The increasing attacks on Dalits send out shocking signals. As if the vicious prescriptions in Manusmriti are not enough, more outrageous punishments are being meted out to Dalits. If they watch a dance, they will be beaten to death as happened in Gujarat’s Anand district. The only fault of Jayesh Solanki was that he was watching garba as part of Dussehra festival, which, according to his assaulters, the upper castes alone can enjoy. If they sport mustache, they will be thrashed black and blue as witnessed recently at couple of places in Gujarat. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s very own State had seen gruesome incidents last year also when four Dalit men were tied to a car and flogged in Una for allegedly killing a cow. In fact, the victims were doing a job assigned to them -- removing the carcass. There are several other incidents of atrocities committed on Dalits, mostly in BJP-ruled States of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand. These ‘punishments’ are similar to the Manusmriti decree which says that if 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 banished. There are more such despicable decrees in the law given by Manu.
The outrageously growing number of such attacks expose the alarming caste divide and the unwillingness of upper caste people to see Dalits at par with them. It is not that the law places them on unequal pedestals. The Constitution of India, the custodian of laws, ensures equality, but the caste system continues to have its stranglehold. Babasaheb Ambedkar saw this coming. He knew that the inflated ego of upper castes will not accept equality among castes, and the blemished mindset will perpetuate inequality and unleash violent methods against Dalits.
The steady assaults on Dalits have proved Dr. Ambedkar right. The recent attack on Kancha Ilaiah, a renowned academic and Bahujan philosopher who has been actively fighting against injustices meted out to Dalits and Adivasis, in Hyderabad sends out a distressing signal. It is an unambiguous statement that those who dare to raise voice for Dalits would face the same fate as the Dalits and Adivasis. The government should take steps to ensure that attacks on Dalits and their supporters would be dealt with an iron hand. Unfortunately, the protectors of the weak are seen siding with the aggressors. We saw it when perpetrators of heinous crimes against Dalits and minorities were allowed to walk free in some of the BJP-ruled States.
But all is not lost as seen in Kerala where 36 non-Brahmins, six of them Dalits, have been appointed as priests in temples, a move described as a ‘silent revolution’ in breaking the upper caste hegemony. Such moves augur well in the fight against deep-rooted hate towards Dalits. Ironically leaders from caste-ridden societies and States recently descended on Kerala to preach the message of communal harmony. People like Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath asking Kerala to learn from his State is nothing but an oxymoron. It is a case of Satan quoting the Bible.
(Published on 16th October 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 42)