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“Don’t complain about the snow on your neighbour’s roof, when your own doorstep is unclean.”

– Confucius

Prime Minister Narendra Modi mounted at Kushinagar, Deoria in UP, a furious attack on BSP supremo and former UP Chief Minister Mayawati for “shedding crocodile tears” over the incident of gang-rape of a dalit woman in Rajasthan’s Alwar and demanded her party’s withdraw of support to the Congress Government in Rajasthan if she was at all “serious”. [1] Mayawati said that the Prime Minister played “dirty politics” over the gangrape incident, adding that her party would take political decision if strict action is not taken by the Rajasthan government. [2]

The Prime Minister’s magnanimity in his profession of supreme sacrifice for the beleaguered dalit of India may be recalled here and now. He thundered at Hyderabad, August 7, 2016, “shoot me, not my dalit brothers.” No Prime Minister, let us emphasize, ever before him went to this extent for dalit with such soul-stirring commitment for dalit and tribal communities. But events since his declaration at Hyderabad have proved without any shadow of doubts that his declaration was a merely vacuous vapouring. The BJP governments in various states, e. g., Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, etc. or their allies treated his declaration nothing more than a toilet paper.

A poet and a novelist, Ms. Meena Kandasamy wrote in The New York Times, May 15, 2019 that “Indian courts have consistently acquitted most perpetrators of massacres of dalits. Conviction rates in violent crimes against dalits and indigenous tribes are a mere 23.8 percent and 16.4 percent compared with 40.2 percent in general criminal cases.” [3]

The low rates of convictions and high rates of acquittals in cases of atrocities against the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes speak volumes in terms of attitudinal approach of the rulers and their lack of will to protect the rights and dignity of SC and/or STs across India.

Dalit awakening and assertion

An undesirable feature?

According to Jignesh Mevani, an independent Gujarat MLA the low rates of convictions and high rates of acquittals “has actually emboldened the perpetrators of violence against Dalits and Tribal in the state. …. Atrocities against dalits and tribal are on the rise across the country. The chief reasons for the rise in crimes against the SCs and STs is the continued agrarian crisis and economic distress where people are channelizing their anger towards the Dalits and Tribal. The rise of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) combine has strengthened the Brahminical ideology. They see the rise of youth Dalit leaders like Chandrashekhar Azad and me as Dalit aggression.” [4] The ruling establishment, social aristocrats and supremacists were never been accustomed to hear discordant voices and dissent from the underdogs. The light of education making them aware and raise voices against  wrongs, injustice and inequality.

According to a prominent English Daily, “atrocities on Dalits in Gujarat have been rising steadily in the last two decades with the state witnessing a 72 percent increase in the number of registered cases between 2003 and 2018. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat in eleven of these 15 years (2003 to 2014). [5]

In 2018 as many as 1,545 cases were registered under the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, as compared to 897 cases registered across the state in 2003. Against this rise in cases, the conviction rate in atrocities cases is less than 5 percent in the three years from 2014-2016 where figures are available.[6]

On one hand alongside physical aggression, persecution, atrocities and denial of justice and outraging dignity, the light of education amongst dalit and tribal communities, on the other, is on rise with predictable consequences. Ms. Kandasamy further added that the Prime Minister and his Hindu nationalist colleagues “time and again tried to defer the Dalit dream by adding hurdles to college and university admissions, withholding scholarships and deferring the award of degrees to Dalit students. New national tests have created increased difficulties for Dalits wanting to get into schools of medicine and dentistry.” Remember the great Greek philosopher Plato said “We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.” The Government of the day is clearly opposed to light reaching the dalit and tribal students and spreading far and wide. The scholarship for meritorious research scholar Rohit Vamula who committed suicide in Hyderabad Central University was in arrears. The Government did not release his scholarship for over a year as a measure of torture and harassment for his bold uprightness. There are little doubts this government is most oppressive and cruel to the dalit and tribal communities.

The Prime Minister wanted Mayawati to withdraw her Bahujan Samaj Party’s support to the Congress Government in Rajasthan over the gangrape of dalit woman. Why is he blind to the Government in Bihar which patronized Brajesh Thakur, an accused of massive sex scandal involving 17 shelter homes in Bihar including Muzaffarpur. The Bihar Welfare Minister had to resign under mounting public uproar and pressure. The case is under CBI investigation and sub judice before the Supreme Court. The accused Thakur, who on Supreme Court orders has been lodged in jail at Patiala, Punjab, far away away from Bihar, to forestall his malefic influence in the investigation and trial.

BJP is a coalition partner of Government of Bihar. The righteous Nationalist party continues blissfully to travel in the same boat with the Bihar ruling party nonetheless.

