Fascism And Dalits
By Goldy M. George
19 February, 2004
is a battle not for wealth or for power. It is a battle for freedom.
It is a battle for the reclamation of human personality." Dr. B.
entering into a detailed discussion on the above subject, it is vital
to review the status of Dalits in Indian society. Apart from being historically
prosecuted on the basis of Varna and Caste, they are still faced with
new forms of oppression and casteism. Different manifestations have
been taking shape with the change of time. Originally all such issues
were revolving around forms of untouchablility. But now it has taken
new forms and shapes. Hence Dalits as a whole are posed with new challenges
A realistic exploration
of history was never done in the past, until Phule, Ambedkar and a few
others began to review it from a different viewpoint. In fact it is
the unwritten history. Most of Ambedkar's work revolved in exploring
the unknown history of the battered people, whom he often referred as
"Broken Man". Hence the real picture of Varna & Caste
was exposed before the whole nation. Prior to that it remained only
as a life reality as nothing was challenged or documented. Therefore
today we have a base to fight against these forces. However with the
growth of understand among Dalits and other marginalized sections, the
tenor and mode of oppression has also taken new forms and shape. Hence
this paper is basically addressing the newly arisen modes and formations
and how the systems and structures of casteism, fascism and globalisation
have been manipulated by these forces and what are the rays of hope
for a community standing on the margin.
One is that the
whole process of Hinduisation of Dalits is drastically increasing in
the present situation as a part of the Sangh Parivar's strategy of bringing
them under their fold. Urgency of Hinduisation is felt essential by
the Hindutva catalogue primarily for six reasons.
1. The threat that
if the Dalits and other weaker sections of the country rise up to the
situation and understand the politics of casteism, it would be difficult
for the communal fascist forces to survive.
2. Secondly they
could easily mobilise the gullible masses against those forces, who
challenge the authoritarian and dominant dispositions of Manuvada and
Brahminism. The best instance is the Babri Mazjid demolition, Dalits
were pushed into the forefront and through this they were trying to
cash the Dalit sentiments. Illustration of similar kind could be observed
in the case of the Gujarat carnage.
3. By keeping them
under the fold of Hindutva, they could easily have a stranglehold on
their culture, faith and other aspects related with the society. This
could help to develop an internal colony over the larger segment of
the country through a slow but strategic process.
4. This could pave
ways to keep them deprived off their primary right to livelihood as
a human being or citizen of the country.
5. In the present
context the Hindutva catalogue have become the evangelists of the global
capital forces. They are the ones who are propping up the globalisation
and its agendas. With globalisation there are two things coming into
the core - one is the deliberate pushing of anew crisis in the midst
and second is to covert, and divert the root problem of casteism so
that no one could challenge it.
6. Last but most
importantly it is to perpetuate the political power and right over their
life though legitimising the social system by establishing an unquestioned
command over the resource zones of the country.
All these have added impelling force to the Hindutava card among Dalits
and Adivasis. By and large this consists of concepts like de-Dalitisation
and de-Adivasisation. Eventually this tendency empowers the fascist
forces and broadens its space.
This has crucial
implications. Hinduism as asserted through Manuvada and Brahiminism
has severe implications on the society at large. It has got the tentacles
of fascism at large and these forces are currently the most fascist
by its very nature and character. For more than seven decade the RSS
along with its operative wings have been working out different methodologies
to implement this.
Dalits and Adivasis is well on the agenda of the Hindutva catalogue.
All the possible institutions of civil society, right from the electronic
media to primary schools, were applied by the champions of Hindutava
to create a sensation of inferiority and thus to manipulate the masses.
Among the indigenous people two processes were induced in parallel.
One was the deliberate formation of institutions such as Vanvasi Kalyan
Ashram and Dalit Sanghs to train-up youth cadres and thus to inculcate
a feeling that indigenous tradition and culture is inferior to that
of Hindu religion. Second is the insurgence of consumeristic culture
in such areas. Both these processes went in parallel and are inter-related
and empower the coexistence. One of the outcomes of these trends is
the crucial osmosis of Hindu strings and civilisation with all its flaws
among the indigenous people.
is exploring its way to elaborate its base and activities and action.
It appears that building of philanthropic and religious institutions
like Saraswati Sishu Mandir, Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, Sanghs, Deen Dayal
Shodh Sansthan, Sanskriti Bihar, Vikas Bharit, Gayatri Pariwar, Brahmakumari
Samaj, etc. are some of the strategies adopted to create inroads among
the Dalits & Adivasis. Another strategy applied is the steady and
systematic capturing of the community panchayats and organisations.
The best example of this is Gujarat where the communal fascists have
got their stranglehold and successfully executed the carnage against
the Muslims by communalising Dalits and Adivasis. This is the result
of decades of brain washing and psychological manipulation Resultant
is the perpetual assurance of control over these communities plus a
bonus of sustaining casteism. Expansion of caste fascism has so far
and is disintegrating the Dalit ideology, theology, and identity and
intimidated their very existence. Apparently this ruptures the community,
deteriorates the noble notions of sharing, caring and co-operation,
expansion of patriarchy and battered the inkling of community ownership
over resources. (1)
A whole range of
question on conversion of Dalits is taking place in different parts
of the country. The common agreement that the mainstream comes to is
that the Dalits are and were Hindus and they are now being manipulated
by other faiths and religions. In this regard first of all it is essential
to understand who the Dalits are, what is their history and tradition
of faith and belief, whether the Dalits were Hindus or not. In what
sense are they Hindus? For this purpose I turn to Dr. Ambedkar's writing
"The Untouchable are not Hindus but a separate element".
"In the first
sense the word 'Hindu' is used in various senses and one must know in
what sense it is used before one can give a proper answer to the question.
