Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Chowkidar for the Caste-Corrupted Empire

A bullet train is no match for the speed with which our great political orators spit out catchwords to capture the nation’s imagination. The latest comes from our Prime Minister Sri Narendra Modi. He had earlier tried to convince the electorate that he was the only √úbermensch who could protect their borders, their bank balance and their dharma. But after nearly five years—in which he coined innumerable new terms and renamed old schemes—he realized that he had not delivered as the chowkidar, the prime watchman of the nation. Lo and behold, he decided to share his failure with his entire constituency. Hence you have #MainBhiChowkidar trending on the social media. From cabinet ministers to former cow vigilantes, all have prefixed their social-media identities with the word, Chowkidar.

An incendiary Hindutva ideologue from his party, Sri Subramanian Swamy, refused to follow the fad. A former Harvard faculty member, he had sound reasons. In an interview given to a Tamil TV channel he said that being a Brahmin, he could not be a chowkidar. Brahmins, in the orthodox social hierarchy, are the priests and teachers. They instruct others and do not take orders a la doormatly doormen. In ancient times they had absolute control over knowledge, the classical language, and the sacred texts, while the rest of the populace was practically illiterate. Sri Swamy has made it clear to the prime minister that it is fine for an OBC (a Shudra, in the traditional hierarchy) like him to be the chowkidar, who would take orders from the citadel of Brahmanism in Nagpur. But Sri Swamy would not exchange his role as intellectual commander of the bahujans (majority-people, the so-called backward castes) for such sentimental reasons. 

After the 2014 general election, when Sri Narendra Modi was chosen to occupy the highest political office of the country as a democratically elected parliamentarian, there were many among even the so-called liberal-left anti-caste intellectuals who were filled with awe and praise for the RSS. They began to argue that unlike the secular parties, RSS seems to have given an OBC the chance to scale the political ladder and become the prime minister in a democratic manner. They believed it to be the sign that under RSS, the traditional caste system is being dismantled and a unitary and unified identity of a casteless Hindu is emerging, or, in fact, has emerged.  

But as the seemingly off-the-cuff remark by Sri Swamy shows, Brahmanism continues to pull the strings of even this stage-managed show of the casteless Hindu. The India that Sri Narendra Modi is a prime minister of is not the India of RSS’s dreams. This sovereign, socialist, secular democracy—this India that is Bharat, which is governed by a constitution guided by Western liberal and Christian principles, and has been drafted by a Dalit—is something they loathe. They are extremely uncomfortable with the Indian Tricolour, which they never hoist in their gatherings. Their ideal is a vast Hindu empire that holds almost the entire South Asia within ancient hierarchies of caste under a saffron flag. Until that happens, they must let a Shudra pawn consolidate India’s “backward” castes behind, ultimately, the Brahmin leadership. Accommodating one Modi is a small price to pay to win the allegiance of the entire backward communities of India. In a dark dystopian fashion, Sri Narendra Modi is a harbinger who will  do the dirty job of destroying democratic institutions and structure of India, till the “rightful owners” are back in power with all their Hindutva glory. 

Between Sri Modi’s call of letting the world know that we are fellow chowkidars with him and Sri Swami’s smug rejection of the same, a shocking news came out. It was in Sri Modi’s home state Gujarat. A 17-year-old Dalit student was allegedly tied to a tree, beaten up and was prevented to appear in the all-important board exams. The two attackers had apparently told him that since he was an untouchable “he should not study and take his exams but do labour work”. Later, it was also alleged that the boy was attacked because he was in a relationship with an upper-caste girl. In either case, the assaulters were trying to guard their caste status. After all, ye bhi chowkidar hain! (They too are watchmen). 

People are being deluded into thinking that by calling themselves chowkidar they are somehow fighting economic corruption. But can any of these swords-wielding sentinels do anything to prevent the kind of crimes committed by the likes of Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi and Vijay Mallya? Most of them won’t even challenge the corruption in their gram sabhas if the sarpanch is from their religion or caste. The chowkidars, like their previous cow-vigilante avatar, would target the Dalits and religious minorities. In this election season chowkidars will use the morally charged language to unleash terror among the political opponents. That’s where the whole chowkidar movement is leading to. Didn’t Sri Swamy once say that elections are not won on the basis of soundness of your economics, but how well you emotionally manipulate your cadre and the electorate? That seemingly off-the-cuff remark by him has deep roots in Hindutva ideology of brahmanical supremacy. And the foot soldiers, with the new name of chowkidars, would very willingly give their all to revive and protect the caste-ridden structure of the society. 

This is where the chowkidars will become their own gravediggers.