The killing of a Dalit youth in Gujarat last week or the death of Dalits in Uttar Pradesh in the past are not isolated incidents according to Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh president Prakash Ambedkar. “If a community, organisation or group resorts to killing a Dalit for such trivial issues like watching a navratri garba, it somewhere raises the question mark on the political leadership…,” said Prakash, the grandson of B R Ambedkar.
He said that forces get emboldened to take law and order into their hands when they have the tacit support of the
government. Speaking on attacks on Dalits, Dr Tushar Jagtap, an Ambedkarite, said, “The question which needs to be addressed is why incidents of Dalit attacks are lesser or negligible in Kerala. Or why it is higher in states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu?”
He added, “Ironically, the first mill workers’ strike took place in Ahmedabad way back in 1918. Amongst the charter of demands agreed between mill owners and workers included permission to serve tea to Dalits in pyalas (cups). It was a major decision as Dalits were not served tea in cups.”
While questioning the killing of Dalits, he cited an example, in contrast, of Sayajirao Gaekwad. “Interestingly, it was the great Baroda ruler and reformer Sayajirao Gaekwad who announced scholarship for the poor and Dalits and patronised and funded Babasaheb Ambedkar’s education at Columbia University.”
Noted Dalit writer Arjun Dangle said, “There is a huge churning at the grassroots where the generation next’s aspirations have risen and they will not buckle to the dominant community’s highhandedness. The generational change is also bringing along new social challenges which mainstream political parties have to come to terms with.” The dominant community, which was used to dictating social customs and culture, should realise that caste discrimination would invite retaliation, he added.
On the other hand, Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce chairman Milind Kamble said, “The BJP government has initiated concrete policies which are pro-Dalit in the field of education and employment.” Citing the example of Stand UP India, he said, “The handholding of the Centre and states will create 1.5 lakh Dalit entrepreneurs… Our report shows a great response.”