Sahibs And Masses
By Manohar Yadav
28 June, 2003
This is a Biblical quote:
If salt loses its strength and vigour, from where shall it be
salted with. Today's dalit world is like the salt that has lost
its natural essence. We cannot help the salt to revive its essence by
giving some kind of dosage from outside. But it is happening in the
case of dalits. Although not with full genuine concern, an endless attempt
has been going on to help dalits revive their lost human essence. Policy
measures such as reservation of jobs in the government and seats in
the legislative assemblies and Parliament have been in operation ever
since Independence. And besides this, care has also been shown in a
number of ways to address various complex problems of the dalits. Yet
nothing impressive seems to have happened in the changing the condition
of the dalits. Therefore, even now, along with the social stigma of
untouchability, other oppressive features like poverty, unemployment,
illiteracy continue to mar the life of dalit masses everywhere.
But what about the 'big people' or the so called 'sahibs' among the
dalits? They have raised the eyebrows of the larger society for their
amazing accumulation of resources both material and cultural.
Many of them are highly educated and well off. With whatever is within
their reach, they should have paid back to the world they belong to.
Collectively, top dalit bureaucrats and politicians possess more than
the required strength to build up their community. Yet nothing is emerging
Babasaheb Ambedkar expected
much succour and help to come from those who used benefits like reservation
in acquiring positions in the higher echelons of the power structure.
That did not happen at all. Instead large-scale alienation is taking
place and these sahibs are slowly drifting away from their community
to form their own elite class. They have forgotten that they owe their
prosperity to the community in which they were born.
First of all, while sharing
the benefits of job reservation, they have created a sort of unequal
competition amongst the dalits themselves. In such a situation the poor
dalits have not been able to compete with their rich brothers on fair
and equal terms. The rich dalits are superior to the poor in many ways.
They have created much needed cultural capital besides transforming
themselves into a viable economic class of people capable of giving
competition to other people. But there is no realisation on their part
that they can compete in the open as well and give up entering competition
with their own weak dalit members.
Deserving left out
Also there is no rule as to the question of 'who should really share
how much' of the benefit of reservation amongst the various competing
classes within the dalit community. As a result, the really deserving
and the poor among the dalits have been badly eliminated in the competition
to have a share in the quota of reservation. The state should have developed
some legal mechanism to ensure reservation of jobs and seats in professional
courses to the poor dalits as well. In the absence of such arrangement
only the well-off among the dalits have derived the maximum benefit.
Boys and girls educated in rural areas in ill-equipped government schools
cannot be expected to compete with the urban rich dalits educated in
better-equipped donation-based schools.
The urban slum dalits also
suffer the same fate like their rural ones. Hence, free competition
among different classes of dalits has cost the poorest among them very
dearly. If the quota system is introduced for different competing classes,
say, based on a criteria of income or the number of times that a particular
family has utilised the benefit of reservation, may be that the poor
among dalits might also get their due share.
Like in the matters relating
to job reservation, the deprivation as such is occurring in political
reservation also. There are some politicians among dalits who have been
contesting from reserved constituencies and getting elected incessantly
for decades on end as if the whole policy measure of political reservation
is meant only for them.
Shamelessly, national political
parties seem to prefer only such persons all the time without giving
any chance to new dalit candidates. There is no clear-cut policy as
to the issue of how many times a person can enjoy the political benefit
of reservation. Of course in the present political system there is no
bar for any dalit to contest elections any number of times. But it is
useless if he cannot win even once through reservation.
Dalit differences dwarf growth
The present political system
has simply promoted dalit elite class interest in the name of reservation.
And also has given rise to political puppetry and slavery on the part
of dalit politicians who for their political survival depend only upon
the mercy of the upper caste politicians. Under such circumstances,
dalit politicians have failed to pay due attention to the upliftment
concerns of their community. Their over-dependence upon upper caste
votes as well as politicians makes them to be indifferent towards the
interest of their community. But still the question is: Don't they have
The State should also examine
whether the present form of the policy of political reservation has
proved to be meaningful from the point of view of protecting the interest
of the larger dalit community. It should see whether it can fix up definite
terms to enjoy the provisions of political reservation so that it becomes
more effective. Even if it were to be carried out through an amendment
to the Constitution, it should be thought of seriously. If a person
knows that he has only one or two terms of opportunity of enjoying political
reservation, he may not run behind the upper caste politicians to seek
A person aspiring to contest
an election from a reserved constituency should also be qualified enough
to bring meaning to his position when elected. He should not prove to
be a duffer when it comes to the question of protecting the interest
of his community, which he represents. Presently, it often happens that,
lest a dalit politician should rise above the height of his position
by voicing concern for his people, upper caste politicians handpick
such dalits for elections who are illiterate and ignorant and remain
puppets in their hands.
If this has been the state
of dalit politicians, the so called non-political leaders of dalit community
seem to have slipped into a different state of diminution. Each leader
operating whether at a local, state or national level feels that there
is no leader so greater than himself. He is the only stalwart and that
others should simply follow him in whatever way he leads them. In the
process there have emerged a number of leaders with their own warring
groups at all levels. Several organisations are functioning in each
state. But each one of them has split into many rival factions operating
in almost opposite directions. The entry of lumpen elements into these
organisations has further aggravated the situation. A sort of nexus
is also building up between bureaucrats, politicians and these non-political
No thanks for support
It is the poor masses among
the dalits who have kept the fire of protest ever burning. It is they
who consciously supply manpower in every context of protest led by their
leaders. They have been the backbone of the support base of all the
dalit movements. Yet they have never got any real benefit from these
movements. The rich among the dalits have been only 'free riders.
They have got maximum benefit from such struggles of the poor at no
personal cost. And over a course of time they have distanced themselves
from the masses. After having come up to a certain level of social acceptance
they have cut off their roots and started identifying themselves as
social superiors. In certain extreme cases, a few of them have even
disowned their own kith and kin.
Of late, the entire dalit
world seems to have been stricken by some new convulsive trends. The
elite belonging to different sub-castes within dalit community have
become busy invoking communal consciousness of their respective sub-castes.
The rival sub divisions such as Mahar/Mang in Maharashtra, Jatav/Pasi
in UP, Mala/Madiga in AP and AK/AD in Karnataka are the most commonly
known. Ambedkar, while fighting for their human rights, attempted to
give a unified pan Indian identity to these communities. Only those
untouchable castes who came under his direct influence were more awakened
to quickly gain from his movement. Thus the untouchable castes having
status alliance across regions with the Jatavs of Uttar Pradesh or the
Mahars of Maharashtra have been the most assertive in using Ambedkar
ideology at the same time cornering all the benefits of Ambedkarite
movement which they spearhead. This has created an unbearable gulf,
giving rise to an atmosphere of mutual prejudice and hatred, between
the various sub-castes. Now will the elite take lead to save the dalit
community from this destructive trend? The sooner they come together
the better it is for them as well.