It is used in territorial sense. Everyone who is an inhabitant of Hindustan
is a Hindu. In that sense it can certainly be claimed that the untouchables
are Hindus. But so are the Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Jews, Parsis,
etc. The second sense in which the word 'Hindu' is used is in a religious
sense. Before one can draw any conclusion, it is necessary to separate
the dogmas of Hinduism from the cults of Hinduism. Whether the untouchable
are Hindus in the religious sense of the word depends upon whether one
adopts as his tests the dogmas or the cults. If the tests of Hinduism
are the dogmas of caste and untouchability then every untouchable would
repudiate Hinduism and the assertion that he is a Hindu. If the test
applied is the acceptance of a cult such as the worship of Rama, Krishna,
Vishnu and Shiva and other Gods and Goddesses recognised by Hinduism,
the untouchables may be claimed to be Hindus. The congress (2) as usual
maintains a body of agents from among the untouchables to shout when
need be that the untouchables are Hindus and that they will die as Hindus.
But even these paid agents will not agree to be counted as Hindus if
they are asked to proclaim themselves as Hindus, if Hinduism means belief
in caste and untouchability. (3)
The only test, which
can be of use, is its social sense as indicating a member of the Hindu
society. Can an untouchable be held to be part of the Hindu society?
Is there any human tie that binds them to the rest of the Hindus? There
is none. There is no coenobium. There is no commensalism. There is not
even the right to touch, much less to associate; instead, the mere touch
is enough to cause pollution to a Hindu. The whole tradition of the
Hindus is to recognise the untouchables as a separate element and insist
upon it as a fact. (4)
which Hinduism has brought about, between the Hindus and the untouchables
by its dogmas of untouchability, is not a mere imaginary line of separation.
It has both depth and width. Factually the Hindus and the untouchables
are divided by a fence made of barbered wire. To put the matter in general
terms, Hinduism and social union are incompatible." (5)
From the above three paragraphs certain basics of Hinduism and Dalit
is clear; in no way they are Hindus. They are altogether a separate
unit. How could a social and religious system, which argues a down line
for a large section even below the bottom line become the faith and
religion of those who are either on the line or below it? Even Dr. Ambedkar
along with more than 2 lakhs of his followers embraced Buddhism due
to the unequal huma relationship
propagated by Hinduism and also due to the fact that Buddhism was historically
a challenge to Brahminism and of course the political ideology of the
of India upholds religious liberty to all citizens, then why is such
a tussle on conversion.(6) There are reasons for this. One is that the
communities that get converted to other faith are also stepping out
of the clutches of the caste lords. No more the caste domination could
be continued. Secondly through conversion they get educated through
which a discontent for the caste system grows, which leads to originate
Dalit rebellion and third is they attain a better space for affirming
their identity, culture and dignity. Fundamentally when the very realisation
that Hinduism is at stake without sustaining the caste structure, disparity
and untouchability all these dramas are wrought.
Dalits & banning of cow-slaughter:
This is another
issue that is a matter of discussion in the national circles. This question
could be understood in three different ways. One is the history of beaf-eating
in India, second is the culture of beef eating and third is why are
Dalits and other marginalized sections are targeted under the guise
of beef-eating today.
A survey of ancient
Indian scriptures, especially the Vedas, shows that amongst the nomadic,
pastoral Aryans who settled here, animal sacrifice was a dominant feature
till the emergence of settled agriculture. Cattle were the major property
during this phase and they offered the same to propitiate the gods.
Wealth was equated with the ownership of the cattle.
With the rise of
agricultural economy and the massive transformation occurring in society,
changes were to be brought in the practice of animal sacrifice also.
At that time there were ritualistic practices like animal sacrifices,
with which Brahmins were identified. Buddha attacked these practices.
There were sacrifices, which involved 500 oxen, 500 male calves, 500
female calves and 500 sheep to be tied to the sacrificial pole for slaughter.
Buddha pointed out that aswamedha, purusmedha, vajapeya sacrifices did
not produce good results. According to a story in Digha Nikaya, when
Buddha was touring Magadha, a Brahmin called Kutadanta was preparing
for a sacrifice with 700 bulls, 700 goats and 700 rams. Buddha intervened
and stopped him. His rejection of animal sacrifice and emphasis on non-injury
to animals assumed a new significance in the context of new agriculture.
In fact it was Brahmins who promoted this system through the process
of sacrifices, the lower strata were oblidged to eat the flesh of dead
The analysis of
the working of the laws of the sacred which is the core of religion
should enable any one to see that the answer to the question why beef-eating
should make the Broken Men untouchables is the correct one. All that
is necessary to reach the answer I have proposed is to read the analysis
of the working of the laws of the sacred with the cow as the sacred
object. It will be found that Untouchability is the result of the breach
of the interdiction against the eating of the sacred animal, namely,
As has been said,
the Brahmins made the cow a sacred animal. They did not stop to make
a difference between a living cow and a dead cow. The cow was sacred,
living or dead. Beef eating was not merely a crime. If it were only
a crime it would have involved nothing more than punishment. Beef eating
was made a sacrilege. Anyone who treated the cow as profane was guilty
of sin and unfit for association. The Broken Men who continued to eat
beef became guilty of sacrilege.
Once the cow became
sacred and the Broken Men continued to eat beef, there was no other
fate left for the Broken Men except to be treated unfit for association,
i.e., as Untouchables. However today it is the principle source of protein
at an affordable rate to the Dalits and other marginalized communities.
For instance, in Kerala, beef accounts for 40 percent of all meat, and
is consumed by four-fifths of the people. They include 72 Hindu communities.
In India, beef is at least twice cheaper than lamb or chicken. Absence
of beef will raise the food bills of Dalits and marginalized sections.
Banning the slaughter
of cows will violate two fundamental rights at the heart of India's
Constitution - the freedom to live and act (and eat) as one wishes (provided
that doesn't infringe other people's rights), and the right to carry
on any occupation, trade or business. This violation is all the more
egregious because it panders to a particular group in India's multi-cultural,
multi-religious society - under the false pretext of respecting the
religious sentiments of a community.
To start with, a
cow-slaughter ban will impose a heavy economic burden on society equivalent
to more than half the grand total India annually spends on primary education
in all schools put together. If the 10 million cows slaughtered each
year are to be kept alive for only five years (that is, 50 million for
one year), they will need as much additional pastureland as India currently
has. If a paltry Rs 10/- is spent on each animal daily, that will annually
cost over Rs. 18000 crores! India's total primary education spending
is Rs. 3500 crores.
useless, ailing, old cattle forcibly alive will mount further pressure
on land and people. Worse, the bill imposes a blanket ban on killing
the cow and also its progeny - including bulls. This will compel farmers
to keep alive a class of useless animals, resulting in higher milk prices.
