Future of Dalits in India

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By Bhagwan Das

It is not possible to make predictions about any individual, community or group. Only astrologers claim to know or talk about the future, which is mostly based on rhetoric and proves to be wrong. But still in our country most of the people especially Hindus believe in astrology. Marriages are solemnized by asking an astrologer for an auspicious time. The foundations of buildings are laid by asking astrologers. Election papers are filed by asking astrologers. But still women are widows, marriages fail, buildings collapse and people win and lose in elections.

But looking at the present leaders and keeping in view the experiences of history, some guesses can be made. Sometimes they are proved wrong too. For example, according to the famous German-born scholar and thinker Karl Marx at the end of the 19th century, the Proletariat Dictatorship would be established in the period before the Communist revolution. Then it will establish Socialism and finally Communism will come in which no one will be exploited. But nothing like this happened. On the contrary, the first experience done in Russia failed.

Nevertheless, by collecting and analysing the facts properly, some assumptions turn out to be quite correct. For example, the book “Thoughts on Pakistan” written by Dr. Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar about the establishment of Pakistan in 1940 proved to be true to a great extent.

There is a difference between Dalits and minority groups – Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Persians, Jews etc. Religion or race is the identity of the minority people, but only a list given in the Constitution connecting the Scheduled Castes is not a separate identity.

Before 1935, there was a long list of Untouchables and Backward castes, but at that time, among the castes considered to be Shudras and Untouchables, there was an obsession to be called upper caste Hindus. Every caste claimed to be a Brahmin or Thakur. Congress and other Hindu political and social parties used vigorous propaganda to take advantage of this weakness of Untouchables and Backward Classes.

Their interest was that the number of Dalits should not appear large and the population of Hindus should not appear to be small. The British government linked the disabilities arising out of untouchability to the basic criteria and made a new list called the Scheduled Castes Order. It included 429 castes. In this also, the Jatav caste of western Uttar Pradesh held meetings at many places and protested against inclusion in the Scheduled Castes because some leaders influenced by Arya Samaj’s propaganda claimed that they were descendants of Krishna and were Rajputs. They should not be included in the list of Chamars. In some districts, the names of Jatavs were cut from the Scheduled Castes. The Dhanuks also protested in a similar way. Their name was also removed from the list in some states. The same thing happened with the people of Dhobi caste also. The Kolis in Himachal were trying to become “Small Rajputs” because they were heavily influenced by the Arya Samaj.

A new Constitution was made in 1949 which came into force from 26.11.1949. A separate list was also added in the new Constitution which was much longer than the old Constitution. It includes more than 900 castes. Under Article 341 in the new constitution, the President has been given the power to specify the Scheduled Castes and the Parliament has been given the power to add or delete names. The Parliament decides who should be considered Scheduled Caste and who is not. In 1930-35, many castes wanted to be excluded from the list of Scheduled Castes. Today many are demanding inclusion.

Thus, the identity of the Scheduled Castes depends only on the Parliament or the Supreme Court. There is nothing else connecting them. If their names are removed from the list, they will not remain Untouchable in the eyes of the law.

Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar made many efforts to organise the Dalits of the whole of India. The first attempt was made in 1927 in the form of a mass movement to take water from Chaudar Talab in Maharashtra. In the struggle, apart from the Mahars, many other untouchable castes cooperated in it, but after this movement no other movement for human and civil rights was launched. To achieve his goal, Babasaheb continued the struggle for the promotion of education and political rights and got success.

The second attempt was made in 1942 when for the first time in the history of the Untouchables, an independent party for the Untouchables was established. The name of this party was named Scheduled Castes Federation (SCF). People from many untouchable castes joined this party and an organization was formed on the ground. But this organization was for political gain, its foundation was weak. The biggest weakness was the caste system of the Untouchables. The castes like Chamar, Khatik, Bhangi, Mehtar, Dhobi, Mala, Madiga etc. have been created only on the basis of different professions, but due to the education and ill-effects of Hindu religion, they consider each other as high and low and also practise untouchability. It is not possible to have an organization in such a situation. That is why when atrocities happen, they can neither fight nor help unitedly.

The sentiments of caste are so strong that if people of one caste go to one religion, then people of other religion will stay away from that religion. If people of one caste go to a party, then people of other caste will stay away from it. Even within the party, caste is taken care of while giving posts and tickets. Because of this, each party becomes a party of one caste like the Republican Party in Maharashtra or the Bahujan Samaj Party in North India. Due to caste, many parties come into existence but a good organization cannot be formed.

Babasaheb tried to make a third attempt through conversion, but he died after 53 days of launching this movement. And the religious movement which could break the caste system and create a new identity unit did not materialise. The religious conversion fell victim to the same weaknesses as the political movement.

Most of the political leaders in the leadership of this movement could not give the right direction to the religious conversion movement. They tried to run politics and religion in the same way. As such more damage was caused to the movement of religion.

Babasaheb had given many methods for progress and made many provisions in the constitution. Their benefit has reached the Untouchable castes, despite the fact that he worked for the awakening and upliftment of all the Untouchables. His followers were few. Most of the people took advantage of those provisions and facilities but did not accept his teachings. They did not want to be free from the slavery of Hindu religion and caste system. Being a victim of slavery for centuries, they fell in love with slavery.

Speeches of BJP ministers, MPs and MLAs of Backward castes after demolition of Babri Masjid are good proof of this.

