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Political Game Against Dalits

By Dr. Bizay Sonkar Shastri And Suresh Varghese

Dr. Bizay Sonkar Shastri, a former Member of parliament who is currently Chairman of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes spoke with Suresh Varghese of Indian Currents

How do you assess the clashes between Dalits and Jat Sikhs in Talhan village of Jalandhar in Punjab?

We intervened in this issue two months before the violence erupted. It was a very serious matter — a social boycott had been imposed by the Jat Sikhs on the Dalits, who constitute 70 per cent of the population of that village. According to our Constitution, such discrimination should not be allowed. At that time, one of the members of our commission and the police DIG went to the village and studied the developments. We issued instructions, including the urgent withdrawal of the social boycott, to the state authorities, but the Punjab government didn’t implement it. Then we called the chief secretary of Punjab as also the social development commissioner on 28th May and inquired to them what actions they had taken so far to restore normal life in the village. They again promised us that within 15 days they would implement the commission’s recommendations to create a conducive atmosphere. I told them the situation in Talhan was very dangerous, and unless strong action was taken, the worst would happen. My fears have come true.

The Punjab government failed to measure the gravity of the situation. I wanted to visit the spot but the state government informed us that they could not provide necessary security arrangements for our visit. But the very same administration is giving protection and security to the visiting Congress leaders. It is a wonderful argument! It is a political game against Dalits.

Even if the Dalits acquired economic stability, they do not get the social acceptance, especially in religious matters…

Social recognition is a matter of a mindset. It reflects the attitude of a society towards a particular community. But our SC/ST political leaders are creating a divide in the society. They are presenting things on casteist lines. This polarisation will not help the Dalits to integrate into the social mainstream. Without social harmony we can gain nothing. Remember that the SC/STs are 30 crores in India; more than the American population. If they remain backward, or away from the mainstream of development, the nation will never achieve prosperity.

As a result of our reservation system, SC/STs are slowly progressing in education, parliamentary participation, government services and related jobs. But in industries and business, their participation is totally nil. Ninety percent of the SC/ STs are landless. So you can imagine their contribution to the productive sectors of our country. At the level of economic empowerment, the SC/STs should get more attention in this competitive world.

Will society permit learned priests or pandits of a Dalits or OBCs background to perform pooja in a temple…

It reflects the conservative mindset of our society. These practices are not based on Vedas. There is no such restriction for ‘Sudras’ to perform rituals in worship places. Vedas do not prescribe a social system based on Varnas. Vyas, a Sudra, collected all these Vedas. Apart from the four main branched of Vedas, there are 1151 sub branches. In 1997 there was a Vedic conference held in the Prayag in Uttar Pradesh, and experts from 700 branches of Vedas participated.

When I was in Parliament, I raised one question in March 1999:why can’t we get the copyright of Vedas which contain abundant knowledge of universe and life? Many parliamentarians laughed at me. But it is very shocking news that four months back a German got a copyright on the Vedas. I can point out a number of Vedic scholars, from the Dalit community. There was a time in ancient history that the Brahmins came to Sudras to gain knowledge. But today Sudras are forced to carry dead animals; it is our destiny.

Two Sudras, Ved Vyas and Valmiki, created two legendary figures of our life — Krishna and Ram. This is the contribution of Sudras to Hindu philosophy and culture. Entire Atharva Veda is written by Sudras. In Manusmrithi there is a mention that Sudra cannot read Vedas. If a Sudra can collect and codify all Vedas and write the full text of Atharva Veda, why can’t he go through these scriptures? These are all some fictitious logs inserted into the Manusmrithi later.

In the post liberalization era, government jobs and protected jobs are shrinking rapidly, adversely affecting the SCs

No doubt, through privatisation, government-service opportunity is decreasing. But reservations can be continued in the private sector also. In private sector too, government may provide free land or infrastructure to the entrepreneurs and a number of laws are also applicable to them. Government control is still there. Then why don’t they implement reservation policy also?

SC/ST youths should come forward to start small scale industries, cottage industries and business shops because it will give more impetus to their social and economic transformation.