Wednesday, 20 May 2009
Kanshi Ram and Mayawati started their politics with “Tilak, Traju aur Talwar- inko maro jute char” (beat the Brahmins, Banias and Thakurs with shoes) and “Vote hamara raj tumhara nahin chalega” (we won’t allow you to rule us with our vote). Besides this, in order to attract Dalits (Scheduled Castes.) they gave the slogans like “Baba tera mission adhura, Kanshi Ram karenge pura” (Kanshi Ram will fulfill the mission left incomplete by Dr. Ambedkar) and “Political power is the key to the entire problem.” Through these slogans they aimed at attracting and agitating the dalits against the ‘Savarans’( higher castes) and they succeeded also to a good extent. This polarization of dalits was further facilitated by the political vacuum created by the division and downfall of Republican Party of India which was established by Dr. Ambedkar himself in 1956.
Since 1995 Mayawati made various experiments to broaden the base of her Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). In the beginning it was known as the party of the dalits only. Later on Muslims and Other Backward Castes were also co-opted. It fought the 1993 Assembly election jointly with Samajwadi Party (S.P.), a party of Other Backward Classes and made good gains. It resulted in the formation of first coalition government of BSP and SP in Uttar Pradesh state of India. This coalition of natural allies became a subject of discussion all over India but soon a clash of personal ambitions resulted in its fall in June, 1995. Kanshi Ram and Mayawati grabbed the post of Chief Minister by making an unethical and opportunist alliance with Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP.), a party of orthodox Hindus and the bitterest enemy of dalits. This put the dalit movement and dalit politics on the path of opportunism bereft of principles. It not only confused the direction of dalit politics but also fogged the difference between friends and foes of dalits. This alliance not only gave a lease of life to the dying BJP but also broke the natural alliance of dalits and Backward Castes for ever. This unprincipled and opportunistic alliance was justified as being essential for getting into power and party workers were mislead by this briefing.
This alliance with BJP not only confused the dalits but Muslims also moved away from BSP as they consider BJP as their bitterest enemy. During the first tenure of BSP rule in 1995 some land was distributed to empower the dalits because till then the party workers had some presssure on the party leadership. But later on in order to please the Upperr Caste people dalit interests were given a go bye and getting power became the sole motive of the party leadership. After first tenure of Chief Ministership of Mayawati, this process became faster and BSP raced towards ‘Sarvjan’ throwing aside the Bahujan. In every election moneyed, musclemen and mafias were given preference being winning candidates and dalits were restricted to reserved seats only. Party mission was overtaken by money power and muscle power. Old missionary party workers and those who were close to Kanshi Ram were made to exit the party unceremoniously. As such dalits were put on the margin in the party but they continued to be with the party with the hope that one day they may also get some benefit of government but their hopes were belied.
From 1995 to 2003 Mayawati thrice became the Chief Minster of Uttar Pardesh (U.P) but she always took the help of Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP). During this period neither any dalit agenda was chalked out nor any effort was made in that direction. During 1993 this author during many discussions with Kanshi Ram suggested chalking out a dalit agenda but my suggestions were ignored. I think it was done purposely because declaration of an agenda brings upon a duty to implement it and if failed it brings upon the responsibility and accountability for the failure. It is a matter of regret and sorrow that a party seeking political power in the name of dalits has not framed any agenda till to date as a result of which the dalits have been deprived of any gain coming from a government being run in their name. The result is that the dalits of U.P. are the most backward dalits in whole of India barring those of Bihar and Orissa. During this period moneyed and musclemen of Upper Castes have been managing to get Assembly and Parliament tickets and getting elected they been enjoying the fruits of power whereas dalits with a meager representation have been deprived of all such benefits.
BSP, which is doing politics in the name of Dr. B.R.Ambedkar, in its effort to secure power has totally ignored his warning in which he had said that “dalits have two enemies. One is Brahmanism and the other is Capitalism and dalits should never compromise with them.” But Mayawati has compromised with both by co-opting Brahmans and Corporate sector. At present dalit politics has become a tool for power grabbing. It reached its height when before 2007 Assembly elections Mayawati formed Dalit Brahman Bhaichara Committees (Dalit Brahmans Brotherhood Committees) headed by a Brahman president and a dalit as secretary.
