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PERSPECTIVES

The Idea of India: Derivative, Desi and Beyond


Gopal Guru

The dalit discourse in India presents a sharp contrast to the derivative and the desi discourses governing nationalist thought and the idea of India. The dalit discourse goes beyond the two in offering an imagination that is based on a negative language which however transcends into a normative form of thinking. The dalit goes beyond both the derivative and desi inasmuch as it foregrounds itself in the local configuration of power, which is constitutive of the hegemonic orders of capitalism and brahminism.

This article is based on the text of the Founders Day lecture delivered at the Madras Institute of Development Studies, 28 April 2011. Gopal Guru (gopalguru2001@yahoo.com) teaches political theory at the Centre for Political Studies, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

n this essay I would like to make two interrelated arguments. First, sociopolitical thought in colonial India represents a multiplicity of ideas from India. Thus in the affirmative imagination, the idea of incredible India can be arguably attributed to Jawaharlal Nehru, while we need not have any hesitation in associating the idea of village India or Ram Rajya with M K Gandhi. Similarly, we need not hesitate to relate the idea of mother India with nationalist thinking in the 19th and 20th century nationalist imagination in West Bengal. In another shade of Hindu nationalist thought the idea of father India and holy India can be undoubtedly attributed to Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. There is an alternative imagination as well. In this kind of imagination, we have Jyotirao Phules India of Baliraja (the benevolent peasant king who existed in myths) and Babasaheb Ambedkars prabuddha Bharat (enlightened India). The alternative imagination of India as proposed by Phule and Ambedkar follows a particular methodological route. The conception of an alternative or affirmative imagination of India seems to be preceded by what could be termed as oppositional imagination. For example, Ambedkar also imagines India as bahishkrut Bharat ostracised India. Second, the thinkers who have imagined India use a particular language, which this essay argues is articulated via three routes the methodological, the conceptual and the hermeneutic. Taking a cue from some leading scholars,1 I would like to argue that the methodological language plays an important role in terms of deciding the epistemic calibre and evaluating the universal standards of nationalist thought. At another level, methodological language seeks to characterise the autonomy of nationalist thought.
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To put it differently, the methodological device is deployed to decide the authenticity of nationalist thought. Authenticity in this context involves the question whether a particular thought is original or imitative? In the present context, originality is contingent upon the conditions (cultural and intellectual) that fix the territorial boundaries around the nationalist thought. What is being suggested here is that spatiality as well as epistemology foreground the question whether a particular thought has an alternative point of origin or is it a lazy extension of the modular form of nationalist thinking, which is already available in the west and waiting to be replicated in India. Thus, the methodological categories adopted by some of the noted scholars seek to designate certain distinct character to Indian thought. Let me put this point in a more dramatic fashion. Does the nationalist thought in India don those categories that are cast off by western modernity? Do we shop in second hand? What is wrong in borrowing the used and abused categories from the west? Thus, the methodological language is suggestive of a characterising function that certain categories tend to acquire. It could be argued that the category derivative as adopted by one of the leading scholars on nationalism, Partha Chatterjee seems to be performing the function of characterising nationalist thought in India. According to Chatterjee (1986: 41), the nationalist thought in India is essentially a derivative in the sense that it fashions itself on the modular form of nationalism as developed in the west. However, Chatterjee qualifies this argument particularly in two respects. First, he does not suggest that nationalist thought in India indulges in wholesale borrowing from the west. It is quite selective in such borrowings. Chatterjee rightly points out that the nationalist thought, at least for political reasons (my expression), needs to assert its autonomous character. Thus, for him, a nationalist thought would not constitute as nationalist if it is absolutely imitative (my expression) of the west (Chatterjee 1986: 8). He makes an indirect reference to the moral dimension of nationalist
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thought, which according to his own reading is internal to the derivative character of this thought. This is clear from the following observation that Chaterjee makes in his widely referred work. He says, Nationalist discourse is historical in form but apologetic in substance (Chatterjee 1986: 9). Thus, the nationalist problematic in India is replete with a dilemma willing to keep distance from the west but unable to retain the autonomy.

