Friday, August 21, 2015

LJA and the Dalit question

The Dalit question

We have been describing Lokavidya Samaj as comprised of farmers(kisan), artisans(karigar), tribals(adivasi), women(mahila) and small shopkeepers/traders(vyapari) and this identification/ categorization is in tune with the knowledge-base that each section represents(in the main) in Lokavidya. Large sections of producers , of food and goods/machines of daily/household use, are covered by this categorization.

Farmers(kisan) represent the largest productive (food producing) section of the Samaj. This section would also include fishermen(machuar)(both coastal and inland) by virtue of the fact that they cultivate and gather/harvest food material from water bodies. The nature of this activity gives this section and their knowledge-base a pre-eminent position in the Samaj.

Women(mahila) represent an over-arching category and their their special place in the overall description of the Samaj is due to the specific nature of their knowledge-base.

Karigar Samaj covers all goods producing and service sectors of society, while vyapari covers small shop-keepers/traders -both static and mobile.

The economics of the Samaj are 'laid' down in the local market(staniya bazar) and the practitioners of this economics and concomitant the 'rules' and 'conventions' are the small shop-keepers/ traders (vyapari).

Tribal(adivasi) knowledge is a whole sub-set of Lokavidya, in that it encompasses special types of cultivation suited to jungle/forest regions/hills etc and manufacture of cloth/textiles, utility goods and services(medicine/healthcare/nomadic trade etc).

So, in knowledge terms the description of the Samaj seems correct and adequate. But, with the knowledge-based categorization yet to gain widespread recognition; in common parlence all these sections are socially identified in terms of castes(jatis) and sub-castes(upajatis).

We have, in our description of the Samaj, not overtly included the 'scheduled catses/untouchables' (dalits). This, I feel, has to do with the assumption that, in knowledge terms, dalits are part of the karigar samaj .( Karigar samaj represents both producer and service sections.). It is important to make this point very clear in our public discourses. Dalits are repositories and practitioners of a distinguishable knowledge activity viz. that of 'treating' waste matter to preserve the environment while also producing very useful 'by-products' of such activity eg. Leather and bone goods, implements etc.

[The modern-era reform programme against untouchability (Gandhiji's movement from his Tolstoy farm days to the current Swachch Bharat Abhiyan) was/is based on the belief that anyone can and knows how to treat/handle waste and the movement attempts to get non-dalits to practise dalit activity. Notice that the complementary activity of dalits performing puja was never suggested or thought of in any extensive manner; though from the time of Basveswara to the modern anti-Brahmin movement all such social reform movements have had this aspect as an important part of the movement].

It is therefore important that in forthcoming meetings of Karigar Samaj a concerted effort is made to involve dalits and dalit groups in the discussions and bring the knowledge aspect to the fore- as a basis of unity and reforming the inter-relationships between different sections of Lokavidya Samaj.
It is also important that our demand for equal wages for all labour explicitly covers dalit activity too. The 'dalit question' will find an solution only through the Lokavidya Jan Andolan.

LJA, Hyderabad

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

उधार ज्ञान मत लेना, हो सजना

बुज़ुर्ग लोग कहा करते थे की हमारे समाज में धन उधार लेना बहुत बुरा माना जाता था।  जो उधार के पैसे पर जीता था उसकी इज्जत गयी ऐसा माना जाता था।  पूंजीवादी युग में उधार के धन पर ही राष्ट्रों की आर्थिक गतिविधियाँ चलती हैं।  विकास का दारोमदार उधार की पूँजी पर ही है। उधार की  पूँजी पर ठाठ से सेठों की कम्पनियाँ चलती है , व्यापार होते हैं , सरकारें चलती हैं, राष्ट्र अपना साम्राज्य फैलाते हैं और अन्याय को फ़ैलाने का तंत्र पुख्ता होता जाता है।  तो लोकपक्ष में परिवर्तन चाहने वालों का मूल्य क्या होना चाहिए ?
ज्ञान पंचायत में बैठ कर कुछ लोग गा रहे थे  -
"कहै लोकविद्या का स्वामी 
उधार ज्ञान मत लेना, हो साधो 
उधार ज्ञान मत लेना, हो सजना "
बार - बार अंतिम पंक्ति दोहरा रहे थे और उसका असर और अर्थ गहरा होता जा रहा था। न्यायपूर्ण समाज के निर्माण के लिए शायद यह मूल्य एक दिशा दे रहा है।

सारनाथ में विद्या आश्रम परिसर में ज्ञान पंचायत का एक स्थान  है। यह स्थान यानि एक पांच खम्भों की मड़ई है जिसका हर खम्भा समाज के किसी एक अंग के ज्ञान का प्रतीक है। एक  खम्भा किसान समाज के ज्ञान का, एक कारीगर समाज के, एक आदिवासी समाज के, एक स्त्री समाज के और एक छोटे दुकानदारों के समाज के ज्ञान का प्रतीक है। ये लोकविद्या - समाज के प्रमुख अंग हैं।  ज्ञान पंचायत इन समाजों के ज्ञान की एकता का स्थान है और इनके ज्ञान का दावा पेश करने का स्थान भी।  ऐसी ज्ञान पंचायतें गाँवों, जंगलों और शहर की बस्तियों में बनाने का अभियान चल पड़ा है।

