Statement on casteist verdicts on Bathani Tola, Laxmanpur Bathe and other Dalit massacres

December 25, 2013

Burn the New Manusmritis

statement by Republican Panthers

“There can be no doubt that the greater responsibility to bring about this social revolution in a non-violent manner lies with the opponent. Whether this revolution is peaceful or not is totally dependent on the response of the upper caste. Those who accuse the French National Assembly of brutality during the revolution of 1789 forget the despotism of the French monarch that forced the people’s rebellion. They also forget his brutal repression with the aid of foreign military forces that forced the rebellion to be violent. The social revolution need not have been vicious. We appeal to our opponents – do not oppose us, set aside the scriptures, abide by the law, and we promise you we will perform the program peacefully.” – Excerpts from the speech by Babasaheb Ambedkar at Mahad

Every struggle waged by the oppressed and humiliated dalit masses to establish a just and equal ethical society has been repressed violently and brutally by the casteist brahminical system. The history of society is the history of caste struggles. Struggles reflected in mythical stories of Shambuk, Ekalavya and other Asuras; the struggles of common people and philosophers like Charvak, Lokayat and Buddha and the battles of Babasaheb Ambedkar and Dalits in modern history for caste emancipation. Every battle fought by Dalits to assert their humanity – the Mahad struggle over access to public water, the temple entry struggle at the Kalaram temple, and the conversion to Buddhism were all met with violence.

The foundations of the new Indian nation were laid on the promises of universal principles such as liberty, equality and fraternity. This new beginning has proved to be mythical. Which promise of liberty, equality and fraternity was realised? Oppression and injustice is our collective reality. Anti-caste struggles for land redistribution like the contests over ‘gayraan’ and ‘panchnami’ lands; for establishing new symbols and histories of Dalit dignity like the Namanatar battle for renaming the Marathwada University have been countered with Chundurus, Karamchedus and Khairlanjis. There is no public outcry, no movement for justice against such visible violence and caste hatred.

If Manusmriti was the customary law that served to protect the interests of the political elite and privileged castes; then the contemporary laws have been created to establish and continue the dividends of caste. Every time we have demanded justice we have experienced insistent violence justified by the Law. The privileges of the unequal and undignified modern forms of caste oppression must be sustained at all human costs!
Babasaheb Ambedkar burnt the Manusmriti to publicly reject the unjust brahminical system and laid the foundations of a new beginning for Dalits where they live as dignified human beings. The brahminical capitalist system is actively eroding these foundations. This new phase of upper caste-class politics is organised and mediated through law. This law and legal system is the new Manusmriti of our time.

Why did Babasaheb Ambedkar burn the Manusmriti?

Manusmriti codified and allowed for the systematic oppression of Dalits. Babasaheb rejected this reasoning and practice openly and loudly by burning the Manusmriti. He said, “By burning the Manusmriti we express our rejection of the hierarchical principles of the Brahminism and Hindu society. We hope the brahminised people will register our protest and rejection and accordingly change their behavior and attitudes. Our friends are skeptical that brahminism will end by burning
Manusmriti. If this turns out to be the unfortunate reality then we will have only two paths available to us- one to burn those who are invested in the brahminical ideas and practices or the second to renounce the Hindu fold. We will have to choose one of the two paths.”

What are the new Manusmritis?

The law that denies justice by condoning caste based oppression, exploitation and violence while making the struggles for justice themselves ‘illegal’ is the new Manusmriti. The law that repudiates the bestial rape of Bhanwari Devi and claims that “upper caste men will not rape an untouchable woman” is the new Manusmriti. The government resolution that dismissed all cases of violence against Dalits during the Namantar movement of Marathwada University is the new Manusmriti. The law that declared that Khairlanji was not a caste crime is the new Manusmriti. The courts that pardon the premeditated cold blooded murders of Dalits by an upper caste mob in Bathani Tola and Laxmanpur Bathe are new Manusmritis. These are all new forms of the old Manusmriti.

In Bathani Tola 21 poor Dalits and Muslims were murdered; in Laxmanpur Bathe private militia of upper caste landlords murdered 58 poor people including women and children. Of all the private caste militias of upper caste landlords, Ranvir sena alone executed 29 massacres killing 287 Dalits and poor peasants in 5 years. The former President K R Narayanan has acknowledged that the incidents are a national shame. Despite this the recent judgments assure complete impunity to those who repress and murder Dalits. Dalit protests and reactions to massacres, on the other hand, are swiftly punished as we saw in the case of death sentences against four landless Dalit peasants in the Bara case and to eight landless poor peasants in the Dalelchak Baghoura case.

The recent adjudications and cases such as Laxmanpur Bathe, Bathani Tola, Kilavenmani, Belachchi, Karamchedu have explicitly and implicitly sought to create new Manusmruti which compels the downtrodden and most exploited people to distrust the judicial and political system of this country. Though the Manusmruti has been symbolically burnt year after year, the forces propelled by the new Manusmruti continue ‘Manav Dahan’ year after year. They are public pronouncements that Dalits will be excluded from the republic and even the human race. These courts, this law, this judiciary, indeed the morality embedded in this system are all the new forms of the old Manusmriti.

We should burn these new Manusmritis. Once again we demand to be recognized as humans. Friends, it is time to reignite the struggle for Dalit emancipation that will give birth to a new society whose basis will be equality.

Recall the words of Shaheed Chander Kamble, the legatee of the Phule, Ambedkar and Bhagat Singh’s ideology and the militancy of Dalit Panthers, “without countering violence atrocities will not end”. Time and again Dalit masses have shown that they have not forsaken their radical dreams of self-respect. The responsibility to keep this revolutionary quest alive is ours.