Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd
Chairman, T-MASS, Telangana
The Bharat bandh on April 2 called by non-political dalit organisations was the first of its kind in history. After 70 years of independence, the most oppressed people in the country mustered the strength to call a bandh and they were out on the streets to ensure that it was effective. This is a major step in the fight for equality and the abolition of untouchability.
The dalit fear of the BJP government started with the imposition of strict cow protection laws. The right-wing hindutva social forces in connivance with sadhus, sanyasis and priestly forces—who never looked after cattle—organised private armies to attack dalits and minorities. It crippled their economy and a cheap food source. As dalits constitute the main group that survives on cattle economy, it became a big threat to their life itself. In many cow-related attacks, the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act became a big problem for casteist forces. They needed a mechanism to weaken the Act.
In universities across the country, dalit students are facing a negative atmosphere as the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, headed by upper caste youth, has initiated attacks on them. The dilution of reservation provisions has also started as the hindutva network is under the guidance of the RSS, which is led by Mohan Bhagwat, a Saraswat Brahmin from Maharashtra. He has been consistently against reservations.
The death of Rohith Vemula, the attacks in Una, the reduction of scholarships in Central government educational institutions, and the attempts to close down Ambedkar and SC/ST research centres have created great suspicion among educated dalits. The ministry of human resource development under Prakash Javadekar, another RSS worker, recently issued guidelines through the University Grants Commission to implement reservations department-wise, and not based on universities as single units. This will reduce the number of reserved jobs. No prominent dalit or OBC is appointed in any major institution that makes policy decisions. All this is happening because the BJP and the RSS have an ideological position that varnadharma (caste system) should not be transformed. This policy is against the ideals of the Constitution.
The Supreme Court judgment of March 20 is therefore seen by all dalit and democratic intellectuals and activists as a major blow to dalit transformation. Dalit organisations had worked for a decade to bring about a strong Act, which has now been made toothless.
What should the government do? Of course, it has filed a review petition in the Supreme Court. But it also must give an indication that if the apex court does not restore the Act, it is prepared to include it in the IX Schedule of the Constitution. The government must take steps to repeal cow protection laws and protect the individual’s right to use cattle as his livelihood. The worshippers can worship their own cows, but they should not take away cows owned by others and destroy their livelihood.
The MHRD and the UGC must roll back their anti-reservation policies. Change-oriented research must continue. Dalits and OBCs who support transformation must be given a place in policy-making bodies. The RSS should not be allowed to interfere in the administrative structures that need to work for change and development.
The BJP must understand that democracy is not a system to return to medievalism. Dalits see any step backward as dangerous to their existence. They seem to be losing even that little confidence in Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The prime minister had once said, “Kill me, not my dalit brothers”. Unfortunately, more brothers have been killed now.
Source: ‘THE WEEK’
BJP is definitely anti-Dalit. Their ideological antecedents make a virtue of the Indian past, which clearly makes it anti-Dalit. Although for its political needs it cannot give free expression to its anti-Dalit self, its actions have proved this in ample measure.
– Anand Teltumbde,
Civil rights activist
Dalit votes will consolidate against BJP. Neither BJP nor RSS leaders have condemned the violence the Dalits at the January 1, 200th anniversary of the battle of Bhima Koregaon in Maharashtra. They are only condemning the bandhs. In a way, BJP is endorsing the attack on Dalits. It is more Dalit Vs. BJP than Dalit Vs. Marathas.
– Chandra Bhan Prasad
Dalit Entrepreneur and Commentator