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This article about the Maratha Kranti Morcha  was published in 2016. It remains as valid today, as Maratha Morcha Mumbai shows power on the streets.

The gigantic Maratha rallies in Maharashtra have flummoxed everyone. Neither the politicians nor the media know what to make of them.

Unprecedented crowds thronged the Pune Maratha Kranti Morcha on 25th September 2016. Even if the claims of 25 lacs are exaggerated, it is undoubtedly the largest gathering Pune has seen. In each city the Maratha Kranti Morcha is breaking records with their numbers. But that’s not the only thing unique about the Maratha Morcha.

The most amazing thing is that it is a silent, peaceful protest, no speeches, no slogans. No wait, the most amazing thing is that it is led by 5 unknown girls who present the charter of demands at the end. In a country that believes one always needs a popular face to ensure success in any field – politics, or andolans, or Bollywood, or sports, the most amazing thing really is that no one knows who the leaders are.

Another really amazing aspect is that any political leader or public figure who tries to hijack the Morcha is respectfully shown the figurative door. Basically it is a movement that on every count has left the people amazed.

Marathas are approximately 35% of the state population and are considered to be the ruling class. Almost every state assembly has had 60% to 70% dominance of Marathas since decades. They are also the land owning class. The Marathas dominate the state’s economy as they control the cooperative sector which runs everything from banks, to credit societies, to agriculture markets, to cotton and sugar mills. This power is concentrated in the hands of the few – some even claim that all cooperatives in the state are owned by less than 200 Maratha families.

Shrewd Maratha Congressmen of yore replaced the old zamindaari system with a modern one – the Maratha strongman in every area joined politics and became an Aamdaar (MLA) or Khaasdaar  (MP). They used every trick in the book, nay, they wrote the book, on how to scam and acquire control of government and public lands.

These guys also became contractors, directly or through family members, and they won all government contracts making truckloads of money through corrupt practices. These same politicos floated and controlled cooperatives in every possible area that touched the lives of people – banks, mills, markets. They entered every business that people depend upon – education to transport to power generation. Today these few political families have a stranglehold on the state, and most of them are Marathas. So why then the protest? Because this power class has no connect with the Maratha masses.

The majority of the 35% of Marathas are tillers of small parcels of lands, they are the poor of Maharashtra whose livelihood is held to ransom by everything – from the weather to the rich ruling class. The Maratha Kranti Morchas are not just demanding reservations – they are demanding the right to survive.

Farmer Issues

Most of the Marathas are ordinary farmers. They are disconnected from the ruling class who has scammed every single resource of the state. Almost all farmer suicides were Marathas. Most farmers in the state had joined the Shetkari Sanghatana as there was a palpable need for organized protest. With the decline of the Shetkari Sanghatana’s various factions, these farmers who were left without any direction have now come together under the Maratha banner, and their issues remain agrarian. The BJP government has failed to make a single constructive step against the anti-farmer policies of the former UPA government – no security of MSP, crop insurance is a farce, and there is no move towards implementing Swaminathan Commission recommendations. Essentially the Maratha protest is a farmer’s protest since their needs have been neglected by every single political party in the State today.

Education

Today farming is not a viable career – its only 11% of the GDP even though 60% of the population works on it. Hence the farmers want alternate careers for their children but the stumbling block here is education. In a bid to promote privatized education for its cronies, Maharashtra politicians have completely neglected public education. The Marathas feel in the race for seats in the few government institutions they are at the losing end due to reservation – and hence the demand for reservation. The solution to this issue is not just reservation – it is vast investment in education infrastructure and making education accessible to the last man. However, the BJP government, just like its predecessor the UPA, does not have education on its agenda – from ‘anganwaadis’ to Universities there is unprecedented corruptionand there is not even an attempt being made to enhance the number of schools and colleges.

Law & Order

There is a breakdown of law and order in the state today and Kopardi is a flashpoint. I visited the victim’s family immediately after the incident and met the villagers. Both Maratha and Dalit members agreed that culprits should be dealt with severely and swiftly and no one felt that caste had any role to play in this most heinous crime witnessed in Maharashtra in recent times. What this incident really showed was the total absence of fear of law in Maharashtra today – the police is viewed as incompetent and corrupt and the government is seen as being unconcerned with justice. Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, commonly known as the Atrocity Act is indeed being misused to frame people – but so are a number of other acts. The misuse of a law does not reflect on the validity of the law, it reflects on the Government that is closing its eyes to the misuse.

