Mainstream, VOL LIV No 34 August 13, 2016 [Independence Day Special 2016]
Sangh Reprisal Against Dalit in Modi Raj
Monday 15 August 2016
by Arun Srivastava
The July 11 incident of brutally thrashing Dalits in Una in Gujarat has been different from the earlier atrocities perpetrated against them. This was for the first time the cow vigilantes forced a Muslim boy to thrash the Dalits. Undoubtedly it was aimed at sending the message that even Muslims do not support and sympathise with the Dalits and are anti-beef. Generally the Muslims are supposed to share the economic miseries of the Dalits and the political parties usually try to address the concerns of the Dalits and Muslims together.
This gory incident also underlined a radical change in the way and content of the protest by the Dalits. Instead of resorting to direct action against the upper-caste Hindu elements, they took to bandh and committing suicide. For the first time in Gujarat, as many as 20 young Dalits attempted suicide to express their anger and get justice. The attack was in fact in retaliation to the Dalits’ refusal to follow the neo-Brahminical nationalist cultural practices conceived by the Hindutva champions.
Protecting the cow has been the oldest agenda of the RSS but in recent years the Sangh leaders have added a new dimension to their movement. Earlier they used to agitate for protecting the cow. But now they are using the movement to terrorise Muslims and Dalits. In case of Dalits it is more pronounced; they conspire to coerce them to join the Hindu fold and accept the Brahminical way of social life.
An analysis of the violence against Dalits would unravel a well-planned design, a pattern. These incidents are enacted to warn the Dalits about their status in the caste-based social structure, and ensure that they remain there. These atrocities are committed to send a clear and loud message that Dalits have to live a life of indignity, humiliation and exclusion from the mainstream of society. Unless they embrace the Brahminical philosophy and norms they will have to continue to perform the caste-based services ‘so essential for society’ and remain at the bottom-rung without access to higher education and entrepreneurship.
It is ironical that the so-called liberal middle class society or the ‘dominant civil society’ never take the atrocities against the Dalits seriously. For them it is merely a law and order problem without having a concrete socio-economic contour. The civil society never considers it necessary to intervene when Dalits are murdered, paraded naked and raped. The administration, policy-makers and police system support the system with impunity.
The CPI-M Polit-Bureau member Brinda Karat was narrating a half-truth when she said that the public thrashing of Dalits in Gujarat had Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “support to criminal activities” of the cow protection committees. True enough, this was more than a criminal activity; it was in the chain of the organised violence by the Hindutva forces. The manner in which the cow protection vigilante groups across India have been targeting the minorities and Dalits, was enough for Modi to tighten the screw and show these elements their right place. But instead of taking action or putting a break on their activities, he has been providing them with his maun swikriti (silent approval).
Interestingly, just a day ahead of conceding “there is hooliganism going on in the name of self-proclaimed gau raksha samitis” and “we need to be more vigilant”, the Gujarat Chief Secretary, G.R. Aloria, said that the men who flogged a Dalit family in Una videotaped the July 11 incident simply “for fun”. According to him, the victim belonged to the Shiv Sena, a constituent of the saffron brigade. Aloria’s statement makes it explicit that it was not a simple crime but more than that.
Modi has been performing true to the script handed over by the RSS. While the Sangh and Modi have been have been trying to usurp the legacy of Babasaheb Ambedkar, they have unleashed the cow protection forces to perpe-trate torture and violence on the Dalits and minorities. Their strategy has been to isolate Ambedkar. Look at Modi’s statement: “We insult Babsaheb Ambedkar by limiting him to his work for Dalits. But he worked for all oppressed people. We see Ambedkar the same way the world sees Martin Luther King.” Apparently it may appear to be a generous tribute to the great person, but in the real sense this is a calculated move of Modi to disconnect Ambedkar from Dalit aspirations.
