Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Idea Star Singer and Joby John's "caste"

Over at fishpond, Ajithkumar hails Joby John's victory in Kerala's most popular music reality show IDEA STAR SINGER as a victory for caste mobilization. Now Joby John is a Christian and seems like a devout one at that. From his background, it appears that he/his ancestors may have converted to Christianity. [Since all Christians in Kerala are converts or have ancestors who are converts, this point is irrelevant. I noticed that this post has received a few visitors, so to make clear what I have edited, I have chosen to 'strike through' rather than erase the statement.]

The BJP has always claimed that the Adibasis, Dalits and the OBCs are Hindu. In fact, in Gujarat in 2002, a section of Adibasis were involved in the massacre of Muslims. So I find it very interesting that OBC/Dalit activists are appropriating the victory of Joby John as a victory of one of "theirs". A smart inversion, I would say. We need this kind of politics in Kerala to deal with the imminent decline of communism and the BJP occupying the space left by the communists.

But if we take this argument further, we come across certain disjunctions. Take the case of Najeem Ershad, the winner of the 2007 edition. Najeem belongs to a lower middle class Muslim family. Like Joby he is also trained in Carnatic music. But in the run-up to the 2007 finals and in its aftermath, the Dalit/OBC blogosphere rallied around Sannidanandan (and deservedly so, just take the instance of 'upper' caste MLA Ganeshkumar's utterly condescending comments on Sannidanandan becoming arrogant, a comment that speaks more about Ganeshkumar's caste affiliation - that 'lower' castes have become arrogant is an extremely common so-called criticism against them). The blogosphere did not seem to have noticed that Najeem's victory was phenomenal in many ways. This was prolly because their attention was focused on the presence of Sannidanandan who was a 'lower' caste candidate. I think that Joby John got the support of the Dalit/OBC blogosphere this time because in the finals or the semi-finals they did not have "their" candidate.

Also, I am not sure I agree that Joby John's victory is one of caste mobilisation via the sms route. Joby's story - how his mother worked as a domestic help to support his training in music struck a chord in many people. That sense of sympathy, rather than caste mobilisation is what prolly won the first prize for him.

(I have been getting a few visitors to this post, so I want you to know that after writing this post, I thought a great deal about my use of "their" candidate and intersectionality, so I have added my reflections in a subsequent post, which you can see here)

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