How long are we going to carry on the surrenderist policies in the name tactical line which purely and categorically reinforces the above quote by Lenin ! ‘ History Repeats Itself’
Welcoming Reader’s Participation In Preparing A “People’s Manifesto for India’s Future” –
by Countercurrents Collective — June 2, 2020
Today, the Republic of India faces its gravest moment since it was born seventy years ago.
What has hit the second most populous nation in the world – just in the last few months itself – is nothing short of a crisis of Biblical proportions. An untreatable viral epidemic, a debilitating lockdown, a collapsed economy, hunger stalking every corner of the land, growing tensions on the border – and on top of all this a major attack from locusts!
Already for the last six years now India has been subject to rule by a government that is the most petty, communal, callous and incompetent regime the modern Republic has ever seen in its entire existence. The consequences are there for everyone to see – erosion of every universal value and principle, the complete emasculation of democratic institutions, increased oppression of minorities, dissidents of any kind and rampant violation of human rights. If the present is bad the future looks bleaker still.
It is true, no disaster happens overnight and every evil act or policy we witness today has a history perhaps as old as the Republic itself. There are many, many lessons to be learnt from the past, the most primary one being, the price of liberty is eternal vigilance. And we may add – the need for relentless organisation of the people of India also – in all their grand diversity, to safeguard their rights and that of everyone.
Where do we go from here? What are the most pressing issues that need to be addressed today? What can we do to regenerate hope? What can we learn from our own history as well as that of others around the world? What is the pathway to a future India where everyone can live in peace but also with justice and dignity?
How can we frame a new manifesto for a Republic of India 2.0 that does not become yet another fancy wish list, just long on demands, short on details and clueless about achieving them? In response to that last question, we at the Countercurrents Collective, want to propose an exercise through which we can indeed come up with such a manifesto to shape the future of India.
It may not be a perfect process and we are completely open to suggestions but here is the proposal. The manifesto will be put together through a three-step process:
A) First, we invite all our readers and anyone interested to send in their detailed comments, articles, suggestions, notes on the kind of India they want. Everyone is welcome to tell us their views on any topic, issue or concern they may have but for a broad guidance we list here some of these below:
- Strengthening democracy – restoring integrity of our institutions and democratic processes.
- Decentralisation of power – from the Center to States, from States to Districts or sub-regions
- Social justice – how to effectively empower those at the very bottom of the Indian social ladder and ending the apartheid of the caste system.
- Development – how do we create a model of development that serves the needs of the people of India and not the interests of global capitalism and its domestic lackeys.
- Human Rights – How can we arrest the human rights violations going on in the country
- Communal Harmony– Concrete suggestions to ensure communal harmony in the country
- Adivasi rights – justice and respect for the original dwellers of the Indian subcontinent
- Rural-urban divide – restoring the rights of farmers and rural populations to a fair share of national resources and the right to live with dignity.
- Dignity of Labour – those who work should rule over those who don’t.
- Protecting diversity – asserting the rights of all ethnicities, linguistic groups, religious communities, local cultures.
- Food security – how do we banish hunger from the Republic of India?
- Redistributing wealth – overturning the obscene concentration of riches in the hands of the 1 percent.
- Accountability in governance – to make public servants into real servants of the public.
- Ecology – restoring the health of the soil, water, air and forests of India.
- Energy – resolving the current crisis of both overconsumption by a few and under -consumption by the many, as well as ensuring the greening of energy.
- Gender – abolishing the usurpation of power and resources by men in every walk of life and restoring the rights of women and sexuality minorities.
- Children – they are the future of India literally and it is time their rights, concerns and needs are put right at the centre of all policy making.
B) In parallel, we want to carry out case studies of struggles, radical reforms, policy and community initiatives that have transformed different parts of India. From the anti-caste Dravidian movement in Tamil Nadu, the Kerala model of development, the land struggles of Bihar, the cultural and literary waves of Bengal, the nationality assertions of the Indian North-east or Kashmir – to every local level initiatives on any theme of relevance to the well-being of the Indian people. The case studies will be compiled through both inputs from our readers as also field and desktop research, and use to illustrate the specific demands and suggestions in the Peoples’ Manifesto.
C) A panel, specially set up for this purpose, will compile the Manifesto, based on all these various contributions in terms of ideas, suggestions and analysis. The Manifesto will be released for national and global distribution formally on 15 August 2020. It will be a living document and continue to be updated till we achieve these demands through our various struggles.
We invite all our readers, well-wishers and others to consider our proposal and contribute to the compilation of this People’s Manifesto for India’s Future and begin the process of changing India for the better and forever. We look forward to your support with great anticipation.