Modi has been feeding distorted information about Ambedkar and his contribution to empower the Dalits: “If I limit Ambedkar’s contribution to Dalits, what will happen to 50 per cent of the population in India?” Modi also said that Ambedkar never had any bitterness towards some sections of the society for the injustice he had to face. “It is natural to seek revenge for any wrongdoing. But Ambedkar never had any bitterness in his words for the injustice against him,” he said. Modi’s bhakti is understandable, but Ambedkar disliked bhakts, particularly in political life. At a meeting in Bombay in March 1933, Ambedkar was annoyed that superlatives were used for him. He reprimanded the organisers saying: “These ideas of hero worship will bring ruin on you if you don’t nip them in the bud.”
Modi also said that Ambedkar worked for social unity and equality of the country the same way Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel worked for the political unity of India. “Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, through his political wisdom, created a united Bharat Mata... Ambedkar, through constitutional means, worked for social equality and unity in the country,” he said. It is purely an unethical attempt of Modi to equate Ambedkar with Patel. Look at this statement: “Babasaheb was the masiha (messiah) of all the labourers in the country. If there is a central foundation for labour laws in India, that foundation is because of Ambedkar.”
Ambedkar’s conversion to Buddhism was a choice made for a life of dignity, compassion and justice. Within the Hindu social order, he argued, there was no scope for mutual recognition or reciprocity between communities. Ambedkar noted that the Hindu has no public, and that his public was caste: in the absence of ‘social endosmosis’ which makes it possible for classes to hold values in common. The idea of fraternity, as understood from the writings of Ambedkar, points to an egalitarian order based on the modern ideals of liberty and equality.
By identifying itself with the Dalits the RSS was trying to project the heterodoxy within the Hindu tradition as “inclusivism”, as Indianness. The BJP treats individuals belonging to all groups as citizens but while it talks of a citizen it has the Hindu citizen in mind. While the RSS is not seen as playing a major role in shaping the political strategies of the BJP, it, however, meddles in the cultural arena. Ever since the BJP came to power the RSS has actively furthered its old agenda of the Hindu Rasthra.
Modi’s devotion to Ambedkar is under-standable, but Ambedkar disliked bhakts, particularly in political life. At a meeting in Bombay in March 1933, Ambedkar was annoyed that superlatives were used for him. If Ambedkar had been alive, even Modi would have been reprimanded that he had better focus on his constitutional duty to protect Dalits from the oppressive state he heads, rather than worship him.
Modi has been maintaining a hypocritical stand towards Ambedkar and Dalits. While he has gone for heavy cuts in funds for development of Dalits, has favoured suppression of the radical expression of Dalit students, not condemning the institutional murders of promising Dalit scholars like Rohith Vemula, attitude of vengeance of the HRD Ministry against Dalit students, and trampling of the Constitution with impunity, Modi prefers to sing paeans to Ambedkar.. Modi should know that the condition of Dalits has worsened since he became the PM.
If Ambedkar had been alive today to see the full unfolding of these policies, he would have certainly demanded their revocation. Modi revealed that, come what may, they would never touch reservations. Dalits may take his statement to be a sign of great commitment. But it is time the Dalits woke up from their emotional stupor and saw whom reservations really benefit and who pays for them.
A closer look at all the incidents of violence against Dalits would unravel that they were resorted to coerce and terrorise them and evict them from the small piece of land they possess. Even Aloria revealed: “The victims have made a few allegations against the local sarpanch of Mota Samadhiyala. The victims are saying that the sarpanch was objecting to construction activity by the family on a land allotted for a common water well, that he called these hooligans to the village under the excuse of gau raksha to beat them up.”
Gujarat has a mere 2.33 per cent of India’s Dalit population, but when it comes to atrocities, it ranks among States in the top half of the country. A study report on untouchability in Modi’s Gujarat by Navsarjan found that in 90 per cent of temples in Gujarat, Dalits were not allowed entry. In 54 per cent of government schools, Dalit children were made to sit separately.
The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) reports a 44 per cent increase in violence against Dalits, up from 32,712 in 2010 to 47,064 crimes in 2014. The heinous nature of these crimes is beyond imagination—a Dalit woman was brutally raped and murdered in Kerala in April, another was raped and murdered and dumped in a water tank in Rajasthan in March; two children were burnt to death in Faridabad in 2015 and two girls were raped, murdered and hung up on a tree in Badaun in 2014.