The Derivative and the Desi


It is true that the derivative as characterising category plays an important role in foregrounding the dilemma that the nationalist thought confronts particularly within the colonial configuration of power. It suffers from a dilemma in the sense that while it has a will to carve out for itself an autonomous epistemological space well outside the influence of western discourse, at the same time it is unable to escape the epistemological grip and gaze of the western discourse. However, the logic of such rather innovative methodological moves does not necessarily exhaust all the reference points that may bring into focus the hidden dimension of nationalist thought. Thus one needs to cast the net of methodological language a little wider so as to capture within its range some other categories that can throw some light on the hidden character of nationalist imagination. The central argument of this essay, thus, is this: derivative as a methodological language is necessary but not sufficiently capacious so as to unfold to us the differential nature of nationalist thought in India. Thus, at the methodological level, it becomes necessary to add to derivative two other categories desi and beyond. This semantic extension, in my opinion, is necessary to bring out what could be called a distinct character of nationalist thought in India. Let us therefore examine, to what extent and in what context, the desi acquires a character which is different from the derivative. I would like to argue that both desi and derivative are different from each other in the following respects. First, taking a cue from the very instructive insights provided by Sudipta Kaviraj (1995) it could be argued that the desi seeks to reverse the logic of orientalism thus making the west
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an object of not only its own inquiry but also for establishing both autonomy from and superiority over the west. Second, as a corollary to the first, a particular strand of Indian thought could be characterised as desi precisely because it is self-referential. It is self-referential to the extent that it develops itself within the intellectual conditions that are historically available in the specific territorial context of India. However, in this regard it is necessary to qualify this argument by making two other additional points. First, the claim for self-referentiality emerges in the context of a desi response to colonial epistemological challenge that in fact shakes the desi out of its intellectual complacency if not slumber. Second, desi for its self-definition requires the west as an epistemological shadow as characterised by Uday Mehta (1998). To put it differently, the desi for its own authentic articulation requires the west as a negative reference point. Finally, desi, like the derivative does not suffer from a dilemma as mentioned above. The desi mode of thinking does not have a desire to follow the west and at the same time remain autonomous. On the contrary, it acquires its intellectual confidence whereby it does not allow the western vocabulary to float into the minds of the desi thinkers who drawing on Bhikhu Parekhs (1989) classification could be characterised as either traditionalists or critical traditionalists. The desi thought articulates supreme confidence to the point that it, as mentioned above, becomes self-referential, or a source of reference for the other. It acquires the status of a classic having timeless essence and relevance. One could interpret the element of confidence in the desi thinking as a moral source, which therefore chooses to operate on its own without necessarily making any association with other contending thoughts. In fact, desi thought is epistemologically inegalitarian inasmuch as it seeks positive dissociation from other contending intellectual traditions. It does not find it necessary to exist as a contending and competing intellectual tradition. At another level of its intellectual existence and in the need to remain hegemonic both across time and space, it seeks to assimilate those intellectual traditions that are heterodox
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in character. Assimilation of one strand of Buddhism in brahminical Hinduism is one such example in the premodern period and the Gandhian attempt to assimilate the dalit discourse within its hegemonic framework is another attempt in modern time. However, there is a striking difference between brahminical Hinduism and the Gandhian project. While the former was successful in its mission the latter was not. The desi, unlike the derivative, thus seeks to avoid the charge of being apologetic. Finally, the desi thinking in India acquires its autonomy from the west primarily because it has privileged access to the Sanskrit language which provides the necessary vocabulary for developing an alternative theoretical thinking. The exclusive access to Sanskrit by definition questions the claim of desi thought as being complete and universal. For it can claim to be complete only in the absence of that thought which developed with the marginal support of Sanskrit or even without it. The dalit and shudra thought developed by Ambedkar, Jyotiba Phule and Periyar E V Ramasamy Naicker respectively is a case in point. It is in this sense that the dalit shudra thought could be considered as beyond the framework of desi which is exclusively based on Sanskrit. However, this idea of desi is certainly different from the idea of desi as developed by one of the leading Marathi literary novelists and critics, Bhalchandra Nemade. He would call all the silenced but subaltern or little traditions like saint traditions as desi. Although the subaltern as desi warrants critical attention, here for the sake of convenience I do not propose to assign full treatment to that perspective. However, it is important to mention here that such a thought falling outside the framework of both desi and to some extent derivative has a strong moral significance. It has emerged and developed in adversarial intellectual conditions where thinkers like Ambedkar and Phule did not have resources to fall back on and hence were forced to draw on those produced by the collective cultural and intellectual practices of the shudra-atishudra communities. It is the experience and not the already available text that led to the reflective intellectual consciousness