There will be the additional burden of over $1 billion from lost exports
of leather and meat products, mainly beef. Besides, at l east 15 million
people associated with the bovine-livestock economy, from trade of animals
to leather making and trading in bones will lose their livelihoods.
This means an annual value addition loss of Rs. 15000 crores.
It is doubtful if
either the Hindus as a whole, or those who owe cattle want cow slaughter
banned. Many, but not all, Hindus believe the cow is sacred in some
sense. But that's not reflected in the way it is treated.
Most Hindus have
the farmer's attitude to cattle. They sell them to the butcher once
their useful life is exhausted. The vast majority of India's cattle
owners are Hindus. So the cow slaughter issue is related to intra-Hindu
politics. Cattle breeds of cow (which cannot serve as draught animals)
are butchers young.
It is wrong to claim
that Hindus don't eat beef, and their principal scriptures prohibit
its consumption. Numerous Hindus communities, especially the low castes
and Dalits, regularly consume beef, as do India's 180 million non-Hindus.
The question of
cow slaughter is also related with the tanning of leather. This is another
symbol of pollution and impurity of Dalits. What was essentially scientific
was constructed as spiritually bad and sinful in Manudharma Shastra.
Such superstitions keep getting passed off as spiritual and scriptural.
More shocking is that Hindutva organisations such as the VHP want to
implement them, emboldened by the fact that their ideological twins
are at the helm of the state. They killed five Dalits for skinning a
dead cow on a roadside in Haryana. They say the Hindu scriptures prohibit
such an act. To bolster their case, for the modernist legal context,
the murderers say the Dalit youth were skinning a live cow.
The leather industry
was one of the first that Indian society had established, much before
the Europeans and Americans. Instead of being proud of them, society
rendered the builders "untouchable". There is some thing basically
wrong with this mode of understanding divinity and spirituality. The
problem is deeper than present behaviour of the VHP and its ilk shows.
An anti-scientific temper runs deep in the Hindu psyche. Does this not
deserve much more serious debate? Is the struggle against such a spiritual
psyche to be carried by only the Dalits? Undoubtedly this is another
concoct of the Hindutva fold to define what is sacred and what is not,
what is sanctified and what is not, who are unpolluted and who are pollutants.
Emergence of these definitions in the socio-political sphere is vital
to them for the continuity of domination.
Tussle & the Lantern of Privatisation:
Reservation in the
educational institutions and the financial assistance in the form of
scholarships and freeships constitute perhaps the most important factor
in the development scheme for Dalits. For, it is primarily responsible
to make the basic input of education available to them. Without education,
all the constitutional safeguards including the reservation in services
would be infructuous. Under this scheme the Dalit students whose parental
income is below a specified level, get freeship, reservation in admissions
to all the colleges getting grants-in-aid from the government, and scholarships.
Without this assistance, even today, it would be difficult for Dalits
to send their children to school.
The Reforms have
already resulted in freezing the grants to many institutions and in
stagnating, if not lowering, the expenditure on education. The free
market ethos has entered the educational sphere in a big way. Commercialisation
of education is no more a mere rhetoric; it is now the established fact.
Commercial institutions offering specialised education signifying the
essential input from utilitarian viewpoint have come up in a big way
from cities to small towns. Their product-prices are not only based
on the demand-supply consideration in their market segment but also
are manipulated by their promotional strategies. In a true spirit of
globalisation, many foreign universities are invading the educational
spheres through hitherto unfamiliar strategic alliances with non-descript
commercial agencies, of course at hefty dollar equivalent prices. Many
elite institutions like IIMs, IITs, and suddenly facing fund crunch
had to raise their fee structure and other prices many fold. They were
already beyond the reach of Dalits. When they eventually turn self-financing,
their prices would be benchmarked against their international counterparts,
which any way would be affordable to the same top market segment that
constitutes the focus of all the Reform-talk. As the job markets become
acutely competitive, owing to a sharp decline in job opportunities,
the polarisation between the elite and commoner has sharpened. Various
kinds of price barriers would be erected to thwart the entry of downtrodden.
Even the sphere
of primary education the coverage of which has been so miserably inadequate
as to leave out multitude of children in villages as illiterate, could
not remain unaffected, notwithstanding its already existing divide between
the vernacular and English schools. Corporatisation has entered this
arena, transforming the education into an enterprise for profits. Today
educational sector is more commonly known as education industry. The
quality of input these expensive schools provide will benchmark the
products in the contracting job markets. Even today, because of preponderance
of the English language in business circles, the divide between village
and towns is almost complete in the field of education. It is so difficult
for a village student, educated in vernacular medium to compete with
his convent educated counterpart in cities and towns. If this is the
situation of general village population, the plight of Dalits who besides
being the poorest of the village population carry additional Bretton
Wood of social discrimination, is indeed a worrisome matter. Despite
several kinds of State assistance, Dalits are plagued with alarming
rate of school dropouts. This may be explained out as much by the need
for Dalit children to supplement their meagre family incomes for meeting
the two ends as also the erosion of their faith that education could
be the instrument to change the pathetic course of their lives. This
sense of alienation is going to grow with the progress of the Reforms.
Whatever may be the other costs, the government policy of reservations
in employment sphere has undoubtedly played an important role for Dalits.