Just a few weeks back a journalist in Osmanabad was falsely framed under the atrocity act and despite appeals to the Chief Minister who looks at the Home portfolio, there was no response. If the Home Department fails to act against the corruption or inefficiency or excesses of the police, we have to admit law and order in the state has collapsed. There are almost weekly acts of serious atrocities against Dalits in Maharashtra, and there is a need to protect them so there is no question of doing away with this act. What needs to be addressed is vacuum in the Home Department where the common man cannot appeal against the false and fabricated cases or the wrongdoings and failures of the State Police.

So the Maratha Kranti Morcha, in my view is amazing because it is a fight for survival in a failed state that has ignored the farmers, the students and the victims of growing crimes. There is a dis-enchantment with all political parties today – the incompetent Congress has been replaced by the incompetent BJP and corrupt NCP has been replaced by the corrupt ShivSena and the rest of the traditional parties like RPI and MNS are merely small time opportunists. Since the Maratha Morcha has steered clear of all political parties and focused on issue based demands it has received this unprecedented support.

At the end of the day however, in this deeply caste based society it is a Maratha protest and it is knocking on the doors of Devendra Fadanvis,  a Brahmin Chief Minister in a state whose politics have been  dominated by Marathas, Dhangars, Malis and Vanjaras.

 

This post was originally published here.

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tr.v. blind·sid·ed, blind·sid·ing, blind·sides. 1. To hit or attack on or from the blind side. 2. To catch or take unawares, especially with harmful or detrimental results

Too much of a good thing, as the idiom goes, is bad. Excessively bright light can be more blinding than pitch darkness. The glare of the limelight, another popular adage, often hides smaller events in its daylight. Which is all to say by way of saying that democratic India has just (re)discovered the blinding effect of big numbers, even if in a relative sense. Take, for one example, 282 out of 545. Take, for another, 67 out of 70. Within the range of statistics thrown up by Indian politics, these are staggering numbers, even historic ones.

So what’s wrong with that? In one word: everything. Among the oft-touted clichés in India is that of the country being a plural democracy, of there being unity in diversity. But suddenly two elections have thrown up scarcely believable numbers. Admittedly, in the run up to the Lok Sabha elections there was hardly any credible opposition to the heavily PR-reliant campaign of Narendra Modi, but even the most clued in observer did not see such a massive mandate coming.

A virtual retake has just played out at the Delhi Assembly Elections, with the Aam Aadmi Party railroading all political opposition into virtual oblivion and winning a mandate that has left even their supporters bemused. Speculations of political hara-kiri by opponents abound now as well as they did during the Lok Sabha elections. Indeed there are some indicators of grave miscalculation, such as the drafting in of Kiran Bedi as the BJP’s potential CM candidate. Even so, the numbers are frightening.

The first question is, rather obviously, that of the health of our democracy. Does an absolute mandate truly imply that all voices speak as one? Or does it mean there are political manipulations beyond the comprehension of the average voter? The former cannot be seen as a good thing, even if it sounds cynical to see it as herd mentality than true consensus. The plurality and diversity of India have always ensured that one man’s Peter is another’s Paul, to mix metaphors. For everyone to see a messiah in one political choice is, at least for me, a hard fact to digest.

There are other voices that have addressed the latter question of political conspiracy, see, for instance, this piece by @Vidyut. I have already ranted on the existence of a “Bhangress” a seamless political unit manifesting partly as the Bharatiya Janata Party and partly as the Indian National Congress, which are in turn controlled by such capitalists as the Ambanis. A cartoon in The Hindu prior to last year’s Lok Sabha elections had shown Mukesh Ambani holding the strings of two puppets representing Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi. The only question is whether the Aam Aadmi Party is/can become an extension to this amorphous political monster, allegations against the Ambanis by Arvind Kejriwal notwithstanding. This premise has gained fodder with the recent dismissal of Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan from the AAP’s Political Affairs Committee in a move that seemed to have the tacit approval of Kejriwal himself. The Party’s upcoming National Council meeting might be the last word on its future, and it remains to be seen whether the coterie around Kejriwal, which is being accused of conspiring to commandeer power within the AAP, will result in the de-democratization of the Party, the efforts of volunteers notwithstanding.

