Dropping surnames will not empower Dalits; protecting their rights will

  • Lalita Panicker, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Aug 08, 2016 15:50 IST
People protest against recent attacks on Dalit men in Una, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, July 31, 2016 (Siddharaj Solanki/HT)

When it comes to addressing centuries-old and deeply-ingrained societal practices — that of distinguishing and discriminating against people on the basis of their caste —Rajya Sabha MP and Dalit ideologue Narendra Jadhav’s idea of dropping surnames is facile and impractical. He plans to bring about a private member’s Bill to this effect.

Jadhav is a powerful voice for the Dalit community and his efforts towards eradicating caste discrimination should be on more constructive lines.

He is right when he says that no one can physically distinguish among castes. He is also right in being anguished over the attacks on Dalits by ‘gau rakshak’ vigilantes. Caste does indeed derive its sanctity from religion but dropping surnames will not get people to change their minds on this issue.

Read | PM Modi’s remarks on Dalits motivated by vote bank politics: Mayawati

Even if a Dalit were to drop her surname, she is known by her caste in the locality where she lives and where she probably faces discrimination. In any event, everyone is entitled to their surnames and there can be no blanket ban on using these.

However, where Jadhav should lend his support is in the manner in which Dalits have been organising themselves to resist this caste oppression — a massive Dalit march is underway at the moment — and the refusal of Dalits in many areas, especially in Gujarat to carry out duties traditionally considered to be in their domain. Among these is the removal of cow carcasses. No one can find fault with the Dalits’ argument that if the cow is considered the mother of Hindus, then upper caste Hindus can also deal with their carcasses.

Read | Vegetable vendor ties 2 kids to pole, thrashes them, on suspicion of theft

As a law-maker, he should press for the strict implementation of laws which the cow custodians are violating in order to carry out their activities. In many cases, they are nothing more than criminals masquerading as religious activists.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made his sentiments on this clear with his words against these fake cow vigilantes. Jadhav should drum up support in Parliament, and this will not take much doing as no one can openly support this violence against Dalits, except the very few, and see to it that this issue does not fade away as other things take centre-stage. This would be a more feasible way of dealing with casteism than dropping surnames.


also read

The laws against harassment are there, if only all women knew about them
Show comments