The socio-political structures have legitimized the exploitation of oppressed sections of India since Manu to Modi. The body & labor of marginalized sections is made to serve the interests of Savarnas. There have been various discussions, debates, and resentment against nationwide lockdown called by baniya PM Narendra Modi by various socio-political spectrums. They have served nothing than their rhetoric criticism and liberal guilt conscience. There has not been any structural change in the system and lives of the working class Bahujans for whom the existing political classes claim to represent. We can see how the plight of migrant workers, the majority of are the Dalits, Adivasis, OBCs, and minorities who are striving to survive a basic human life. But, how far they are able to do so?
The concerns about severely affected migrant workers and helpless sections of the society have been denied very cleverly by various socio-political castes/classes. Instead of working as a political force, current political classes are operating more as NGOs. But, there have not been any structural changes among the masses by which they can have a basic minimum human life. The helplessness that they go through has been faded away by crocodile tears. The antipathy towards vulnerable groups is not something new rather a continuous politics that Brahminical conspiracy has produced. Considering ‘Other’ & ‘Polluted’ to the labouring body of the Bahujan come from Brahminical mindset. Who get benefits out of their labour? It is Savarna castes who have exploited the labour of these working, migrant classes of Bahujan.
India has been an exploitative and violent nation for the oppressed i.e. the Shudra, Atishudra for ages, but the ongoing lockdown has exposed once again the hollow civilizational claim of India into that of the genocidal, exploitative and oppressive system. Antipathy towards the working class of Bahujan in the eyes of Hindus exposed their savagery of the system which is inbuilt in inequality, violence and oppression of the labouring masses. This entire system further produced a passive liberal who works in the interests of the ruling castes in India. The working class Bahujan lives and body is to be used and abused by these structures of Brahmanism known as a democratic system to build the cities, towns, and metropolis. Once this project gets over, their bodies have hardly any values, to be disposed of the way it is being disposed of in the current pandemic situation. Millions of destitute labouring classes walking in the dry road to thousands of kilometres to go back to their villages exposed the bloody exploitative urbanism in India where the entire economy, and institutions monopolised by Brahman and Baniya. Antipathy and lack of leadership in such a situation made more vulnerable the lives of these working-class populations. The political classes across the spectrum show their criminal passivity in giving a voice to these masses. On the other hand, the Bahujan movement shows it’s disinterestedness to lead in such a situation. As always been the case liberal, Marxist, centrist are the ruling castes, they have nothing to do with the lives of these “wretched of the earth” that is the poor working labouring classes.
People across the regions and villages have denied the basic opportunity to lead decent lives. Secondly, the Dalit communities in villages are prone to systematic violence, discrimination, and atrocities. Despite various legislations, they face social ostracization. Thirdly Dalit, Adivasi, and OBCs have denied land rights. The majority of them are landless. On one hand, the state shows its inability to provide job opportunity, distribution of lands, and works for the oppressed Bahujans in villages, on the other hand, they have been ostracised by the Brahmanical society. These three important factors force Dalit, Adivasi, and OBCs of the villages across the country to migrate to urban centers in search of livelihood, survival, food, safety, and security of lives, but they remain oppressed, exploited in these urban areas. In this plight of the working class populations who were migrated to various cities and towns, we will be exposing how this exploitative system, civil society, and even Bahujan movement failed to deal with their question of livelihood, safety, and security of lives.
There are various discourses around migration and migrant labourers so far by various political communities and the intellectual classes from the right to the centre, from liberal to the left and from socialist to Bahujan. There are data, reports of various kinds that show how these so-called informal sectors contribute to GDP and sizable numbers of these migrants are from Shudra Atishudras communities. But these writings hardly asked the fundamental questions that what is the informal economy, why this largest sector remains informal despite the hollow claim of development and modernisation? Why there is no attempt by the government whether it is Congress or BJP, why there is no movement against such exploitative regime of the informalized economy by left, liberal, progressive, even from Ambedkarite section of political groups, where labours of the working class get exploited and looted by these ruling and capitalist castes. In the existing debate on the conditions of migrant labours, the only things get dominated is the response of government, vulnerabilities and helplessness they face. What is missing in all these discourse is the cycle of used and abused of the body of Shudra Atishudras in these urban metropolitan cities and why their lives are despised and disposed of? Why there were no such crocodile tears among these political groups and intellectual classes before lockdown when these labouring working-class populations’ lives were miserable, keen to exploitation, oppression and violence in urban spaces like Surat, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, New Delhi, Chennai, Banglore etc.
In this attempt to unravel the series of questions we have asked, we will begin by understanding the structure of the lives of migrant laborers who have traveled from various villages to the urban cities in search of livelihood. In this case, we will take one case of Delhi to understand the nature of migrants’ lives, its cycle of used and abused by the elite, middle-class populations, how the government has facilitated and created slave households in urban housing, etc. When we observe housing in Delhi and mostly officials housing which was made by the government of India it will be easily concluded that this system of the household was set up to bring the slave to serve the masters. Every house has a servant quarters. The gate of the masters (known as Saheb) will be on the front side, on the other hand, the home of the servant will be the backside of the master house (called Saheb Ghar by the servants). The servant house will be only one small room, where the entire family will stay. There will be one sharing bathroom for the two-three house of servants. The living conditions are just for survival, there are no conditions of improving their lives with such low conditions of living, housing, and wage discrimination.
