person, and categorizes it according to what the individual knows about self, what the others know about the individual, what both know and what no one knows.

The tool goes something like this:

johari window
johari window - self-assessment tool

If we look at this in terms of the Dalit identity, the "Arena" would contain the obvious oppression. The "Dalit voice" the author speaks of, that "Brahmin-savarna" writers are oblivious of, would go into the "Facade" (this is not a demeaning term, it merely implies the projection of self). What the Brahmin-savarna writers see, that Dalit intellectuals appear to be unaware of would be the "blind spot". And the unknown, of course is what none of us know. It will take dialogue for the blind spot and facade to eventually consolidate in the Arena and empower the individual/entity. In this sense, dismissing the non-Dalit voice about Dalits, does not serve to end Dalit oppression. It merely refuses to recognize any view other than own and prevents a shared understanding that helps to resolve conflict. Obviously, some views will never meet (those elaborate theories of genetic superiority, for example), but the deliberate alienating of all except own serves no useful purpose either.

Third: is the expert more interested in occupying a place in the academia? Or is he interested in concretely contributing to the emancipation of the Dalits, in helping to remove the obstacles in the way of the Dalit's development?

Yeah. The RSS hates intellectuals too. It is a common target for all identity based activism/politics. Are the two goals (academia and emancipation of Dalits) mutually exclusive as implied, or is this merely an attempt to have sole control over what is defined as Dalit interest? Is the Dalit interest helped more by any and all voices opposing discrimination, or by voices catering to a specific manner of opposing that ghettoizes Dalits as a special case perpetually?

Fourth: the Brahmin-Savarna Dalit-experts should be careful in not antagonizing the Dalits at the cost of befriending the casteist non-Dalits. That is, they must guard against all forms of casteism as nurtured mainly by their fellow Brahmin-Savarnas. In their attempt to work for the cause of the Dalits, the Brahmin-Savarnas might have to antagonize their fellow Brahmin-Savarnas.

I think it is far more urgent that the "Dalit-bahujan" Dalit-experts not antagonize others fighting discrimination over fashion sense in activism. There are lives being lost, justice being denied and problems continuing to devastate, which could do with a united opposition than hostility over differences of views or methods.

Fifth: the Brahmin-Savarna Dalit-experts should learn to 'speak with or along with' a Dalit voice rather than 'commenting on' a Dalit voice. Such experts should work hand in hand with the Dalits in spreading the positive kind of caste consciousness for the annihilation of caste.

A "Brahmin-savarna" has his/her own voice that is no more or less valid than a Dalits. This argument is like "to talk about the RSS, first join a shakha". It is a perspective. It can be wrong, in which case it should be debunked. The idea of having it at all being unacceptable is narrow minded. Generally an outside perspective is valued for bringing a fresh look when problem solving (assuming the author sees caste discrimination as a problem needing solving).

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There is a massive misunderstanding in general that "Brahmin-savarnas" fight caste discrimination because of the experiences of Dalits or injustices against them. Most Brahmins don't encounter enough Dalits to have any kind of a "Siddhartha" moment about them. Most "savarnas" fighting discrimination just don't like to be assholes and do it for ourselves - to live more congruent to our ideals, which are not the same as those preferring to discriminate, obviously. They do it because their own experiences with discrimination teach them the vile nature of it and they are able to extrapolate it to other ways it occurs. That is how you find the same few heads objecting to gender discrimination, caste discrimination, religious discrimination....

Telling them to stop discriminating is like telling gay men to not rape women. They weren't planning to.

The ones who are planning to aren't interested in your recommendations on how to talk, and it won't change how they act. All that is achieved is telling allies to shut up or devote massive time and effort in their lives to your interest.

To me, this isn't Brahmin superiority, it is plain common sense, which perhaps I may have seen due to my "privilege" of being a "wayward woman" in a Brahmin orthodox moral policing family that are almost uniformly bhakts of the Hindutva agenda. You fight something large, you have to pick your battles. Patronizing allies for not being your puppets is not the way - in my opinion.

2

Given the events unfolding in the Aam Aadmi Party, AAP's Internal Lokpal's letter seems almost prophetic. This is the letter written by Admiral Ramdas to the leadership of the Aam Aadmi Party. The events of yesterday evening demonstrate how the thinking of those controlling power in the party has gone beyond comprehending caution. This is a letter that could have saved AAP if the Kejriwal camp had taken their own internal Lokpal seriously.

Dear Friends,

Please find enclosed a note that we have prepared for the PAC and NEC members as we will not be able to attend the meeting on Feb 26th at Delhi.This note contains some essential issues which I hope will be discussed during the meeting as part of the Way Ahead item for the party included in the Agenda. Wishing you a successful and constructive day together.

Admiral and Lalita Ramdas

NOTE TO THE PAC AND NEC FROM ADMIRAL RAMDAS

I am writing this note to members of the PAC and NEC today, to share with you some of my concerns and related issues regarding the governance of the party. I would have presented this in person on 26 Feb, but I am not too well and so this note.

