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Dalit Assertion

“National solidarity in a democratic set up demands Government to recognize only two ends – the individual at one end and the nation as a whole at the other.”
Kaka Kalelkar

Dalit Assertion

About 20% of Dalit population in India plays a decisive role in polls throughout the nation. Varios political parties are aggressively wooing Dalits in a bid to strengthen their position in elections. In view of frequent elections, sometimes for Lok Sabha, or for assemblies or panchayats, political parties remain busy in wooing the voters rather than working on developmental activities. The new phase of untouchables/Dalit assertion during last two-three decades under the leadership of many leaders like Paswan, Manjhi, in Bihar or Kansiram and Mayawati in the most populous state of UP have became most prominent. BSP under the leadership of Ms Mayawati has taken the destiny of Dalits in UP in its  hands. Earlier in 1994-95, BSP formed the government first in alliance with SP and later on with BJP. Again, in 1997, it came to power in alliance with BJP. From 2007 to 7th March 2012, on its own strength, BSP had ruled U.P.

Stung by electoral setbacks, BSP and Dalit activists have again started castigating the upper castes for their anti- Dalit attitude. They blame dominant upper caste unable to accept changed social order. They want to withdraw from the Dalits the facility of reservation under some pretext. The allegation seems to be politically motivated.

Dalit activists say thatnow jobs and small businesses are a growing trend among SCs. Cars and good houses in their neighbourhood are visible. They refuse to work in landlord’s fields. It is enough a provocation. In rural areas, the dominant peasants proprieters who were used to having their way are unable to take the resistance from Dalits. That is leading to brutality against Dalits.

There are two major laws at the national level – Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955, and SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989 – dealing with discrimination against specific groups. Still crimes like murder, rape, hurt and so on are at rise. Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Orissa are among the states with the highest number of such offences.

About permanent stigma of backward identity – It is not upper caste, but British government in India, which avoided itself from stigmatizing any group, by official acknowledgement, of their low social status and considered it unfair. Indian Statutory Commission 1930 said it clearly in its Report that “Owing to the social disabilities, to which members of the depressed classes are exposed, it would be in the highest degree undesirable that any official authorization might appear to extend such qualification. The fluidity of social distinctions and the efforts of the classes lowest in the scale, aided by social reformers, to improve their status make it more desirable, that government should abstain from doing anything, which would tend to give rigidity to these distinctions.” (Indian Statutory Commission, 1930, VI, p. 341)

Portrayal of Brahmin’s as oppressors?

Arbitrary acts of a few Brahmins gave opportunity to British rulers to pin-point them as exploiters of other sections of society. Much more than the arbitrariness of Brahmins, it was because of the superstitions, illiteracy and ignorance that lower castes had fallen into the trap, especially in rural areas and believed in portrayal of Brahmins as oppressors and tyrants as told to them by the missionaries, the British rulers in India and up-coming political leaders of lower castes. They completely ignored the other side of the coin.

Brahmins ahead of others in opting for Modern education – When British introduced modern education in 1834, it was the impoverished group of Brahmin and caste Hindus in search of livelihood, which looked upon modern education as means to earn their living respectfully. The gradual displacement from their source of income, after the decline in financial status of their patrons – Princes and Zamindars, the appalling poverty of Brahmins compelled them to switch over their attention towards modern education.

They devoted their scarce resources and energies to get costly Western Education. Sir Alfred Croft, Director of Public Instruction in Bengal wrote to Rev. J. Johnston in 1881, “We know well that any considerable increase in the fees paid by college students would compel many to withdraw. It seems not to be fully understood… how poor the middle classes that flock to our colleges really are. Half the students live from hand to mouth…. And yet though, far behind in point of wealth, they correspond to, and are in fact the only representative of our professional classes at home, and the pressure on them for the means of subsistence is so great, that they must either be educated or go to wall.”