The policy broadly envisages representation of Dalits in proportion
to their population in all the public services, which includes the government,
public sector, autonomous bodies and institutions receiving grant-in-aid
from the government. A cursory glance at the figures of this representation
is enough to get a pathetic state of implementation.
the results of the implementation may be, the importance of reservations
from the Dalit viewpoint cannot be overemphasised. As could be evidenced
by the organised private sector, where it would be difficult to find
a Dalit employee (save of course in scavenging and lowliest jobs), without
reservations Dalits would have been totally doomed. The importance of
reservations thus could only be assessed in relation to situations where
they do not exist. Whatever be their defects and deficiencies, they
have given certain economic means of livelihood and some social prestige
to the sons and daughters of over 1.5 million landless labourers. Whether
they get real power or not, over 50,000 Dalits could enter the sphere
of bureaucratic authority with the help of reservations. Besides these
tangible benefits promised by the policy, it has instilled a hope in
Dalit community. This hope predominantly manifests in the form of spread
of education among them. Their emotional bond with the nation and its
Constitution despite heaps of injustice and ignominy they bear every
moment of their life may also be significantly attributable to the Reservation
The winds of privatisation
under the Economic Reforms have already shaken the very foundations
of the Reservations. The Reforms clearly envisage the minimalist government.
Wherever the Reforms patterned on the Structural Adjustment Programme
of the World Bank were carried out, denationalisation of the public
sector and privatisation have come in a big way. Being the late starter,
India has not reached the scales achieved by others, say, the Latin
American countries. However, is not unimpressive. Almost all sectors
of economy stand opened up for private investment. Initially the disinvestment
of public sector companies began with 49 per cent by the policy. The
public stake being more than 50 per cent, the public sector as such
was not dismantled in policy. However, the reform package has already
crossed all boundaries by disinvesting PSUs like BALCO by 51%. Now all
PSUs are open for disinvestments by 51% or more. Even the case of the
transformation of telecommunication department to BSNL is the same story.
Hence reservations had been wiped off through these politics.
In the name of preparing
the PSUs for global free market regime, the PSUs were allowed/encouraged
to have strategic alliances with private companies from India and abroad.
As such, over the last five years, many profit making PSUs have formed
the joint venture companies (JVC). These JVCs are strategically structured
as not to fall in the ambit of the PSU-framework. The typical equity
stake for the PSU and private could be 49:51. There appears to be a
great deal of receptivity for this scheme in the government circles.
There are no policy barriers on the business to be pursued by these
existing PSU can hive off its business divisions into private JVCs and
transform itself into a financial holding company with a skeleton staff.
Even if technically it remains a PSU, and assuming that it followed
the reservation policy sincerely, it would have little scope to absorb
Dalits in its staff. Whatever may be the strategic considerations, the
fall out of this process practically amounted to shutting the doors
of these new age companies to Dalits and to potential neutralisation
of the reservation policy.
The policy of limited disinvestment of PSUs not being in conformity
with the spirit of the Reforms, is bound to be relaxed in favour of
privatisation any time. But still, all the PSUs may not get privatised
at once. The bigger sharks would gobble the better ones up. The worst
ones may be closed down or distress-sold. And the middle ones may for
quite some time, continue to be the relic of their past. Whatever the
scenario, the residual structures of the 'reformed' PSUs are never going
to be the same, as far as Dalits are concerned. The ethos of privatisation
and the excuse of competition, superimposed on the traditional caste
prejudice, will never allow reservations to happen, any more.
Other public services are also bound to slip out of the reservation
policy. Most of the sectors, which were the traditional domain of the
government investment, have already been released for the private investment.
VI. Land &
Land is a productive
asset but people are more emotionally attached with the land in many
ways. For many it is the symbol of their freedom. To some it is the
image of their fight against the upper caste. It also represents the
mark of reiterating the lost identity. To many it is the icon of self-determination,
co-existence and community feeling. But to the corporate sector and
agents of development it is a commodity to be consumed. The state also
takes side with these so-called think tanks. Land can be purchased and
sold for commercial purpose. Or even it could be acquired forcefully.
Every time the common man sacrifices himself for the relish and enjoyment
of the elite.
The owners of the land are today landless; that is Dalits. Historically
they are one of the long persecuted humanities betrayed of rights over
land and any form of resources. In an age of globalisation and marketisation,
the life values sustained through the community life and love are constantly
diffusing and substituted with competition. Globalisation is nothing
but the spreading of capitalistic regimes all over the world controlled
by a few. This will end-up the remaining space of Dalits within the
In most part of
the country Dalits are either landless or small/marginal farmers or
landless. Analysing it from the historical viewpoint they are the first
plebeian community of the country. Presently due to the obvious alienation
from land or resources or employment, the largest number of migrants
from one state to another is Dalits. Sizeable numbers among them are
bonded labourers too. Their life condition is wretched and extremely
inhuman. Women and children are subjected to atrocious harassment and
torture, particularly in the migrated workplace.
Looking back into
the history of land struggles in the past the participation of Dalits
in land movement is quite sizeable in various parts of the country,
particularly in the left movements. In fact the character of the ruling
class and their approach towards Dalits remained the same in almost
every part of the country. One of the principal reasons of the Naxalbari
march, by hundreds of rustic poor and landless peasants with arms in
their hands, was the growing unrest among the Dalits against the upper
caste Hindus in West Bengal.
Undeniably this process was very attractive to bring rural Dalit youths
under its fold and therefore it had a heavy replication in various parts
of the country, where the masses were brought under the banner of Communist
parties and of late in Marxist-Leninist movement towards the end of
sixties. Hundreds of youths came under this fold, as this ideology entered
the scene as the only alternative to the dominant crisis. Thus in Bengal,
Bihar, Jharkhand and in parts of Andhra Pradesh, Tamilnadu and Kerala
the Marxist-Leninist movement became a movement of Dalits.
In Bihar Musahari
and Bhojpur were the first places where the silence of the peasants
was decisively broken. Heroic Dalit figures like Jagdish Mahto, Ram
Naresh Ram, Bhutan Musahar, Rameshwar Ahir, and Dr. Nirmal Mahto were
some of the early leaders struggling to ignite the single spark that
would light the prairie fire. By late seventies many central and some
northern districts of the erstwhile Bihar (now in Jharkhand) were raging
with the peasant struggles. However the ideology of Dalit as the lowest
social strata and original inheritors of the land could neither be recognised
nor gain any momentum within the movement.
