This is in response to Rajesh Rajamani's piece in TNM, The Savarna redemption: Why 'Not In My Name' campaign is a part of the problem.
Rajesh Rajamani’s thoughtless, smug and self-righteous response to the 'Not In My Name' campaign is symptomatic of the rotten identity politics that has paralysed critical thinking and action in the current conjuncture.
All analogical thinking is flawed but the analogy between 'Not In My Name' and 'Not all Men' as campaigns is simply absurd. 'Not In My Name' does not segregate a subsection of any group. It speaks for a My that is representative of every secular citizen in the country and that includes those of us who are marked non-citizens but still believe in the secular and the democratic. 'Not All Men' speaks of a subset of men who think they are not violent. 'Not In My Name' is a radical disavowal of the politics of hate committed in the name of citizens in a secular democracy. It is the same as the ‘Not My Conscience’ placards that we held when we protested against the President killing Afzal Guru in the name of the nation’s ‘collective conscience.’ And we were beaten by Hindu goons from across the road in Jantar Mantar who were not Brahmins at all.
Brahminism, however defined, is not the only structural component of the hatred against Muslims, the specific targets around whom this protest is being held. It is communalism and hatred for Muslims by communities across the board: Hindus, Christians, Sikhs and everyone else. While there is casteism in all these religions, that is simply not the issue here. There is casteism among Muslims too. Does that mean we not protest against the lynchings at all?
Brahminism is an ideology and it is in all of us, like structural sexism and structural homophobia It has to be battled every day of our lives. That does not mean we have to belittle protests on other issues, because Brahminism is not the only issue. I can not and will not say that as a gay man, this protest is useless to me because there is an underlying heteronomativity to it. There obviously is, as there is to practically everything, but that does not prevent me from seeing the importance of this protest and what it is trying to achieve.
The interpretation of the campaign as saying we are nice liberals who have nothing to do with the violence is one interpretation and a wilfully malignant one. I am going for the protest and my point, and the point of everyone I know who is going, is that we are furious and we will not tolerate these killings being done in our names. We acknowledge our complicity in these crimes and are working on changing that through an act of disavowal, protest and, hopefully, much more. We fail to see how dissing the idea of the protest or its name is anything but debilitating defeatism.
There is no clean chit for any one in India. Muslims and Dalits can be equally communal, homophobic and insensitive to attacks on other communities. The structural violence against them does not prevent the flourishing of their own bigotries. If we all just spent all our lives looking inward on our bigotries, we’d be doing nothing else.
There is a difference between Hindu and Hindutva just like there is a difference between Islam and jihadists. If one cannot see that, one is wilfully ignorant. One might call oneself Hindu for all sorts of political reasons. I am atheist but I call myself Christian because of what Hindutva forces are doing to Christians all over the country. It is a political choice and not because I believe in Christian casteism which is alive and kicking, as I know from my own family history and from having a Dalit father who converted to Christianity to survive.
Attacking the internet-using classes for putting beef pictures is as shallow as if I attack the writer for having access to the internet to peddle this article. We function from our class locations and every protest against fascism from every class location and cultural location and caste location and gender location counts. Has the great author/critic studied the caste and class locations of those who put up the photographs? Are caste/class locations so easily gleanable on facebook and Instagram? Should they be?
Perhaps people who believe this ludicrous collapsing of discrete categories and complete insensitivity to the complexity of people’s histories need to look inward as, in any case, inward-looking is all they seem to do in their production of the broadest brushstrokes-based, historically and politically ignorant ‘analysis.’
‘We’ – and this is a ‘we’ across caste, class and gender locations who deem ourselves secular citizens against lynching, a ‘contingent ‘we,’ a provisional ‘we’, a tremulous ‘we’ – want to look outward at the moment and collectively protest. This does not preclude our looking inward constantly and vigilantly at the same time and examining our privileges and lack of privileges. No one is statically privileged or underprivileged. A Brahmin woman is still also a woman. A Dalit man is still also a man. A Brahmin homosexual is still also a homosexual. A Dalit trans person is both Dalit and trans and may be filthy rich too. But none of that prevents us from coming together at a particular moment and protesting against the killing of Muslims across the country no matter what their caste.
No one is statically inward or outward either. This sort of simplistic analysis is giving Dalit politics a bad name. This is akin to the primary contradiction argument offered by braindead Marxists for whom class is the primary (indeed the only) contradiction. Here caste/Brahminism is the primary and only contradiction.
We wish we had only one edifice to fight. We have several. And unfortunately, a new edifice, represented by this article, which is that of self-righteous, identitarian fascism.
Note: Views expressed are the author's own.