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The Dalit hero strikes back

A new chapter in the history of Dalit resurgence is going to be added if BSP emerges as the largest party in UP polls, writes Khushwant Singh.

india Updated: May 05, 2007 04:38 IST
Khushwant Singh
Khushwant Singh

Opinion polls carried out by experts on the ongoing elections in Uttar Pradesh show the Bahujan Samaj led by Mayawati is likely to emerge as the largest party. If these predictions come true, as I hope they will, it will be a new chapter in the history of Dalit resurgence.

Dr Baba Sahib Ambedkar made them aware of the injustice done to them over the centuries. Bapu Gandhi did his best to rectify them. Kanshi Ram organised them into a political force. His protégé Mayawati will reap the harvest of the seeds sown by him.

Credit must also go to the Election Commission for seeing that upper caste muscle men were not allowed to intimidate Dalits to vote for their castemen or abstain from voting. Above all, it was Mayawati who realised the folly of restricting her candidates to her own Dalit sub-community and put up Brahmins, Ksatriyas and Muslims into the field. It paid good dividends.

I have nothing against Mulayam Singh or his Samajwadi Party except that the UP roads are in a deplorable condition and that it has failed to instil confidence among the people that their lives and properties are secure. There is also the feeling that a change of rulers might improve matters.

It appears no party is likely to gain a clear majority and the one which comes on top will have to forge an alliance with some other party to form the government. This will be the first challenge to Maywati’s political acumen. She would be best advised to keep the BJP out of reckoning, as its leader Kalyan Singh is tainted with the crime of breaking the Babri Masjid and his colleagues still harp on Hindutva as their objective. The compact disc which it released, then withdrew, truly represents their narrow-minded, anti-Muslim bigotry. She may choose the Samajwadi Party or the Congress. Since allying with the chief opposition may prove awkward for her, the second best option would be to invite the Congress Party to join hands with her. I hope she will do so.

More important than forming the government will be to announce her priorities. She must realise that laying out parks or erecting Dr Ambedkar’s statues should not be her priority. What must be: have primary schools in every village with free and compulsory education for girls and boys, free text books, uniforms and mid-day meals. If she can do this during her tenure, her name will go down in history books of India as a real redeemer of the downtrodden.

Unveiling Marwaris

Neelima Dalmia Adhar is proud to be a Marwari; who would not? Belonging to a sub-community whose founding fathers came out of the arid desert wastes of Rajasthani villages, with little more than a kurta-dhoti to cover their bodies and a brass lota to carry water to wash their bottoms, to end up being among the richest of the rich in cities like Calcutta, Bombay and Madras. Most of them spent their youth in tumble-down havellis; they ended up in grand mansions with fleets of automobiles, private aircrafts and mistresses. They became household names all over the country: Birlas, Dalmias, Goenkas, Bangars, Rungtas, Lodhas, Jaipurias, Maheshwaris. They owned large tea estates, jute mills, manufactured armaments, automobiles, chemicals, sugar and they controlled banking, the stock markets, newspapers and more.

They also built temples, schools, colleges, planetaria and gave lavishly to charity. A few ventured into politics but soon discovered that it was more profitable to have MPs and MLAs on their pay-rolls to do their bidding than to join political parties. Some trod the straight and narrow path of rectitude; many more were ever willing to compromise their integrity by bribing ministers and officials to get their work done. Some were puritans and abstentious; a few profligate and reckless womanisers.

Neelima has a good sample in her father, Seth Ramakrishna Dalmia, who rose from nothing to dizzy heights of wealth and power, married six wives and sired a large brood of sons and daughters, and was caught in a scam and spent a few years in jail. Neelima wrote a vivid biography of her father: Father Dearest: the Life and Times of R.K. Dalmia.

She has enlarged her canvas to write about an extended Marwari millionaire family, Loya: Merchants of Death (Har Anand). One can see there are elements of her own and other Marwari families in it. She writes: “Three most powerful forces that are known to motivate human behaviour are sex, money and revenge.” So she gives you dollops of them in her novel. She does not spare her sub-community from the contempt with which others look down upon it. She writes: “The counterpart of the Jewish community of the West were the Marwaris of India who had traditionally been associated with profiteering and black marketing in essential commodities like wheat, sugar, newsprint and cement during and after the Second World War.”

Adhar writes at a breathless pace, every sentence overloaded with adjectives. She reads like a writer in a great hurry to get her book done. She now plans to write a definitive book on the Marwaris and her distinguished non-Marwari mother Dineshnandini, poet and novelist, who was awarded a Padma Bhushan shortly before she died. Neelima will have no problem finding a publisher for her future works as her mother’s charitable trust provides publishing manuscripts chosen by her.

New definitions

WTO: Not World Trade Organisation, but the World Tour Organiser, somebody who has wheels-on-feet, is peripatetic, starts planning next trip even before the first one is over, the kind you find in Udyog Bhawan and South/North Block.

DNA: Not deoxyribonucleic acid, but Dropper of Names, is at ease only when his famous ‘contacts’ have been cited.

GE: Not General Electric Company, but somebody with a Glad Eye, even in the workplace, which is of sweeping interest.

BJ: Not Blow Job, but Bhut Jolokia, somebody whose choice of words make his tongue explosive, like the hottest chilli in the world from northeast India.

(Contributed by Awdesh Kumar, Bhopal)

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