Even assuming this does not come to pass – that Kejriwal’s AAP does represent, and continues to be, a reasonably honest political alternative, the teetering of electoral figures from one extreme to another suggests a deeper and more devastating malaise: a total political vacuum. This swing from voting en masse for the BJP to literally handing the town keys to the AAP is only a real life running from pillar to post by a frustrated and impatient electorate that wants to see change happen and preferably happen yesterday.

When the AAP first seemed poised to become a political entity of some reckoning, I had mused whether its failure to do so would see a return to type by those that had supported and elected it, i.e. would they go back to their candle-light dharnas at India Gate? That question still stands, if more nakedly now - if the AAP fails to deliver on even a fraction of their promises, will “India’s teeming millions” finally confront the problem they’ve been hiding under the limelight for so long? Will they finally fess up to their lack of imagination in choosing to pass the buck rather than find solutions until there is no one to whom the buck may be passed?

It is interesting to note the insistence by Kejriwal, at least at one point, upon understanding the notion of Swaraj, which may be translated without loss of meaning as self-governance. There is, of course, a delicious irony in choosing a government to help you self-govern, especially if one comprehends self-governance in the literal, individual sense rather than the collective sense of a citizenry. Swaraj, for me, does not equate with the political right to self-determination as a citizenry. In the Gandhian sense (which I hope I have understood correctly), the term refers to adopting a lifestyle that imposes on another life in the least manner possible while working to create a greater whole cohesively.

Perhaps Kejriwal hopes that the citizens of India will eventually become harmoniously functioning individual cogs within the interlinked machinery of society. But is he prepared to acknowledge that living breathing cogs are more likely to be anarchic rather than continuously operate under the guidance of a greater will, for the supposed greater good? Without even debating the patent absurdity of society as a machine, it remains to be seen whether the victory in 67 out of 70 assembly seats is indicative of Delhi’s citizens choosing to be such cogs, in the hope of, so to speak, a better life in a better city.

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India’s Sovereignty, Security and Freedom at risk-

Is the IB being used by foreign corporations to take over India’s vital seed sector?

The IB report has a special section on GMOs (genetically modified/engineered organisms). It clearly supports the introduction of GM crops into Indian agriculture.

The IB report makes specific mention of the Supreme Court cases which have beenfiled. It curiously also accuses civil society organisations and individuals of influencing 3 Committees that were officially mandated to assess GMOs. The IB report objects to these formal government reports, the Moratorium Orders of Shri Jairam Ramesh, the Parliamentary Standing Committee Report and the Supreme Court-appointed Technical Expert Committee Report (TEC) because they find that on current evidence, GM crops have little to contribute to Indian agriculture, safe food and food security. These findings did not accord with the view of the PMO, when headed by the erstwhile Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh. This report was initiated under the UPA Government.

IB objects to protection of Indian seed and food sovereignty?

In 1998, when Monsanto introduced Bt cotton illegally, without the statutory approvals from the GEAC, we had to file a case in the SC to defend the laws of the land, our Constitution, our Seed Sovereignty and Food Sovereignty. When open field trials were being conducted without appropriate and independent Biosafety assessments, and expertise inthese matters, the current cases in the Supreme Court were initiated in 2003 and 2005 to uphold the law: protect the environment and safety of our seeds and food from irreversible genetic contamination, protect smallholder farming in India, and the health safety of 1 billion citizens. The country faces a major threat from the multinational Seed/chemical industry, seeking control over our seeds, our agriculture and our food. This is the corporate focus. This is their AGENDA. Thousands of organizations and many multiples of thousands of individuals are committed to resisting this unacceptable corporate goal for India.

IB favors the foreign hand in the ‘making of India’s Bt brinjal’:

The IB report quotes a Dr Ronald Herring of Cornell University who promotes GMOs and the monopoly of Monsanto. It is ironic that the IB report relies on the evidence of Dr Herring with his antecedents in Cornell University, a hub of blind GMO promotion. It is the direct foreign hand along with USAID and Monsanto funding, behind the ‘making of India’s Bt brinjal’. Here is a real foreign hand that informs the IB report. Has the IB report been written then with foreign influence, for the benefit and profits of foreign corporations? Thestrategy of the global GMO seed industry with their patents & IPRs (Intellectual Property Rights) is to bend regulation and influence governments and regulators to approve GMOs, by-passing scientific, transparent and independent safety testing.

