After thinking for two days whether to respond to the Wire article on Anurag Kashyap controversy or not, I have decided to blog about it. The way Kashyap wrote about participating in the anti-Mandal Commission protests in 1990, it felt like he was boasting about it.
The article does not disagree with this. But the author Parth Pandya thinks Ambedkarites should have ignored the tweet or at least not have called him a casteist.
Kashyap subsequently clarified that he was not boasting about his participation in the anti-Mandal protests nor does he oppose reservations for Other Backward Classes (OBCs). Many Ambedkarites actually congratulated Kashyap for this tweet and the controversy should have ended there.
I do not know any other Bollywood figure that has supported reservations so unequivocally and therefore it was an important moment. Some upper castes have reluctantly accepted reservations for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) as inevitable but many of them still think reservations for OBCs are unnecessary and unjust. This kind of thinking is common even among journalists and academics, Pratap Bhanu Mehta and Dipankar Gupta being primary examples.
Upper caste students routinely mock, ridicule and harass SC, ST and OBC students in colleges and university campuses for availing of reservations. They make Bahujan students feel undeserving. It affects Bahujan students’ self esteem and confidence, causes them mental distress, and sometimes, combined with other factors, leads to them ending their life (remember Payal Tadvi’s case).
When a public figure like Kashyap boasts about participating in anti-Mandal protests in the same breathe as opposing Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), it normalizes hatred towards reservation policy. Anti-Mandal protests were reactionary unlike protests against the CAA. The two do not belong in the same sentence. When people ask Ambedkarites to not challenge normalization of hate against reservations, they are basically saying we do not care about the mocking, bullying and harassment thousands of Bahujan students face in colleges and universities every year.
Kashyap actually stands out as a more mature figure than the ones criticizing Ambedkarites. Kashyap took the opportunity to clarify his stance so the issue would end there. It should be noted here that no Ambedkarite said anything about Kashyap’s role in the current anti-CAA protests. Nobody said that since Kashyap had participated in anti-Mandal protests, he should not participate in anti-CAA protests. Therefore, I do not understand a sentence like “It can therefore ill-afford to turn away potential allies by intellectualising the streets too.” First of all, criticising someone for opposing reservations is not “intellectualising”. It is a very simple criticism. Second, how does it turn away potential allies?
I anyway do not understand this concept of ally. Kashyap is participating in protests in his individual capacity. So the only person who can stop him from participating in protests is Kashyap himself. Activists do not work under one single banner. Some activists work in individual capacity, some are part of amorphous groups while some work in formal organizations. These activists are not a unified set, nor do they bring same commitment to a particular cause. Also, activists do not use the same tools, methods or strategies for furthering their causes. If you understand these basic things, you would also understand that ordinary Ambedkarites on Twitter cannot come in the way of Kashyap’s activism. Also, movements do not fail because activists criticize each other healthily, the reasons are probably the opposite — lack of communication, miscommunication or talking behind each other’s backs.