We welcome all the readers of Countercurrents.org to participate in this process. You can submit your articles to firstname.lastname@example.org with “People’s Manifesto” as subject line. If you have any doubts you can contact us in the above email address.
July 25, 2020 00:02 IST
July 24, 2020 23:06 IST
Rajasthan HC has disregarded law laid down by SC while admitting plea by Pilot camp
The Rajasthan High Court’s order, directing that status quo be maintained in the disqualification proceedings against 19 legislators and holding a legal challenge to the Rajasthan Assembly Speaker’s notice under the anti-defection law to be maintainable, borders on judicial indiscipline. The order does not give any reason for admitting the petition and overruling objections to its admissibility, except for saying legal questions have arisen, including one on the validity of a sub-clause in the Tenth Schedule. It is as if the mere fact that some questions have arisen is enough to disregard the doctrine of precedent. There is a specific prohibition in a Constitution Bench verdict of the Supreme Court on courts intervening in disqualification matters at a stage prior to a presiding officer giving a ruling. Of the 13 questions the Division Bench has framed, purporting to arise from the Speaker C.P. Joshi’s notices to 19 Congress members in the Sachin Pilot camp, the last one itself shows it cannot entertain the petition. The question is whether the Supreme Court’s judgment in Kihoto Hollohan (1992) is a bar on the High Court examining the issues. It is illogical that the Bench holds that the petition is maintainable even while proposing to examine whether a Constitution Bench judgment binds it or not. In other words, a petition has been declared maintainable on the ground that the court proposes to examine its maintainability.
And the 1992 judgment, while upholding the validity of the Tenth Schedule to the Constitution, the anti-defection law, also declared that Para 2 — a part of which is now under challenge and is the ostensible reason for the High Court to entertain the petition — does not violate the freedom of speech, vote or conscience of elected members. Yet, the High Court is now venturing to find out whether Para 2(1)(a), which deals with disqualifying lawmakers who “voluntarily give up membership” of their party, has been examined by the apex court from the point of view of “intra-party democracy”. If at all the provision’s validity is to be tested, it can only be done in a case arising out of it. When no decision has been rendered by the Speaker, it is beyond comprehension how the court entertained arguments on the issuance of the notice and on whether dissidents can be disqualified for questioning the party line. Para 2(1)(a) has been used by Speakers for years, and many such disqualification orders have been upheld by the Supreme Court, including as recently as November 2019 in a Karnataka case. Admitting a matter without explaining how the law laid down by the Supreme Court does not bind a High Court raises grave questions of judicial propriety. However, even as the political crisis plays out on the lawns of Raj Bhavan, the top court itself appears to be raising the question whether dissent within a party can attract disqualification proceedings. Whatever the circumstances, the SC should not condone improper and premature judicial intervention.
What Would the NHS Look Like if it Took Health Promotion Seriously?
By Collective 20
[Collective 20 is a group of writers located in different places throughout the globe. Some young, some older; some long-time organizers and writers, others just getting started, but all equally dedicated to offering analysis, vision, and strategy useful for winning a vastly better society than we currently endure. The members of Collective 20 hope their contributions concerning social, political, economic, and environmental issues will generate more useful content and better outreach through a collective publication effort as opposed to individuals doing so on their own. Collective 20’s cumulative work can be found at collective20.org, where you can learn more about the group, see an archive of its publications, and comment on its work.]
On Sunday 5th July 2020, the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, wished it a happy 72nd birthday. Spitfires flew over in celebration and buildings were lit up in blue as people poured out into the streets at 5pm to clap in appreciation of Britain’s favourite institution. We’re talking, of course, about the National Health Service (NHS).
The NHS, it seems, is loved by everybody. During the COVID-19 pandemic the public have consistently shown their appreciation of NHS staff with public displays of “thank you NHS ” art and coordinated nation-wide rounds of applause. More generally and consistently, the NHS is also celebrated by the Left.
The reasons for this are both historical and ideological. The NHS was founded in 1948 by the Labour Party and based on the following three principles; (1) to meet the needs of everyone, (2) to be free at the point of delivery, (3) and to be based on clinical need, not ability to pay. This, of course, was part of the broader programme of establishing a welfare state.