Outrageous insult to our Parliamentarians and Contempt of Court by the IB:

The PSC recommended a high-level enquiry into how Bt brinjal was approved by the Regulators for commercial release. The self-assessed safety-dossier by Mahyco-Monsanto was a cover-up as evidenced in independent assessments of the raw data by several leading international scientists.  It staggers belief that the IB find it possible to hand out an outrageous insult to the Parliamentary Standing Committee, by suggesting  that they have in effect been led ‘by the nose’ by activists and civil society groups and have no competence to address their official mandate on the subject. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the IB report has been influenced by those who have most to gain by undermining our seed and food sovereignty ie. the foreign corporations.

The IB report has also attacked the government decision made under our Biosafety laws to impose a moratorium on Bt Brinjal. It is thus attacking our Biosafety. This will only suit foreign interests.

The IB is guilty of contempt of court since it attacks the Technical Expert Committee set up by the Supreme Court to look into the issues of GMOs and Biosafety. The case is still being heard.

The IB fails to refer to the important other official report, the ‘Sopory Committee Report’. This report of 2012 commissioned by the Ministry of Agriculture itself is a stinging commentary on what is wrong with GMO regulation in India. Ourregulatory institutions and the MoA have been indicted in this report for lies, fraud and lacking GMO expertise. And the truth with regard to massive contamination was revealed in this report.

NGOs saving Indian seed and food sovereignty:

The biggest foreign hand by STEALTH and official COVER-UP will be in GMOs/GM crops if introduced into Indian agriculture. All that stands between a corporate takeover of our seeds and agriculture is the committed and exemplary work by the not-for-profit sector that helped create an informed debate on GMOs and has postponed, even stopped government action from introducing them for over 15 years.  In conspiring with deeply conflicted institutions of regulation, governance and agriculture, of which there is incontrovertible proof, to introduce GM crops into India, the IB will in fact aid the hand-over of the ownership of our seeds and foods to Multi-NationalCorporations. This will represent the largest take-over of any nation’s agriculture and future development by foreign-hands and this time it will be no bogey foreign hand. This will be for real.  China is on record as saying that she will not allow her armed forces to eat any GM food. This not-to-be-imagined future will plunge India into the biggest breach of internal security; of a biosecurity threat and food security crisis from which we will never recover. The fallout of this mere 20 year-old laboratory technology is, that it is irreversible. This is what must give us sober ‘food for thought’ uncontaminated by GMOs, something the IB seems to be supremely oblivious of. GM crops have already demonstrated no yield gain, no ability to engineer for traits of drought, saline resistance etc and have some  serious bio-safety issues which no regulator wishes  to examine.

Indian Cotton in Foreign Hands, Indian farmers’ hard earned money expatriated to foreign lands:

India’s Bt cotton is an outstanding example of the above scenario. It was introduced into India’s hybrids, not varieties so our farmers would be forced to buy seeds each year. This ‘VALUE CAPTURE’ for Monsanto which was contrived and approved by our own government mortgaging the public interest has ensured that in a short 10 years, 95% of cotton seeds in the form of Bt cotton are owned by Monsanto. The damage to India’s organic cotton market and status is significant. India is the largest organic cotton producer/exporter in the world. It is Monsanto now that decides where cotton should be planted and when by our farmers, a role that the MoA has absconded or been eliminated from. The Royalties accruing to Monsanto that have been expatriated are approximately Rs 4800 Crores in 12 years,   (excludingother profit mark-ups). What would this figure be if GMOs and propriety seeds flooded our farms without Biosafety assessment and regulation? This is the arithmetic the IB should have done, instead of throwing an arbitrary figure of 2-3% loss of growth. The IB is thus conspiring with global corporate interests to hemorrhage India’s agricultural economy. More than 284000 Indian farmers have been pushed to suicide because of a debt trap, lack of government investment in smallholder farming and dependence on non-renewable, propriety seeds and chemicals sold by the corporations. We call for an investigation on the foreign influence in writing the GMO section in the IB report.

If India's intelligence agencies become instruments of global corporations working against the public interest and national interest of India, our national security is under threat.

This IB report is deeply anti-national and subversive of constitutional rights of citizens in our country.  It does India nocredit.

Signed:

 Vandana Shiva,               Aruna Rodrigues,                Kavitha Kuruganti

Navdanya

8100 25169                       98263 96033                         9393001550

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Babasaheb Ambedkar is an enigma to most Indians. While we all claim to respect him for writing India's Constitution, there is little we know about who Dr Ambedkar was or why "Jai Bhim" is a salutation to many and used as a casteist sneer by others. With the loving honorific "Babasaheb" neatly sliding in before the Ambedkar, many of our citizens who claim to respect him for the constitution and know little else about him also don't realize that they don't know his first name.

