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Chaudhary Ajit Singh: A Gentleman Politician And The Voice Of The Farmers

INDIA: Rashtriya Lokdal Chief Chaudhary Ajit Singh passed away on May 6 due to COVID-19 complications in a private hospital in Gurugram. Along with his legacy, he has left millions of supporters and protesting farmers behind him. The 82-year-old leader was part of several governments in various capacities and remains the undisputed leader of farmers for more than 4 decades. His death is not only a loss to RLD supporters or son Jayant Chaudhary but the whole farming community in India. 

A leader who never sacrificed his secular ideology

Singh has been an active member of Loksabha and Rajyasabha multiple times from various constituencies in Uttar Pradesh. He has also worked on several portfolios in the various cabinets under VP Singh to Manmohan Singh. Singh had dedicated his entire life to politics and put his heart and soul in it. When I met him, I realized that he was one of the non-serious politicians that I had ever met in my life. He never gave the vibes of someone very powerful but behaved like a guardian and an elder family member. Singh devoted his entire life to the farming community, which is considered as the backbone of the Indian economy.

The 2013 Muzaffarnagar riot, which killed 42 Muslims and 20 Hindus and several displaced was a heart-wrenching incident for Singh. Singh was one of the flag bearers for peace during those riots. Although it was a political loss for him but he still chose to accept that rather than jumping in the fire created by Radical Upper Caste Hindu militant group Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh and its political party Bhartiya Janta Party.

I met him post-Muzaffarnagar riot and argued with him over his non-participation in a riot, which could have been brought them to the center of Uttar Pradesh politics. He looked at me and said, “I know we could have jumped in that and have gained political mileage, but morally I don’t believe in communal politics by doing such a thing I would have insulted my father Chaudhary Charan Singh. People looked up to him as someone, who would never let this happen. I might have to pay a heavy price for this but such profits are useless. Those who fueled this riot, will not be forgiven in history and whenever I die, I will die with peace that I was never part of communal politics.” 

Hi-tech politician and the beloved leader of the farmers

His father Chaudhary Charan Singh was one of the most influential non-congress leaders before 1990. He was two time Chief Minister of United Uttar Pradesh (Uttrakhand parted away in 2000) and also served as a Prime Minister of India for 6 months in 1980. His death forced Chaudhary Ajit Singh to join politics, who was working in the United States at that time. He was among the first technocrat from India in Silicon Valley and worked with IBM for a brief period of time. He was also an alumnus of one of the most prestigious institutes called the Indian Institue of Technology, Kharagpur, and went to Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago for his master’s. He never enjoyed the power of his father’s politics and kept working like a normal person.

Due to his father’s illness, he decided to jump into the political fray and was elected to Upper House Rajyasabha in 1986. Western Uttar Pradesh is also called Sugarcane land. During that time, farmers were forced to sell their crops in the open market, which was a loss-making process. Under his tenure as Commerce and Industry Union Minister, Western Uttar Pradesh had more than 40 Sugarcane mills, which not only ease the process but economically uplifted Sugarcane farmers. 

Despite being born in a top political family, his behavior with common people was calm. His house in Delhi was used as a hostel for visitors. He had a jolly personality. Singh was well respected not only in the political circle but was known to be the only leader of the farmers in Delhi, who could do anything for them. Despite spending so much time in the US, he never left his roots behind. On several occasions, I met him and found him talking about his father’s vision for farmers or discussing ongoing farming issues. His death has left people stressed and many still can’t believe that he is not among us to lead and guide the farmer’s protest.

Singh was a devotee of Arya Samaj and was against caste-based discrimination. Just like his father’s belief Singh felt that the partition of India was due to prevailing caste-based discrimination in Indian society. People from minority groups felt that if it persisted then it would be an utter chaos. These things motivated a portion of the Muslim community to migrate to Pakistan. He also said, “Even the United States of America has reservation but that is different from India caste-based reservation. Discrimination in the US is racial so they have it according to that so India has caste-based discrimination so India should have according to that. We should be happy to share with our brothers if they are been discriminated against identity. Diversity is the key to efficiency.” 

Also Read: Gender And Caste Based Crimes In India

He left behind his legacy and son Jayant Chaudhary, Vice President of Rashtriya Lok Dal, Member of Parliament, and alumnus from London School of Economics. Jayant’s commitment to farmers reflects both his father Chaudhary Ajit Singh and Grandfather ex-Prime Minister of India Chaudhary Charan Singh. His father’s place is irreplaceable but he chooses to step in fighting for farmers and the Dalit community in Hathras. The Chaudhary soul departs leaving behind the only Chaudhary (leader) of farmer Jayant Chaudhary in Delhi, whom they can complain, argue, fight and shower love.

Chaudhary Ajit Singh will be always remembered for his commitment to the farming community and peasants. I pay my tribute quoting him, “They try to divide you based on religion, if they fail they will divide you based on caste and Gotra’s but stand firm on the identity of being farmer.”  

(Prashant Kanojia is a former Journalist based in India and currently leader of Rashtriya Lok Dal.)