Since the 1980s, however, the NHS – and the welfare state in general – has been under attack. A new generation of right-wing politicians – of which the hypocrite, Boris Johnson, is the successor – managed to galvanise sufficient support for the privatisation of large parts of the welfare state, including aspects of the NHS. This reactionary politics was started by Thatcher (as leader of the Conservative Party) and continued by Blair (as leader of New Labour), making it establishment orthodoxy by the end of the century. Since then, the Left has been on its backfoot, struggling to defend the progressive institutions introduced following the devastation of WW2.
This, of course, makes sense. Defending actually existing progressive policies and institutions is always a good use of resources. However, in and of itself, it is probably not enough. We cannot simply call for the renationalisation of the privatised sections of the economy. In addition to these defensive measures, the Left needs vision. We need to be able to say what a good health system for the 21st century would look like. This, however, means looking at our beloved NHS critically.
Whilst it is true that the establishment of the NHS represented a great leap forward and that – even in its partly privatised form – the NHS constitutes a much better health system to those in operation in many other countries – including some that are much richer than the UK – it is also true that the NHS could be much better. After all, there is always room for improvement. So what – beyond the renationalisation of the privatised sections of the NHS – should the progressive-left be calling for?
This question raises another, more basic question – namely, how to proceed? One answer to this question – perhaps the best one – is to draw on the latest research into health promotion. Leading public health scholars have referred to such an approach as “evidence based politics” (Wilkinson and Pickett) and “ideology with evidence” (Marmot). In his 2010 review, Marmot highlights the seriousness of health as a social justice issue:
“Reducing health inequalities is a matter of fairness and social justice. In England, the many people who are currently dying prematurely each year as a result of health inequalities would otherwise have enjoyed, in total, between 1.3 and 2.5 million extra years of life.”
The review then goes on to point out that “There is a social gradient in health – the lower a person’s social position, the worse his or her health” and that “Health inequalities result from social inequalities.” Furthermore, “This link between social conditions and health is not a footnote to the ‘real’ concerns with health – health care and unhealthy behaviours – it should become the main focus.” This, of course, applies as much to the NHS as it does to any other social institution. The difference, however, is that the NHS has a commitment to health promotion and to evidence based practice. So what are the implications of these findings for the NHS? Could the answers to this question help inform a progressive-left programme for NHS reforms?
If the NHS is, once again, to become a genuine symbol of progressive-left politics then we need to identify the sources of social inequality inside the NHS. Anyone who has engaged with the NHS – either as a patient or a member of staff – cannot help but notice how hierarchical it is. The most obvious illustration of this is the differences in colour of the nurses uniforms – typically the darker the blue the higher up the nurse is in the hierarchy. Nurses in light blue uniforms – who often have the most patient contact – are not formally recognised as professionals.
However, it is a set of institutional structures that gives backbone to this hierarchical colour coding. The first, and perhaps most obvious, is the division of labour. This refers to how tasks are shared out within the workplace. In the NHS there is a corporate division of labour. This means that empowering and disempowering tasks are shared out unevenly. Some jobs – at the top of the hierarchy – are made-up of tasks that are almost, if not entirely, empowering. Empowering jobs are those that give access to information and authority, making it possible to implement decisions that impact large parts of the workplace – including, of course, the staff. These jobs are taken by a minority of staff who use their power to influence how the NHS is organised and run. All other employees endure, to varying degrees, relatively disempowering jobs.
The corporate division of labour is one way in which social inequalities are institutionalised within the NHS. This, however, means little unless it is supported by a pay scheme that complements the hierarchy. Not surprisingly, in the NHS the higher up the hierarchy you are the more you get paid. Put simply, differences in pay reflect differences in power and one source of economic power within the workplace is for a minority to monopolise empowering tasks. So, in addition to the corporate division of labour we also have complementary criteria for remuneration that institutionalises social inequalities within the NHS.
Another important factor – that runs parallel with the corporate division of labour – has to do with decision-making. Anyone who has worked in the NHS – in any capacity – will tell you that you are expected to follow orders from above. As with virtually all other workplaces, all democratic rights to participate in the management of our own place of work go unrecognised. Authoritarian decision-making is another way in which social inequalities are maintained within the NHS.
Public ownership of the NHS remains an important part of any campaign to protect the public services from privatisation. However, if the NHS is to become a beacon of the progressive-left in the 21st century, in addition to this we also need to push for reforms that address institutionalised forms of social inequality inside the NHS. The corporate division of labour, the pay scheme that complements that division and the authoritarian decision-making that is accommodated by it all need to be replaced.
