Last week, four Dailt men were stripped, tied and beaten up in Gujarat for skinning a dead cow. On Wednesday, a top BJP leader in Uttar Pradesh, Dayashankar Singh, compared BSP chief Mayawati to a prostitute. These are two more additions to a long list of incidents that prove biases run deep in this country.
YS Alone, professor at the School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, and a strong voice on Dalit issues spoke to Hindustan Times on the reasons behind increasing caste violence and why political leaders only pay lip service to the Dalit cause.
KD: Rajnath Singh condemned the Gujarat incident. Is that enough?
YSA: As a minister of home affairs, he will do so. But will he do anything to change ground realities? For example, the protesters, mainly the Ambedkarites, are always booked under the National Security Act (NSA). Can the minister change such a scenario? Will he provide caste figures of the NSA arrests or publish the caste census? Will he allow changes in the police practices? Will he ask caste-Hindu politicians to be democratic and follow the Constitution and not the irrational belief and sacred practices? Politics is confined to power and not to bring any social change, that’s the irony of this nation.
KD: Is the Una violence against Dalits and protests in Gujarat surprising?
YSA: The Una violence has got coverage because of media; it is not new, many such incidents have happened in other states. It is not an isolated incident; the public beating is a reminder to the Dalits that they have to live under fear and are secondary citizens of the Republic, even though equality as is a fundamental right of all citizens. But caste-Hindu citizens don’t think about equality, their ingrained hierarchy and hate generate two equalities, one for themselves, and another for their caste-duties.
KD: Could this round of protests flag off a new phase of caste struggle in Gujarat?
YSA: This round of protests is a sign of unrest that is exists in Gujarat and other parts of India. The Dalits demand constitutional justice. India is in a perpetual and constant denial of constitutional justice. Khaps exist in rural Gujarat the way they exist elsewhere. The Gandhian syndrome of the state has produced constant denials when it comes to atrocities and inhuman nature of behaviour of the so-called spiritual caste-Hindus. The atrocity data is a testimony to this fact of life of this democratic nation.
KD: There is a view that Patidars’ protests for quota benefits and OBC status is spurring caste clashes. Would you agree?
YSA: The Patidars have been frontrunners in all anti-reservation agitation in Gujarat. Though there is a constant re-configuration of the caste pattern within the larger caste-Hindu society, but their attitude towards Dalits remain the same. Ambedkar does not figure in their ideological change. The Patidars have been the most influential community in Gujarat. There is one fundamental question which one has to address at the moment, why there is a consistent demand for job reservation from many social groups? It means that reservation becomes constitutional guaranteed means of representation. Why Patidars do not question the wisdom of their claimed leaders of so-called national struggle? Social suffocation is just an upper layer that does not become a weapon to change internally. The roughness’ that exists with many caste-Hindu caste groups including the Shudra caste-Hindu is so enormous that they deem violence is their right. The religious ethos of spirituality is just another paradigm of ignorance and their reality is that of psychotic behavior because caste is a psychotic perversion. Dr Ambedkar has stated that caste is a perversion of Varna. Caste is a psychotic perversion. Perversions have been legitimised as sacred.
KD: National crime statistics show that violence against Dalits is on the rise in India. Is this an administrative/political failure or cultural/social failure? How can this state of play change?
YSA: It is indeed true that statistics has shown increased violence against Dalits. However, it is not increase but increase in reporting and complaints lodged by the Dalits. Earlier, many complaints even would not be registered against violence, but today, because of spread of consciousness, administration is forced to record complaints against Dalits. Police and general administration has always been very insensitive when it comes to issues of atrocities against the Dalits.
Failures have to be blamed to cultural and religious belief systems. The caste-Hindus think that they have every right to perpetuate violence on the scheduled caste community. As long as the scheduled caste community remains subjugated, live under fear and does not demand equal right, the caste-Hindus find it alright but the moment Scheduled caste demand rights, equality and constitutional justice, he/she is punished, all kinds of means are used to inflict violence, to an extent of public elimination/termination of life. Such is the nature of society.
Often many Indians claim to be a nationalist and show patriotic gestures towards country, however, same set of people do not show any kind of action or be part of transformative politics.
The one who claims to be nationalist should care for each and every citizen of this nation, but the Dalits and tribals are always treated as that of ‘others’.
Things can change if people mainly the caste-Hindus including the Shudra caste-Hindus realise how their claimed cultural practices are hindrances to equality and constitutional justice. Ambedkarian ideas and principle is the only solution to end such menaces. Ambedkarisation of Indian society is the only solution.
KD: Is the ban on cow slaughter pushing Dalits to the brink?
YSA: Anti-cow slaughter laws have been enacted in many states; it shows the mindset of the state legislator as to how their ideas have been controlled by religiosity of sacredness. I wonder why the same State and its followers do not do anything to prevent atrocities against the Dalits and tribals. Killing of human being becomes secondary in such legislations whereas a particular animal becomes primary concern, it’s an irony.
Those who wish to prevent cows should do without legislation and government funds; let the government money be used for the education and other purposes.
KD: Some Dalit commentators believe that economic growth/development can erase caste discrimination to a great extent..
YSA: This is a recent idea that has been advocated by few individuals who are not voice of the society. It is their prerogative and democratic right to think on those lines. I do not think that mere economic empowerment will end caste as well as hate. As I said, caste is a ‘psychotic perversion’, will economic well being stop such perversions? Solution lies in Ambedkar’s ‘Annihilation of Caste’, which should be the agenda. No non-Ambedkarite political party has courage to take this agenda. It requires courage and for that, the age-old practice of hate, anger and violence will have to be put in the dustbin.
Larger cultural change is required. Belief systems will have to be discarded totally. Caste discrimination operates on ideological level. So far economic growth has not brought any ideological and cultural change. The only change it has brought in India is ‘Sanskritisation/Brahmanisation’ of society. Such a change is harmful to make society to believe in constitutional ethos and make nation a proud place to live or even to have ‘shared aspirations’.