“In India, there are castes. The castes are anti-national. In the first place because they bring about separation in social life. They are anti-national also because they generate jealousy and antipathy between caste and caste. But we must overcome all these difficulties if we wish to become a nation in reality. For fraternity can be a fact only when there is a nation. Without fraternity, equality and liberty will be no deeper than coats of paint”.
– Ambedkar’s last speech in the Constituent Assembly on November 25th,1949.
Varnashrama and its categorization of people lead to the rise of the notion of “Purity” and “Pollution,” which is the center of Caste institutions that limit the relation of “roti and beti” and treat certain people as the purest (Brahmins) and some polluted (Dalits). It has killed public opinion; as Ambedkar says, “Caste has killed the public’s spirit, Caste has destroyed the sense of the public. Caste has made public opinion impossible.” It instead leads to the “Otherization” of certain people based on this notion, and they remain unheard and untouched for centuries. Although they remain invisible, their identity as Dalits changed as voters suddenly became mainstream and socially inclusive. The only festival in which Dalits are cordially invited is an Election, not to represent themselves but to establish the Myth of Equality. The roti but not beti relationship is only shown during political seasons. Nowadays, it has become prominent, as Pat Caplan observes how dining spaces beyond the confines of the domestic sphere become spaces of commensality and sociality, and Arjun Appadurai’s idea how consumption practices signify the structures within the social order and act as the semiotic instrument of Hindu notions of rank and distance.
Recently Yogi attended khichdi bhoj at the home of party worker Amrit Lal Bharti in the city’s Jughiya Gate area, a Dalit-dominated slum 10 kilometers from the Gorakhnath Math that the chief minister heads. Similarly, Congress highlighted some days back Rahul Gandhi’s visits to Dalit homes, eating with the families and staying the night. This created debate in the political realm. Many political parties and leaders had different opinions on this political food act; for instance, Manjhi said that “people who ate in a Dalit family’s house snatched our piece of food away from us. When the elections come, many leaders of different political parties will go to Dalits and tribal families to eat food. They are responsible for the development part of Dalits and tribal people in the country,” On the contrary, Yoginath thanks Bharti for khichdi Sahabhoj, he promoted the BJP’s motto of ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas.’ Yogi also said that people understand the difference between Samajik Nyay And Samajik Shoshan (Social justice and social exploitation).
In India, where the notion of khane se pyar badhta hai, is prominent here, “continuous struggle against brahminical hegemony” was something that everyone sidelined, be it the politics of food, where the food practices are inherently political whether they are politicized or not, or the location itself. For instance, when the news about Yogi’s Dawat was highlighted, nobody talked about the jhugi where these Dalit-dominated people actually live; as Gopal spoke about, “the very location of the Dalit become an object of contempt and contamination by the urban base of a caste Elite.”
Do we know the reality of that locality? Do people get khichdi and this kind of glory in their lives every day? We were not bothered about that; all we both had was Yogi’s Dawat at the Dalit place. Dalit activists across India have questioned the dominant hierarchies of food politics and the impression that lower caste groups are laboring to a point or are helplessly mired within a futile and divisive politics of identity. As Moggallan Bharti has rightly pointed out, “Dalit Identity reflects a concern for self-imaging and self-recognition of an individual or community that has been historically socially and culturally excluded by the dominant classes of the society,” here also who gained whatt, is the critical question? Yogi gain the glorification of him as the savior or good-natured for Dalit, Bharti got fame through his own party. Still, I am more concerned about what that Dalit-dominated jhugis got, or the Dalit people of that region, or in Uttar Pradesh as a whole. Does this Dawat remain in their lives every day, or just till this election season and will come again next festival of Makar Sankranti or season of election.