Four reasons have
come to dominate the armed struggles in Bihar. The first and perhaps
the most successful reasons has been the relentless struggle on social
issues. 64 percent of Bihar's population is composed of the backwards
and Dalits, the majority of whom have nursed a justifiable historical
grievance against the upper caste (13 percent), who dominated the economic,
cultural and political structures. The constant battle waged by the
rural Dalits in acquiring social dignity or "Izzat" against
the bloodthirsty and avaricious behaviour of upper caste landlords and
rich farmers has been indefatigable and quite measurably successful.
However non-of these
movements emerge into a Dalit land movement with a perspective of social
change in the basic fabric of the structure. One prime factor of the
failure of the Indian working class movement was that upper caste bourgeoisie
who never wanted to change the basic social frame mostly led the movement.
Therefore the realisation of change in the Brahminical social order
could not be internalised.
At present a strategic
method of further seizure of their land and property is lucid and visible.
In many places the land occupied by them is deliberately targeted under
different guise such as rural development programs, building schools,
road construction, etc. Another method is through the intervention of
middleman, who provides them with loans during the occasion of marriage,
death, birth, festivals and celebrations, and in return mortgage the
land. Many such cases have come into light.
With the arrival
of privatisation policy, the employment facility under reservation is
wiped-off the surface. Battering the growing consciousness among the
Dalits is the primary agenda of this. It is by all means to put the
Dalits into more and more trouble. For this reason large number of people
keep migrating in search of livelihood. If we look at the rate of migration
of Dalits, it has gone up to alarming heights.
and fascism compliments and strengthens each other, it also affects
the land-property relationship. Caste polity is corroborating its grip
in new forms and the people stand without much of options. Outbreak
of communal tensions is also aimed to make the Dalits realise that they
are Hindus; thereby to bring them under the Hindutava fold. This will
divert the Dalits from the core issues of being powerless, landless,
In Tamilnadu, Dalits of Chockadevanpatti hamlet in Madurai district
have been waging a battle since 1981 against powerful caste Hindus who
refuse to vacate the land assigned by the Government for constructing
houses for Adi Dravidars. The Dalits, who were allotted two cents each
to build houses, says that the district administration of confining
its role to erecting a warning board on the disputed land, which says
it belongs to the Adi Dravidars. Sixtyfive-year old Vellaiyan, who has
taken up the issue, says he has exhausted all his savings to sustain
the fight against the powerful 'occupiers.' He has already mortgaged
his piece of land. The Dalits still wait, after 22 long years, to get
possession of the allotted land.
The situation is
not different in Chhattisgarh. Here they are mostly landless or marginal
farmers. Dalits, one of the prime inheritances of land are today on
the streets. Their right to land has been historically betrayed time
and again. Quite before the settlement of the land in this area, they
were defied of their right to land. Currently the land issue is the
most complicated. It has become a multi-facet issue in the present context.
The display case of this could be better illustrated through the common
land issues such as:
1. People have occupied
the land since long but they don't have any land entitlement (patta)
of their own. They are also cultivating on it but they don't get any
sort of basic facilities and subsidies due to the fact that they don't
hold the patta of their land.
2. In some other
cases, they hold the land entitlement (patta) but do not have the occupancy.
Certain cases of this character have got all sorts of co-related problems
such as no mutation and even they don't have any idea of its location.
3. Land acquisition
has not left its draconian fangs and teeth for industrial purpose and
other mega-developmental projects. In Chhattisgarh 10 major projects
have already been completed, for which 257032.585 acres of land have
been lost. In all 238 villages have been affected by these dams and
their rehabilitation has not yet been done. In addition to this there
are 30 medium projects affecting 123 villages, for which 32745.13 acres
of land have been acquired. Further there are 8 projects pending and
6 medium projects have been proposed affecting 150 villages for which
261314.59 acres of land is to be occupied.These
are the statistics till 2000 when the state was about to be created.
This chart has probably grown much higher.
One of the major
sources of people's livelihood is land. In the last one-decade, as an
integral part of globalisation-liberalisation policies people have lost
their right over land and on the other hand large area of land have
been taken away from the people for various purposes - mega industries
and developmental projects being the major ones. While acquisition of
the land from the people is a major issue, for the industries - most
of them being private including both national as well as multinational
- it is a means of multiplying capital. Dalits are the most effected
by all such projects, as they are already resourceless and powerless.
VII. The imbalance
of Panchayati Raj:
Panchayat Raj institution
was envisioned to be one method of decentralisation of power to grassroot
people. After the new generation of panchayats have started functioning
several issues have come to the fore, which have a bearing on human
rights. The important factor, which has contributed to the Dalit situation
vis-à-vis the panchayat system, is the nature of Indian society,
which of course determines the nature of the state. The Indian society
is known for its inequality, social hierarchy and the rich and poor
divide. The social hierarchy is the result of the caste system, which
is unique to India. Therefore caste and class are the two factors, which
deserve attention in this context.
At another level it is essential to look into the question: who are
the victims of the social system and nature of the state? They are women,
the Dalits (former untouchables), tribal people and the poor. How can
the process of decentralization through strengthening the democratically
elected local bodies tackle these issues? Does the decentralization
process and the decentralized institutions increase human rights violations
or enhance the possibility for respecting and observing human rights?
There has been a
sharp increase in violent manifestations of casteism in local communities
ever since the local government system got strengthened through the
Constitution amendments. When the panchayati raj institutions have been
seen by the upper castes as the tool for the lower castes to assert
their right as individuals living in a democratic polity the latter
have become targets of caste based discrimination and violence. This
rising unrest at the local level has become a common phenomenon.
It is evident that
the upper castes that have been controlling the affairs of the village
and the community and the rural economy cannot tolerate the changes
that are being brought about by the decentralized democratic institutions.
Therefore, from the beginning of the implementation of the panchayat
system, tensions, violence and killings have taken place in order to
resist the transformation.
