India Uncut

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Friday, February 18, 2005

Mulayam v Mayawati

Politicians may be a cynical breed, but their supporters often are not. The Hindustan Times reports that two cops – one a fan of Mulayam Singh Yadav, the other of Mayawati – recently began a political discussion about the merits of these two leaders. Things got heated, and the argument had a violent end. The reports says:
[A] few days ago, a constable had shot and grievously wounded his colleague in the Police Lines. While it was earlier believed that the brawl happened after Ram Chandra Gautam, a Dalit cop, got heavily drunk, investigations have revealed an entirely new story.

According to eyewitnesses, Gautam was a Mayawati supporter, while his colleague Ram Awadh Yadav backed the SP leader. Gautam was also known to consume alcohol in the Police Lines, despite an order prohibiting the same.

On the fateful day, the two cops apparently got into an argument over which political leader was the best. Mulayam Singh, claimed Ram Awadh, was a good man and his government in the state would complete its full term. Unable to stomach such high praise, Gautam allegedly opened fire.

This is not just a story about a drunk policeman, but also about the politics of caste. The reason identity politics is so dominant in India is that for many people, their identity is the only crutch they have to get through what, by Western standards, are fairly difficult lives. For Dalits in UP, Mayawati not only represents an escape route from centuries of degradation and exploitation, but also embodies who they are and what they believe in. She might be a venal, manipulative politician, but they have no choice but to be in denial about that – or they will have no hope left. So by praising Mulayam, and implicitly dissing Mayawati, Ram Awadh effectively told Gautam that he was worth nothing, and deserved to be treated like shit.

Then the shots rang out.
amit varma, 11:54 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage

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