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among the thinkers from the shudraatishudra community. Thus, within the Indian tradition of thought, there is an intellectual trend, which goes beyond both the derivative as well as the desi. In the following section, I would like to argue that the category beyond, that can function through the conceptual language is more sensitive in terms of capturing the historical form and normative substance of sociopolitical thinking which emerged in India despite heavy odds. It faced heavy odds in the sense that it was pushed both beneath and beyond the desi as well as the derivative.

The Category of the Beyond


I argue here that the category of beyond is distinctive from both the desi and the derivative inasmuch as it seeks to characterise the nationalist imagination radically differently. It is also different from the other two in the sense that it suggests the possibility of a parallel problematic of nationalist thought. I will explain what is a parallel problematic, but before I do this let me explain the underlying characteristics of the category beyond. First, the category beyond seeks to render the thinking that otherwise is pushed beneath and beyond the public imagination. Such rather coercive seclusion and separation of a particular thinking is analogous to the dalit literary imagination which in its self-description claims that its poems belong to what is called in Marathi, gao kusa baheril kavita (poems from beyond the margin). The category beyond, however, is the result of the intellectual practice of those who were privileged to have been involved in such practice. Scholars and commentators of political thought in modern India seem to have either completely omitted (Mehta 1996 for example) or rhetorically accommodated (Pantham and Deutsch 1986) certain social and political thinking particularly that has originated from the subaltern intellectual traditions. An alternative mode of thinking from the margin has been actively pushed beyond both the derivative and the desi which have been treated as the hegemonic terrain of public inquiry characterising argumentative India. Thus, according to this particular reading, thinkers like Phule and Ambedkar

fail to fit into the definitional framework of political thought. Second, the thought which is made to exist in the beyond is different both in terms of style and substance. It is different in style as it expresses dissonance, difference and defiance. The assertion of no and an element of antiscepticism that is so prominent in such thought creates interruptions in the conceptual stability and universal validity of the hegemonic thought. Third, sociopolitical thought seems to exist beyond both the desi and the derivative to the extent that the concepts that inhibit this thought play an important role of recasting the real (largely un-thought) into reflection. The experience of untouchability forms the part of un-thought as it fails to get fully accommodated in or fails to become the part of conceptual vocabulary of the desi as well as the derivative. Its systematic articulation had to wait till the arrival of Phule and most particularly Ambedkar into the intellectual imagination in the 19th and 20th century India. Thus, in Ambedkars thought one finds several concepts and categories like bahishkrut Bharat, untouchability as lokvigraha, broken men, depressed classes, pad-dalit, hinatva (servility), and vital (ritual pollution) that receive intellectually sophisticated treatment from him. Thus, in Ambedkar the concept of hinatva is different from the concept of durbalata (weakness). For him the former is the state of being of a particular self while the latter is the condition that has a limited impact on this self. Phule, Periyar and Ambedkar as reflective thinkers seek to recast a particular reality into reflection thus elevating it from mere description to its universal abstraction. For example, the concept of bahishkrut in Ambedkar is the reflection of the real, i e, mal-apportioned untouchables. As is evident from the conceptual vocabulary mentioned in the preceding sentences, the concepts and categories constitutive of the discourse beyond access this ideal only through the reflection on the real. Fourth, the thought from the margins also acquires the character of going beyond the derivative and the desi to the extent that for its articulation it adopts a vocabulary, which might appear to be
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negative or grotesque to the latter. This might appear to be negative to both the derivative and the desi thought which claims to be articulating itself through the canonised language of self-rule, swadeshi, home rule and swarajya. The thought from the margins looks much beyond identical and affirmative language for its expression as mentioned in the preceding sentence. We will talk more about the role of negative language in shaping the thought in the discourse of the beyond later. Fifth and finally this particular thought not only goes beyond the derivative and the desi in terms of its style and substance but it also goes beyond itself particularly in terms of its search for an alternative normative ideal. The category beyond does not suggest that the thought from the margins does not have its own ideal. In fact, it does have its own idea of ideal (Guru 2009). For example, Phule moves from gulamigiri (slavery) to sarvajaniksatya dharma (religion based on universal truth) and Ambedkar moves from bahishkrut Bharat (India of the ostracised) to prabuddha Bharat (enlightened India) or from lokvigarha (untouchability) to loksangraha (annihilation of untouchability). This particular thought also adopts an affirmative language for the articulation of this ideal. But the intellectual project of subaltern thought aimed at preparing the masses for the realisation of a normative ideal becomes discernible through a particular dialectic. It chooses to operate through the negative language as an initial communicative condition. Negative language as the grotesque form of expression makes both the derivative and the desi as an object of its criticism. It thus seeks to undercut the significance of canonised language as the only legitimate form of expression.

