Why  have Dalits of Punjab  rejected Channi?

 charanjit singh channi

On 10th March,2022, the Punjab State Assembly Election results were declared and the oldest Congress party got only 18 seats. Ms. Sonia Gandhi, President of Indian National Congress (INC) could not assess the Dalit voters properly that constitutes almost 32 percent( Census 2011) in the state. Ms. Sonia Gandhi and her advisors, sycophants could also not even assess the grievances of the members of the Dalit community in Punjab correctly before declaring Charanjit Singh Channi Chief Minister of Punjab. Ms. Sonia Gandhi`s advisors did not also advise her about various caste variations in Punjab.

Channi is not a popular face among the majority of the Dalits in Punjab. Channi wears a turban. His outer appearance reflects that he is closer to the Sikh Jats/Mazhabi in Punjab than the Ravidassis, Ambedkarites and Buddhists. The fact is that Channi has never been active in promoting the ideology of Bharat Ratan Baba Saheb Dr. B. R. Ambedkar in the state. Channi has never been found active in donating to the Ravidassi temples, Buddhist Viharas in Punjab. During the election campaign, Channi like other seasonal politicians made hectic visit to Dera Sach Khand  at Ballan village, Jalandhar in January 2022 and announced to establish a chair of Guru Ravidass Bani Adhiyan center at Ballan with a cost of Rs 50 Cr while handing over a cheque worth Rs 25Cr( Times of India, 28Jan,2022).Channi could not make out that the Ravidassi Sants and their followers  at Ballan village, Jalandhar  are divided between Bahujan Samaj Party(BSP) and the Congress party. In the 2002 assembly elections, Kanshi Ram had even announced former Punjab Assembly speaker Ravi Inder Singh, an affluent Jat Sikh, dyed –in-the –wool Akali, as the CM face of BSP.(Ref. Beyond the SC factor: Dalit politics in Punjab | Amritsar News – Times of India (indiatimes.com).

Dalits in Punjab always distanced themselves from the Badal family and its political outfit – Shrinomni Akali Dal(SAD) as senior Prakash Singh Badal and former Chief Minister of Punjab burnt the constitution of India in New Delhi which hurt the sentiments of the Dalits. Similarly, Channi has never been in touch socially and religiously with senior Ambedkarite and Buddhists including renowned Ambedkarite/ Buddhist  writer, activist Lahori Ram Balley, Prof. GC Kaul, Prof. Surinder Ajnat, BR Bhardwaj, Sohan Lal, Charan Dass Sandhu, and Ram Lal Jassi. Not only this, Channi promised to visit Ambedkar Bhawan at Nakodar Road, Jalandhar  on 6th December, 2021( Mahaparinirvan Day ) but did not come.  Channi has never been seen in Dalit agitations in the state. Channi has never been seen fighting for the rights of the Dalits in Punjab. It is a political reality that no political party which intends to seek Dalit votes can win with a thumping majority by ignoring well-established Ambedkarite and Buddhists leaders and  organizations. Prof. GC Kaul. Former head of Punjabi department at DAV college, Jalandhar said, “it is correct that most influential opinion-makers among the SC happen to be Buddhist and they usually define their discourse.”( Beyond the SC factor: Dalit politics in Punjab | Amritsar News – Times of India (indiatimes.com).

What Congress leaders including former Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh( now Capt Amarinder Singh quit the party and made his own political party namely ‘Punjab Lok Congress’, fought 2022 elections in alliance  with  the BJP) have done to the untouchables in Punjab. The members of the Dalit community in Punjab have profound social, political and economic resentment against the Congress Government ( 2017 to 2022). Various Ambedakrite organizations including the trustees of Ambedkar Bhawan and the members of Dr. Ambedkar Mission Society, Jalandhar and other such associations and organizations raised voice from time to time against misappropriation of SC post matric scholarship funds by Capt Amarinder Singh`s Government and failed to release even one rupee from Rs. 2,440 Cr. budgetary provisions made for the SC scholarship scheme.( Times of India, Jun 6,2021) On law and order situation, The unarmed and unprotected Dalit girls and women are vulnerable in Punjab. During Akali/BJP rule in Punjab, A 13-year-old Dalit girl was molested and flung from a bus in Punjab, along with her mother by the staff of the Orbit fleet of buses, owned by the Badals. The Punjab police refused to even question the Badals over the Moga incident, Adding insult to injury, the Punjab Education Minister Surjit Singh Rakhra trivialized the molestation and murder as an “accident” that was “God’s will” and “nature’s will” that none could prevent. An Akali Dal MLA Joginder Pal Singh also echoed the same outrageous argument that the victim’s death was God-ordained! ( ref. Bring the Badals Within the Orbit of the Law ! | Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation (cpiml.net). The Congress and Akalis in Punjab always found paying  lip service to the Dalits rather than ameliorating  their deteriorating conditions. On economic front, a large majority of businesses are owned by Jat Sikhs and upper caste Hindus including hotels, private hospitals, shopping Malls etcetera. According to a former IRS officer Lekh Raj Nayyar, who is currently working with a Jalandhar-based NGO to promote Ambedkar’s ideology, said that by and large, the Dalits of Punjab do not own agricultural land or businesses. A majority of them are farm labourers or daily wage workers.(ref. Punjab: Despite Strength in Numbers, Why Are Dalits Not Politically Empowered? (thewire.in).

Channi was a bad choice by the central leadership of the Congress party. Channi has amassed wealth and promoted his family and relatives not the marginalized, unemployed Dalits in Punjab. Channi was out rightly rejected by the Dalits as an opportunist who has neither political capacity  to offer help to the Dalits nor penchant for safeguarding the interests of the Dalits.  The Dalits of Punjab are not that simpleton as was taken for granted by Ms. Sonia Gandhi and her party clique. Today, the Dalits of Punjab have rejected Mayawati because she struck a political alliance with the Akalis having the Badal family on board before 2022 elections. The Dalits of Punjab would never tolerate any political party, organization or individual leader who dares to insult the Constitution of India.

The Dalits of Punjab are looking for a political party which would stop molestation of Dalit girls at the hands of upper caste  Jat Sikh boys and provide safety and security to them; the Dalits are looking forward to a political party which can provide jobs to the Dalits in the state; the Dalits are looking forward to a political party which can dismantle  the nexus of politicians and Dera chiefs over the rich, resourceful  Sikh/Hindu temples and establish casteless society in Punjab. The Dalits are looking forward to a political party which can bring in welfare schemes aiming at helping the Dalits; the Dalits are looking forward to a political party which can guarantee equal treatment in social, political and economic spheres; the Dalits are looking forward to a political party which can realize the philosophy of Baba Saheb Dr. BR Ambedkar on education and fulfill his dream of making Dalits an educated, fearless group.

Dr. Rahul Kumar, PhD in Sociology from the Center for the Study of Social Systems, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Dr. Rahul Kumar is an expert on social, political and international affairs. Views expressed in this article are author`s individual scholastic articulation. The article does not necessarily represent the newspaper policies.

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