Sobbing Savarnas, there is no decolonisation without annihilation

While South Asian solidarity is intrinsic to broader cross-country decolonisation, there is no abolition of colonial forces without the annihilation of caste.

Art by Ajinkya Dekhane.

Last year, Sydney saw a fervour in the Gadigal to Gaza rallies amidst Israel’s violent attacks on Sheikh Jarrah. The fervent chants with thousands of people marching all over Australia were galvanising and drenched in dreamlike solidarity moving over the ocean. At the same time, India continued to experience an ongoing, gruesome, historically embedded caste violence. While South Asian solidarity is intrinsic to broader cross-country decolonisation, there is no abolition of colonial forces without the annihilation of caste. 

Repetition, a rather monotonous technique, is a creatively powerful one. Here’s me repeating: Decolonisation without annihilation is a farce. 

Decolonisation without annihilation is a farce. 

Decolonisation without annihilation is a farce. 

The appeal of being an English-speaking person of colour is not just  proximity to whiteness, but also the ability to be the face of broader leftist movements. There is so much power (and ignorance) in standing under the garb of people of colour (apparently, oppressed) identity. Not acknowledging such power and imperialist tendencies in a land across the oceans seems trivial.

My love language is geographic. In loving you, I trace you through where we are, where we could be. In genial sunrises and fragrant nag champas, I find you. These radical love dreams are captured by Ajinkya Dekhane, a Mumbai-based architect and artist who combines the use of fictional/non-fictional writing with charcoal and ink drawings exploring the relationship of caste and built environment. 

The artist imagines a luscious garden in front of Uluru where BR Ambedkar (centre), Savitatai Ambedkar (right) and Savitrimai Phule (left) admire the vastness of the garden. They are being shown around by Goenpul writer and activist Aileen Moreton-Robinson (far left) and Gladys Elphick, a Kaurna and Ngadjuri woman who founded the Council of Aboriginal Women of South Australia. They can be seen seeping in the beauty of the native flora of the Land of the Anangu people and being shown the native wallaby, perentie lizard, and the red-cap robin bird. 

On 25 December 1936, BR Ambedkar, burnt a copy of Manusmriti, an ancient scripture that asks lower castes to serve savarnas without defiance. This took place in Mahad, where Bahujans were protesting with Ambedkar for their right to drink from the local river and against the ignominy of manusmriti. Living under the premonition that your history (and present) has not alienated from their lands is violence. In thinking that the colonised body is a homogenous phenomenon, savarnas assume that they are the voice of every existent oppression. Unfortunately, talking about South Asia in a Wednesday morning Politics and International Relations class with an authority of belonging, when you shun any criticism, is violence too.

Divya Kandukuri, an anti-caste feminist, writer and journalist said in an interview “our women do not need to be on the streets. We have always been on the streets so it is time for us to go indoors and be safe”. We need to be indoors in the comfort of our academic desks piled up with books, cushiony university education and social security to tell our stories and create our art. Think about the world without dwelling in our pain. When those of the upper caste acknowledge the traditional owners of the land in a foreign country without accepting the  bloodshed that their rituals, surnames, space, and ancestors have caused, they are walking in the imperialist’s shoes. 

Basking in the privilege of your religious identity as a form of connecting with your homeland is a facetious take on the people’s history. The savarna diaspora holds on to the religious inhibitions fixated on caste purity to stay in touch with their culture; a colonial relic. The acts of savarna pride range from hawans, purity baths, thread ceremonies, and matrimonial practices, to writing, speaking and performing works about caste and communal violence without any accountability is bloodshed in itself. In the end, all the anti-racist actions of the present leave us with a trailing thought about the blindness of the person of colour identity in a non-south asian geographical context, coveted by the fragility of caste supremacy.