Negative Language
The thought hailing from the beyond seeks to challenge this canonised language by deploying the negative language. For example, this invokes the language of untouchability in order to undercut the political significance of the affirmative language of loksangraha mooted by Sri Aurobindo.2 The negative vocabulary seeks to challenge the mechanical language of unity as proposed by the nationalist thinkers.
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The political thought residing in the beyond as an hermeneutic space, thus, performs an ethical function in as much it causes an embarrassment to nationalist thought and seeks to puncture the moral confidence of the canonised thought. At another level, through the adoption of an alternative affirmative language of selfrespect and dignity it seeks to posit opposition within a person (in the present case untouchables) who is otherwise immune to the normative desire for self-definition. The invocation of an affirmative language in the subaltern thought leads to reconstruction of consciousness whereby every being existing at the margins becomes his/her own opposite. The reconstructive process facilitated through subaltern thought thus involves, for example, an attempt to overcome the state of servile being and radically transform the servile into a subversive entity. The redemption of subversive entity becomes a possibility primarily through the complex interplay between the modernist dimension of social thought and its corresponding framework, i e, the local configuration of power. The local configuration of power is constitutive of brahminism and capitalism in Phules language shetji-bhatji and in Ambedkars language brahmanshahi and bhandwalshahi. To put it differently, the redemption of the subversive entity through the subaltern thought or the thought of the beyond takes place within the context of this local configuration of power constitutive of capitalism and brahminism. Ambedkars thought entails modern vocabulary such as equality, justice, self-respect and more importantly dignity. The internal structure of nationalist thought as argued by Chatterjee and endorsed by Kaviraj is extremely complex because according to these scholars it contains critiques within critiques. While there is no problem in accepting the validity of this reading of nationalist thought, the associative problem of this critique within the critique is that it does not exhaust its logic in the sense that it pays rhetorical attention rather than offering substantive treatment to the question of caste. This language in its affirmative mode seeks to not only interrogate the local configuration of power, but it also aims at
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mobilising Indian society initially against itself and essentially for its transformation into the distant future. The derivative and the desi, on the other hand, hesitate to engage with the local but show an extraordinary urgency to confront the imperial State in the colonial configuration of power. The derivative and desi, thus, make huge concessions to native capitalism and most particularly brahminism that regulate local configurations of power.

