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Growing Dalit anger is bad news for the saffron brigade

Many activists believe West UP will become the nerve-centre of the country’s Dalit politics in coming days.

analysis Updated: May 28, 2017 19:40 IST
Sunita Aron
Saharanpur has been tense after recent caste violence.
Saharanpur has been tense after recent caste violence.(Shankar Shukla/HT Photo)

After the worst ever Muzaffarnagar riots had rocked West UP in 2013, a man on the street had described the palpable tension in the area by reciting the lyrics of a soulful number from Muzaffar Ali’s film Gam`an, ‘sine mein jalan , aankho mein toofan sa kyon hain, Is shahr mein har shaks pareshan sa kyu hai’

The same aptly describes today’s scene in West UP, although with a difference.

The communal lab of the country is now sitting on an old tinder box -- caste clashes- not new in the disturbed zone.It has witnessed Jat-Jatav clashes before BSP’s rule in the state. As chief minister Mayawati systematically gave voice to the docile Dalits across UP. However in western region Dalits were socially and economically empowered , unlike their brothers in East UP.

Today they are active on social media, strongly rebutting the rising abuses against their icons, including BR Ambedkar and Mayawati.

Many activists like Dr Satish Prakash of Meerut believe West UP will become the nerve-centre of country’s Dalit politics in coming days.

This comes as bad news for the Sangh Parivar which has been making concerted efforts to penetrate the precious vote bank of 21% Dalits, considered loyal to the Bahujan Samaj Party till the 2017 assembly elections.

And now when they are preparing for 80/80 Lok Sabha seats in the 2019 elections as announced by chief minister Yogi Adityanath, a document called ‘Alert 19’ is already making waves in the community.

Dr Satish says it focuses on the political and social challenges ahead for the community as the BSP has weakened.

Interestingly, Dalit activists across the state have ganged up to take on the attack on their community.

Satyya Prakash Teetal from Agra, often described as Bheem Nagari because of its high Dalit population, says, “ Suddenly we find mushrooming temples, use of derogatory words like chamar by even our friends, increased misbehaviour with our women and damage to the statue of Dr BR Ambedkar. Instead of taking action in these cases, the administration is maintaining a studied silence that manifests their complicity.”

Significantly , caste clashes are primarily between Dalits and Rajputs (the chief minister’s caste)

Dalits have now taken their war on the social media, strongly rebutting the rising abuses against their icons, including BR Ambedkar and Mayawati. According to Teetal as many as 125 Dalit groups have come together on social media to take on the mudslinging campaign unleashed by the ideology that believed in social hierarchy.

Significantly , caste clashes are primarily between Dalits and Rajputs ( the chief minister’s caste).What seems to have worsen their faith in the administration is the involvement of Rajputs in most of the cases.

Dr Satya Prakash says, “ Dalits were attacked in a pre-planned manner on Tuesday despite the presence of heavy police force in Shabbirpur village in Saharanpur.”

This has shattered the confidence of Dalits in the government. “Our youths are angry, they are not going to remain silent for long. We fear civil war if immediate steps are not taken to check excesses on Dalits,” he added.

Most of the activists feel that the Hindutva lobby, which had earlier turned this zone into their communal lab, always had two enemies – Muslims and Dalits. While Muslims were fearful in the BJP regime now that there is a BJP government both at the centre and in the state , Dalits have become easy target.

The caste tormentors are back, so is untouchability.

Dr Satya Prakash says, “Dalits aggression will also provoke Muslims to retaliate.” Perhaps nothing would suit Mayawati, whose party was completely decimated in 2014 and 2017 elections. She has been trying to build Dalit-Muslim unity which failed before BJP’s aggressive Hindutva that in fact took away a slice of her Dalit votes also.

Author and expert Dr Badri Narayan feels the fight for caste identity and supremacy has begun again. Some castes that were lying in limbo in SP-BSP regimes are raising their heads again. “ Problems will flare up if contradictions in dissemination of power and resources is allowed. The government must build social harmony to prevent the situation from going out of control,” he says.

Prof MP Ahirwal of BHU says, “ We were apprehending trouble after the elections. The upper caste, which could not tolerate political empowerment of Dalits are now taking revenge, committing atrocities.” According to him the upper caste is resenting Jai Bheem slogan, which is symbol of their empowerment.

But many like Brajendra Kumar Gautam of Allahabad based Dalit resource centre feels it is an outcome of Dalit disunity that weakened their movement. The community votes divided in different parties and now they are realising their political blunder.

According to him the tormentors are back.

Politically, BJP would not want to lose Dalits to the BSP. But , as of now, Mayawati is again emerging as their savior!