The Caste Of The Protagonist Matters In Bollywood

INDIA. Mumbai. Caste discrimination in India is highly valued and practiced by affluent educated people across all fields right from the political system to art fraternity. Indian Bollywood is mainly a field which is very much ignorant towards the social background of India and the prevailing caste system. If we start looking at the top 35 films released between January 2019 to March 2020, we can easily make out the ignorance of the writer / director towards the caste dynamics and it also defines the identity of the protagonist and its social background. 

All 35 popular films do not have a single protagonist, who belongs to lower caste or from the ‘untouchable’ community. It’s not about the real identity of actors, but the name or character played by actors in the films. They keep blabbering about the diversity but are still not aware of the fact. Or maybe the writers are purposefully penning the stories only about the upper-caste society and community. Looking at the social structure of 35 films the protagonist only belongs to the upper caste and not a single from backward community or Dalits. 

Following list of films with protagonist name and caste.

War – Hrithik Roshan – Major Kabir – Upper Caste

Kabir Singh – Shaheed Kapoor – Dr Kabir Singh – Upper Caste

Uri – Vicky Kaushal – Vihaan Shergill – Upper Caste

Good News – Akshay Kumar – Varun Batra – Upper Caste

Mission Mangal – Akshay Kumar – Rakesh Dhawan – Upper Caste

Dabangg 3 – Salman Khan – Chulbul Pandey – Upper Caste

Lukka Chuppi – Karthik Aryan – Vinod Shukla – Savarna

Ek Ladki ko Dekha tho Aisa Laga – Anil Kapoor – Balbir Chaudhary – Upper caste

Sonchiriya – Sushant Singh Rajput – Lakhan Singh – Upper Caste

Badla – Amitabh Bachchan – Badal Gupta – Upper Caste

Student of the Year 2 – Tiger Shroff – Rohan Sachdev – Upper Caste

De De Pyar De – Ajay Devgn – Ashish Mahara – Upper Caste

Article 15 – Ayushmann Khurrana – Ayan Ranjan – Upper Caste

Judgmentall Hai Kya – Kangana Ranaut – Bobby Garewal – Upper Caste

Jabariya Jodi – Siddharth Malhotra – Abhay Singh – Upper Caste

Saho: Prabhas – Ashok Chakraborty – Upper Caste

Chhichhore – Sushant Singh Rajput – Anirudh Pathak – Upper Caste

Dream Girl – Ayushmann Khurrana – Karamveer Singh – Upper Caste

Article 375 – Akshaye Khanna – Tarun Saluja – Upper Caste

Pal Pal Dil Ke paas – Karan Deol – Karan Sehgal – Upper Caste

Prasthanam – Sanjay Dutt – Baldev Pratap Singh – Upper Caste

Made in China – Rajkumar Rao – Raghu Mehta – Upper Caste

Ujra Chaman – Sunny Singh – Chaman Kohli – Upper Caste

Bala – Ayushman Khurana – Balmukund Shukla – Upper Caste

Motichur Chakna Choor – Nawazuddin Siddiqui – Pushpendra Tyagi – Upper Caste

Commando 3 – Vidyut Jamwal – Karanvir Dogra – Upper Caste

Pati Patni Aur Wo – Karthik Aryan – Abhinav Tyagi – Upper Caste

Mardaani 2 – Rani Mukherjee – Shivani Roy – Upper Caste

Baghi 3 – Tiger Shroff – Ronnie Chaturvedi – Upper Caste

Street Dancer – Varun Dhawan – Bachao Singh Narula – Upper Caste

Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan – Ayushman Khurana / Jitendra – Karthik Singh / Aman Tripathi – Upper Caste

Malang – Aditya Roy Kapur – Advait Thakur – Upper Caste

Jai Mummy Di – Sunny Singh – Puneet Khanna – Upper Caste

Thappad – Pavel Gulati – Vikram Sabarwal – Upper Caste

English Medium – Irrfan Khan – Champak Bansal – Upper Caste

Bollywood plays a very vast role in establishing the character in society. If we look at the film Bajirao Mastani, directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Peshwa Bajirao is depicted as the greatest warrior, according to filmmaker but the writer was so ignorant towards the oppression of Dalits and ‘untouchables’ during Bajirao’s reign. If it is a biographical account of Peshwa then why such important elements were ignored? It raises question marks on the true intentions of filmmakers who want to establish a cruel oppressor as a hero. Similarly, last year a film named Article 15 was released and the main protagonist of the film again was an Upper Caste man, even though the story was about caste oppression of Dalits in Uttar Pradesh.

Dalits are often shown in a supporting role and they purposely cast actors with the dark complexion to portray the image of Dalits. Only a common backward community called Yadav are majorly found in Indian films, but they are also projected as criminals or corrupt politicians.

Indian writers and filmmakers should now be aware to their ignorance and should step down on the ground to look at the real face of the Indian society. If you call films a reflection of society then why 85% of the Indian society and their problems have been ignored. Why can’t Bollywood writers or directors digest the fact that even a character from backward community can be a protagonist or they simply feel that the caste of the protagonist matters?