आश्रम में बनी ज्ञान पंचायत पर प्रतिदिन शाम को 5 बजे लोकविद्या सत्संग होता है। इसमें माली, किसान, कारीगर, रिक्शा चालक, सब्जीवाले, छात्र, स्त्रियां आदि भाग लेते हैं।  आश्रम में आये अतिथि भी कभी भागीदार होते हैं।  लोकविद्या के बोल गाये जाते हैं --
'' लोकविद्या के स्वामी बोल
ज्ञान के अपने दावे ठोक "
लोकविद्या - समाज के पास खुद से अर्जित किया हुआ ज्ञान है, उधार का ज्ञान नहीं है।  इसलिए वह गाता है कि ऐसी जगह ले चल जहा लोकविद्या सत्संग हो, वही हमारा अमरपुर है। अमरपुर कैसा है?
"अमरपुरी की अलबेली गलियां 
अड़बड़ है चलना , अलबेली गलियां 
ठोकर लगी लोकविद्या की 
उघर गए नैना, उघर गए नैना , हो सजना "
अमरपुर यानि न्यायपूर्ण समाज तो समाज के अपने ज्ञान पर यानि समाज के सामान्य लोगों में बसे ज्ञान के बल पर ही निर्मित हो सकता है।
विद्या आश्रम

Monday, August 3, 2015

Kisan-Karigar (Farmer-Artisan) Panchayat on occasion of Vidya Ashram's foundation day

On August 1st, 2004 Vidya Ashram was founded at Sarnath, Varanasi with the purpose of re-imagining a new politics for the Knowledge Age, from the standpoint of the lokavidyadhar samaj (the society of lokavidya-holders), that vast majority which has been excluded, dispossessed, and exploited in the name of “development”.

On occasion of the 11th anniversary of the founding of the Ashram, a Kisan-Karigar Panchayat was held on the Ashram premises. Around 50 people participated in a 3-hour long spirited discussion on the proposition "Everybody Must Have A Regular Income Equal At Least To The Pay Of A Government Employee" (click here for Hindi version of this booklet). There was strong participation from farmers of the surrounding areas as well as from artisans of the city, mainly weavers. Also present were small shopkeepers, women, and university employees.

Those assembled deliberated on a wide range of issues in depth. It was noted that through the slogan of Regular Incomes for All, Lokavidya Jan Andolan calls for an end to hierarchies in the world of knowledge. The distinctions between skill and knowledge, as well as between formal education and lokavidya were debated and discussed with several participants bringing in their own experiences as well as making general points of the status of their knowledge in society.

A central question was, why are incomes of the lokavidyadhar samaj, of farmers, artisans, small shopkeepers, so low? Even as the 7th pay commission recommendations are soon to come into force and as incomes in the public sector have steadily grown, and corporate India has reaped the benefits of economic growth, the rest of the people have had to face stagnant incomes and falling standards of living. It emerged from the discussions that we should no longer accept the commonly advanced argument that lack of education leads to low incomes. Rather the key roles played by government policy and the organization of the market in determining incomes, were stressed.

Just as doctors and lawyers earn a good return for their specific skills, so to should weavers and farmers. Their years of training, their extensive skills that feed and clothe the nation are invisible in public discourse that is shaped by the values of modern education. This will have to be challenged.

One principal point that was stressed by many present was that lokavidya-holders themselves do not rate their own knowledge highly. First they must prepare themselves mentally to have faith in lokavidya, in its ability to organize society and in its capacity to stand equal to any other knowledge. Once they truly believe in its value, they will be able to construct a political challenge to the present dispensation that creates second-class citizens of the vast majority.

Overall there was a clear indication of a new consciousness taking shape. In fact the message sharpened over the discussion itself. Towards the end, the general feeling was that a public program on this question needs to be organized in a apace that symbolizes the formal education order, for example a university or a government office. An organizing committee was formed to pursue this line of action.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Lokavidya Philosophy and The Inner Voice Dialog

The Birthday of Vidya Ashram, like all birthdays should be a day to dream big, expand the mind as much as possible unshackled by the 'realities' around us, for they are dominated by the small minds of the day. Thus it is only appropriate that one tries to make a leap into the unknown part of one's self, ones samaj, one's country etc. And I wanted to share on this forum something, some thought that has been uppermost in my mind ever since we planned the Philosophy and Lokavidya meeting in Pune.

If chooses to be very brief, I may say I came to the conclusion that Lokavidya philosophy begins and ends with a fundamental realization regarding human knowledge - We do not know what any name in the language ( we use for communicating with our fellow members of the community ) really is. And that language is of the samaj, this includes the self, the philosopher, the lokavidhyadhar. In short, in Lokavidya, philosophy pervades completely all aspects of life and its flow is felt by even different names in different contexts! But it seems to have its source in what is generally understood by ordinary people as the Inner Voice, or Antharatma ki Awaz. This gives rise to the ability and opportunity to every one in the society to enter " a deep thought" mode as if at will, as and when found called upon to exercise this option. It is not much different from saying that everyone in the samaj may sing if one chooses to, if only one could 'listen' well.

Moreover, it would appear that this is the true mark of being human, the myriad other rationalities are as if inherited from other life forms. And, so the the story of human bondage and struggle is at its core the denial of this source, by slavery of the samaj in some manner or other, taking its legitimate place in the discourse as the means of survival, economic activity of the menial or the mental kind, etc.. Though the mining of this source is a secret known to all, just like the significance of sleep, it had to be emphasized by great teachers from ancient times, precisely because of the existence of the domination of the dialog of knowledge in society by the ignorant and powerful. Thus it is reiterated by the sants with no exception right into the modern times.

It seemed for moment that we have to explore this in some detail to be able to (re)establish this as living force in the Lokavidya Janandolan. It is my firm belief that this points to the route to trancending the verbose argumentative dialogs on the knowledge in society on the one hand and building mutual trust among a variety of groups and ideas taking part in it.

Surendran KK