Saturday, March 6, 2010

On Balijan Cultural Movement

I received this in 2009 September. I don't know what happened to this Manifesto or the movement it supposed to start. In humanhorizons yahoo group there seemed to be a short-lived discussion on this. 
I consider this to be the most important document of our times on the most important transformatory task of all progressive politics. It is unfortunate that it doesn't seem to attract much attention from any of the constituencies it appeals to. 
I nevertheless agree with most of it and abide by the spirit of it. I hope to offer critical commentary on it in the coming days. 
I don't know what has happened after the issuance of this document. I remember somebody once telling me that there was some meeting in Osmania University releasing this document. 

For the Press:
It has been decided to launch a national-level cultural movement known as the “Balijan cultural movement.”  The following is a statement of aims and objectives of the movement.

Balijan Cultural Movement

We are men and women from various suppressed and exploited castes, adivasi communities and religious communities coming together in the Balijan Cultural Movement in order to develop the cultural foundations of the fight against Brahmanism, casteism, and Hindu fundamentalism which support the social, religious, political, and economic exploitation in India.
            Following the lead of the great social revolutionary Jotiba Phule, we take the name of “Balijan” to commemorate our roots in ancient traditions of the great and good ruler sacrificed to the greed of Brahmanism.  Just as peasant women and men still say, “Let troubles and sorrows go and the realm of Bali come!” so we aim to build a society of freedom, equality and prosperity for all.
            We also follow the traditions of Buddha, Thirumavalavar, Jesus, Mohammad and the Sufis and Bhakti saints such as Kabir, Ravidas, Tukoba, Nanak and Basava.  Jotiba and Savitribai Phule, Tarabai Shinde, Karl Marx, Iyothee Thass, Periyar, Babasaheb Ambedkar and many others are our heroes and icons.
           We aim to promote and develop the self-respect, dignity, creativity, and truth seeking centered around the productive culture of the Balijan communities.  Just as Brahmanism and caste are taking new forms in the globalized society in the modern imperialist era, so we also need to develop new alternative development models, new understanding, new creativity.
            We also take note of the complexity of caste.  Within the caste system, there is a major antagonistic contradiction between the oppressing and oppressed castes.  Among the oppressed castes, there are important and rampant non-antagonistic contradictions.  These have to be overcome with those oppressed castes higher in the hierarchy taking a lead in reconciliation; out of the unity developed from this will come a strong movement for caste annihilation.
            The Balijan Cultural Movement will take action in the following fields:
·       Women’s Liberation: The earliest society of Balijans was matrilineal, and like Bali, Nirruti is a symbol of this original equalitarian society.  Balijan culture and religions, though affected by patriarchy, carries the seeds of this true gender equality.  The end of all inequality is impossible without ending gender inequality.  We will strive to bring liberation from gender oppression in all our activities and work for this in the cultural field.
·       Education: we will work towards debrahmanising education and building an educational system in which the Balijan peoples’ contribution to culture, science and language is brought forward.  We oppose the two-stream educational system in which an elite gets quality education in English and the masses are bound in badly taught vernacular medium schools.  We fight for the establishment of the common access of all children between the ages of 3 and 18 to quality education in English as well as their regional (recognized and unrecognized) languages.  We support a 60-40 scheme where 40% of the curriculum is decided by local needs, 60% by common national standards.  Sanskrit universities should be transformed into peoples’ universities and there should be at least one central university using the regional language in each state.
·       Festivals: we will promote the celebration of Balijan cultural festivals, including historical festivals related to the productive lives of the people (e.g. Nagpanchami, Mahasankrant, Pongal, Balipratipada, Ghatochav) and will remove their vestiges of brahmanic domination.  We will also commemorate the birth and death anniversaries of Buddha, Jesus, Ambedkar, Phule and others and the historic dates of balijan tradition, such as the burning of the Manusmriti (December 25), the battle of Koregaon (January 1), 3 January (the birthday anniversary of Savitribai Phule) as teachers’ day and 1 June (founding of the Satyashodhak Samaj) as global anti-slavery day.
·       Symbols: We will ensure the removal of all symbols of violence, religious and otherwise, from public places and media, and have them replaced by symbols of the productive culture of the people.  In national awards, the Brahmanic names used for sports and other awards (e.g. the names of Dronacharya) will be replaced by awards in the name of Balijan heroes such as Ekalavya.
·       Census: We will agitate for the inclusion of caste in the 2011 Census.
·       Marriage: We will promote intercaste and interreligious marriages among Balijans and provide protection for those who make such marriages.
·       History: Liberating Balijan history from its distortion by brahmanic thinking and reconstructing the true history of the people will be a major task.
·       Language: we will work towards desanskritizing, in vocabulary and spelling, the existing languages of India and develop these as true peoples’ languages.
·       Spirituality: We endorse and seek to strengthen and develop the spirituality of truth-seeking monotheism, humanism and rationalism.
·        Ecology: The culture of production was environmentally enriching and maintaining ecological balance.  Now there is an environmental crisis at a global level. Enriching the environment and sustainability can only take place on the basis of the productive culture of Balijans.  We will strive to develop and widely promote this Balijan productive culture.

·       Diversity: The main social groups among the Balijans should be represented in all social, political, religious and economic institutions in proportion to their number in the population.
The Balijan Cultural Movement will organize people’s movements on their cultural demands and on the basis of these we will pressurize the state and its administration to concede these demands.  Beyond this we will work for social transformation and the building of a new, prosperous and ecological society without cultural, economic, political and religious exploitation.