This means redesigning jobs within the NHS so that empowering and disempowering tasks are more evenly distributed amongst the staff. Bringing pay in-line with these redesigned jobs will also need to happen. In the absence of an elite of authoritarian managers, new egalitarian and participatory forms of decision-making and self-management will have to be institutionalised. Each of these measures would directly address social inequalities (that the NHS currently institutionalises) and with it the social gradients in health that we know emerge from these social inequalities. Given that the NHS is one of the world’s largest employers, the health implications of this would be very significant.
Clearly, this has implications for education and training. However, given that inequalities in education constitutes a major social determinant of health, nobody with a serious commitment to health promotion and social justice should see this as an obstacle to trying. The introduction of these kinds of radical reforms to the NHS would also have implications for the broader economy. It would help expose the pathological myth on which the current system rests. As the Marmot Review puts it:
“Economic growth is not the most important measure of our country’s success. The fair distribution of health, well-being and sustainability are important social goals.”
A Nun’s story –
by Vidyarthy Chatterjee — July 24, 2020
One of the most widely-known and deeply-admired of all Indian nuns who gave up the habit after receiving the call of liberation theology, is a daughter of Kerala who goes by the name of Dayabai. When she left home at Pullattu Veedu in Poovarani, near Pala in Kottayam district, to become a missionary nun, she used to be called Mercy Mathew and was sixteen years of age. But she gave up convent life to seek her own path of service to poor and marginalized people. After a wandering life which took her to different parts of the country, she settled down among the Gond tribals of Chhindwara in Madhya Pradesh. Living as one of them for the past forty years, she has been fighting for tribal rights to land, proper employment and rightful wages, but above all, to a life of dignity and honour.
To quote Trivandrum-based Shiny Jacob Benjamin, who has made a film on her called Ottayal – One Woman, Alone : “Mercy Mathew was transformed into a one-woman army called ‘Dayabai’ whose life story is a beautiful paradigm of how one person can transform herself and her portion of the world into a meaningful place. Her life is a striking example of the theology of liberation in practice, expressed in terms of one woman’s courage, commitment and profound sense of justice.”
Within days of entering the convent, Mercy Mathew felt the need to choose between the Church and Christ – meaning, the Church began to seem to her like an empty shell devoid of concern or compassion for the poorest of the poor and the most wronged among the wronged. She opted for Christ and the open, parched spaces of the land inhabited by the hungry and angry millions. She decided that it was in these spaces that, working with a pair of bullocks and the children of the soil, she could put her understanding of Christ’s message and example into practice. The choice of place and people that she ultimately made couldn’t have been better – the Gonds of central India had been for centuries at the mercy of the institutions of State power, notably the police and the law courts, both manoeuvred by the middle and upper classes, money-lenders, flesh traders and musclemen, to the extreme disadvantage of the original inhabitants of the land. Come to think of it, Dayabai began to follow a trail that had since long been walked by many a former priest or nun disillusioned by the ways of a conservative, mummified Church, and which led directly to the heart of aboriginal country – the seat of the worst exploitation suffered by the voiceless and the invisible.
The plight of the tribals tugged at Dayabai’s heart from her first day in the convent. As she told Shiny Benjamin : “The very first day I went there I had the feeling that this is not what I want. And just after the first midnight mass at Hazaribagh (a town then in Bihar, now in Jharkhand), I saw them. They camped near the convent… wearing scanty clothes, their children tied to their backs, cooking in small utensils, warming themselves around a fire in the cold… We (inmates of the convent) were not allowed to go and speak to them. We just looked through the windows. We had been preparing for Christmas for a month… making cakes, biscuits and German sweets. We could give in writing what gift we wanted. We would get it. There would be a big Xmas tree. Somehow, I could not fit into that atmosphere. There was a strong pull towards those people…”
As mentioned earlier, Dayabai sees a world of difference between Christ and Church; and this is what made her decide to leave the Church. She took Christ in a firmer embrace than ever before in her life. “For me it’s very difficult to follow both Christ and Church, Church meaning official Church. So my option is Christ. I feel I am not with Christ when I fully follow the Church. Church is very secure and comfortable, Christ is not like that. Christ is with the struggling people, with the marginalized, with the rejected, with the nobodies of society. Even look at the freedom struggle in India, the Church was with the British, not with the freedom movement. Everywhere I think it was so, and even today.”
Some years ago I had the privilege of meeting Dayabai in the Calcutta Films Division office of Joshy Joseph, the documentary filmmaker. Till that day I was aware of the existence of this extraordinary woman in a remote sort of way. I kept hearing about her from here and there or reading about her, but this was the first time that I was meeting the activist-former nun. After meeting her, I understood what gave that wiry, metal-beaten look to that Malayali face that must have at some distant point in the past reflected the oily lushness of the extensive green and blue waters of her native land. Shiny Benjamin’s film gives us a detailed idea of the hard life that Dayabai chose over what could have been days and nights spent within nunnery walls in comfort and security; in prayers and back-biting; and in unvoiced anger at the workings of the Church bureaucracy. Having made that choice, the self-defrocked nun goes about her life with a joie de vivre that can come only from an abundance of inner peace.