Today, on the one hand, atrocities are increasing in the whole of India, the opposition to reservation is also increasing. The doors of progress are getting closed through privatization, on the other hand the Dalits are not organized in any one area. Those young people who want to make a career by adopting politics, they think politics is nothing but entering Parliament and Vidhan Sabha. Instead of taking the hard route of struggle, sacrifice and mass movement, they join parties that give more hope of winning or which can give them more money. They are more loyal to their masters in Parliament and Legislative Assembly.

In the eyes of Dalits, Ram is neither their ideal male hero nor god because he was a supporter of Brahminism and varna system and when he realised it, he died by committing suicide by drowning in river Sarju, but people of Shudra castes out of ignorance and political selfishness join their masters to praise him. What can be more proof of backward class and slavery than this.

These parties or youths looking for “political jobs” do not work for the interests of the workers and the weak, the distribution of land, the fight against unemployment, inflation, corruption. They don’t believe in any thankless deeds of this kind. They say when power will come in our hands then we will do whatever we want. Once upon a time, the Congress also used to raise similar slogans. Bahujan Samaj Party also used to raise similar slogans but after coming to power in hand did nothing for the upliftment of Dalits.

The Untouchables could not run the movement for the distribution of land, while the Republican Party, realizing its importance, had launched a big movement in 1964-65 and also achieved great success. Farm workers, small farmers, artisans, untouchables and backward class people started thinking of it as their party, but its urban leaders remained entangled in urban problems. The party was fragmented due to the weaknesses of the leadership and the caste system and wrong election laws. Congress and other parties did a great job in breaking it because it was becoming a big threat to them.

The Untouchables could not organize because of the feeling of casteism. They love caste so much that they cannot leave their fascination even after going abroad. Organization is not possible due to high and low and hatred for each other.

It is unlikely that they will ever be able to gain political power through elections, given the laws and practices prevailing today.

Some people have benefited from reservation but very few of those who have benefited from reservation have done the work of uplifting the society but reservation is not a permanent thing. If the number of educated people increases and unemployment increases among educated youth, then reservation will become redundant.

People who follow Hindu religion and Varna system as ideal are becoming powerful every day. They want to establish Ramrajya (Hindu Rashtra) and a large number of people belonging to Dalit and Shudra castes are helping them in establishing Ramrajya. Ram Rajya would mean the varna system and the rule of the upper castes. This Constitution which claims equality, talks of rights will be abolished in Ram Raj because Ramrajya was a state of inequality. It was a state of injustice in which Shudras and women did not have the right to live with dignity.

Under these circumstances the future of the Untouchables is in danger. They have no friends and no allies. Some people are able to form organizations to come to power sporadically but are unable to get organized. The most pathetic condition is seen of those who claim to be Ambedkarites. Now people have started laughing at them because while they criticize Brahmins on stage, in daily life they follow the rules, high and low, superstitions, customs made by them. They do not consider it any mistake to remain Mahar, Chamar, Bhangi, Khatik even after adopting Buddhism. They don’t want to learn anything from history.

Given these circumstances and feelings, the future of Dalits looks bleak. The intoxicating and dangerous slogans of “Hindutva” will cause great harm to the Dalits. Gandhi and the Congress prevented them from organizing and created obstacles in their identity. Tried to keep them away from other minorities. The main reason for this was that they wanted to strengthen the Hindu religion. Leadership in the Congress was in the hands of the so-called upper castes.

Now the party, which came to power by raising the slogan of Hindutva, is also doing what the Congress used to do. Make the untouchables fight with the Sikhs and then defame them. Make the untouchables fight with the Muslims so that they cannot join hands. Promote Hindu customs and caste among the Untouchables so that they cannot organize and become a danger to them. There may be difference in the methods of both the parties but not in the objectives.

It is in the interest of Dalits that they follow the path shown by Babasaheb Ambedkar and become independent from the slavery of casteism, conservatism, customs and make their own identity. Remove the effects and traces of Hindu religion from your life as poison. In clear words, they should free themselves from the slavery of Hindu religion. Set aside your name, lifestyle, food, clothing, make your own identity. Build a new society, a new social and economic order based on the principles of Buddhism. Only then will they be able to live with dignity in the times to come. And liberate the victims of their own kind of exploitation.

Hinduism is the main cause of slavery, backwardness, poverty, illiteracy, ignorance, mental and physical weakness and disorganization of Dalits. To live a life with dignity, progress, it is necessary to be completely free from this slavery as it is necessary for a slave country to be free.

Although Bhagwan Das wrote this article in 2001, but in this he had identified the shortcomings and weaknesses of Dalits and predicted a bleak future of Dalits, it is proving to be completely correct today. Therefore, Dalits should learn from this article and fight for their rights by adopting Buddhism and forming a strong organization to secure their future. Dalits should remember that the responsibility of establishing a casteless and classless society, as envisioned by Babasaheb, rests with them. – S R Darapuri.

(Bhagwan Das (1937-2010) was an associate of Dr. BR Ambedkar. He was instrumental in internationalisation of the issue of Untouchability in Indian subcontinent. He presented this issue in the UNO in 1983. This article was published on Countercurrents)

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I write because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, said George Orwell. As a writer, I never kowtow to the whims and dictates of the sacred godmen or godwomen, the political bigots and hypocrites, dealers of laymen, the dishonest and self-serving intellectuals, traders of religions, the betrayers of ‘other’ Indians who eke out a living by their sweat, who are living in fear for being lynched for this and that.

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