Their poverty gets confirmed by a study done to examine the annual income of the guarantors of 1271 Brahmin Students enrolled at Ferguson College, Pune from 1885 to 1895. According to it, 76% of the Chitpavan Brahmins guarantors belonged to the low or medium income groups. Similarly of the 277 Deshastha Brahmin guarantors, 70% came from low or medium groups.

Hold of educated Brahmins on Hindu society – Brahmins, being natural learners and pursuers of knowledge, were quick to move ahead of other communities. Their long tradition and undisputed role in the field of knowledge and learning, their intelligence, sincerity and hard work helped them to take a lead in all newer areas of advancement and secure an important place in the society.

In 1900, Sir William Lee, an important official in the Government of Bombay and Government of India, noted Brahmins dominance in the Civil Service, during 1869 to 1899. The British authorities also noticed the preponderance of Brahmins in other areas, too, including National movement and their growing influence and hold over the Hindu Community.

Eminence of Brahmins in national movement alarmed the rulers – Overwhelming support of Brahmin lawyers to Congress Party and Mrs. Anne Besant’s Home Rule made the British to believe that Brahmin Community was a threat to imperial rule.

Preponderance of Brahmins at all levels of freedom movement alarmed the rulers. They considered it necessary to counter the hold of Brahmins by raising a strong force against them. Innumerable C.I.D. Reports of that period confirmed the active role played by Brahmins in National movement.

In 1879, the Collector of Tanjore wrote to James Courd, a Member of the Famine Commission, “There was no class except Brahmins, which was so hostile to English (rule).” In the words of an observer, “If any community could claim the British out of the country, it was the Brahmin community 70% of those, who were felled by British bullets, were Brahmins.”

Sir Richard Temple, the governor of Bombay said that ever since 1818, when British finally defeated the Peshwa in the third Anglo Maratha war, Brahmins were, “Inspired with a national sentiment and with an ambition bounded only with the Bonds of India itself.”

Rowlett Report (1880) also confirmed that the British regarded Brahmins as the main force behind all terrorist movements and agitation leading to violence in almost all the provinces.

Many British administrators including Temple advised the Government to stop the dominance of one or few groups in administration and incited other social groups or backward castes, in order to keep the balance of power. In 1881 the Government decided to secure a reasonable combination of various races and castes in order to counter Brahmins hold in education and administration.

After Independence, comments of the Chairman of First backward class Commission – First Backward class Commission’s Chairman Kaka Kalelkar had rightly said in his note of dissent of First Backward castes Report – “It would be well, if representatives of the Backward classes remembered that whatever good they find in the Constitution and the liberal policy of the Government, is the result of the awakened conscience of the upper classes themselves. Whatever Government is doing by way of atonement is readily accepted and acclaimed by the nation as a whole. The upper classes have contributed their share in formulating the policies of the Government Removal of untouchability, establishment of equality and social justice, special consideration for backward classes, all these elements found place in the Constitution without a single voice of dissent from the upper classes.”

“If the backward communities have neglected education it is because they had no use for it. Now that they have discovered their mistakes, it is for them to make the necessary efforts for making the leeway…As far as the assistance in the matter of education for the backward classes, I am convinced that introduction of basic education in all the states with help the backward communities to cultivate self-confidence. They will also have a better chance of succeeding in life and have the advantage of mixing with other people.

Also, “Communalism and casteism are bound to destroy the unity of the nation and narrow down the aspiration of our people.”

National solidarity in a democratic set up demands Government to recognize only two ends – the individual at one end and the nation as a whole at the other. Nothing should be encouraged to organize itself in between these two ends to the detriment of the freedom of the individual and solidarity of the nation. All communal and denominational organizations and groupings of lesser and narrower units have to be watched carefully, so that they do not jeopardize the national solidarity and do not weaken the efforts of the nation to serve the various elements in the body politic with equity. Mutual help, mutual respect and mutual trust are the touchstone, on which all communal and denominational activities will be tested and anything that undermines it, will be expected and brought to book.”