The election success of BSP during 2007 was mainly attributed to the important role played by Brahmans and they got a lion’s share in power which was much disproportionate to their population. Dalits were reduced to the level of second class players in the Party and in minister ship. This methodology of co-opting Upper Caste people was publicized as new “Social Engineering” and BSP was transformed from the Party of dalits to a Party of Sarvjan (all inclusive).
During this period slogans such as “Haathi nahin Ganesh hai, Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh hai” (it is not an elephant but a trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh- all Hindu gods) and “Brahman shankh bajaiga, Haathi dilli jaiga”( Brahman will blow the conch and elephant will march towards Delhi) were coined to placate the Upper caste persons much to the chagrin of dalits. Elephant symbolizes the symbol of BSP. The Varna system of graded inequality became fully operative in the Party and dalits were further pushed to the margin.
Even now during the present régime of Mayawati, dalits have been totally ignored and Sarvjan have occupied the front seats. All important ministerial posts have been given to Upper caste people. Mayawati’s personal corruption has percolated to all the branches of administration and U.P. has been assessed to be “ an alarmingly corrupt state”. The various welfare schemes aiming at empowering dalits and other weaker sections of society have fallen a prey to all pervading corruption thereby depriving the intended beneficiaries of their benefits.Balatant corruption came to light during recruitment to the posts of Safai Karamcharies (Sweepers). Similar complaints surfaced during other recruitments also. It is said that there might be only a few lucky persons who escaped payment of high price for government jobs. The funds intended for development works were spent on installation of statues including her own and creating royal memorials and parks.
Since 1990 UP has been deprived of any development and creation of employment opportunities. This lack of development has adversely affected the dalits as a result of which they have become the most backward dalits in whole of India. As per 2001 senses their sex ratio, literacy rates and works participation rate are much lower than their counter-parts in other states. A fall of 13% dalits from the category of cultivators to the category of landless labourers during the last decade (1991-2001) indicates their disempowerment.
If judged from the angle of protection against atrocities on dalits, there has been no decrease during Mayawati’s rule. On the contrary as a result of written and oral orders of Mayawati the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act-1989 has become inoperative. This act was intended to prevent atrocities and award stringent punishment to the perpetrators of atrocities on Dalits. The atrocity cases against dalits are taking place as before but they are not being registered by police. As a result of non-registration of cases the dalits are condemned to suffer atrocities and deprivation from monitory compensation. The intention behind not allowing the registration of cases is to keep the crime figures low thereby projecting a crimeless state. In spite of all this burking of crime, UP stands first in whole of India in terms of crime against dalits. As such Mayawati has totally failed to give even legal protection to dalits.
The action of Mayawati of ignoring the dalits and giving preference to Upper Castes has resulted in disillusionment and anguish amongst dalits. This has been displayed by them during the recent 2009 Lok Sabha elections. Most of the criminals, moneyed men and muscle men fielded by Mayawati have been defeated as the dalits did not vote for them. Mayawati now and earlier also gave tickets to the persons whom she had herself accused of threat and assault during the Guest House case of 2nd June, 1995. But dalits refused to oblige her and almost all have been defeated.
Mayawati as before had confined the dalits to 17 reserved seats only out of whom only 2 have been elected. If we look at the allotment of tickets during this election it is found that Brahmins being 7.5% of total population of the state were given 20 tickets i.e. 25% of total seats whereas the dalits with 21% population were given 17 reserved seats only. Out of the total 20 seats won by BSP, 5 are Brahmins and only 2 are dalits. On account of this hold of Brahmins in the party, the people have started calling BSP as a Brahmins Samaj Party. From the angle of representation dalits are marginalized in the party. This has been one of the major grievances of dalits against Mayawati.
With a view to attract Most Backward Classes, Mayawati sent a recommendation to the Central Government for inclusion of 16 castes in the list of Schedule Castes. Earlier Mulayam Singh had also made a similar attempt which was opposed by dalits as it would have harmed their reservation quota. It was challenged in the court and had to be dropped. This action of Mayawati irritated the dalits. Whereas Mayawati strongly recommended the case for 10% reservation for the poor among the Upper Castes, she did not show a similar interest in respect of dalits. Her declaration of granting 10% reservation to dalits in private sector has remained on paper only.