As Lokpal of the party, I have often been called to do damage control to avoid the AAP ship from capsizing! Today I want to ensure that this ship will stay afloat to make many voyages in the years to come.

A Brief Recap

In end December 2014, there was a crisis situation brought about by Shri Prashant Bhushan’s unhappiness with candidate selection procedures and decision making processes. If not addressed, he said, he would be forced to resign from the party and go public. To contain this, a special meeting was called in Delhi on Jan 3-4, 2015 at which a decision was taken to refer the issue to the Lokpal, assisted by a specially selected team. Thanks to preliminary investigative work by this fine young team from across the country, I could finalise my own findings in time for the candidates to file their nomination papers by Jan 21st 2015.

This was not the first time that I had to use my good offices to defuse a crisis situation; the previous one being immediately after the explosive Sangrur NEC, [August 2014}. In response to my letter, members of the PAC and special invitees, agreed to take a pledge not to go to public and to stick together and show a united face until the Delhi elections were over.

In early January once again I had occasion to address a note to key players and those attending the Delhi meeting, urging them that this was not the time to allow inner differences to surface in the public domain. Once again I assured them, especially those who raised the complaints, that we would certainly address the several concerns being raised with respect to candidate selection procedures, decision making , committee meetings, financial transparency, ethics, after our government took charge in Delhi.

Had the inner conflicts exploded in front of a hostile media, there is no telling what the impact could have been on the unprecedented election results.

I had hoped that the thumping results of the recent elections would have restored a positive energy in the party and that many of the mutual suspicions would have been set to rest, given that all of you had pulled together, despite differences, to deliver a stunning victory. Alas, this was not to be, and most recently while in Delhi during the results and swearing in, I also spent many hours in many difficult conversations where many of the old ghosts were constantly raising their heads.

As Lokpal, I have therefore gone beyond giving a narrow judicial verdict on the ethics and standards pertaining to candidate selection alone. Rightly or wrongly, I have taken upon myself an expanded role, namely, acting as an elder statesman to ensure that the party remained united throughout this period. I did not join the party only to preside over a potential split down the middle. My paramount interest is to nurture AAP and its potential as the only political entity in the country today which can change the way politics is practiced. I see my role as one who will unambiguously point out that mistakes and compromises have been evident in many areas -and from all sectors - with no single person exempt from some element of responsibility for the present impasse.

THE WAY FORWARD

I would urge all in the NEC to play the role of an objective, wise and statesman like  body whose role will be to play with a straight bat; be impartial, heal and cement the wounds and fissures. I hope that the members of the NEC will not take sides, but be able to build mechanisms and find people who are acceptable to both parties to find solutions. The press and media and our opponents are waiting like vultures to rip AAP apart at the slightest hint of rifts and dissension within. We need therefore to address the points detailed below.

1. Our spectacular performance in the recently concluded Delhi elections implies that we have to provide good governance in Delhi. It has raised hopes and expectations to a new level among the people of Delhi. This means that we will have to perform and make sure that we do not fail them.

2. National Convenorship  – To discuss and arrive at creative and visionary decisions on redefining the role of the National Convenor of AAP. Can the Chief Minister of a state and the National Convenor if he/she be the same person be in a position to discharge both the the duties efficiently?  Do we need co-convenors? What kind of profile are we looking for? Whether we like it or not, today we are a national party; and we can no longer keep our vision limited to Delhi or some region within the capital. The Delhi results have also impacted at the national level; and expectations have been aroused amongst all AAM AADMI supporters outside the capital and across India.  We need to recognise this and programme ourselves accordingly.

3. Dissent and Democracy – There has been criticism within the party regarding decision making and inner party democracy. This needs to be further analysed by an independent, group who should carry out an internal audit and make suitable recommendations in keeping with the Constitution and the high standards of probity and ethics that we have charted for ourselves. Most importantly let us not rush this; these processes take time; and as we have done with Mission Vistaar, so must it be with the next round of change and expansion.

4. Volunteers and management of volunteers  – Volunteers are our life line. We neglected and took for granted our volunteers and their commitment, especially after the national elections in 2014. This may well have been, one of the contributory factors for the emergence of AVAM.  We need to learn the right lessons from this experience and put in place robust mechanisms and people to handle this resource.

5. Conspiracy Theories , Trust Deficit and Communication Failures  – During the past six to eight months there has been an abject breakdown in communications and mutual trust amongst the topmost leadership of the party. This has in my view led to the growth of two camps within the party and loose talk about conspiracies. This is unacceptable and shows that we are no different from any of the parties whom we criticise so vocally. I sincerely urge the entire leadership of this party, especially now that we are also running a government in the capital city, to stop listening to rumours and to discourage colleagues no matter how close, who continually bring negative feedback about each other.

