In this age of mainstream media, when your history is being rewritten and when every attempt is being made to erase the glorious chapters, forget leaders who have made immense contribution towards social justice and secularism, it is our duty to continuously remember them, whether the brahmanical media has time for them or not or whether they consider them ‘relevant’ today or not.
Former Prime Minister VishwnathPratap Singh was one such person whom our brahmanical experts want to forget, yet his legacy is so powerful or haunting for them that they cannot really ignore him even after a decade. Forget the media or their chums, not many remember him in today’s time, when remembering that tumultuous period is important to understand what hurt the brahmanical elite the most.
The acceptance of the Mandal Commission Report,which provided 27% reservation for the socially and educationally backward communities, on August 7th, 1990 by the V P Singh government at the centrejolted the ‘conscience’ of the savarna elite. With the help of the manuwadi media, it launched a sinister campaign against the government, which was perhaps the only government since independence which fulfilled some of its poll promises and was honouring issues of social justice on a much bigger scale and with commitment.
It was not merely the acceptance of the report and job reservations, VP’s action brought the Dalits-OBCs-Adivasis together along with the minorities. New alliances were being forged and a credible leadership, of the OBCs in particular, emerged in north India in the post-Mandal days. VP’s government lost the confidence of the Parliament due to Congress’s manipulations and BJP’s dirty games of countering Mandal through the RamMandir issue, but it was a well-known fact that the entire manipulations and mechanisms of these parties were meant to counter the growing Dalit OBC-Adivasi assertion, their joining of hands and demanding their due. V P must be given credit for reviving many things.
While he is given the credit for the OBC reservations in the central government jobs, very few people know that the SC-ST Prevention of Atrocities Act became a reality in his time; that Dr Ambedkar was given the Bharat Ratna and his magnificent portrait was also put up inside the Parliament during his time. VP raised this issue of the Parliament not having the portrait of the person who was the chief architect of our Constitution. The issue of the neo- Buddhists also came during his tenure and reservations were extended to them.
However, the most important aspect of VP was that he was an honest person to the core. He might not have been a rabble-rouser but his government’s action also promoted the writings and the work of Baba Saheb Ambedkar and ensured that it reachedevery nook and corner of the country. At least, at the central level, such a huge support for the cause of Ambedkarism and social justice happened in India for the first time. VP was not an Ambedkarite but he was a quick learner and once he dedicated himself for the cause of the social justice, he never went back from it.
VP was far-sighted and knew the power of opinion-making. He created things which was impossible for people to reject. It was he who proposed K R Narayayan’s name for the Vice President’s post in August 1992 and got the resolution passed by Janata Dal. Dr Shankar Dayal Sharma was the president. In 1997 when the political parties were looking for Sharma’s successor, VP again pushed K R Narayayan, suggesting that he was one of the most capable persons around and deserved to be the President. No political party had the courage to deny this and Narayanan proved to be one of the best Presidents of India.
VP did not gain anything from it. He was a simple man, who could join any protest movement. All those who are working on Right to Information, MNREGA, Land Acquisition Act, fighting against WTO, issues of slums know it well that he was a great moral force behind the activists who were fighting for it. Unlike other contemporary leaders, who kept conspicuously silent on these major issues affecting us, VP was not only vocal on the issues of the people but also committed himself for the cause.
It is a sad commentary on our leadership that they chose to forget the man behind the revival of many regionalkshatraps. Those who benefited from the politics and actions of VP Singh have completely forgotten him. Perhaps, the old animosities of politicians have not ended despite his not being there. Maybe, those politicians who are up to grab the savarna votes, would not like to remember VP Singh, as just mentioning his name would turn them red.
History is always written by the dominant. Baba Saheb Ambedkar, EVR Periyar, Jyotiba Phule, all are with us because they ensured everything is well-analysed and documented. If they had left things to the Brahmins to be documented, then their name would have been erased from history. There are many who have been active in politics and would get little time to document themselves. It is important for us to acknowledge the contribution of all those who ensured the participation of India’s bahujan communities in power structure.
During the Mandal struggle, there were not many OBCs fighting in the streets, and a lot of support came from Ambedkarites and Dalit activists, but from the second phase onwards, many new OBC students emerged and, along with the Ambedkarite students, they fought their battles. It is these young dynamic students and scholars who are our future and who should be nurtured and encouraged. The bahujan political leadership in India has failed to take this young aspiring group into confidence. VP Singh encouraged new and young leaders, he visited universities and colleges and gave confidence to many aspiring leaders. Today, if the politicians have no time to remember him, it is not the fault of VP Singh, but the failure of an ungrateful and treacherous political class which does not want to give him credit, nor does it want to ‘offend’ the ‘sentiments’ of the ‘powerful’, who are bitter against VP even today as VP’s actions broke the hegemony of the ‘twice born’ in the political map of India. Whether you love him or hate him, VP will continue to be relevant even today. Instead of organisation, he focused on people and masses, which the political class today is unable to do because of their obsession with ‘organisation’ and drawing room manipulations.
Brahmanical history will obliterate VP and his contribution but we hope, one day, the bahujan intellectuals will include him in their list of icons, so that the coming generations can realise that how difficult it is to break the caste monopoly and what price is paid by those who dare to go against the political and social interests of their own castes. VP’s life became an example of what happens to you if talk of social justice and fair representation, but then he did not care for his social and political isolation and, perhaps, that was his most powerful statement. It is difficult to follow the path of VP, as that means renunciation and rejection of power, which would be impossible for those who want to cling to it at all cost. His model was difficult as he never waited to resign from his positions of power, without ever being asked for it. He was a philosopher-politician, a rare breed, yet it is essential that we do remember such honest political leaders whose actions helped democratise our polity and ensured access to power to all.
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