Dayabai ploughs her own field and harvests her own crop with the help of one or two local persons. She raises chickens, grows a variety of fruits, and tends to goats in a small compound adjoining her humble dwelling. There is an energetic dog and a docile cat for company. And she takes on money-lenders, local policemen and other suspects as only she can, using a firm but civilized body and verbal language that inspires the victim and intimidates the wrongdoer. The confidence and serenity on her face could not have come easily and in short time. Christ is truly well-served by this brave and smiling child/bride of his.
What does Dayabai mean to her flock? One of them is clear in his assessment of the woman who is called ‘Behenji’ (sister) by thousands of people spread over many miles of parched fields and rough roads. “Behenji has done so much good for us, she made us men and women come together. Previously, before Behenji came, we were all so divided and had no unity. There was no school; there was no hand-pump too. We drank water from the pond. We didn’t even think we had to stand together. Once we started listening to Behenji, we became united. We have benefitted a lot from her teachings.” The speaker is Jayapal, a tribal, who is currently a sarpanch (panchayat president) after having educated himself, thanks to the guidance that he, like many others, got from Dayabai.
Parsu, another villager who has benefitted enormously from Dayabai’s teachings, sings a song for the director and her crew. ‘Didi’ (Dayabai) had taught Parsu this song many years ago, but he remembers it still : Keep each foot forward cautiously/ If you fall, just get up/ And be careful not to fall again/ Keep each foot forward cautiously/ The law is with us/ It will liberate us from exploitation
Dayabai could not have turned her back on convent life in the firm way she has if she weren’t a strong ‘political’ person with clear views on individual initiative, group action, and social change dependent on both. While her life is devoted for the greater part to Gond welfare and uplift, she has been known to travel to different places in the country to show solidarity with fellow-activists. She was in the Narmada movement, in Gujarat, in Manipur, and participated in the land struggle at Chengara (in Kerala). Would convent life have permitted her to participate in these important expressions of dissent against State terror and oppression? Never.
At a time when the country is overrun by non-governmental organizations (NGOs), Dayabai has some strong words to describe these bodies. “The NGOs are funded by either foreign sources or political parties, so they naturally want to work according to their target… because of that I think the NGOs are not so much in the struggle with people… they have projects… they are more project-oriented, not people-oriented.”
As if to dispel wrong notions that anybody may have about her own sources of funding, Dayabai says : “I have no accountable or predictable money. I have some friends. They give something now and then. Now some people know me. Some people come here for experience. They too give something. Good friends like Nandita Das give me something when they see me. I don’t have to give account, they trust me. Twice or thrice a year I go out to take classes or as a visiting lecturer. I get some money that way too. I don’t need much money, my life is very simple. For food I am self-sufficient.” Now that word has got around about the work she is doing at the grassroots level, even the government has begun to show interest in her ideas and her methods of popular participation in social change. One expression of official interest is that at times, she is asked to be a guide to IAS probationers. This again adds a little to her small kitty.
Her life as a farmer in the midst of people who know no way of life other than farming, has made Dayabai a quintessential inhabitant of the place she lives in. Agriculture and activism have blended easily to make life a holistic experience for Dayabai. Her ideas about how to enhance the quality of the soil that provides livelihood to the people, are born out of a devoted engagement with traditional wisdom. Dayabai : “In my personal life, I don’t buy multinational products as far as possible. I don’t use chemical-based products, especially petroleum-based products. After I started doing organic farming, I don’t allow detergents to mix with the soil. I want to keep my soil maximum pure without getting polluted… I use original country seeds as much as I can. I don’t use high-breed seeds. Also, I give back to the soil whatever my animals and I do not want. I use all waste to make compost. After harvest, everything is returned to the soil. The soil then becomes more moist…”
To get people to realize the usefulness of farming practices like these, Dayabai has chosen impromptu theatre as a tool of communication. She has performed at more than fifty places so far. “I have performed at Chhindwara and other places in accordance with people’s demand. Not just theatre, theatre is not an end. There would be discussions afterwards.” The street plays have no written script. They are written on the spot with the intention of making people aware and ready to fight. Dayabai’s poems are also recited. Fields, streets and markets form the stage most often; and everything happens in the language spoken by the villagers, thereby making for easy and effective communication.