Stop bloodless killing

of Scheduled Caste/tribe officers & employees

Every day in one corner of the country or other incidents of deplorable discrimination, injustice or atrocities, with no hope or scope for remedy per se, keep occurring. The case of Jagmohan Singh Raju, a meritorious scheduled caste  [Punjab] IAS officer of Tamil Nadu cadre is an unprecedented instance of discrimination and hostility against India’s socially disadvantaged and discriminated. Raju qualified in IAS exams conducted by UPSC right at the age of 22 years yielding an enviable advantage for him to travel right up to the secretary-ship of Government of India. Intractable social factors usually lead SC/ST candidates to start late for IAS and other All-India/Central Services, resulting in their early retirement. Raju’s empanelment as Additional Secretary has been held up because some vague, anonymous complaints before the Vigilance Commission—a known and usual tactic in the corridors of bureaucracy to frustrate and harm SC/ST officer from travelling higher up. Such complaints, of course, receive prompt and avaricious attention of officers who work almost invariably in tandem with the anonymous complainants. Raju has fallen into capricious vortex.

The National Commission for Scheduled Castes [NCSC] observed in the context, “The Commission is concerned that if such a senior Scheduled Caste officer has to face discrimination and injustice, leading to impediment to his career by delay in empanelment, demoralising him, as well as the petitioner having to unnecessarily bear the stigma of an officer under investigation by CVC, then what is the recourse of the thousands of ordinary Government servants belonging to the Scheduled Castes.[7] Injustice and discrimination at the hands of the public authorities erodes the faith of the community in the system.

Raju was quoted in the media as saying that earlier he believed that caste-based discrimination was a myth. Now he must have realized how ignominious one’s caste, belonging to the lowest end of the pyramid, can be. They, one and all, fervently agree and believe that they are destined without exception to suffer indignity, discrimination and injustice for their caste anywhere and everywhere under the sun in India.  Failure to discharge even handed justice and equal treatment has brought down every institution and authority, not excluding the Prime Minister’s Office in the esteem of the scheduled castes and tribes.

 

Why doesn’t the Prime Minister clean up

The dalit-tribal slaughter house in Gujarat

A survey, first of its kind, of 1589 villages across Gujarat, involving 98,000 dalits was carried by a prominent Gujarati NGO, Navsarjana Trust in collaboration with The Robert F Kennedy Centre for Justice and Human Rights, University of Maryland/Kroc Institute at the University of Notre Dame & Dartmouth College/University of Michigan, USA. A leading national English daily highlighted the salient features of the survey with a screaming headline “Vibrant Gujarat? 98% dalits have to drink tea in separate cups.” [8] The survey’s findings in essence were that for millennia, the practice of untouchability has marginalized, terrorized and relegated a section of Indian society to a life marked by humiliation and indignity. The survey identified 98 forms of untouchability prevalent in Gujarat. The lynching in public view at Una with police as witness was one of these practices. [9]

Sensitivity to the underdogs and vulnerable is not the hallmark of the privileged countrymen and its rulers. Dalit women buyers, to cite just one instance of untouchability, are not allowed to touch vegetables before payment. After payment is made by putting money on a specified place, the seller flings vegetables from respectable distance to the hollow of her saree.  During the study, the researchers did not find a single village free of the curse of untouchability. The most prosperous and developed state of India boasts of 12,500 dalit villages and the survey covered 1655 or 11% of the total population. [10] The report bemoaned that 97% of the respondents in Mahatma Gandhi’s own home state were denied entry in temple. Undoubtedly, the nearer the temple, remoter the god, goes the proverb.

Gujarat’s CEPT University scholars were drafted to study the survey report. In 2013 they found that the untouchability practices identified by Navsarjan report were “mere perceptions.”  According to one commentator, “The CEPT study also subtly justified several instances of untouchability by attributing it to “social transactions” and social norms.” Thanks to the media clout of Modi, he did not have to face a media trial for the CEPT study that justified caste violence as “perceptions”. [11]

Since independence the country never witnessed bankruptcy of the dimension demonstrated by the highest office of the nation. The Prime Minister, there is little doubt, has forfeited his credibility of 300 million dalit and tribes of India. This is indeed a grave situation never known to India before. Atrocities have shown no sign of decline rather the persecution of dalit and tribal is on alarming rise. And most unfortunate fact is that there is no honesty to admit the truth and rededicate themselves to redeem their promises. The BJP Sankalp Patra 2019 maintains a stoic silence on this burning issue save and except pattering the platitudes.

The writer, a retired IAS officer and former Vice-Chancellor, Dr B R Ambedkar University, Muzaffarpur, Bihar can be reached at biswasatulk@gmail.com

[1] News18, May 12, 2019 ‘Don’t Shed Crocodile Tears.’

[2] May 12, 2019 17:58 IST | Times Now Digital

[3] The New York Times, May 15, 2019, “India’s Most Oppressed Get Their Revenge.”

[4] The First Post, May 1, 2019 “Atrocities on Dalits and tribal up by 70% in Gujarat between 2003 and 2018; conviction rate below 5% in Modi’s first 3 yrs. as PM

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] The Wire, 06/APR/2019, PM Asked to Take Action Against Central Vigilance Commissioner for Caste Discrimination

[8]   The Times of India, December 8, 2009.

[9] http://naradanews.com/2016/07/dalit-crimes-in-gujarat-una-incident-just-tip-of-the-iceberg/

[10] Ibid, 7 Dec., 2009, “No Temple entry for dalits in Gujarat.”

[11] Ibid.


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