Increasing atrocities on the Dalits gives the impression that India is going back to the age of Manu Smriti, when Dalits were treated worse than slaves. News papers and TV channels recently reported that a 21-year-old Dalit man was beaten to death allegedly by a group of men belonging to the upper caste Patel community for attending a garba event in Gujarat's Anand district. According to NDTV News on October 1, Jayesh Solanki was sitting with his cousin Prakash Solanki and two other Dalit men near a temple where a garba dance and other Navaratri festivities were held in their Bhadrania village, when one of the alleged attackers came up to them and made "derogatory remarks about their caste". The Patel man said “Dalits do not have the right to watch garba” and made casteist remarks. The attackers allegedly thrashed the Dalit men and banged Jayesh's head against a wall. The young man was taken to a hospital in Karamsad, where he died next day morning.
In another incident two Dalits were beaten up by members of Rajput community for “sporting mustaches”. The Dalit activists protested before the state secretariat in Gandhinagar on October 4 against the growing atrocities against the Dalits. In July 2016 four Dalit men were tied to a car and flogged in Una for allegedly killing a cow, when, in fact, they were removing the carcass of a cow that had died of natural causes. The assault by self-proclaimed gau rakshaks triggered a massive mobilization in the state.
During the 2014 Lok Sabha election, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had projected Gujarat model of development as an ideal one. The mounting atrocities on dalits in Gujarat vindicates that something is fundamentally wrong with the Gujarat model. The Gujarat government has failed to stop the discrimination against the dalits and attacks on them. Studies and surveys point to rampant discrimination against Dalits, especially in rural Gujarat. The victims of Una flogging are still waiting for justice. The statement of Makadia, a Dalit activist who heads the Gujarat Dalit Sangathan, gives a glimpse of the lethargic attitude of the government in Gujarat. “The government had assured that the case shall be deposed in 60 days. A year later, the 12 accused have been granted bail. The others have filed applications for bail and will likely be granted soon. Under such circumstances, how does one hope for justice in this system?”
The Constitution provides for strict action against atrocities on Dalits; but implementation of the law remains poor. The Times of India editorial on October 3, 2017 has highlighted rising crimes against the Dalits. “Cases of atrocities against SCs in the country have grown dramatically from 26,127 in 2005 to 45,003 in 2015 but conviction rate has come down from 30% to 28%. Gujarat’s record is abysmal, with conviction in only 11 cases out of charge sheets filed in 949 cases in 2015.” Both Mayawati and the Communist Party of India have alleged that after the coming of BJP to power in the centre the atrocities against the Dalits increased.
The RSS-BJP combine has adopted various strategies to capture dalit vote bank. Hijacking the Dalit icons like Baba Saheb Ambedkar and advocating RSS members to eat meals with dalits at their homes, But, beyond symbolism, the Sangh Parivar failed to change internal mindset and social realities. In practice, the Sangh carries the influence of its second chief, MS Golwalkar, who lavished praise on the virtues of Chaturvarnya, while also glorifying Manu Smriti. It may be recalled that on November 30, 1949 (four days after the constitution was finalized) the RSS’s Organizer wrote: “But in our Constitution there is no mention of the unique constitutional development in ancient Bharat. To this day Manu’s laws, as enunciated in the Manu Smriti, excite the admiration of the world and elicit spontaneous obedience and conformity. But to our constitutional pundits that means nothing”. According to Savarkar, another RSS ideologue, “Manu Smriti is that scripture which is most worship-able after Vedas for our Hindu Nation and which from ancient times has become the basis of our culture-customs, thought and practice”.
The website, Truth about Hinduism has enumerated 37 citations from Manu Smriti that are discriminative about the dalits; some of them are even derogatory. (https://truthabouthinduism.wordpress.com/2015/05/.../manu-smriti-and-untouchables/)
Manu Smriti 8.272: “If a Sudra insolently gives any religious or moral advice to a Brahmana, the king shall cause hot oil to be poured into his mouth and ears”.
Manu Smriti 8.281-2: “A low-caste man, who tries to place himself on the same seat with a man of a high caste, shall be branded on his hip and be banished, or (the king) shall cause his buttock to be gashed. If out of arrogance he spits (on a superior), the king shall cause both his lips to be cut off; if he urines (on him), the penis; if he breaks wind (against him), the anus”.
Manu Smriti 10.51.52: “But the dwellings of Kandalas [Chandala] and Svapakas shall be outside the village, they must be made Apapatras, and their wealth (shall be) dogs and donkeys. Their dress (shall be) the garments of the dead, (they shall eat) their food from broken dishes, black iron (shall be) their ornaments, and they must always wander from place to place”.
Manu Smriti 10.96: “A man of low caste who through covetousness lives by the occupations of a higher one, the king shall deprive of his property and banish”.
These are only a few samples from the Manu Smiriti which the Sangh Parivar wants to substitute with the constitution of India. The policy of the Sangh Parivar is to integrate the Dalits and the tribals into the Hindu fold, without giving them equal dignity, rights and freedom. Baba Saheb Ambedkar was convinced that the Dalits would not get justice and dignity as long as they remained within the Hinduism because of the rigidity and the strong grip of the caste system on the Hindu society. That is why he along with his followers got converted to Buddhism. The ever increasing atrocities on the Dailts in different parts of India, particularly in Gujarat, vindicates that in spite of India adopting a constitution that provides equal rights to all citizens and putting in place stringent laws to remove the blot of untouchability, the mindset of the high castes has not changed. Even now they are influenced by the prescriptions of Manu Smriti.
As long as a government influenced and guided by Hindutva ideology and Manu Smriti remain in power at the centre and the states, the discriminations and violence on the Dalits are bound to increase. The political parties in India, particularly the BJP, have thwarted the attempts by the Dalits and the tribals to organize themselves into a political force. Purchase of leaders of the dailits and tribals has been a strategy adopted by the BJP as well as the Congress to emaciate the dalit and tribal political organizations. The Dalit and tribal leaders within the BJP do not realize that they are siding with a political party that speeds up the drift of Indian society towards Manu Smriti. In fact, they are betraying their own people for their self aggrandizement. A party whose ideology is based on hierarchy may bring about cosmetic changes in order to hoodwink the Dalits, but it will not alter the caste system which is the root cause of violence against the Dalits. A new generation of dalit leaders has to emerge, who is able to expose to the people the games played by the political parties and challenge the self centred leaders who let down their own people. These leaders have to work hand in hand with the secular forces to prevent the drift of Indian society towards Manu Smriti.
(Published on 16th October 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 42)