Dayabai has come a long way, following a direction of her own choice. By her own admission, she has had “no great connection with the Church”. She is also on record that there are many people who “see me as a person who jumped the walls of the convent”. One can form one’s impression about her life’s philosophy and vision of social justice from this statement : “What fascinated me most were the lives of Gandhi and Jesus and Rani Lakshmi Bai who went about her job with a baby in her arms. I like all that, I started thinking that service is perhaps like that. I have never had a disconnected life.”
Here, it may not be out of context to compare Dayabai’s lifework and her ideas of service to the poor with those of Mother Teresa, founder of the Missionaries of Charity and India’s best-known nun. Clearly, Mother Teresa was the antithesis of someone like Dayabai. Where Dayabai refused to bow before the demands of organized religion, discarded the nun’s habit as a symbol of acceptance of the hierarchical authority of the Church, and struck out on her own to be of service to the poor, Mother Teresa was a most obedient servant of the Pope and the Vatican establishment all her life and never said or did anything that might seem to be an affront to the settled order. She, too, served the poor but it was always within the clearly defined jurisdiction of the Church in Rome which, it goes without saying, has never been an ally of those men and women of God who saw and continue to see meaning and substance in liberation theology.
What is liberation theology? Briefly, liberation theology is a school of thinking which proclaims that methods of direct action are at times necessary for the material and spiritual liberation of the poor and the powerless; that prayer and persuasion have to be accompanied by firmer and sterner methods when the former fail to yield the desired results. The conservative Vatican hierarchy is known to look upon the members of this school as godless Marxists who have made their way into the Church, when the truth is quite different. Liberation theology originated in Germany with the rise of the Nazis and made its way most forcefully into Latin America in the decades that followed the World War. Nearer home, many a Kerala nun or priest has taken the lead in applying the teachings of the Lutheran pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, commonly regarded as the original propounder of liberation theology – and literally lost their head, as proved by the case of Sister Valsa in Jharkhand.
If Dayabai is still breathing – meaning, she has not gone the way of Sister Valsa to a violent and premature death – it is perhaps because her way of engaging with the evil elements in society out to keep the local tribals in a state of permanent bondage, are gentler, more Gandhian, but no less determined. It is, however, difficult to say how Dayabai would have reacted if someone close to her had been raped – after all, the immediate reason for death to come visiting Sister Valsa was her defiant refusal to let a local young man who had violated a close associate of hers, go scot-free. This incident appears to have lit the fuse that had long been in the making against her by a local coal mining company and other vested interests.
To go back to the brief meeting with Dayabai in the cool of Joshy Joseph’s office-room. At one point of our conversation, I asked her whether it was possible to visit her village home and see her in her natural surroundings. She said it was okay with her but warned me that I should be prepared to put up with physical hardships, and the food would be nothing like what city people are accustomed to having. Suddenly, I asked her whether there were snakes around where she lived – I have had a life-long fear of snakes. Her reply was short and to the point – “Did you expect the open to be free of snakes?… If you are afraid of snakes, please don’t come.” No beating about the bush, direct and clear, so unlike the culture of evasion and euphemism that urbanites are used to. Dayabai lives in my mind as a picture of no-nonsense dignity.
( Vidyarthy Chatterjee writes on cinema,society, and politics.)
In China there was a philosophical school called Agriculturism between 770 BCE and 221 BCE. The main philosopher, who represented this school with a sophisticated exposition of that philosophy, was Xu Xing (372-289 BCE). His main philosophy was that people’s propensity is based on farming than to any other thing. By the third and the fourth century BCE the Chinese society had come out of pastoralism and firmly moved into agrarian production with a back up of strong philosophy of agriculturism. In Xu Xing’s philosophical domain agriculturist was known as ‘divine farmer’. The divine farmer was treated with higher esteem than the religious preacher.
In India farmer never got such a stature. A Brahmin saint who does not know what is agriculturism was given greater place in agrarian society also. The agriculturists were designated as Shudras by Brahmin saints and they were never allowed to acquire philosophical and respectful divine status. The Shudras had evolved their own agrarian spiritual deities but those deities were shown as unworthy in the brahmin literature. Thus production itself was rendered unworthy and it was not allowed to acquire philosophical significance.
Agriculturism as a philosophical school opposed division of labour and it proposed an idea, in China, called Shennong which in essence means that people should live by an ‘agrarian, communal and egalitarian’ system.
