By Ravikiran Shinde
18 April, 2008
Jat leader Mahendra Singh Tikait finally surrendered meekly before the court after resisting arrest by UP Police. The dust has finally settled two weeks after his castiest remarks but it has raised a serious question. How ‘normal’ is the casteist abuse in day to day life of Dalits? If a chief minister can be abused publicly, what does it speak of common Dalits?
Here’s the UP recap. A 73-year old farmers’ leader Tikait stuns everyone when he abuses UP chief minister Mayawati by her caste in a public rally and attracts punishment under the SC/ST (prevention) Act. All Political parties barring CPM’s Brinda Karat either keep mum or support Tikait. Home minister of State Jaiswal supports Tikait on this issue. No condemnation of Tikait comes from Congress or the BJP.
The stage was set for the UP CM to act vengeance treating this as a personal matter. But she did not do a Jayalalitha to handcuff the ageing leader from his home in the wee hours. Instead, she followed the shrewd strategy. When BKU leader defied arrest in Sisauli, she surrounded the village with police. Faced with a pressure cooker situation, Mr. Tikait apologized for his comments calling Mayawati ‘child-like’ before surrendering.
Mayawati finally prevailed by sending right message across but what about the common Dalits who face overt and covert abuse day in and day out? Whether it is in the movies, literature, TV serials or friends circle?
Let me keep the violence and rapes on the lower castes out of the scope of this article and focus on the “soft” abuse. Ask a Dalit and he/she will tell you how prevalent it is. Scheduled castes’ names are still referred as a symbol of evil. The insult is often a sugar coated bitter pill and is so subtle, only a lower caste person will be able to identify it. The Marathi movies and plays regularly use a dialogue “Chandal-chaukadi” to denote group of four bad guys. Chambhar chaukashya (ill inquiries) is prevalent in Marathi conversation. “Mahar-wada” - the outskirts where Mahars still live - is used by the middle and upper castes to imply filthy conditions.
And then there is palpable abuse. The entire ‘elite class’ of India invariably uses words like Chandal, Bhangi, Chamar to indicate anything that is evil, unpleasant or waste. Most of them are unaware their act might result in arrest. I recall one of my well educated friends using the word “Bhangi” to tease and vex his upper-caste Hindu friend for being useless. When I confronted him on the usage of the word, he felt apologetic. But not all abusers are apologetic. The abusers have become smarter. Instead of hurling abuse straight at someone of lower caste, they use lower caste names to denote platitudes for a third person who is normally not in the conversation. But a modern India also witnessed a castiest Manager M.K Hathi of Air India abusing the aspiring hostess from Scheduled castes and tribes by commenting that untouchable’s girls were unsuitable to become air hostesses (Indian Express, 19th Feb 2004).
Students in top institutions admitted under reservation are referred by an abusive word “scheddu” (short form of Scheduled Caste) in top educational institutions in India. Those in the Government jobs are privately pronounced as “son-in-laws” of the Government. In a shocking report submitted to the union government on caste apartheid in AIIMS- India’s premier institute, the Sukhdeo Thorat committee has found that each and every Dalit student in the institute has been a victim of caste-based ragging, abuse and isolation (The Telegraph, 7th May 2007).
Worst of all these, in villages, the abuse is blunt, straight forward and directed at Dalits in full public view and often resulting in physical assault. This is precisely what Tikait calls “just a normal village-talk” while defending his abusive hurls. The famous Kherlanji Dalit massacre is a perfect case.
Shame, our education does not teach the social necessities of respecting every human being – particularly the lower caste who had faced discrimination for centuries. Ironically, it is the professionals – the higher echelon of the society – who are the leading culprits hurling caste abuses that seem to come natural to them.
‘Harijan’ which is considered by Dalits as an insulting connotation is now banned by government of UP and Orissa. The Indian constitution recognizes SC and ST and not harijan and yet the government documents, police reports and even News media reports use this word adding insult to the injury.
It is about time we closely look at not just the law and its strict enforcement but the general awareness about caste abuse. More such high profile Tikaits’ getting ‘treated’ will really help this cause.