My comment comes from, over forty four years of experience in the Indian Navy, where lending an ear to a single mischief maker can create havoc within the organisation. There is no substitute for one on one dialogue to understand each other better knowing that we may also disagree. Managing dissent is both an art and an imperative.We have managed to keep this under some form of control and avoided an implosion within, until now. This has only been possible because of the untiring efforts by many well wishers from the party, people with extraordinary loyalty and integrity spread across the country.

6. RECONSTITUTION OF PAC AND NEC

We need an open discussion on how, when and whether bodies like the NEC, PAC, and even the National Council might need to be  reconstituted to better represent region/geography, gender, ethnic and other forms of diversity, as well as to reflect the current developments in the party.

I was both surprised and disappointed at the manner in which decisions were taken at the Delhi NEC meeting in June 2014, be it on expanding the PAC or inviting new members onto the NEC.  Such important decisions need far more rigorous methods and processes, and not the hurried, almost ad hoc tabling of names and a show of hands or voice votes to take decisions. If a system of setting up a search committee with agreed parameters and criteria can be set up for both these important core committee, it would go a long way in streamlining our procedures. For both bodies, we also need well thought through criteria of skills, experience, and qualifications, as also better representation on the key questions regarding gender, region and other diversity related  issues mentioned above.

7. SYSTEMS, DISCIPLINE, CONFIDENTIALITY AND ETHICS.

I have spent my life in a disciplined service, where secrecy and maintenance of confidentiality is  often a matter of life and death. Frankly I have been aghast at the way in which decisions taken in our meetings are leaked within minutes; where conversations are recorded and uploaded, and sting operations conducted with little or no accountability.

Every email and letter I have sent out seems to become common knowledge and often has found its way to the media! All of us who were at Ram Lila Maidan on Feb 14th heard each Minister take a separate oath of secrecy as he took office before the Governor in public view. This is not merely a formality but a sacred duty. We need to discuss whether some form of inner party discipline is required within our own core committees?!

I daresay we could argue that a political party is not the same as a defence force. And yet we must all observe certain agreed upon rules and regulations, put in place systems to which we must all pledge allegiance and slowly but surely evolve into something of which we can truly be proud and where taking shortcuts even for winnability and exigencies will slowly be an exception and not the rule. We could then genuinely claim to be setting high benchmarks for the country in the future.

6. GENDER JUSTICE AND WOMEN IN AAP

Finally, last but not least, we need to make much efforts in the direction of becoming a genuinely Gender sensitive party which will do far more than pay lip service to women’s empowerment and ensure that we work to improve women’s visibility and participation at all levels. I personally find it difficult to defend AAP against accusations of being mainly a Boys Club especially when we were not able to have even one women in our team of Ministers! Women Empowerment and Justice has to go deeper and farther than mere security alone the Delhi Dialogue on Women was a good start. I hope that a group like AAP Shakti, who have been working systematically on a range of practical and supportive measures will be  treated as an important resource to help us move in the direction of genuine empowerment of women.

7. POLICY, THINK TANKS, AND LONG TERM PERSPECTIVES

The crazy period of headlong rush from one election to another is mercifully over for a while. This is a time for us to consolidate to return to our initial and path breaking dialogues on Policy, on the huge range of issues that confront our country. We need to have special groups that will create a pool of ideas, of projects and a road map both for Delhi and the country as a whole.

8. CONFLICT RESOLUTION, OMBUDS-PERSONS, SENIORS ADVISORY COUNCILS

The sheer time and energies that have been consumed in the past year and more in addressing various levels and kinds of conflicts and problems shows us that this is an area which will continue to exist and will continue to demand a council of elders, of people who can give of their time and wisdom, to anticipate, head off, and resolve, debilitating disagreements and conflicts.

CONCLUSION

Finally by way of conclusion, I wish to say that we are lucky to get this time to put our own house in order. This is not the time to go back in history or take any hasty decisions. We need to be statesmen like and work our way through this quagmire deftly and cautiously. After all just two years and a few months have lapsed since we formed a party. We are not magicians and the environment we have had to face is not one of our making!

We must accept with all humility, that we are all on the learning curve. It is important that we give out clear signals that all senior members of the party, primarily the PAC, are together and united. Let us be positive and not resort to any form of hasty action against our members. The leadership will have to carry the team together. Everyone has worked very hard to arrive where we are today and the country expects a lot from the party and we should not disappoint them and miss this golden opportunity.

Mrs Ramdas and I have also not spared ourselves over these months to keep the AAPship on an even keel. She joins me in wishing all of you Good

Luck.

Warm regards

L. Ramdas.

One wonders how long Admiral Ramdas will be allowed to continue as Internal Lokpal as well, given that he's questioned the holy cow Arvind Kejriwal holding both CM post as well as National Convenor. Not to mention the women free cabinet.

After all, if AAP can preach RTI compliance for parties but refuse to do it themselves, they can also preach Lokpal without trusting one themselves.