The elections to
the local government bodies have been the first and foremost point of
attack by the casteist groups. From the very first election under the
new system, the rights of the lower castes to participate in the democratic
process and hold positions were questioned by the upper castes. The
classic case is that of a village in Madurai district of Tamil Nadu,
a southern state in India. In Melavalavu, the dominant castes of the
area murdered the panchayat president and the vice-president who both
belonged to a Dalit community, merely because they dared to fight the
panchayat elections. When Melavalavu was declared a panchayat reserved
for the lower castes in the October 1996 local body elections, the dominant
castes resented this and the polls could not be held. The second attempt
to hold elections was also foiled by violence and booth capturing. Finally,
when the elections were held on December 30, 1996, the upper castes
boycotted it. Members of the lower caste were elected as president and
vice-president amongst others despite stiff resistance from the upper
castes, but they were never permitted by the dominant caste to enter
the new panchayat office. Finally on June 30, 1997, the president and
vice-president along with three others were murdered in broad daylight;
their only crime was that they had been elected through the democratic
These kinds of violations continue unabated even today. The local body
election in the same state the upper castes suppressed the rights of
the lower castes to exercise their franchise. Similar incidents have
occurred in most of the states. The northern states, which are prone
to more caste conflicts, are witnessing human rights violations after
the introduction of the new phase of panchayats. There are a number
of instances indicating the presence of powerful caste elites that continue
to thwart attempts for a constitutional resolution of social justice
issues at the village level. The frequent reports on the killings of
Dalit men, women and children are not only restricted to backward states,
where the process of decentralization of power to the local level has
not really taken off. Caste violence is part of the social reality.
In the last panchayat elections in Bihar, over 96 people including a
magistrate and several candidates were killed during the polling and
more than 40 candidates were murdered in different districts between
notification of polling and filing of nominations. Studies have shown
that most of these killings were the result of 'caste war'
Even after duly
getting elected, the Dalits are not getting the power and status they
deserve. They are made to sit outside the panchayat offices, on the
floor while the traditional village headmen occupy the chairs. Even
when upper caste groups are committing atrocities against the Dalits,
the latter do not have a supportive redress mechanism. It may also be
mentioned that the police (law and order machinery) is not under the
authority of panchayats. The people belonging to the lower castes are
being subjected to unabated atrocities particularly through the connivance
and collusion of the state administration and the local police. In many
instances, cases are not even registered against the perpetrators (who
are mainly the upper castes) by the police who are greatly influenced
by the upper castes or majority of whom belong to the upper castes.
amendment did not simply devolve powers to the panchayats. It added
a very significant provision of reserving almost one third of the seats
to the Schedule Castes and Scheduled Tribes (SC/STs) and women. The
amendment thus at once gave more powers to the local ruling elites and
aspiring elites and also sought to create a counter point to them. It
seeks to set into motion autonomous political action by the hitherto
marginalised groups. It should be remembered that these marginal people
had participated in electoral politics as appendages of the rural power
holders and upper caste landed blocs. By making them complete for crumbs
at the local level with the rural elites the Act seeks to push them
into a more assertive role. This counter balancing of the local elites
is of strategic significance to maintain the overall balance of power
in the hands of the centralised Indian State and the ruling bloc behind
In states like Rajasthan
a movement has sprung up to make public in the presence of the entire
village the accounts of the panchayats and review the work done by the
Panchayat. This has created some control over overt corrupt practices.
To what extent this can effectively curb corruption and build a democratic
accountability remains to be seen.
In conclusion one may say that the new Panchayati raj in so far as it
will weaken the bureaucratic stranglehold is welcome and attempts should
be made to strengthen it against the feudalist casteism, bureaucracy
and state government. But how far it has helped the Dalits to come into
the centre stage is absolutely questionable.
In simple terms
the economics of Dalits is simply related to that of being powerless
and resourceless both socially and politically. The very historical
status of Dalits is continued and perpetuated by the new models of capitalism.
They are landless. With the dramatic saviour like entrance of New Economic
Policy through the Structural Adjustment Program the minimum substantial
livelihood that they used to have is also diffusing.
Due to the globalisation
policies of giving a free hand to all potential resources to the global
investors, small portions of land is also taken off. With WTO's Doha
and its follow-up conference at Cancun water had more become a commodity
for corporate exploitation eventually leading to the privatisation of
river in Chhattisgarh and Kerala. Corporatisation of water already exists
for the past one and half decade. Hence at the village level people
are short of drinking water but the nearby factories have in plenty
since direct passages or bundings are make for such purpose. The riparian
communities on the banks of Sheonath river in Chhattisgarh and the people's
struggle against coca-cola in Plachemed in Kerala gives similar indications.
This is quite ironical by all means. Hence there is not water for the
fields of the poor and marginal farmers and even those who used eke
out a substantial income annually has been suffering due to this.
Likewise, the Structural
Adjustment Program, induced as a part of the New Economic Policy, has
closed all options for agriculture subsidies. Particularly the small
and marginal farmers are facing the result of such a shift. In addition,
the politics of mandi (local paddy market), which is controlled by the
local business lobby (usually belonging to the upper caste), is keeping
them deprived from getting the support value for their product even.
In compulsion they sell it to the grain merchants at a much lower price.
Those engaged in sharecropping are also not left out; since they don't
have the patta of the land in their favour, the money nowadays giving
in cheque is not in their favour but in the name of the original landowner.
Now it depends upon the mercy of the master whether to give the money
Dalits who are landless
or marginal farmers are the most affected by this. We could sense this
fact by looking at the massive and extensive outflow of people in search
of employment in the last few years. Looking at the records there has
been large-scale reduction in the productivity of the paddy in the entire
Chhattisgarh. Obviously this is one major reason for the unstoppable
migration of Dalits to other parts of the country in search of employment.
With the new forms
of culture, where consumerism has become the god of the market and money
and power has taken the centre stage of all spheres of human action
and activity, human relations have deteriorated and this is affecting
the already hampered communities like the Dalits. Day by day they are
dragged into new models of competition and this eventually amplifies
their problems within the community in terms of relationship also.
Order of worship
has taken new shape and form, particularly among those who are closely
interacting with the non-Dalits. Many of them are either city-dwellers
or semi urban township or living near the cities or townships. Due to
the increased Hinduisation, Dalits are more interested in worshipping
the dominant Hindu gods than their own forms of worship and offerings.