Mayawati’s way of ignoring dalits and treating them as a bonded vote bank has irritated a large section of awakened and oppressed section of dalits and has instilled in them a feeling of alienation. But as before Mayawati tried to befool them by projecting a possibility of her becoming the Prime Minister of India. But most of Dalits refused to be taken in. A big chunk of Chamar and Jatav votes, which is the core vote bank of Mayawati, moved away from her to Congress fold. The other Dalits sub-castes like Pasi, Dhobi, Khatik and Balmiki had earlier moved towards SP and BJP. Most Backward Classes also deserted Mayawati. Afraid of Mayawati’s love for BJP Muslims also walked away from BSP. This resulted in a limited success on 20 seats only as against a projected tally of 50-60 seats whereby she could stake her claim for the Prime Ministership.
The disheartening defeat of BSP during this election has clearly shown that vote base of BSP has shrunk. Not only Muslims and Most Backward Classes have deserted BSP but a big chunk of dalits have also moved away from it to Congress. Dalit society has been badly divided on sub-caste lines. Dalit movements and dalit politics have fallen a pray to opportunism, corruption and immorality. Today it is standing at cross roads. It is not only a danger signal for Mayawati but for whole of dalit society. Will Mayawati and Dalit intellectuals think over it with their cool mind? If it is not done immediately it may again result in betrayal of dalit interests. There is a fear of dalits again becoming political slaves of Congress. It should be a matter of grave concern and serious introspection by all Ambedkarites.
Going by present signs Mayawati has refused to learn any lesson from her debacle. As rightly pointed out by B.G. Verghese in ‘Deccan Herald’ dated 2009 “the lesson Mayawati requires to learn is that she has been cut to size not on account of conspiracies against Dalit-ki-beti (daughter of a dalit) but because of her own greed, corruption and authoritarianism that is fast blunting her original appeal as a Dalit leader intent on forging a wider social alliance. People do not want innumerable self-aggrandizing statues and mausoleums at the cost of good governance and welfare. She perhaps still has time to learn and mend her ways.”
The recent election results show that dalits have rejected Mayawati’s much trumpeted up “Sarvjan Formula” and she needs to do a serious introspection and learn from her mistakes otherwise it will prove to be a missed opportunity.
Thursday, 14 May 2009
'Political parties have worked to strengthen caste system'
Bhagwan Das, a research associate of Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar, is best known as compiler and editor of the four volumes of Thus
Spoke Ambedkar. He spoke to Prasanna Raghav about his meetings with Ambedkar and the trajectory of Dalit politics in India: When did you first meet Ambedkar? My father, who was politically and socially aware through his readings, was a great admirer of Dr Ambedkar, referring to him as Ummeedkar, the one who brings hope. I used to read every newspaper article about Babasaheb with great interest. When i first went to meet him in Simla in 1943 with a request for a job, i had to wait for seven hours. Impressed with me, he promised me a job and i got my appointment letter in 15 days. Mahatma Gandhi was also against discrimination of Dalits. How were the two leaders different? Gandhi was no friend of untouchables. Though Gandhi sensitised the people of India towards the evils of untouchability, it was only due to Gandhi's fast-unto-death that the right of untouchables to choose their own representatives was snatched away from them in elections. He included and excluded us at the same time. What changes have you witnessed in Dalit politics since independence? It has deteriorated. In the pre-independence days, Dalit leaders used to be well educated and informed about issues regarding their community and the society as a whole. The movement was vibrant. Unlike today it wasn't only lip service and vote-bank politics. They encouraged untouchables to take up education. For example, Babasaheb started three colleges across Maharashtra and a school in Mumbai. Ambedkar didn't only talk about fight against exploitation but also against the caste system. But today, everybody uses Babasaheb's name only for political gains. No present-day politician can ever come close to following what the great Dalit leader preached. They don't even know about his teachings and principles. No Dalit leader can ever acquire a pan-Indian identity like Ambedkar. And that's why Dalits continue to wallow in poverty and illiteracy. Do you think that proliferation of Dalit parties and leaders has changed the course of Indian politics? It has certainly, but only for the worse. Instead of abolishing discrimination, Dalit parties have worked to strengthen the caste system, by further driving a wedge between scheduled castes and other groups. Their method of assertion is wrong. Only a few people in the corridors of power have benefited from the ascendancy of some Dalit leaders. For example, a chamar leader will only work for his community since Dalits as a whole are not united. Has reservation in jobs, education and legislature helped to improve the lot of Dalits? Quota has helped but it has not been implemented properly. Prejudice against us is very strong and officers from our community are still humiliated at the workplace.