Postcolonial Critique
It is interesting to note that some of the postcolonial scholars seem to have used the much celebrated framework, i e, the derivative discourse as a potent methodological resource to critique Ambedkars modernist moves for political mobilisation of the dalits (Ganguly 2005: 115). Some of them obliquely critique Ambedkar for having indulged in unconditional borrowing from the western modernist paradigm. But if Phule and Ambedkar borrow it, what is wrong? They certainly have incorporated the western in their thought. One cannot object to such borrowing particularly on moral grounds. They were forced to borrow because they were denied access to the desi category that was locally available. For example, they were denied access to learning Sanskrit that arguably happened to be the potent field of conceptual vocabulary. The postcolonial critique of Ambedkar as mounted by scholars like Ganguly needs to take into account the constraining impact of local configuration of power that has produced the following predicament for the dalit thinkers. It says in Marathi, and I quote aai jeyaila wadat nahi, ani bap usanwari karu det nahi. In this context, aai is understood as a stepmother. Sanskrit language is a stepmother, and according to the proverbial understanding, exclusion, discrimination is in her nature. Thus, Sanskrit as a stepmother does not offer conceptual food (and creates conditions of intellectual starvation) and the postcolonial theorist also does not allow borrowing ideas from the west. In fact, Chatterjees recent work on Babasaheb Ambedkar certainly contributes to our understanding of thought that exists on the edge of thought corresponding to the beyond. In his recent work on Ambedkar
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(Chatterjee 2006: 83) he argues that Ambedkar does not have a problem existing in the homogeneity of India but is also reduced to suppressed heterogeneity. The above description thus involves three claims. First, that the sociopolitical thought which exists in the realms of the beyond essentially suggests a possibility of a parallel problematic of the idea of India. Second, it adopts a negative language for the articulation of the parallel problematic. Finally, this thought does not remain pathologically stuck in the framework of negative language. On the contrary it progressively transcends the negative and develops an affirmative language for fashioning out an alternative conception of India. These claims make it necessary to explain the nature of the parallel problematic within which the new questions implicating the idea of India are framed and a non-identical, grotesque language is developed for the articulation of these questions.

The Parallel Problematic


The term problematic in the Althusserian framework,3 designates the theoretical/ ideological framework, which puts the basic concepts into relation with one another, determines the nature of each concept by its place and function in this system of relationship, and thus confers on each concept its particular significance. Althusser further argues that the concept of the problematic acquires its own significance by determining what it includes within its field, and thereby necessarily determines what is excluded therefrom. The concepts which are excluded and the problems which are not posed adequately or not posed at all are therefore as much a part of the nationalist problematic as are the concepts and problems that are present in the nationalist thought. It could be argued that the parallel problematic providing intellectual space for the emergence of the subaltern thought in turn results from the deficiency that is internal and endemic to the nationalist problematic. The nationalistic problematic provides a negative reference point that triggers off a parallel problematic. Thus, the parallel problematic seeks to bring into the forefront questions relating to normative concerns like justice, equality and dignity

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that get buried in the backyard of nationalist thought and hence the nationalistic problematic which raises different order of questions relating to self-rule and political freedom. The nationalistic problematic that emerged during the colonial times has failed to either adequately pose the question of annihilation of caste or sought to completely exclude these social questions. The nationalistic problematic produces sovereign concepts such as self-rule, elite democracy and political freedom, which is fine but these sovereign concepts tend to crush under their weight certain other conceptual vocabulary such as selfrespect or dignity, which seeks to preserve the universal normative aspirations of the untouchables. This silencing of the alternative vocabulary has thus given rise to the parallel problematic of the dalit subaltern. The nationalist thought in India tried hard to bury the dalit question, but failed in its effort because the subaltern thinkers did not allow it to happen. In fact, thinkers like Phule and Ambedkar dragged the social question from the depths it had reached in public discourse. The expression of dalit thinking as a body of thought particularly in negative language looks grotesque to the mainstream nationalist thought which has been canonised through the language that is considered as the affirmative language. The nationalist thinkers and leaders during the colonial time and the modernising elite in the post-independent period, did not show any hospitality towards the negative/grotesque language deployed by Ambedkar and later on by other dalit literary figures. The nationalist leaders showed deep resentment with this language used by the dalit subalterns (Guru 2007). This resentment about the negative language did not go down well with the nationalist imagination as it caused embarrassment to the moral order of the nation.

Significance
The negative language in dalit discourse is significant for the following reasons. First, the principle of dalit thought seeks to govern the communicative use of language. The language used by Ambedkar and dalits assumes assertiveness inasmuch as it asserts that the nationalist thought is not historically sensitive to the dalit