It has not come as a surprise that the BJP- ruled States, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, have registered highest rates of crimes against Dalits and Scheduled Castes in 2015. The government figures underline an almost 40 per cent increase in crime against Dalits. In 2015, Gujarat reported the highest crime rate against Dalits (163.3 per cent, 6655 cases), followed by Chhattisgarh (91.9 per cent, 3008 cases), Rajasthan (58.5 per cent, 7144 cases) and Bihar (43 per cent, 7121 cases). UP (8946) reported the most number of cases of crime against Dalits.
The data was a part of the agenda papers for a meeting on ‘Monitoring the Implementation of Constitutional Safeguards for Scheduled Castes’, held by the NCSC. The agenda papers clearly say: “Rajasthan, UP, Bihar, Gujarat and Chhattisgarh deserve special attention.” The NCSC has also red-flagged the sudden increase in the incidence of crime against SCs in Gujarat and Chhattisgarh.”The anomaly and sudden increase in respect to Gujarat and Chhattisgarh are abnormal and are being highlighted so that these States can provide actual data in case there was a mistake in reporting,” the papers say.
Fiftytwo to 65 per cent of all crimes in Rajasthan have a Dalit as the victim. This is despite the fact that the State’s SC (Dalit) population is just 17.8 per cent of its total population.. Gujarat’s numbers of crimes against Dalits had jumped to 6655 in 2015 from 1130 in 2014.
It is most unfortunate that the baton of hatred has been handed over to the next generation by the Sangh leaders who claim to represent the cultural aspiration of India. The upper-caste people would never like to treat them as Hindus, forget about accepting them as a human being. Though still today a huge population of Harijans and Dalits are amenable to identify themselves as Hindus, it is the despise and hatred of the upper-castes that pushes them away from the mainstream.
Cow protection (gau raksha) cannot be a cover for aggressive vigilantism more often than not as a mechanism for communal consolidation. That violence and intimidation in the name of the cow (or beef) will not be tolerated is a message that needs to go out quickly and unequivocally. Unfortunately neither Modi nor his government has been sincere in this regard.
Resorting to misogyny against Mayawati should be seen in this backdrop. This explicitly manifests the mindset of the Sangh activists and BJP leaders. The RSS has been of late harping on bringing the Dalits into the main-stream of social life. But it is unable to do so. The reason: the cultural norms and ethics of the RSS, the socio-cultural tenets on which the super-structure of the RSS stands is laid on the discrimination and exploitation of Dalits.
The day the upper-caste people, having a feudal mindset, accept the Dalits as Hindus, treating them as equals, the traditional upper-caste Hindus would lose their dominance. From the days of Tulsidas to modern times the only cliché that is prevalent in the Hindu society is: Chamaran ke latiyawe ke chanhi. Bina latiyawale sojh nahi rahihan sa (Harijans ought to be thrashed. Without thrashing they would not behave properly) Truly speaking, the upper caste is scared of the physical and numerical strength of the Dalits. They know the day the Harijans or Dalits stand up and challenge their hegemony, they will be finished.
Little doubt the Right-wing elements are out to destroy the secular fabric of the country by indulging in the politics of beef and cow protection. This is a very dangerous game to play. The RSS and BJP might have inducted Ram Vilas Paswan and other Dalit leaders in their ranks but they are aware that these leaders are a mere burden and useless. They have been using these leaders simply for denying the allegation that the Sangh and BJP were anti- Dalit. While the RSS has been enticing the Dalits, the Sangh leadership at the same time is conscious of the ground reality that its Thakur and Brahmin base was reluctant to allow the Dalits into the organisation. For electoral compulsions they may be adopting a liberal democratic approach towards the Dalits, but the fact remains that they will deny them the right to decision-making. The reason is simple: being numerically superior the Dalits will emerge stronger and sideline the upper caste feudal elements. It is in fact the sense of insecurity that has been motivating the upper-caste elements to attack the Dalits.
The author is a senior journalist and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org