'Caste' away suspicion
Cambridge Analytica’s whistleblower compares data breach to modern-day colonialism – yet, what is modern and what is colonial...asks Sushil Kutty.
Cambridge Analytica whistle-blower Christopher Wylie, who carries a 'lie' in his surname for effect, says he's been receiving lots of requests from Indian journalists about the Indian political parties' links with the tainted company. Stating that SCL/CA had several projects in India and offices strewn across the country, Wylie said, "To the most frequently asked question - yes SCL/CA works in India and has offices there. This is what modern colonialism looks like."
Seventy years after the British left India, it was left to a Canadian expat in Britain to tell "the people of India" that colonialism never left India's shores. Think hard and you'll realise that Wylie is not lying – despite the lie in Wylie. 'Modern' is a contemporary constant at all times throughout time. Long ago when the Vedas were written, those who lined up the Vedas for eternity were 'modern'; then, when Alexander rode out of Macedonia, he was 'modern' leading a 'modern army'. When Babar led his hordes into the then India, he was 'modern' for his time. The 1970s in bell-bottoms was 'modern'. Hell, today is modern and so shall tomorrow be.
And, for the millions of Indians, adding up to a billion and a quarter, the colonialism by caste is a constant. Both colonialism and caste are older than religion and both will outlast religion. Alexander was a colonialist. The Romans were born-again colonialists. So was Changez Khan. All of them leading with the sword, trampling the will of the divided-by-caste people under the elephant's foot. The latest colonialist is Xi Jinping with his belt and road and ready cash; and, Xi pins his hopes and ambitions on India's caste divisions.
So, when Wylie says, "This is what modern colonialism looks like," he is not pointing to something new. The man who "does things to data" was only stating the obvious. Indian politicians handing out the task of explaining the weight of castes to the caste-ridden is an insult to the castes of India. The Chinese communist sees in India's caste-divisions the seeds to subjugate India under a red flag and Wylie fools us with talk that the British are still hankering to be India's colonial masters.
"Whatever happened to the 'Brown Sahib', Mr Wylie?" The 'Brown Sahib', you know – the Congressmen and the BJP wallah, the Lalu and the Balu, the Banerjee and the Gandhi – the Indian politician in his Neta-cap and Nehru-jacket, suited-booted, cut-off sleeves – he who hired Alexander Nix and the CA to count the castes for him to win elections. A caste-ridden India was a ready-mix for the British colonialist and a bed of roses for the Brown Sahib. Given the chance, the castes of India are just the fix Xi Jinping wants. Caste is the albatross. Caste is insidious. Caste is pernicious. Caste is the witches' potion. Caste ranges from Kerala to Kashmir, from Gujarat to Tripura – from Uttar Pradesh to Karnataka.
And, history corrects those who want to step out of the caste mix. From Buddha to Ashoka and BR Ambedkar, they all tried it, and what happened? Nothing much. Buddha's Buddhism is no refuge. Ashoka won with the sword and lost without it and is today the symbol of India's caste-ridden society – the Ashok Chakra of Karma. Like the dog going round and round to get hold of its tail, the endless cycle of birth and death, which is nothing other than the essence of caste: born a Brahmin will die a Brahmin; born a Shudra will die a Shudra.
And so it was that it required a Ram Naik to restore to the Buddhist Bhimrao Ambedkar his birthright, his middle name 'Ramji' – Bhimrao 'Ramji' Ambedkar. Dalit icon 'Behan' Mayawati can rail as much as she wants to and Dalit-firefly Jignesh Mevani can hold a raucous press conference at high noon in the Press Club of India and nothing would change. 'Ramji' was Ambedkar's father's name and Ambedkar signed the Constitution of India with 'Bhimrao Ramji Aambedkar' – not 'Ambedkar', 'Aambedkar' like the 'aam' in 'Aam Aadmi'.
For now, the 'Ramji' remains Ambedkar's middle name only in Uttar Pradesh. But with Ram on every tongue as some of the Brown Sahibs want it to be, who knows where all it will ring. And, one day, it will dawn on everyone in Wylie's modern India, where modern day colonialists rule by counting (on) castes – that the Ram who wed Sita was Dalit! Jai Ramji Ki.
(The views expressed are strictly personal)