question. The words is not thus constitute assertion. The assertive moves and the negative language are based on the distinctions between the nationalist thought and the social thought that foregrounds dalit vision. The language also brings out the distinctive character of dalit thought by placing it in a different configuration of power. The distinctiveness in thought particularly that in modern India becomes discernible in two configurations of power the colonial and the local. The colonial configuration of power produces and shapes conceptual language that tends to subsume within itself other conceptual assertions. For example, the language of political freedom overshadows the concept of social freedom or the concept of self-rule as sovereign concepts subsume in them the non-identical concepts such as self-respect. Second, the use of negative language like untouchability or bahishkrut or hinatva brings into focus the relationship between the formation of concept and the construction of physical space. In this regard, it is interesting to note that Michel Foucault seeks to endorse the role of space in producing and shaping the conceptual language. Foucault (1989: Preface), says, the thought that bears the stamp of our age and our geography. For example, the concept of untouchability or bahishkrut comes up in Ambedkars social thought because it reflects the experience of repulsion and exclusion that emanates from the space that is stigmatised. One cannot imagine the emergence of the category of hinatva in Savarkars (2003: 113) idea of India as holy land. Let me further argue that in the case of Ambedkar and even Gandhi the space determines the emergence and the efficacy of thought. The social location of Ambedkar a social ghetto that is historically produced and reproduced would awaken Ambedkar only to the language of discrimination, humiliation and segregation, inequality and injustice. Hence at the cognitive level, the conceptual vocabulary in Ambedkars thought seeks to organise social relations around contradictions and to motivate dalits to offer much sharper responses to these contradictions. It is in this sense, that a body of thought exists
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beyond and entails concepts and categories related to struggle and that acquires meaning and significance in the realm of social struggle. However, in Gandhian thought, the concepts, due to their moral orientation acquire a non-cognitive character. This in effect, tends to shape social relations around the idea of seva (service), sahanubhuti (compassion) and care; not struggle or contradiction. Since Gandhis political existence operates through a seamless spatiality, it tends to create only corresponding concepts like seva or trusteeship. In the Gandhian case it is seamless because for Gandhi, every space becomes quite hospitable and receptive. That is to say Gandhi can move in and out of any space, even the Bhangi colony. This choice to walk in and out has a bearing on Gandhis thought. It changes the character of his thought thus making it more placid. Ambedkar, on the contrary, does not have a choice and hence has to open up spaces that are not only hostile but are also fragmented around social stigma. Thus physical spaces which are otherwise empty get constructed through negative or positive meaning depending upon who is assigning this meaning. In India, it was the socially powerful who till the arrival of colonial modernity assigned meaning to the spaces they inhibited (agrahara) and also to the spaces that they did not reside in but held in deep repulsion (cherry, hulgeri and maharwada or chamar tola). But the enabling aspect of colonial modernity empowered the untouchables to seek new meaning for their physical space (Bhimnagar, Buddhawada, Ramabainagar and Siddhartanagar). The politics of acquiring new names to social spaces assumed the possibility of producing cognitive categories that sought to interrogate and then undermine what could be described as the patronising and hence non-cognitive category such as harijanwada the name given by Gandhi.

Political Freedom Alone?


