Dalit Lives Matter, Dalit Rights Matter !

gujarat dalit protest 1

Dalit and Bahujan lives, safety, and dignity continue to expendable in Uttar Pradesh (U.P). It is the ideological and geopolitical heartland of the ‘Hindu Rashtra’ model of the political nation-state, and the suppression and relentless alienation of Dalits and Muslims is central to its machinations. U.P was the state with the highest recorded atrocities against Dalits according to NCRB data of 2017 which was released in 2019. This number stood at 11,444 with a total of 43,000 cases nationwide.

On June 15, 2020, in yet another case of violence, police has confirmed 9 injuries in an assault on Dalits in Uplaarsi village under Jarcha police station in the state’s Gautam Budh Nagar district.

Azad Samaj Party tweeted the news from Uplaarsi village with pictures of the injured which included a woman and an old man. They say that the Dalits faced this violence at the hands of savarnas, and further that the police is biased towards them in their investigation since the victims themselves have been picked up.

The twitter handle of the Police Commissionerate, Noida has stated that that it was an “altercation” between ‘two sides’ over the ‘exit of water’ which led to stone pelting. Now there is police to ‘control the situation’, but in reality that means stymying any form of protest or local organization by Dalits.

This ‘both sides’ rhetoric is often used to diffuse the clear reality of the aggressions of a dominant caste, as was the case in Saharanpur during what the media termed as ‘clashes’ in 2017. Dalits suffered dire harm to life, limb, and livelihoods in their struggle to defend their rights and dignity. And the state rallied its resources and protected the dominant castes, and associated the Dalits’ attempts at organized resistance through Bhim Army with the outlawed Naxal movement.

These civil rights violations and subsequent police apathy are not new to the district. In October 2015, there was news of a Dalit family stripping naked in protest outside a police station in Dankaur. This matter was related to a ‘land dispute’ that dragged on for six years. There are conflicting narratives regarding this, as the police had arrested two men and three women of the family for public obscenity, while a family member claims that Sunil Gautam and his family were beaten and their clothes were torn by the SHO. The National SC/ST team members on the ground also commented on the police’s “inhuman” behaviour in this case.

This case brings to mind a similar land-grabbing against Dalits in the district in March 2012. That too, featured members of the dominant Gurjar caste as aggressors in a case of brutal battery and attacks by lethal weapons which left the family with serious injuries and hospitalizations.

In December 2019, there was a video that surfaced of a Dalit biryani vendor being abused with anti-Dalit slurs and assaulted in Rabupura, 15 kilometers from Dankaur in the same district. This is despite the visible, concrete symbolism and imagery of Buddhist culture and conspicuous names and monuments celebrating Dalit culture and history that are a distinct mark of the district.

In February this year, Dalits were attacked by Thakurs, just like in Saharanpur, in Mangta village of Kanpur Dehat district. It was yet again a backlash following any display of assertion and sociopolitical independence of Dalits. A procession commemorating Ambedkar was attacked by the Thakurs which evoked resistance from the aggrieved Dalits, and yet the police is only ever present after the initial breach of their peace, safety, and dignity to ‘maintain order’. Just a day before the allegation of violence from Uplaarsi village, a vicious and barbaric attack was perpetrated on four Dalits in Lucknow district. The photographs of wounds inflicted with sharp weapons are available on Twitter. Again, the aggressors are claimed to be Thakurs, and the victims, Dalits.

A fortnight ago from today, 17-year-old Vikas Jatav was stopped from entering a temple, following which he was shot at his home for daring to stand up for his self-respect. This happened in Amroha district of U.P. His father narrates how Vikas was beaten and abused with caste-based insults. The police initially registered no complaint when the victim approached them, and still refuse to acknowledge this as a clear-cut caste atrocity, instead framing it in terms of an alleged ‘fight over money’. In Khalilabad village of Lucknow, two Dalits and an OBC man were publicly humiliated and paraded on allegations of stealing a fan from a Brahmin man. The police has against chosen to register cases against ‘both parties’. In 2015 too, a 90-year old Dalit man was hacked and burned alive in the Bundelkhand region of U.P. for entering a temple.

This relentless torrent of atrocities tell us that the civil rights struggle in India is raging, with waves of backlash against every inch of forward motion by Dalits. Savarna society is intensely wary and angry against being ‘spoken back to’, against the suppressed discourses now finding political space, and against the material mobility, and physical visibility and audibility of Dalit perspectives and demands. The anglophile savarna classes are secure in their ‘caste-is-the-past’ bubble. They toss the two-faced coin of inherent entitlement and false narratives of victimhood and discrimination.

The Hindu nationalist project to consolidate and secure savarna interests is now gathering steam, but the reality and brutality of the caste-system goes back much longer than any party or its actions through an electoral system. The RSS-led BJP has accelerated the inhuman march towards Manu’s Bharat by aggressively advancing its purposes, and its vision of ‘Ramrajya’ is undoubtedly about the dominance of savarna Brahmanical society and its values and practices, with its men as the organizing center. While upper-caste Indians parade #BlackLivesMatter hashtags, they are equally vitriolic with their “All Lives Matter” and “Hindu Lives Matter” intrusions into Dalit and Muslim-focused discourses that draw parallels with the struggles against anti-Blackness in the US and across the world. Dr. Ambedkar and Jyotiba Phule have already prepared the ground for solidarity and common struggle with African Americans, but savarnas will never let the discourse take an effective turn against themselves without a dirty fight.


Links and references:

  1. Attack on Dalits in Uplaarsi village, June 15:
  2. U.P. records maximum number of crimes against SC’s in NCRB 2017 data:
  3. Dankaur, Greater Noida incident:
  4. February 2020 attack by Thakurs on Dalits in Kanpur Dehat, U.P.
  5. March 2012 assault and battery against Dalits in Gautam Budh Nagar, U.P.
  6. Vikas Jatav shot dead over entering temple, police denies ‘caste angle’:
  7. 90-year-old-man Dalit man hacked and burned alive for entering temple in Bundelkhand, U.P.

Arjun Banerjee is a first-year Master’s student in Delhi University.




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