Dalit leaders’ role in community uplift

Arun Srivastava

On November 25, three mahadalit members of a family were brutally assassinated by upper caste goons in Jandaha. They were the father, mother and ten year old brother of a dalit girl. The goons owing allegiance to the upper caste people of the area nursed a lecherous desire to rape the girl. They forcibly entered into her house. When her parents fiercely resisted, the goons killed the three and also brutally thrashed the girl. She is fighting for life at the Patna Medical College and Hospital. The police of chief minister Nitish Kumar, who carved out mahadalit from the dalit on the plea of providing better opportunities and facilities to them for their empowerment, turned its face away and allowed them to carry on their terror.
It was really a coincidence that on November 27 when the news broke in Patna, the messiah of the dalit and ally of BJP, wedded to the cause of the feudal landed gentry, Ram Bilas Paswan was celebrating the foundation day of his dalit political force, LJP, in the state capital. He was not even aware that such nasty incident had taken place just some km away from his convention venue. Even his party’s dalit leader hailing from the area did not bother to put the news into his ears. This is the extent of aversion political leaders hold towards the dalits.
Even the local language and national newspapers published from Patna did not carry the news. This simply manifests how dalits and mahadalits in a consistent but planned manner are being forced to vacate the space for others, who have greater relevance for the urban middle class and the market forces. Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Bihar lead the country in the number of cases of crimes against the dalits and mahadalits. In Gujarat too, the numbers of crimes against dalits jumped to 6,655 in 2015 from 1,130 in 2014.
Some time back, a 15-year-old mahadalit boy was allegedly burnt to death after his goats ate the paddy crop of an upper caste man at Mohanpur under Karakat police station in Bihar. In yet another incident, two persons, including an elderly Mahadalit man, were allegedly hacked to death in a village under Bhargama police station area in Bihar’s Araria district. The clash took place in Rahariya village over a piece of land with a lake between mahadalit people and some upper caste land owners.
The killings of the mahadalits or dalits in Bihar acquire significance as the state has thrown open the concept of social justice in public domain. It was expected that the reforms and globalization of the economy would have brought about some basic changes on the attitude of the feudal landed gentry. But unfortunately they are immune to any such transformation. On the contrary, these elements have become more assertive and aggressive, as shown by the violent incidents in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat.
Despite all the rhetoric about the welfare of dalits and the downtrodden, politicians treat these sections simply as a commodity that can be bought and used for winning elections. Their populist politics has made little material difference to the life of these people or their empowerment.
Issues concerning the dalits, poor and mahadalits have lost their relevance for the politicians and the political establishment of the country, except as a prospective vote bank, which the dalit leaders trade off for their own benefit. While the dalits continue to be an eyesore for the upper caste leaders, the dalit leadership too has failed to uphold their cause.
The high decibel growth led to a 12-fold increase in wealth for the richest 10% people since 2000, while for the poorest 10% the income jumped just three times, mainly due to the dismal record in new job creation. The Labour Bureau’s data underlined that only 1.35 lakh new jobs were created by the Narendra Modi government in 2015, lower than the previous UPA government.
In fact, the answer to these failures and poor performance could be traced in the apathetic and averse attitude and approach of the political system towards dalits and the proletariats. Unfortunately, the traditional dalit politicians have been pushing them towards reformist politics, which has created a new class amongst the dalits, keen to align with the upper castes and follow their political line. A general impression has been created that dalits have come above the poverty level.
It is an irony that the impact of globalization and reforms has been quite despicable on dalits. The lopsided growth has led to higher migration, with 35-40 million labourers, almost half of the casual labourers, outside agriculture. This owes to a fall in the proportion of cultivators and multiplying of the farm labourers since 1951. Shockingly, the political leaders have failed to do justice to them.
An insight into the recent lynching of the dalits by the RSS gau rakshaks (cow vigilante) clearly reveals that it is a strategy to suppress their voice forever. The killing of four dalits in Una in Gujarat, in fact, led to a new dalit uprising in the state, led by Jignesh Mevani. Apparently, this appeared like a protest against the government initially, but it has had much wider contours. Since the naxalbari movement, this was a concrete step towards politicization of the dalits after a long gap. Mevani has been trying to redefine the new dalit politics. The immediate impact of the movement could be realized from the fact that Congress has referred to a "special package" for dalits in the party’s Gujarat manifesto with "economic, social and legal guarantees" for the community. Party vice president Rahul Gandhi was also forced to declare; "Justice for the Una atrocity should not be your demand. It is a legal imperative. It is not a gift by any government, it is your right." (IPA)

Thursday, 7 December, 2017