These cognitive categories suggesting the oppositional imagination in turn seeks to expose the discursive character of nationalist thought. The nationalist thought acquires a discursive character to the extent that different strands of thought (liberal,
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Marxist, Hindu) however, tend to rally round the single concept of political freedom. They rally round this single concept for intersecting purposes. The cognitive categories that are internal to dalit thought seek to deflate this discursive character of nationalist thought. It connects the production of thought to the production of spaces, which in turn affect the hermeneutic capacity of thought. As a result Ambedkars thought finds its audience basically in the dalit bastis (ghettos). The cognitive categories also define themselves and acquire salience against the use of non-cognitive categories that are constitutive of Gandhian thought. The dalit thinking seeks to polarise the discursive field of nationalist thought and chooses to exist in the heterogeneous time with the negative intention to question the homogeneous time within which the nationalist thought seem to be operating. It then acquires potency in terms of the cognitive and hence it becomes deeply political rather than moral. In Gandhian thought the moralising language like seva, care, harijan, and trusteeship seek to dissolve the contradiction and eliminate the possibility of polarisation and oppositional imagination. It is driven by an element of appeal rather than assertion. Moral appeal finds its basis in the language of duty, whereas assertion is driven by the language of rights. Assertion, as mentioned above, involves a firm negation rather than affirmation and confirmation of the established claims. The language of seva essentially foregrounds duty driven action that necessarily emanates from the humble side of human nature. The language of right, on the other hand, is constitutive of assertion. Seva as a noncognitive moral category also possesses a discursive character. That is to say, it is available to different social forces for intersecting purposes. For example, it makes a guest appearance in Hindu political thought. It acquires a thick presence in Gandhian thought and it is also available to the native capitalist as well. Finally, it is taken seriously by the Christian missionaries who have been active in India for a long time now. In fact, the concept of seva genealogically belongs to Christian religious discourse and has been subsequently borrowed by the new
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Hindu discourse. As has been argued by some scholars, the category of seva, connects with the new Hindu ethics. Those Hindus who sought to defend Hinduism in an event of a challenge from colonial modernity and Christianity offered to treat dalits decently. They showed some degree of concern, care and an attitude towards seva. Gandhi among all the other Hindus, offered rather substantive treatment to the category of seva. The construction of dalit into harijan was to invoke a sense of seva among the orthodox Hindus. Seva thus connotes a kind of passive revolution, which becomes feasible because seva facilitates the reconstruction of Hindu ethics while preserving caste Hindu dominance. Other Hindus had only rhetorical association with the category of seva. The native capitalist also supported seva as a hegemonic device to pacify the dalit masses (Srivatsan 2006: 107). It is for this reason, the capitalists donated generously to Gandhis Harijan Sevak Sangh.

Struggle and Self-help


As against the language of seva, the dalit thought contains the language of struggle and self-help, which promotes normative aspirations among the dalits. Self-help connotes the idea of self-respect as a moral good to be pursued by social groups that are marginalised. Unlike the category of seva, which suggests an asymmetrical relationship and denies a sense of autonomy to the dalit. In fact, it suggests a dependence that presupposes the element of patronage. The early efforts made by dalits to start educational institutions for the dalits show that dalit thought contained the radical morality that brought out a sense of agency that would keep the notion of free riders away. Third, the negative vocabulary plays an important role in shaping the idea of dalit self and the other. In the case of India it is the twice born or the touchable who is constructed as the other of dalit, through deploying the negative language. The deployment of negative language denies the hegemonic language, for example, of nationalism and secularism. For example, the language of bahishkrut Bharat used by dalits and Ambedkar would render the description of modern multicultural

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India as incomplete. The negative language also questions a dominant form of identical language that constructs the moral order of India as the nation which is based on social harmony. In fact negative language seeks to historicise the identical language, which seeks to avoid the question of historical injustice. The identical language seeks to construct the nationalist self. The negative language constitutes the source of moral embarrassment precisely because the twice born castes treat themselves as the constitutive core of modern India. The reactions to Ambedkar and Katherine Mayos Mother India bring out this element of embarrassment clearly. Fourth, negative language at the ontological level, seeks to unite the dalit, subaltern with herself or himself. It saves the self from getting alienated from its authentic experience that is given to it by the structures that physically exist outside but seek to confine dalits within what could be called a barbed wire. This confinement behind barbed wire is both from inside and from the outside. It raises the cultural walls around dalits by deploying negative language in their discourse which is quite unintelligible to the upper castes. Thus they protect the authenticity of their discourse from outside. They are also protected from within in the sense that they are stuck in the historical question that is produced and reproduced by the logic of structure. The question that needs to be answered is that do dalits remain confined in the negative? Or do they move out from behind their barbed wired existence? Language is not accidental but is integrally involved in the form of life and thought and it explains the negativity of perception whereby one organises ones experience. All experienced situations as represented in language are struc tured situations based on concept. Therefore, when subordinated groups articulate their experience, they use concepts derived not from the positive or identical language narratives but from commitments embedded within their own language that had hitherto gone unrecognised. The negative language first negates the fixed character of the identical language or the categories of common sense. For

example, the concept of mother India has been negated first by Ambedkar and later on by several dalit writers (Guru 2011). Negative language thus seeks to reveal the limitations of the identical hegemonic vocabulary that seeks to constitute India as an epitome of glory and incredibility. It shows the existence of things taken as isolated particulars that are basically negative or incomplete. Thus, the idea of bahishkrut Bharat forms the logical part of the akhand (socially) Bharat or insulated India of untouchables as the part of incredible India of the urban upwardly mobile upper castes. Thus the negative language grasps the true (and negative) real which universal thinking seeks to avoid. This avoidance can be explained in terms of moral reason. Negative language causes moral embarrassment to both the derivative as well as the desi.

