Future of Dalits in India

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By Bhagwan Das

(Note: Although Bhagwan Das wrote this article in 2001, he had identified the shortcomings and weaknesses of Dalits and predicted a bleak future for Dalits, but it is proving to be utterly correct today. Therefore, Dalits should learn from this article and fight for their rights by adopting Buddhism and forming a solid 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)

It is not possible to make predictions about any individual, community or group. Only astrologers claim to know or talk about the future, mainly based on rhetoric and has been proven wrong. But still, in our country, most 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 was established before the Communist Revolution. Then it will select 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 correctly, some assumptions turn out to be entirely correct. For example, the book “Thoughts on Pakistan” by Dr Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar about the establishment of Pakistan in 1940 proved to be valid 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 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 the Untouchables and Backward Classes.

Their interest was that the number of Dalits should not appear large and the population of Hindus should not appear small. The British government linked the disabilities from 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 similarly. 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 was trying to become “Small Rajputs” because the Arya Samaj heavily influenced them.

A new Constitution was made in 1949, which came into force on 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 as 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 to promote education and political rights and succeeded.

The second attempt was made in 1942 when an independent party for the Untouchables was established for the first time in the history of the Untouchables. The name of this party was named Scheduled Castes Federation (SCF). People from many untouchable castes joined this party, and an organization was formed. 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 based on different professions. Still, due to the education and ill effects of the Hindu religion, they consider each other as high and low and practise untouchability. It is not possible to have an organization in such a situation. That is why they can neither fight nor help unitedly when atrocities happen.

The sentiments of caste are so strong that if people of one caste go to one religion, then people of other religions will stay away from that religion. If people of one caste go to a party, then people of other castes will stay away from it. Even within the party, caste is cared for 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 exist, but a good organization cannot be formed.

Babasaheb tried to make a third attempt through conversion, but he died after 53 days after 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 faith.

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 to awaken and uplift all the Untouchables. His followers were few. Most 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 the 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 the demolition of Babri Masjid are a good proof of this.

Today, on the one hand, atrocities are increasing in India, and the opposition to reservation is also growing. The doors of progress are getting closed through privatization; however, the Dalits are not organized in any area. Those young people who want to make a career by adopting politics think politics is nothing but entering Parliament and Vidhan Sabha. Instead of taking the challenging 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 supported Brahminism and the Varna system. When he realised it, he died by committing suicide by drowning in river Sarju, but the people of Shudra castes, out of ignorance and political selfishness, joined 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, and corruption. They don’t believe in any thankless deeds of this kind. They say when the power comes into our hands, 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 did nothing to uplift Dalits after coming to power in hand.

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

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

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 permanent. If the number of educated people increases and unemployment increases among educated youth, then reservations will become redundant.

People who follow the Hindu religion and the Varna system as ideal become powerful daily. They want to establish Ramrajya (Hindu Rashtra), and many people belonging to Dalit and Shudra castes are helping them establish 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 had no 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 can form organizations to come to power sporadically but are unable to get organized. The most pathetic condition is seen in 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, and customs made by them. They do not consider it any mistake to remain Mahar, Chamar, Bhangi, and 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 Congress prevented them from organizing and created obstacles in their identity. I tried to keep them away from other minorities. The main reason was that they wanted to strengthen the Hindu religion. Leadership in 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 they cannot join hands. Promote Hindu customs and caste among the Untouchables so they cannot organize and become dangerous. There may be differences in the methods of both parties but not in the objectives.

In the interest of Dalits, they follow the path shown by Babasaheb Ambedkar and become independent from the slavery of casteism, conservatism, and customs and make their own identity. Remove the effects and traces of the Hindu religion from your life as poison. In plain words, they should free themselves from the slavery of the Hindu religion. Set aside your name, lifestyle, food, and clothing, and 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 coming times? And liberate the victims of their kind of exploitation.

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

Bhagwan Das (1937-2010) was an associate of Dr. BR Ambedkar. He was instrumental in internationalising the issue of Untouchability in the Indian subcontinent. He presented this issue to the UNO in 1983.

(This article appeared at countercurrents.org on 20 October 2021. Here it is shared with a bit of rewording.)

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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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