Confucianism opposed this school and proposed for division of labour and establishment of society of classes based on functional specialization. The agriculturist school was not a dogmatic school. It promoted ‘hundreds of schools of thought’ for spreading agrarian ideas. Free debate among farmers about seasons, seeds, crop patterns, methods of sowing, weeding and harvesting to improve the productivity was part of these hundred schools of thought. It also promoted debates around human society, God and their relationship. All agrarian societies built divine deities to represent God and relate to their abstract ideas of divinity. The Chinese society for a long time believed in worshipping nature as part of its deep agriculturist civilizational growth.
It was this Chinese agriculturist philosophy that engendered positive schools of thought like Confucianism, Taoism and Legalism later and accommodated Buddhism. But it never allowed Indian type of Brahminism (Hinduism) to take root in that country. We can now see how Indian Brahminism, that emerged after the third wave of migration of Aryans to the subcontinent (Tony Joseph, 20018) destroyed the very roots of agriculturist philosophy that had its existence in Harappan civilization. My assumption is that without agriculturism during Harappan times agriculture would not have developed to a level where surplus generation could take place and city civilization could have been built.
However, the Qin Dynasty that ruled China in the second century BCE opposed the agriculturalist philosophical school of thought as it believed in Legalism and burnt many of its books. Legalism itself was more progressive than Indian Brahminism which did not believe in any law that respects human being as a human being.
Unlike the Indian ancient Shudras who were agriculturalists but did not leave any written philosophical discourse, the Chinese agriculturists were great writers and philosophers. Since there was no varna-caste system in China every one had a right to read and write from ancient days and hence writings of all occupational forces were preserved in China by rulers after the Qin dynasty was overthrown. This is where the roots of Chinese agrarian development and Indian under- development lies.
Though Qin rulers burnt many books on agriculturist philosophy, yet the literature that survived influenced the Chinese civilization forever. Unfortunately, there is no such philosophical influence of Indian Shudra agriculturists as they were not allowed to emerge as thinkers and writers by Brahmins in ancient and medieval times. Once the Brahminism constructed Shudras as slaves and forced them to remain illiterate their philosophical growth was arrested. The Brahminic Vedas, Upanishads, Ramayana, Mahabharata, Kautilya’s Arthashastra and Manu’s Dharmashastra have no discourse on agriculturism and every writer in India treated these books as a source of Indian civilization and culture. All these books have nothing to do with agriculturism.
The Chinese agriculturism influenced many other schools of China, including Confucianism, though it opposed some aspects of agriculturism, Taoism, Legalism. It also influenced Buddhism of China once Buddhism reached there from India. Since the Qin Dynasty promoted Legalism that school also took strong roots in China from the second century BC onwards.
“Due to its Legalist focus, the Qin Dynasty was thorough in its purging of rival philosophical schools, including Agriculturalism. However, Agriculturalism in its heyday heavily influenced the agrarian policies of Confucianism, Legalism, and other contemporary Chinese philosophical schools, and so subsequently many concepts originally associated with the Agriculturalists continued to exist in Chinese philosophy.
The transmission and translation of Chinese philosophical texts in Europe during the 18th century had a heavy influence on the development of Agrarianism in Europe. French agrarianist philosophy, a predecessor to modern Agrarianism, of François Quesnay and the Physiocrats, are said to have been modeled after the agrarian policies of Chinese philosophy”.
One of the main problems of India is that at no stage of Indian philosophical evolution agriculturism was allowed to take root as a philosophical school.
In 18th and 19th centuries when Europe was borrowing agriculturist philosophy the Indian thinking was still under the grip of brahminism.. The Shudra farmers were not allowed to develop their own alternative thought. The first Shudra thinker who asserted the importance of agriculture and farmer was Mahatma Jotirao Phule in the late 19th century. Phule realised that the Shudras were denied of a philosophical status and were reduced to the status of gulam (slave). No slave could construct a philosophical school of his own, so long as s/he remains slave. Hence he wrote Gulamgiri putting the Shudra farmer in the central. However, his thought did not develop into full-fledged agriculturism like the Chinese school of thought because he had no historical heritage of building up a school of thought with a series of writings. Without a systematic writing no school of thought would develop.
A full-fledged philosophical school emerges only when multiple thinkers write on the same subject. The Chinese agriculturists rightly believed that ‘ hundred schools must contend’ to build a proper mature philosophical school. Based on the Chinese agriculturist school Mao Zedong who came from an agriculturist farming family developed a slogan ‘Let hundred flowers bloom and thousand thoughts contend’. His idea of peasant revolution was also based on the Chinese history of agriculturism.