shetji and bhatji (capitalism and brahminism). Dalit thought also goes beyond itself in the sense that it transcends the limits of its particularity in which it expresses as an initial condition. It also goes beyond its own negative language from bahishkrut to the puruskrut. However, dalit thought articulates itself through the initially negative and essentially affirmative language.
Notes
1 2 See two influential works by Chatterjee (1986 and 2006), Kaviraj (1995), Kaviraj (1986: 209-35). See Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Pondicherry, first published in 1919 and in 1998. In this regard also refer to Parekh (1989: 21). Western Marxism A Critical Reader, ed. New Left Review, London, 1977, pp 244-45.

References
Chatterjee, Partha (1986): Nationalist Thought and Colonial World: A Derivative Discourse (Delhi: Oxford University Press). (2006): B R Ambedkar and the Troubled Time of Citizenship, V R Mehta and Thomas Pantham (ed.), Political Ideas in Modern India, Thematic Explorations (Delhi: Sage). Foucault, Michel (1989): The Order of Things: An Archaeology of Human Sciences (London: Routledge). Ganguly, Debjani (2005): Dalit Literature and Their Life World (Delhi: Orient Longman). Guru, Gopal (2007): Social Justice: A 20th Century Discourse from the Quarantined India, Sabyasachi Bhattacharya (ed.), Development of Modern Indian Thought and the Social Sciences (Delhi: Oxford University Press). (2009): The Idea of Ideal in Ambedkar, special lecture, delivered in an International Conference on Caste and Ambedkar, Organised by Institute of South Asian Studies (New York: Columbia University), 15 and 16 October. (2011): Indias Liberal Democracy and Dalits Critique, Social Research, Vol 74, No 1 (New York: Spring). Kaviraj, Sudipta (1986): The Heteronomous Radicalism of M N Roy in Thomas Pantham and Kenneth Duetsch (ed.), Political Thought in Modern India (Delhi: Sage). (1995): The Reversal of Orientalism: Bhudev Mukhopadhyay and the Project of Indigenist Social Theory in Vasudha Dalmia and Heinrich von Stietencorn (Delhi: Sage). Mehta, Uday (1998): Liberalism and Empire (Delhi: Oxford University Press). Mehta, V R (1996): Foundations of Indian Political Thought (Delhi: Manohar Publication). Pantham, Thomas and Kenneth L Deutsch, ed. (1986): Political Thought in Modern India (Delhi: Sage). Parekh, Bhikhu (1989): Colonialism, Tradition and Reform: An Analysis of Gandhis Political Discourses (Delhi: Sage). Savarkar, V D (2003): Hindutva, Hindi Sahitya Sadan, Delhi. Srivatsan, R (2006): Seva, Amelioration, Welfare: The Nationalist Passion to Develop the Tribal, an unpublished PhD thesis, submitted to Dr B R Ambedkar Open University, Hyderabad.
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Conclusions
Social and political thought which exists in the sphere of the beyond has an epistemological capacity to make reality adequate enough to fit the concepts. For example, the concept of freedom within the nationalist problematic is adequate only in the absence of social freedom. The concept of freedom becomes adequate only in terms of its capacity to accommodate within itself untouchability or caste question as social reality. Thus, the concept of freedom becomes more capacious when propelled from the launching pad of the discourse of the beyond. Thus, the thought coming from this framework does not treat concepts just symbolically but offers them a more substantive treatment. The derivative or the desi on the other hand seek to avoid or rhetorically accommodate the dalit question in the margins of the hegemonic terrain of its thought. This rhetorical accommodation is motivated by the need to protect the moral order of Indian nationalism. The desi does not feel morally embarrassed by the existence of the dalit question as its main target is the western modernity that asserts itself within the colonial configuration of power. Dalit thinking goes beyond both the derivative and desi inasmuch as it foregrounds itself in the local configuration of power, which is constitutive of the
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