Making Sense of Dalit Spring in Hindi Heart Land

By Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd Source India Today (April 2, 2018, Page 28)

The April 2 Bharat Bandh, organised by non-political Dalit groups, has revealed a new capacity for mobilisation among the historically oppressed community in the Hindi heartland.Their fight to protect their constitutional rights seems to have acquired a new dimension during Narendra Modi’s regime,dispelling the myths of his slogan, ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas’.
The Dalit crisis began when the BJP came to power in the Hindi heartland and western part of the country. While the Prime Minister claims to be from Other Backward Class, he has done little to secure educational or economic opportunities of the Dalits. This is because the BJP cannot independently run the government. The government machinery is actually run by the party’s mother ship, the RSS.
The RSS and the BJP have spread their network into every structure in the Hindi heartland and western India because that is their main operational base. For decades they have trained their upper caste cadre that the varnadharma, including the practice of untouchability, needs to be preserved to establish a Hindu Rashtra. The RSS has no cultural history of being Dalit/Adivasi/OBC-friendly. It has only worked for the economic and cultural advancement of the vyapari, pujari, sadhu, sanyasi and, of course, the cow. Its literature does not talk about the dignity of labour. As an organisation it has neither studied nor worked for the agrarian masses because in their literary/cultural history these people have never figured as the base of the Hindu motherland. Even the Shudras do not figure as the critical component of the ‘Hindu motherland’; only the dwijas—Brahmin, Vaishya, Kshatriya—are part of it. Their slogan ‘Bharat Mata ki jai’ is not an echo of an inclusive mood. Their Bharat Mata is a ‘Brahminc Mata’, an embodiment of the cultural code of Manudharama. The Dalit history and heritage are antithesis of this concept.
The north Indian Shudra/Dalits have started their anti-Brahmin movement quite late. In south India, social reforms happened rather smoothly, before an organised Brahminic force like the RSS could entrench itself, though caste and untouchability persist in the region. The RSS’ Hindu Rashtra agenda is an anti-social reform agenda. Though it does not have an agenda to reform caste-ridden Hinduism, it is highly motivated to reform the Indian Islam. In their “own Hindu society”, they are all for reversal of reform laws. The March 20, 2018 judgment of the Supreme Court on the SC/ST Atrocity Act reflects such an atmosphere in the central law ministry. There is a consensus in the Hindutva circles that all reservation laws must be reviewed. RSS chief Mohan Bhagawat has been consistently speaking against
reservation. The fear among Dalits/Adivasis is heightened because their middle class emerged from this reservation system.

Unlike Indira Gandhi, Modi cannot bulldoze the administration to implement his promises to people. The party and his ministers are not under his control, they are in the RSS’ hands. Therefore, his call “kill me if you want to, but not my Dalit brothers” made no dent in the anti-Dalit mindset of the BJP/RSS ranks. Now more Dalits are being killed in the cow belt. The cow protection policy of the RSS has become a Dalit destruction policy. Dalits, across political affiliations, realise that in the name of cow protection the Dalit/Adivasi cattle economy and food resources are being destroyed. Scared that their reservation and scholarship would be withdrawn, Dalit students live in fear of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad in higher educational institutions. It is this fear that has made the new mobilisation possible. Call it India’s ‘Dalit Spring’.