“The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing”- Albert Einstein
The History of Reservations:
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The correct term used for reservation in the Indian Constitution is Representation. Those who have benefited from reservation and are enjoying the fruits of reservation must first of all understand the true meaning of reservation. It is not given to anyone in his individual capacity. It is given to individual as a representative of the underprivileged community. The beneficiaries of reservations are in turn expected to help their communities to come up. Reservation is a democratic principle to provide representation to the castes hitherto remained unrepresented in the governance of the country.
Justice Reddy observed “While we agree that competitive skill is relevant in higher posts, we do not think it is necessary to be apologetic about reservation in posts, higher or lower, so long as the minimum requirements are satisfied.”On the other hand, we have to be apologetic that there still exists a need for reservation.”
Article16 (4) is not a poverty alleviation programme. Its singular aim is to redistribute power to those who have been kept out of the state apparatus so as to end their educational, social and economic backwardness and this class is not less than 77 ½ % of the population of the country.
The Intellectual Class:
Dr Ambedkar Said “In every country the intellectual class is the most influential class. The masses are largely imitative and follow the intellectual class. There is no exaggeration in saying that the entire destination of the country depends upon its intellectual class. If the intellectual class is honest and independent, it can be trusted to take the initiative and give a proper lead when a crisis arises. Similarly an intellectual class may be a band of high-souled persons, ready to help, ready to emancipate erring humanity or it may easily be a gang of crooks or a body of advocates of narrow clique from which it draws its support.
Is the Intellectual Class doing this Work?
After thorough analysis, it is observed that this intellectual class does not take active part in any such activity of change of system. Not only that, it is also observed that this intellectual class looks at the society, to which it belongs with contempt and keep themselves away from it. Dr. Ambedkar had experienced this, at the fag end of his life and therefore on 18 March 1956 at Ramlila Ground,
What the Intellectual Class Should Do?
The ethos of privatisation and the excuse of global competition, superimposed on the traditional caste prejudice, will never allow reservations to happen, any more.
Dr Ambedkar had said during a debate in parliament on the question of efficiency of governance by the system of reservation that “A representative government is better than an efficient government”
He added this on the upper castes: “It is your claim to equality which hurts them. They want to maintain the status quo. If you continue to accept your lowly status ungrudgingly, continue to remain dirty, filthy, backward, ignorant, poor and disunited, they will allow you to live in peace. The moment you start to raise your level, the conflict starts.”
Those arguing against reservation must understand that 50 years of affirmative action is nothing as compared to 3000 years of subjugation. Those crying foul over Merit know very well that there is not enough fruit in the garden hence those who are already in want to keep out those who are already out.
Those responsible for implementing the policy of Reservation must undoubtedly understand that “Reservation is neither a policy matter, a political gimmick nor a matter of Charity. It is a Constitutional Obligation”
In a country like
While the atrocities on SC-ST’s keep on rising and recorded as if they are the performance parameters of some blue chip company, While those who want to finish the whole idea of Reservation are working overtime, round the clock 365 days a year, the complacent beneficiaries are busy watching their favourite TV shows or criticizing the serious activists of the movement accusing them of selfish interests.
Dr B. R. Ambedkar had said on Tuesday July 31st 1956; at his residence
So saying, with tears rolling down his cheeks, he looked at me and I had also no alternative but to look at him with tears in my eyes. …And with a pained expression on his countenance whispered: “Take courage, don’t get upset. Life is to come to an end one day or the other.” After a little pause, wiping his tears, raising his hand a little above his glowing eyes, he said: “Tell my people Nanak Chand: Whatever I have done, I have been able to do after passing through crushing miseries and endless troubles all my life fighting with my opponents. With great difficulty, I have brought this caravan where it is seen today. Let the Caravan march on and further on despite the hurdles, pitfalls and difficulties that may come in its way. If my people, my lieutenants are not able to take the caravan ahead, they should leave it where it is seen today, but in no circumstances should they allow the Caravan to go back?”
Jaibhim and Regards
Abhay Madhukar Dongre firstname.lastname@example.org
Some Information has been taken in verbatim from the articles of following. I express my acknowledgements to them.
1) Questions and Answers on Reservation- Shri Jayant Ramteke
2) Shri Abhijeet Kumar N-Secretary General- ITSEWA.
3) Last Few Years of B.R .Ambedkar - Nanak Chand Rattu.
4) Writings and