Organizational Structure
President: Kancha Ilaiah
Acting President: Gail Omvedt
Convener: Sunil Sardar
General Secretary: Braj Ranjan Mani
Treasurer: Dinesh Kumar
Steering Committee Members:
Bharat Patankar
R.K. Nayak
Rama Panchal
Dilip Ghawade
Than Singh Josh
Nagesh Chaudhuri
Sudhakar Gaydhani
S.P. Singh
John Dayal
V.B . rawat
Shamim Ahmad
Hukum Singh Deshrajan
Waharu Sonavane
Cynthia Stephen
Raj Kumar
Neela Lodhi
Ram Singh
Lalita Vijay Dhone
Bal Krishna Renke
Jayram Singh Jay
Motilal Shastri
Subhash Savarkar
Ram Avadhesh Singh
Chandrabhan Boyar

Committee on Caste: Hukum Singh Deshrajan
Committee on Gender: Waharu Sonavane
Committee on Language: Nagesh Chaudhuri
Committee on Religion: Bharat Patankar, Sukhvinder Singh siddhu
Committee on Fundraising; Dinesh Kumar
Committee on Arts and Media; Ivan Kostka, Sagar
Committee on Research and publication: Braj Mani, Gail Omvedt
Committee on Youth: V.B. Rawat, Viduy Roy Malaviya, Avinash Nimkar, Pramod Mool 


  1. ‘Balijan Cultural Movement’, quite interesting to know about it. But why do we have to follow the traditions of Jesus and Mohammad? The movement should be non-religious when it is fighting against another religion.After all it is a fight against caste and religion. And the term ‘Balijan’ still means suppression, people of sacrificing.

  2. Brahmanism, casteism, and Hindu fundamentalism . quite familiar whipping boys of dalit supporters. what about casteism in christianity and islam which these avowed supporters of dalit movement unabashedly claim to follow?

  3. Anonymous Friend,
    You are absolutely correct in talking about the casteism in Christianity and Islam. But, one clarification, I am against only one form of casteism, the one practised by Oppressing Castes ("Upper Castes")and Communists. I defend the casteism of Dalits and other victims of caste system.
    It is fairly clear that you are talking about untouchability and discriminations adapted by Christians and Muslims in South Asia.
    They are real, real evil. We must attack them mercilessly for their shameless compromise with Hinduism.
    Supporters of Dalit movement and Dalits themselves should embrace ideas or practices that are premised on the moral equality of all human beings.
    While we can say to Christians and Muslims that ‘your religion says all human beings are equal in the eyes of God, then why do you discriminate against us?,’ we have to tell the Hindus that ‘please forget the teaching of your God who said he created human beings unequally.’
    While other religions discriminate against us only by violating their religion, the Upper Caste Hindus are obliged by their religion to oppress us.
    To capture this fundamental difference between Hinduism and other religions, we may call it a ‘fight against Hinduism but not among the Hindus alone.’ We must fight for abolition of Hinduism in Christianity and Islam.
    Is that alright, then?

  4. certainly not. u read hinduism, understood hinduism and developed hatred for hinduism through coloured "preachings". to meet the cliches kancha iliah & co float, it is janmana jayate sudra, karmana brahmanaha - says Sri Krishna Himself. So your basic premise of telling hindus "please forget the teaching of your God who said he created human beings unequally’ is wrong. the hierarchy is institutionalised because men are basically self-serving. that's why u have the same nuisance in islam and christianity. why confine to South Asia. these religions are themsleves guilty of oppression. racism, anti-semitism, et al. u abolish this, u have another form of oppression. the form varies but not the substance. yes casteism must be eradicated. but not away from hinduism. within its orbit.

  5. Dear Sir,
    only one question before I respond. Why it has to be within Hinduism's orbit?

  6. Hinduism has many layers. Yet it has a connecting thread. The many layers accrued over the centuries never question the authority of sruti, the vedas despite seemingly different philosophical traditions. Here the discussion is on 'caste' and 'religion'. The endogamous 'jati' system existed in south Asia even before the spread of Brahmanical culture into different regions. What Brahmanism did was to integrate the 'jati' into the varna fold. D.D. Kosambi, the great Indian historian argued that caste system existed in ancient India even before spread of the Indo-Aryan language speakers.
    My point is not to undermine the domination of Brahmins or the upper castes. Caste is real and has a material reality.
    What I try to say is that we need not be reductionist in our analysis.
    Among Indian christians, Muslims and Sikhs, caste system is followed. We find separate churches, mosques and gurudwaras for the lower castes just because their upper caste counterparts never allow them in their churches, mosques and gurudwaras.
    Ekalavya's argument that we must fight against Hinduism in Christianity and Islam is simplistic and baseless.
    We cannot reduce caste system to Hinduism alone. It is something specific to the social organisation of the south Asian society right from the dawn of history. Hinduism is only a historical product - a posteriori - development in which the existing structures were integrated and perpetuated. Even if Hinduism is abolished, the caste system will not be abolished.
    Even if Brahmanism is abolished the caste system will not be abolished.
    The categories of your engagement are so limited to understand the complex history and reality of the south Asian social formation.

    Anonymous - 2