In India there was an anti-agrarian brahminism in power all through its written history. The Shudra varna was the only varna which was engaged in agrarian productivity and it was not allowed to read and was denied the basic human dignity and spiritually validated existence. Though agricultural development is based on the science of cultivation it naturally evolves its own philosophy. That philosophy transits from generation to generation and age to age only when it is codified into a text. This was not allowed by Brahmin writers and ruling Ksatriyas. The Vaisyas were in between the Shudra agriculturists and Brahmins in ancient India. Only Gupta rule from 3rd to 5th century AD the Vaisyas became Dwijas with full business rights and right to education. Subsequently they too opposed the Shudra agriculturism. Though Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi wrote their nationalist philosophy but that philosophy has nothing about agriculturism. Because the Indian Banias, who became a totally business community, lost touch with agriculture, he never studied the Chinese history as he studied the European history. Later a famous Dalit (former untouchable) thinker and philosopher,Dr B.R. Ambedkar critiqued brahminism but not from agriculturism point of view but from religious morality and caste-cultural exploitation view point.
Ever since Vedic texts were written the pre-Vedic agriculturism was set aside because agriculturism esentially survives as Xi Xing emphasises on farm production, communitarianism and egalitarianism. Indian Brahminism inherantly opposed communitarianism, as communitarianism plays a key role in the advancement of agriculturism. Communitarianism would not allow the caste culture to operate in any field of life. Since Vedism brought in four fold varna (caste-class) division which is not even based on division of labour but based on spiritual and social authority over the Shudras who were the mainstay of agriculturism, that division negated progress of agriculturalism.
Brahminism from the beginning disarmed the Shudra agriculturalists by not allowing them to write their discourses into textuality. The Brahminic war centric vedisim and epic ideology and Ksatriya heroism did not allow agriculturism to develop as a philosophical school of thought because that school would have been lead by the Shudra thinkers. Not that there were no Shudra agriculturist thinkers at a time when agriculturism developed as a strong philosophical school in China. But they were crushed with an iron hand from the days of Kautilaya writing Arthashastra and more so from the days of Manu writing of Dharmashastra.
From 3rd century BC to 1st century AD when agriculturism would have developed with some kind of agrarian production Kautilya’s Arthashastra and Manu’s Dharmashastra were written by devaluing agrarian production. Farmers in India were never allowed to become divine farmer. Brahminism promoted anti-social saints and sanyasis as the ultimate model of Indian society, who have no role in production and agriculturism.
The parampara of Kautilya and Manu were continued by Savarkar and Golwalkar through their writings in modern times. The Hindutva school with an overt ideology of enmity to religions like Chritisianity, Islam and Buddhism covertly its structural ideology is anti-agricutlturism. Though constructed their ideology in terms of nationalism advancing agrarian production was never part of their discourse.
Agriculture scientifically was found based on two process– photosynthesis and decomposition. Because of this twin process renewability becomes possible. There is a spiritual view that God commanded humans to labour on the land, to which they belong to and produce from it and live a long life. This is a scientific spiritual dictum. Building agriculture science is long engaged by forming community with a philosophical discourse that land and labour re-generate similar species by multiplying themselves, which became a useful thing for human survival.
The Shudra producers of India were capable of advancing the philosophy of agriculturism with constant interaction with land, plant and animal. Still this philosophy is in oral form as the Shudra producers did not write that philosophy in detail into texts. Our agricultural universities are not structurally suitable for advancing agriculturism as a philosophy. Because they are full of brahminism.
Agriculturism is based on reason and scientific engagement with soil, seed and animal with an out of the box thinking. The Hindutva parampara is either anti-agriculturist or does not understand its fundamentals as it needs a productive mind but not destructive mind; a positive mind not a negative mind.
This is what Manu told the Shudras to do. Their work in agriculture was never seen as work.
- 123. The service of the Brahmanas alone is declared to be an excellent occupation for a Shudra; for whatever else besides this he may perform will bear no fruit.
- 129. No collection of wealth must be made by a Shudra, even though he be able to do it; for a Shudra who has acquired wealth gives pain to Brahman.
No Shudra wrote anything worthy against this barbaric statement of Manu till a Dalit law maker and philosopher, Ambedkar, came and wrote the present constitution and repudiated Manu. After the Bharatiya Janatha Party, which still follows Manu’s Dharmashastra as part of the parampara, came to power in 2014, agriculture remains most neglected area of administration, as it is not part of their philosophy.
Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd is a Political Theorist, Social Activist and Thinker
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