Thursday, 13 March 2008

Atrocities against UP Dalits in the Wake of Mayawati’s Victory: Disturbing Trends

Atrocities against UP Dalits in the Wake of Mayawati’s Victory: Disturbing Trends
Lal Bahadur Singh
While Mayawati is being hailed for her party’s unique metamorphosis from Bahujan to ‘Sarvajan’, Mayawati’s victory has no doubt sharpened the aspirations of dalits in UP for democracy and empowerment. However, the few weeks that have followed Mayawati’s ascension to power have witnessed a disturbing trend: a spate of assaults and atrocities against dalits.
Take the example of Mohanlalganj, barely an hour’s journey away from the seat of power in Lucknow. Here, a poor and aged dalit peasant was shot dead, and his son as well as daughter-in-law seriously injured .Their only fault was that they resisted the forcible grabbing of their land in the name of road by a rich Brahmin who also happened to be a government officer. Despite being pre-warned about the possibility of such an assault, police and administration turned a blind eye.
In Raebareilly, again in the vicinity of the state capital, an old dalit agrarian labour was brutally beaten to death. He had refused to work for a Rajput landlord, since the landlord had not paid his long-due wages and instead got him arrested on a false pretext of theft during the Mulayam regime. Possibly emboldened by the formation of Mayawati Government he asserted his minimum democratic right to accept or refuse an employer, and paid for it with his life. Significantly, the killers - upper caste feudal men, are also ’associated’ with the BSP. So when the local Rajput BSP leader came to the spot apparently to assert the rights of dalits, he was actually maneuvering to save the main culprits, his caste-class kinsmen!
The Bundelkhand region, hit by famine and drought, is a site of tremendous agrarian distress. In Mahoba, a village in Bundelkhand, a dalit village Pradhan was recently tied up and brutally beaten by a moneylender landlord of Brahmin origin. This humiliation and violence was inflicted on him as punishment when he failed to repay the usurious interest on the loan lent by the landlord. Recall that such moneylenders are responsible in a large part for turning Bundelkhand into another Vidarbha, with soaring suicide rates of poor peasants.
In western UP too, a dalit boy was killed – ironically when hen joined others of his community who were celebrating the victory of Mayawati. Here too the ‘Sarvajan’ killers are yet to face any punishment.
Here is a typical case to understand the unfolding dynamics of Sarvajan politics in UP. In Dhaurahara constituency of Lakhimmpur district, clashes started in the wake of celebrations after Mayawati’s victory. One dalit youth Ramanand was beaten brutally by goons belonging to Brahmin community. Nine persons were arrested. However as the three of them came out on bail, Ramanand’s brother Siya Ram Raidas was killed. Now Brahmin power groups under the banner of Brahmin Sabha are up in arms against the arrest of the accused persons. And in an interesting demand, through a memorandum submitted to the ADM, they have asked for expulsion of Dalit office-bearers of BSP from the Party! Like the dalit Siya Ram and Ramanand, the accused Brahmin goons, too, considered themselves cadres of BSP as they had solidly stood behind the Brahmin BSP candidate from the constituency in the recently held elections. The vacillation and efforts for a patch-up (of course, protecting the interests of his kith and kin) by Bala Prasad Awasthi, the Brahmin MLA of BSP from the area, are quite understandable. All this has given birth to sharp a caste polarisation in the entire belt and the Brahmin Sabha has threatened to launch vigorous agitation if their ‘just’ demands for releasing the accused and punishing the dalits are not accepted.
Thus blowing up the myth of a harmonious Sarvsamaj as propagated by the ideologues of the new dispensation, the real life contradictions of antagonistic classes are refusing to obey the dictates of the much-hyped social engineering credited to the Mayawati-Satish Mishra duo. In fact, any class in society opts for this or that political party just to further its own interests and not for philanthropy or some abstract Sarvajan Hitay!
Amidst reports of wide-ranging resentment among dalit bureaucrats against the postings of upper caste men in prime positions, especially in the CM’s Secretariat, Mayawati had to appoint one high-profile dalit IAS among her Principal Secretaries. Offering an explanation of sorts, she had to issue an statement in the BSP Coordinators meeting that the caste-balance had been maintained in the postings on the Pancham Tal (the main Seat of power, situated on the fifth floor of the Annexe Building to the Secretariat). Accusing Satish Chandra Mishra, Mayawati’s right-hand man of nepotism and ‘favouring a particular caste’ in the appointment of Advocate General and other posts in the High Court, advocates came on the streets and forced the CM to stay some of the appointments.
In another interesting development, recently, Samajwadi Party MLA Vijay Singh, a history- sheeter and the main accused in Brahmadutt Dwivedi murder case, who was convicted for life imprisonment and wanted in more than a dozen cases of heinous crimes including one case of attempt to murder a dalit person, was inducted in BSP with much fanfare. It is worth remembering that Dwivedi was an emerging Brahmin leader of BJP from Farrukhabad in central UP, with requisite muscle-power, who was said to be among the ‘saviours’ of Mayawati in the infamous Guest House scandal in early 90s. Thus a Rajput criminal-turned politician, the main convict in a murder case of a brahmin leader and notorious for his anti-dalit record, has been inducted in BSP in an era of Dalit-Brahmin bonhomie! Addressing mediapersons in the presence of Nasimuddin, the most trusted cabinet colleague of Mayawati, Vijay Singh declared his support for Mayawati as ‘she was committed to the development of UP and liberating it from goonda elements’! Such are the strange games of power being played in UP today in the name of ‘Sarvajan’, by a Government which came in power on the single agenda of sending criminals to jail or forcing them to flee from the state. Instead, however, criminals are getting shelter in the safe corridors of power, inside the Party itself, thanks to their muscle-power that can win one seat for the Party in the assembly!
Showing the anti-dalit assaults to be an all UP phenomenon, in Mujaffarnagar district of western UP alone, some 7 dalits have been killed and 3 dalit women raped within a month of BSP rule. Against the forcible capture of their land pattas by the musclemen of Sarvasamaj, some 35 dalit families have threatened self-immolation on June 25.
In Faizabad, dalits and their leaders found to their shock that in a regime which was supposed to be their own, they were rebuked and forced out by the DM when they went to his office to air their grievances regarding an Ambedkar village! Can one expect an iota of social justice with this insensitive, elitist bureaucracy in office?
The emerging pattern of these incidents indicates that despite the ‘historic’ victory of Mayawati’s Sarvajan politics and the miraculous ‘social engineering’, the assaults on dalits continue unabated. In fact perhaps the assault has intensified because there is assertion on the part of dalits in the wake of their heightened expectations, while the oppressors, too, do see a new hope in the Sarvajan Sarkar and assert their feudal ‘right’ to oppress!
Dalit emancipation and establishing a casteless society are the proclaimed strategic goals of Mayawati. The continuing atrocities on dalits even in the wake of victory are a warning that these goals are impossible without thoroughgoing democratization of the state and society. Doing away with all forms of feudal oppression, strict implementation of SC/ST Act without dilution, resolving land disputes through proper land reforms by constituting a Land Commission, ensuring proper and timely wages and holding the state machinery responsible for any lapse regarding atrocities on the poor are some of the minimum steps required.
Will the Mayawati govt., in its new avatar as government of the Sarvajan, dare to address these urgent issues of democratic reform that are the only possible bases of dalit dignity?

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