Who was Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar, beloved to many as Babasaheb? The dalits have written tomes that remain read by them alone. Leftist writers write glowing commentaries and nostalgic regrets about the vast body of his work that lies ignored. But perhaps here is a point that more can relate with, a starting point for curiosity. Why is this man inspiring nationwide journeys of lakhs of people half a century after his death without advertising or doles?

Here is an article P Sainath had written on his 50th Death Anniversary. Read it, because it shares something vital about how we see Dr. Ambedkar, how selectively we adopt his visions and how we betray those he cared for the most.

The 50th death anniversary of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar is a time to remember that the larger society ignores or distorts the Dalits' struggle for their rights at its own risk.

"GET READY for a siege." Follow this guide "to escape possible chaos." Even Dalits are joining the "EXODUS." And "You thought Tuesday was bad? It will only get worse today." There is a "nightmare" — a threat of violence. And the poor "Mumbai police will have to bear the brunt of it all."

These were just a few of the headlines (some of them front page, first lead) in the press and on television channels. And they were about the lakhs of Dalits gathered in Mumbai to observe the 50th death anniversary of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. That is, on December 6. There were, of course, fine exceptions. But mostly, media coverage of the run-up to the event was much like the coverage of post-Khairlanji protests in Maharashtra.

This is not the first observance of the great man's anniversary. Lakhs visit the "chaitya bhoomi" in Mumbai each year on this day. As they did this year, too, with high discipline. And without that hell foreseen in the headlines. (After the huge build-up, the issue has faded from the news. Alas, no mayhem.) Then why the hysteria? Is it because the state saw some violence after the Khairlanji murders? Now, every issue stamped 'Dalit' gets slotted into: "Will there be disorder and chaos?"

And so a decades-old event was cast in a frame never imposed on other annual festivals. Some of those, like the Ganesh utsav, go on for 10 days in the city. And have a massive impact on traffic. But they do not get covered this way. And the more dismal display has come from the English media. The Marathi press — at least on December 6 — did better. There were essays on the man, his legacy, his relevance.

In the English media — with rare exceptions — the Ambedkar anniversary rated at best as a traffic problem. At worst, as a potential nightmare. There was not even a pretence of interest in the person whose 50th death anniversary it was. A giant who was no `Dalit leader' but a national one with a global message. Dr. Ambedkar was not just the prime architect of the Constitution. This was a man who resigned from the Nehru Cabinet — he was the nation's first Law Minister — on issues linked to women's rights. He stepped down when the Cabinet dragged its feet on the Hindu Code Bill that would have advanced the rights of millions of women.

Few in the media asked why so many — sometimes up to a million — human beings come to observe his death anniversary each year. Is there one other leader across the world who draws that number 50 years after his death? To an event that speaks to the hearts of people? To a function not owned or organised by any political party or forum? There was no effort to look at why it is the poor and the dispossessed who come here. No mention that this was a man with a Ph.D from Columbia University who returned to lead what is today the greatest battle for human dignity on planet earth.

There was little journalistic curiosity over what brings 85-year-olds with just two rotis in their hands all the way from Mhow in Madhya Pradesh to Dadar in Mumbai. People for whom the journey means both hardship and hunger. Musicians and poets who perform through the day for nothing. Hard-up authors who print books and pamphlets at their own cost for their fellows. And yet make the trip — driven by their hearts and drawn by the hope of a noble vision as yet unfulfilled. A casteless world.

Which other national leader commands this respect 50 years after his death? Let alone when alive? Why are there more statues of Ambedkar in India's villages than those of any other leader the country has ever seen? His statues are not government installed — unlike those of many others. The poor put them up at their own expense. Whether in Tamil Nadu or Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra or Orissa, see whose portraits can be found in the humblest of huts. It's worth trying to understand why.

The 50th anniversary is being held in the context of Dalit unrest in Maharashtra. But it is being used to take Khairlanji out of its larger context. Crimes against Dalits in Maharashtra have risen steadily through the 1980s and 1990s. There were 604 cases of rape of Dalit women recorded in 1981. That number was 885 by 1990. And rose to 1,034 by 2000. That's based on very biased official data. The real figures would be much higher. And things have gotten worse since then.