This housing system was made by the government of India. In another word government of India has officially declared that government employees, politician and administrator of the higher bidder will keep slaves in their homes. That is why the government have created such a household system in the first place. These urban parasites of Savarna were ready waiting for destitute untouchables, Adivasi, and OBCs to migrate to such cities so that they can suck the blood and sweat of these wretched Bahujan populations. Low income, exploitation of labours and their bodies produced an unending cycle of bondage and violence of these Shudra, Atishudra and Adivasi. While male members will be going to work which their masters have given in the pretext that their wives, daughters sisters will work in their home, exploiting their labours while given low and unjust amount of wages. In such a tiny room entire family stays. Both parents go to works from the morning to evening; they don’t have the time and resources to look after their children and their wellbeing. These violent structures of lives failed these Bahujan youths to continue their studies and the end of doing some kind of informal and manual works. The children of these labourers go to government schools which are exclusive to the migrants and working-class populations of Bahujan. Mostly uneducated parents have zero knowledge about all these structure and education. These lives of bondage remain for years. Due to low wage, these people were forced to continue doing their works for years.
Lack of education, livelihood, security, and political movement within these wretched urban migrant workers further pushed them away from the idea of self-respect and livelihood. Liberal, progressive, political classes of various strands who are shading their crocodile tears now were hardly concerned about the lives and dignity of these people. After all, they have to maintain their status quo by hook or crook. And this is an ongoing historical trajectory that Brahminical India perpetuates. Working-class Bahujans were never considered as equal human beings worthy of respect. They are leaderless and helpless people. These harsh, violent, unequal lives made them more vulnerable in the context of such pandemics.
There are no policies from the government to deal with laborers who are migrating to urban areas. This is the reason why there is no housing, no health facilities, and no educational facilities for these people. Most of these people end up staying or making a home for themselves known as Jhughi Jhopdi or slums. They are being used as cheap laborers by the state and these urban elite class societies. Mostly they are engaged in a small business like vendors, selling things, foods as Thelawaala and work in construction sectors, hotels, restaurants, etc. They face day and night torture, harassment, and violence from the state (state apparatus such as police prone to perpetuate more violence on migrant workers) and society.
While narrating all these violent structures of lives of the oppressed, the questions we need to ask at this point that what is to be done. What are the solutions for migrant populations? Further is it possible to denounce these livelihoods? If yes who will provide occupations for the people who are working in their master’s house as servants? If the answer is no then is there a scope of developing their lives within the systems, within the existing occupations and household system? There is a possibility of changes in these sectors if there would be nationwide agitation against such an informalized economy and political will among the common masses. Without the revolutionary changes in the existing infrastructure in urban areas, there is hardly any scope of the emancipation of these working Bahujans. Following are some of the suggestions towards working for the betterment of these populations:
1. Destruction of Slave Household, for example, destruction of a housing system that exists right now i.e. servants quarters and master quarters system
2. The formalization of Informal Sectors, such as maid service. Further bringing these sectors into government purview, so that, these laboring classes get legal support, health security, social security, maternity benefit, quality education for children, holidays, etc.
3. Housing for migrants laborers and workers who stay in Jhuggi Jhopdi (slums).
4. Reduction of the wage gap that exists across the groups. It is the responsibility of the state to ensure a good amount of salary/wage to people who are migrating to cities and towns.
But, there are certain questions that should be strongly asked. Is there a political will among the existing political classes? Who will execute such plans? Or even is there any such hope in the near future? No political parties have so far shown any concerns regarding the lives of these oppressed working-class population. On the one hand mainstream (“Manustream”) political parties garner its vote from these people on the agenda of the temple, Hindu-Muslim, garibi hatao, Sabka Saath-Sabka Vikas, aam aadmi and on the other hand Ambedkarite political class has shown its apathy towards these sections of populations. Further, Babasaheb’s slogan that we should move to cities and towns has been consistently repeated, while having hardly any discourse, politics, and action plan for people who are migrating to cities by the middle-class Dalit and urban-centric Bahajun politics.
This is quite interesting to see how oppressed sections of the society are made to serve their masters – the Savarnas who occupy all sorts of resources and institutions. Being the helpless slaves in a hierarchical society, they remain so forever. Nowhere are they represented nor are their concerns addressed or become the center of the politics. That’s how power dynamics in a structural society carry forward the legitimized and institutionalized inequalities. There have not been any policies so far, which can change their worst conditions structurally. So, where are the developmental initiatives taken by Govt., NGOs, Civil Society, political parties, etc? Such questions have never been taken seriously apart from hollow political agendas by various civil society and political parties such as Congress, CPIM, CPI, AAP, BJP, SP, BSP and other political outfits in various states. Further in these political agendas these questions of wage, housing, eradications of this slave household, formalizing these occupations, and wage never took the attention of existing political parties from right-left-center to socialist-Bahujan.
Whether Bahujan movement in UP or Buddhist movement in Maharashtra, both movements have miserably blinded by its class and spatial location. They have closed their eyes towards the questions of poverty, untouchability, and atrocities faced by people among the oppressed because of which majority of them migrate to cities and towns. While Buddhist movement in Maharashtra closed itself to narrow ritualistic, spiritualistic movement within Mahars with anti-political attitude and without vision and mission towards annihilation of caste and untouchability, Bahujan movement in UP remains as political propaganda of Bahujan ideology and discourse without bringing untouchability, caste, atrocities, questions of economic freedom as the central theme of their politics. The Bahujan movement emerged in India with the spirit of making oppressed sections a ruling community without annihilating caste and untouchability within Bahujan groups and without having any agenda of economic independence into centers of its politics. Neo-Buddhists don’t like to be called Dalit, while the majority of untouchable’s people remain untouchables, destitute and oppressed across regions and states. The majority of Bahujan who migrate to various cities and towns in search of better life and opportunities end of trapping in the unending cycle of bondage. Their works are being sold as cheap labor in cities and towns.
- Authors: Chandramani Suna, Birendra Nag, Satyasain Kaanar, Haripal Suna, Tilakara Haripal, Kartika Meher and Jitendra Suna.