Ab ki baar, No Jamaadar

One of Narendra Modi’s slogans in his 2014  prime-ministerial campaign was “Swachh Bharat” – A Clean India

It was something everyone could get behind. Everyone, did get behind.

India’s municipal filth is legendary. Cows on the roads. People pissing on the side, neighbourhood open drains, V.S. Naipaul wrote an entire book about it.

A nice, clean, green India would really be a gift, even to the most cynical Modi-haters.

But… something felt sneaky and suspicious. Like wool being pulled over our eyes. Part of it was the obvious cosmetic do-over this implied. Like pushing things under the carpet, so the real dirt wouldn’t be visible.

But you know what they say about conspiracy theories. They’re either nuts or just plain brilliant.

Yet. It didn’t seem likely that Mr Modi and the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh), would invest so much effort, time, marketing muscle and  money in a campaign without a social engineering agenda behind it.

Something itched.

Two years, Vemula’s suicide and many cow lynchings later, I remembered the question I forgot to ask.

Who would make India swachch? Who would do the cleaning?

Dalits of course.

In the RSS’ world view, the varna or caste system has to be reinforced. The immutability of the four castes and their role in society is at the core of the Sangh’s ideology.
We Brahmins and upper castes don’t hire out our services for cleaning toilets, sweeping public roads, leave alone shredding carcasses. No matter how poor, uneducated or dire our life is.

We would be okay with mechanized scavenging. But manual scavenging? Not a chance.

So what better way to do it than to make a virtue out of a necessity?

Indeed, what better way to include dalits in their own scavenging process than to cloak it in modern day “development” terms and sell it with a photo-shopped image of Mr Modi allegedly sweeping his own room?

It was the perfect combination of The Rational and The Emotional. A hearts and minds campaign that was so hugely successful that entire Google communities grew around it. CNN News 18 did a 2-year, agency-run tribute on how well it was doing.

The keystone 2014 campaign slogan on which India voted and delivered Narendra Modi was  — “Ab ki bar Modi Sarkar.” (This time, Modi’s Government)

At the time, overdosing on Swachh-Bharat and Modi Sarkar from all quarters I had told a friend snarkily that the next election campaign slogan might as well be “ab ki baar  Jamadar” 

Jamadar means a street cleaner of sorts. A faintly pejorative word obviously, since higher castes often don’t do these jobs.

Perhaps I was wrong.

This independence day thousands of Dalits in Una took an oath to boycott manual scavenging and disposal of animal carcasses.

Una in Gujarat is already saying “Ab ki baar no jamadar,” three years ahead of elections.

Having been accosted and beaten up while transporting cows, they threw cow skeletons in government offices and told the government last month — “your cows, your problem.”

A fitting response, methinks, for a regime that wants to have its cow and clean it too.

Will this last? Or like the Patel uprising earlier, fizzle into nothingness?

It’s too soon to tell. Revolt is in the Indian blood. Revolution isn’t. But you push a man or a few good men too far, and who knows that they will do.

Here’s the video on the : The Dalit Oath

Via Pratik Sinha

 

Short link http://wp.me/p7JQ3S-w7

 

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