There is one exception. Crimes under the Prevention of Atrocities (PoA) Act do show a big dip in the 1990s. But only because the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party Government arbitrarily dropped thousands of these cases at one go.

As the Dalit voice in organised politics has declined, the number of caste attacks on Dalits in Maharashtra has increased. Earlier, their political strength was their best shield. For decades, they had repelled the worst excesses of landlord cruelty. Untouchability did not vanish. But they did fight it stoutly. This culture of resistance rested on strong political movements. So, though less than 11 per cent of Maharashtra's population, Dalits had begun to stand tall.

But the Republican Party of India splintered and many of its leaders were co-opted by mainline parties. The Dalit Panthers, once a key source of inspiration and strength, went almost extinct. The results of the decline showed up soon. There was no struggle against the dropping of those thousands of cases under the PoA Act. Electoral opportunism saw the RPI factions crumble further. The 2004 polls saw them put up their worst show ever.

You can see it in battles over water as in Jalna, labour boycotts in Raigad or wage battles elsewhere. Attacks on Dalits have risen across Maharashtra. Just a year ago, more than 20 Dalit houses were torched in Belkhed village in Akola district. Akola was once a centre of Dalit political strength. In the 1960s, RPI candidates used to get 40 per cent of the votes in the Lok Sabha seat here.

Hindutva's rise from the late 1980s saw the RPI fracture further. Too many leaders were swallowed by the Congress and later the Nationalist Congress Party. Dalit unity lost ground. These setbacks were to reflect in every sphere. The shrinking of public sector and government jobs in the reform years hit Dalits badly. Even existing jobs lie vacant. A Times of Indiareport reckons that more than 1.3 lakh government posts in reserved categories in Maharashtra have not been filled up for years.

Meanwhile, the protests after Khairlanji have had an ugly companion. The growing display of caste prejudice in the media. The claims were sick. Khairlanji had nothing to do with caste. The woman who was raped and murdered was of loose morals. There were no "upper castes" in the village. (That last had to come from an English-language journalist unaware that the dominant caste in a given village might not be an "upper caste" at all.) Dalits were holding the state "to ransom." Wicked `politicians' were behind what was going on. The protests were Naxal-driven.

As always, there were brilliant exceptions. (Even on television.) They did not, though, define the main trend. The same media treat anti-quota activists as heroes. (No matter how much damage they inflict or how close to racist their rhetoric gets.)

Interviews in the run-up to the Ambedkar anniversary were mostly with people whining that Shivaji Park had been turned into a toilet. Or who spoke only about pollution and traffic jams.

It would be startling if political groups did not enter the protests. Corporation and panchayat elections are due in February. And parties won't ignore that. But they did not set off this process, even if they sought to engage with or exploit it. Ordinary Dalits were on the streets long before Dalit party leaders were. Khairlanji was the fuse. An already deep disquiet, the bomb. Many of these protests have taken place outside traditional political frameworks. On the streets were salaried employees and full time workers. People with no firm party links. There were salespersons and teachers, hawkers, and vendors. Landless and jobless. They, not `vested interests,' were the key to what happened.

The police still plug the `Naxal' angle. The Maoists just do not have the power to stage State-wide actions. Any political group, though, would be thrilled to get the credit for having launched protests it did not even foresee. It builds its appeal. Note that many Dalit party leaders joined the protests days after they began. Attempts to brand the protests as `Naxal-led' are poor escapism.

This is a State witnessing the highest numbers of farm suicides in the country. The conditions of the poor are dismal. For thousands, their anger and despair has turned inwards, within and upon themselves. Hence the suicides. With Dalits, that anger is being expressed. Outwards and openly. The larger society ignores or distorts their struggle for their rights at its own risk.

In the end it is more than a fear of violence that annoys elite society and its media. It is a fear of the mass. A worry that these people no longer know their place. A fear of the assertion of their rights and the loss of our privileges. A fear, in short, of democracy.

 Originally published in The Hindu
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The scent of the earth... the title deed
The life of a man... and futile need
The freedom to be... in silly glee
And the weight of the smallest deed.

Each on their own way, they split
Flames snuffed, and fires lit
A change ordained though nothing was gained
But that indeed was the writ.

Some saw the woman in chains and wings
Others saw farmers and tiny 'people things'
"The earth!" they cried, is brittle and dried
An intricate web of ominous tidings

"Oh this needs attention the most"
"Fight that fire first, mere dost"
Unseen fractures abrupt departures
"To prosperity!" we raise a toast