In fact this virus is infecting the mindset of the cream and also the
intellectual section among Dalits. Unable to understand the fact that
they are badly co-opted by the dominant social and political system
their inwardness has accelerated.
The classical example is of Chhattisgarh. Ganesh pooja and Durga pooja
were never a part of Dalit faith order. But today in every Dalit village
or Dalit lane or colony Ganesh pooja is celebrated with greater fervour
than it is celebrated by the dominant caste Hindus. Another aspect is
that in Chhattisgarh Dalit women enjoyed a greater degree of freedom
in taking her own decisions in terms of selecting her life partner.
If after getting married she has any dislike towards the man or she
starts liking another man without much of conflicts she gets separated
from him and joins the other man. It was done through a ritual known
as 'Chudi-pratha', according to which the new man offers her a set of
bangles to join him. Even if she eludes with that man it never creates
a conflict within the community. Even holding bigamous or polygamous
relationship was not a problem. But today all these are seen as malign.
Consequent to this there is an intrusion of alien art forms too. In
certain cases even traditional instruments are looked upon with indignity.
On the contrary non-traditional instruments like Banjo, Keyboards are
much used in these art forms like Panthi, Mangal Bhajan, Gammat, Ganda
baaja, etc. This transforms the wholesome spirit of Dalit art itself.
Along with this, another change is the shift towards the demands of
market. Subscriding the market demands a shit in their songs, music,
and rhythm is also absorbed. Hence as a whole a lot of changes have
appeared in the last few years in terms of the culture and values of
Dalits. The process of globalisation is bringing in a new culture of
market and domination of Hindutava forces through strategic process
of induction and inculcation. However there are still many groups and
communities that preserved the original one.
in the name of difference within the communities has grown at large.
Their social masters time and again tell various Dalit communities that
they have nothing in common and hence there should be no point of co-operation
in-between. In the result different communities are looking at each
other as enemies. Hence the forces of globalisation and fascism are
blocking Dalits from coming together to identify and acknowledge the
Women are the most effected in this whole process. Insecurity among
them has increased and the roving nature of this has put them under
severe threat to their very survival. Expansion of the manifestation
of patriarchy has increased. Looking at the elite world, their men are
also trying to control and subvert which is extremely dangerous and
also giving birth to a new culture of domination. Wife beating is increasingly
becoming quite common. Demanding dowry is also escalating. Status quo
becomes the modus symbol. So are other consequences of this trend turning
it more anti-woman.
These are some of
the major changes in the cultural attitudes of Dalits due to the rampant
ravage of globalisation and fascism. There are many other modes by which
the people at large are affected. Hence a process of resistance to this
is very much needed and vital, unless the people of this hinterland
stand up and fight against all such tendencies from its roots, the fate
of Dalits will remain the same. Hence we need to act in these terms.
X. Linger of
Hope & Possible way outs:
However all ways
have not died, nor it is the end of history for the Dalits. We need
to search for the possible alternative as way outs from this crisis.
Unless we develop it from within it won't be possible to generate our
strategy and mustering our sense and energy. Some of the suggestions
for such a comprehensive action are mentioned below.
Dalits at large
have been co-opted by the mainstream social and political systems to
a larger extend. Even when there is the upcoming of a Dalit leader;
he/she gets lost in the whirlwind. It has to a large extend affected
the Dalits unification, since the cream layer goes straight into the
enemy camp. One has to cleverly escape the trap of political co-option,
as this is one of the most effective traps unfolded by the Chauvinist
Hindus. It is not an easy task, however not impossible even. Unless
we conceive new forms of co-operation, emergence of Dalit force is unimaginary.
relationship should grow, unlike the present situation. Currently it
has been co-opted and got rotten within the present political games.
The minimum of having inter-community dialogue among Dalit communities
at various levels is also not there. This at large is due to the co-option
strategy that keeps the community further fragmented. Similarly a sense
of domination has also outgrown within certain communities. This needs
to be rectified. Indeed this is a process of identifying the enemy from
within. This is also a part of understanding the community as an organic
living unit. Forces of fragmentation are everywhere but what are the
basic elements that could unify us should be identified and acknowledged.
Unification of Dalits
in no way connotes to homogenisation as propagated by certain Dalit
groups. Then there won't be any difference between Dalit unification
and the basics of Hinduism. It has to grow from within the diversity;
otherwise it would be just insensitive. Maybe we are unwanted and unrecognised,
filth and scraps as denoted by the caste forces. But we are human beings;
we have a history, a culture and life. We need to grow from there and
with the scraps we have to rebuild it. Hence one has to think in terms
of co-operation rather than getting fouled or entangled within the mainstream
political peripheries. There are signs of it in many parts of the country
- one has to carry forward it from there. Various Dalit organisations
are addressing the issue. Mobilising a movement is much easier than
building organisations and heading towards a big struggle.
Of the Dalits,
By the Dalits:
Until now all sorts
of development has been done in the name of Dalits by non-Dalits. Or
this could be described as an effort "for the Dalits". This
provided the non-Dalits a better space to exemplify and augment their
political space among Dalits, which they had manipulated in the past
by making "use" of Dalits as sheer vote banks. This should
come to a standstill. Also they earn a lot of funds meant for the Dalits.
Dalits will have to strongly bargain for their share, beyond accepting
the symbolic kindness and pity and remaining as vote banks. Searching
space within the structure as well as creating new space with acute
political clarity is vital.
In effect this reduces
the political space of the Dalits and also further keeps them deprived
and aloof from the various schemes and other welfare provisions provided
to them by the state framework as such.
Another reason for
the deprivation of Dalits is that all the planning are made "for
the Dalits" by non-Dalits. It is never planned with the Dalits
or by the Dalits. Therefore the basic problems of Dalits as a social
problem are yet to be dealt. Now with the upcoming of Dalits they fear
that their longing domination will end-up shortly and hence they are
working out new forms and methods of domination and co-option. Hence
the formula of "for the Dalits" needs a full stop. It has
to re-begin as "Of the Dalits and By the Dalits"; means the
leadership taken up by the Dalits and such a political process consists
of the Dalits, not the non-Dalits. Non-Dalits could be part of the process
by integrating themselves into this process as Sahayatri (co-travellers).
