Corporate ‘listing’ of ‘powerful’ voices

ambedkar constitution
Image courtesy: The Statesman

Every year various magazines, online portals, newspapers bring out their ‘power’ list for our consumption. These are brought out on particular occasions and are ‘judged’ by a few ‘selected’ ‘knowledgeable’ people who go through the ‘work’ and ‘achievements’ of the people during the year and come to a conclusion. Obviously, these ‘power’ ‘people’ differ according to the magazines and many might not find space elsewhere. The history of ‘powerful’ people of the world actually started with Time and Newsweek magazines. Ofcourse, most of their writers once upon a time were western commentators. Indian commentators would hardly find a space in these magazines but things have changed now as various Indian commentators and experts have found their way into these circles. However, many times, you are surprised with some inclusions and exclusions but these are prerogatives of the magazines and newspapers and we can disagree with them or ignore them.

This year’s Indian Express’s power list was shamelessly biased and deliberate attempt to denigrate Gandhis. It looks as if the newspaper has decided to play the game for the BJP and it is here that these ‘liberal’ looking media is more dangerous than the venomous Arnab Goswami as you know his republic TV will only play that game. Liberals do not counter the legitimacy of the Brahmanical classes but try to defend this superstructure by diverting the issue or giving it a different ‘angle’. Except for making the ‘powerful’ happy and ‘building’ up a few new ‘brands’, these ‘power’ lists are nothing but an exercise to keep the ‘audiences’ and ‘readers’ glued to their media so that they too have a feeling of inclusion’. Most of the ‘power list’ are actually the ‘vision’ of ‘intellectuals’ but channels too resorted to this through their ‘inclusion’ by asking people to vote. A few years back, CNN IBN started voting for ‘Greatest Indian’. They carefully did not bring Gandhi into picture and the ‘fight’ was between Jawahar Lal Nehru and Baba Saheb Ambedkar. In the final count of votes, Dr Ambedkar won with heavy margins and if Gandhi were there as a participant, he would have lost heavily but that is how the Brahmanical elite manipulate things where they made Gandhi as the topmost icon of India who is ‘unquestionable’ and then suggested that Baba Saheb Ambedkar is most popular figure of India. My view point on greatest Indian debate are available here :

Time to time, these magazines also change their tactics to look ‘progressive’ and ‘inclusive’ and it depends on the political situation in the country. They provide a feeling that they ‘care’ for the marginalised. After the Mandal Commission report, most of the newspapers opposed vehemently the OBC reservation but some of the Hindi papers started giving space to Dalit-Ambedkarite writers. It is a fact that these media houses do not have much space for them. Then Pioneer provided one column to Chandra Bhan Prasad on Sundays exclusively on the Dalit issues. Indian Express recently asked Suraj Yengde to curate a column on caste-race matters. After the death of Rohith Vemula many of the newspapers published the stories and personal narratives of ‘dalits’ so a clever way to confine you to being Dalit. There are extraordinary people who can write on any subject but then the Brahmanical media confine them to their identity. However, as it is also an issue of visibility, many of our friends flow in it and become party to it. As the Dalit middle classes grow, the media and other spaces will be made available to them not to challenge the Brahmanical hegemony but put them in a separate ‘Dalit’ cell like the political parties do, so most of these greats are only called to speak or write on when particular issue of Dalit arise as ‘voice of the people’ as if they don’t understand or know any other ‘national’ or ‘international issues’ which will be the domain of Gupta ji, Sharma ji, Jha Sahebs and Mishra ji.

Fact is that Ambedkarism has been the ideology which India’s ruling castes always suspected and denied space. It grew up because of dedicated Ambedkarites and their ground work. Today, we don’t have time to remember those spirited legends such as Advocate Bhagwan Das, L R Balley, V T Rajsekhar, K. Jamanadas, Raja Dhale, J V Pawar, Sadanand Fulzale, Bojha Tarkam, N.G.Uke, Vijay Surwade, Manohar Mauli Vishwas, Baby Tai Kamble, Shanta Bai Dane, Kumud Pawade and so many others who kept the spirit of Ambedkarism high and flying. Most of these legends never got an opportunity to air their views in the so-called ‘national’ media. In fact, person like V T Rajshekar started Dalit voice after resigning from the Indian Express in the 1980s while L R Balley started Bhim Patrika to carry on the mission after the demise of Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar in 1956. Shri Bhagwan Dass compiled the work of Baba Saheb and brought collected work of Dr Ambedkar. There were numerous magazines and journals in various parts of the country which were being run in the name of Ambedkarism, not necessarily on the Bahujan issues. V T Rajshekar used to call ‘national media’ as India’s ‘national toilet papers’. We all grew up admiring him though many of those who felt that isolation can not help the Dalit cause differed with him but what I wish to suggest categorically is that Ambedkarite literature and power grew without getting legitimacy from the Brahmanical elite. It never needed to be. That is why late Kanshiram Saheb was extraordinary as he never went to get a ‘certificate’ from those ‘manuwadi’ media and politicians. In the recent year, Round Table India has done tremendous work to provide space to aspiring Ambedkarite Bahujan scholars and made a niche for themselves without any certification from the ‘intellectual’ elite of the country. Can we ignore the phenomenal work done by Lokmitra through Trailokya Baudh Mahasangha and Nagaloka and his dedicated team of activists such as Mangesh Dahiwale and Priyadarshi Telang. My friend in Odisha, Manas Jena has been writing a regular column for Pioneer for many years and it is a well-received column. Another friend Dr Goldy M George has been contributing through not only ground work of Dalit Mukti Morcha but regularly writing thought provoking issues. Ofcourse, Brahmanical media fear independent and assertive Ambedkarites.

It is equally important to understand that not all who are being ‘projected’ as Dalit icons or heroes are Ambedkarites. Two years back, American media as well as many in India ‘celebrated’ the ‘autobiographical’ work of an expatriate Indian in America, hailed as a landmark book. The fact was, while the book has her own experiences and that of her uncle who happened to be part of ‘revolutionary’ movement, the author actually despised Ambedkarites and Ambedkarism as she came from the ‘left’ background. If Dalit movement is acknowledged world over today and respected, it is because of Dr Ambedkar’s monumental work and guidance to the people as well as the dedicated work of Ambedkarite. Travel to the United Kingdom and you will find how people such as Ms Santosh Dass, Gautam Chakrawarty, Arun Kumar, Devinder Chander and others have kept the flag of Ambedkarism high. They don’t run ‘professional’ organisations nor are they attached to any ‘university’ but with their work with the community they kept the Ambedkarite movement in the northern hemisphere alive. I have said many times, for ‘scholars’ Dr Ambedkar may be like any other philosopher or political scientist who they ‘research’ ‘write’ and speak on but for millions of people in India Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar is their friend, philosopher and guide who they revere as Baba Saheb, who is their life and identity.

While the media and individuals are free to bring out their list every year or once a while, I can also provide some suggestions and friends can work on that. Power list of 100 Indians in the service of Brahmanism (this list can have some Dalit-OBC-Muslim, Christian, Adivasi names too), 50 non Dalit Ambedkarites, 100 Ambedkarites in the service of humanity (including literature, social work, journalism (this can have people of all communities who have followed Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar and are dedicated to his vision and mission).

Any takers for my suggestions?




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Vidya Bhushan Rawat

Vidya Bhushan Rawat is a social and human rights activist. He blogs at twitter @freetohumanity Email: [email protected]

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