The candles of Delhiites are out again: this time against caste.
A Delhi BJP spokesperson and a clutch of professionals and students got together on Ambedkar Jayanti at 26, Alipur Road — the address where Dalit icon Ambedkar spent his last years in Delhi — to "renounce" their castes.
Organised by NGO Swaraj, volunteers with candles in hand read out an oath renouncing caste and their surnames in front of a garlanded statue of the Dalit icon.
Their claim: this gesture would help secure a casteless society in India.
However, the group — predominantly upper caste — was ideologically disparate. The students were by and large against caste-based reservation — considered non-negotiable by most Dalit and OBC groups — and many supported Youth For Equality, an anti-reservation platform. For them, dropping caste should also mean dropping caste quotas.
But Delhi BJP spokesperson and Swaraj president Sambit Patra, a doctor, who announced he would be Sambit Swaraj from now, was quick to add, “I am fully in support of reservation as it exists, as it is a constitutional feature that had the full blessings of Dr Ambedkar.”
But is it a BJP event, aimed at enlisting Dalit support for the party?
“No, I am doing this as part of our NGO Swaraj that works among Dalits,” Sambit Swaraj told HT. “But I am sure my party too appreciates all attempts at empowerment of Dalits, which the horizontal equality brought about by renouncing caste would eventually create.”
Among the students dropping their surname was Naushad Ali from Hindu College, who became Naushad Gandhi. “I thought I should utilize this opportunity to make the point that I do not want to be looked upon as just a Muslim.”