Then only a genuine development for Dalits could happen in the present
What is essential
for the Dalits is to think from their perspective of culture, identity
and dignity. This could only affirm the right of Dalits to live with
dignity. For this a reunification has to take place. Reunification leading
to homogenisation ends up in devastation. This again will lead us to
devastative ends. It is the reunification of the historically battered
strata. This spirit could only lead us to a better position. Such political
affirmation is taking place through organised efforts of Dalits in Tamilnadu,
Maharastra and other places. One has to carry forward the impulses from
to Dalit agenda:
Playing with Dalits
has become the culture of the dominant socio-political system. Political
parties in the past have championed in tokenising Dalit agenda. At times
it is like tossing on various aspects related with the Dalits. Congress
and BJP did it time and again. Even the Communists were reluctant to
build up a genuine Dalit agenda. Dalit parties could not come into the
fore due to various reasons. Some of them were quite marginal in the
larger scenario. Others got flooded with various agendas of the mainstream
upper caste. Some are even acting as agents of upper caste. Building
up of Dalit agenda is a genuine political process.
in the character of political parties and the state will not happen
unless there is a new perspective added to it. The only option is the
coming together of Dalit communities and building a common agenda.
This is significant since this is the only means by which we could stop
the tokenism of Dalits. Also this will emerge as a major challenge to
the dominant socio-political system that had kept Dalits under different
forms of ramification, control and manipulation for long. One has to
understand that tokenism will only end with affirmation, perhaps reaffirmation
of Dalits from an ideological viewpoint. In addition it will help us
in understanding various aspects of developing a wider Dalit polity
in the longer run and also define a new developmental pattern where
justice, equality, and peace will be for all.
culture of collectivity - Affirmation of Identity:
has been the core of the Dalit culture and history. Even during the
days of terrible repression and oppression, there was life within the
community. This is what has withered away with the upcoming of the present
formula of fascism and globalisation. Consumerism is dominating and
infiltration of upper caste culture has laid an unabated of communion
of the community. Both these are consummated to compliment each other.
It is taking terrible forms. Nevertheless, Dalits have a rich history
and heritage of living together, the culture of sharing, caring and
Cultural notion of collective life was expressed through the art and
art forms, which has been corrupt in the present context. Collective
has been ruffled in the current process of consumerism and Hinduisation.
This cannot go like this.
That is why it needs
a revival. Culture is not just the forms of life, but also the elementary
rhythm of life, the harmony among human being and the melody of living
with nature. This is also expressed through our art forms too. Hence
let's re-search our songs, our dance, our lore, our stories, our harmony,
and our rhythm. Unless this harmonious culture is reinstated, it won't
help mankind to survive for longer period. This is what a major challenge
In the last few
decades there is a quest among the Dalits to give a new meaning to their
cultural art forms like Gandabaja, Chikarabaja, Parayattam, Kaniyattam,
Thaeim, Pulyapattu etc., affirming their liberation. Their singing,
drumming, strumming and dancing are re-defining their perspective. On
the other hand alternative communication like third theatre, street
theatre, puppet show, etc., is also widely spreading. This in fact is
the affirmation of a community though being the at the lowest rank,
as sustainers of life, people and community. This is the essence of
our history and our culture. People's search for alternative media is
in fact People's search for a counter-culture, that will stand as a
paradigm to protect human existence; re-writes history and evolve a
new culture of love and caring. Let this be a historical milestone from
where we reiterate our march towards equality and justice, identity
- Evolution of Radical Democracy:
In future Dalit
organisations and movements will have to look forward in building alliances
with like-minded for a wider struggle of justice, equality and peace.
This is significant since the fragmented struggles could be easily crushed.
This we had experienced in recent times with many struggles of Dalits,
Adivasis and working class. What has happened is that the state has
become a repressive tool in the hands of globalisation. Today it is
the negotiator for the corporate sector. BJP represents the Hindu Nationalism
ideology of RSS, it is quite feasible for them to intervene with their
ideological inputs in favour of globalisation.
This has got severe
implications on all the marginalized sections of society. Hence the
marginalized communities are join hands and express solidarity. Marginality
itself is the basis of joining hands. Hence an alliance of Dalits, Adivasis,
women and working class is bound to emerge to challenge the existing
citadels of power headed by a bunch of upper caste elite. Unless such
a force emerges the situation is not going to in a challenging position.
No doubt this is also the process of evolving radical democracy. Radical
democracy is the emergence of a process through the people on the margins
- the Dalits, Adivasis, Women and Working class. Currently democracy
is the biggest threat to globalisation and fascism. As long as democracy
exists, globalisation and fascism could not be fully implemented. Any
attempt to super impose will be met by severe revolts, which the state
wants to avoid strategically. Hence all attempts are made to reduce
the existing space of the people - perhaps that is the best way of eliminating
democracy in a democratic manner. Curbing of space should be jointly
resisted with urgency in order to defend democracy. Some of us are already
into this process. Many more needs to join. Such an alliance could be
a step in realising the dreams of a casteless, classless and patriarchy
free society. Of course this is not the only process but unquestionably
it will be a genuine component of it.
Nevertheless, this process is the evolution of grassroot radical democracy.
The experiment of Jharkhand, and Kerala are classical experiments in
these lines. The consensus of people, the agenda of the hammered, the
struggle of the marginalized is the genesis of a new era.
1. George, Goldy
M. "Fascism the emerging threat to indigenous people", a paper
presented for the Chhattisgarh Church Leaders Consultation on 6-8 March
2003. For further details log on to http://www.countercurrents.org/dalit-george011003.htm
2. Dr. Ambedkar always believed that congress is a bunch of upper caste
people and the congress acts based on the caste hierarchy even as a
3. Ambedkar, Dr. B.R. "The Untouchables are not Hindus but a separate
5. Ibid.6. For further reference refer to the various articles, sections,
sub-sections and clause within the Constitution of India related to
the personal and individual liberty.