Fall in moral values after Independence – Irrespective of caste or creed, materialism and consumerism have taught people in general to fulfill all their desires and enjoy the life to the core, even if one has to ‘beg, borrow or steal’. Such a tendency ignites the desire or craving for ‘more’, which instead of making them happy and contended, limits human aspirations to sensual enjoyment only, meaning eating delicious food, nights out, wearing good clothes and possess all the riches and worldly possessions to enjoy pleasures of life and make people very selfish. Achievements only at physical plane does not always make a person happy, successful and strong. Such a mindset gives rise to greed, anger and passion and most of the times (s)he is not able to maintain good relations with others. Materialism, consumerism, ruthless competition for positions of power, money and VVIP status to get access over all the luxuries of life at tax-payers cost have brought some unpleasant changes in the mind-set of people recent past and are increasing every day in the character, role and inter-relationship of the six main constituent of the national elites – political executive, legislators, businessmen, organized workers, surplus farmers and bureaucrats.

We are in a critical phase of history. The actions of present generation in right direction can lead the nation towards a better future. Therefore all citizens should join hands and work for the sustainable development of the nation. They must realize that they are one human family with a shared vision and common destiny. All Indians must give preference to their national identity over their class, caste, community, gender, linguistic or regional identities and must align together their efforts to restore the vitality, strength and dignity of our nation.

Despite all the political empowerment, special attention and preferential treatment, dalit leaders and intellectuals have failed even 67 years after the independence to change their lot of the masses of Dalit community, to improve socio-economic condition, to give them proper education, enough employment opportunities and a vision of a prosperous society. They are still struggling for their survival and are the victims of discrimination, untouchability, poverty, illiteracy, ignorance and consequential disabilities. Majority of them still lives in precarious condition because of low wages, bondage, non-payment of fair share of agricultural produce to the SC share-cropper, forced harvesting of crops, forced eviction from their land and house sites, dispute over non-payment of minimum wages prescribed by authorities and land disputes. Caste rivalries are increasing everyday. Over and above, their sufferings have multiplied due to increasing number of crimes and incidents of violence. The deterioration of law and order position all over India is continuously increasing their miseries. What have Dalit intellectuals and leaders have done so far for their unfortunate brothrens.

It is only the followers of Dalit leaders, who have prospered. Now they command muscle, money as well as political power. They are in no mood to play a second fiddle to any other section of society or group and wish to make their own place in Indian society and national politics.

The solution of the problem of empowering the whole Dalit community neither lies in letting down the upper castes, who are not interested in direct confrontation, either with intermediate castes or with Dalits, nor in pursuing Reservation Policy. Liberalization and Globalization has opened up many new opportunities in job-market for all. What is required for their prosperity is learning, acquiring required knowledge, hard-work, intelligence, confidence and will power and courage to face the challenges and move forward.

In conclusion, the words of Kaka Kalelkar can again be repeated that “National solidarity in a democratic set up demands Government to recognize only two ends – the individual at one end and the nation as a whole at the other”.

Latasinha's Weblog

 

The new phase of untouchables/Dalit assertion during last two-three decades under the leadership of Kansiram and Mayawati’s became most prominent in the most populous state of UP. BSP under the leadership of Ms Mayawati has taken the destiny of UP in their hand now. Earlier in 1994-95, BSP formed the government first in alliance with SP and later on with BJP. Again, in 1997, it came to power in alliance with BJP. Now on its own strength, BSP is ruling in UP.

Despite all the political empowerment, special attention and preferential treatment, dalit leaders and intellectuals have failed to improve the socio-economic condition of the masses of Dalit community, to give them proper education, enough employment opportunities and a vision of a prosperous society or to change their lot. They are still victims of discrimination, untouchability, poverty, illiteracy, ignorance and consequential disabilities. Majority of them still lives in precarious…

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September 1, 2014 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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