Out of my mind: The last frontier

Make no mistake, if Babasaheb Ambedkar is being honoured by all parties, if Dalit candidates are sought after, it is because the Dalit vote bank is a formidable one. With 18 per cent of the population, Dalits are one of the largest minorities.

Written by Meghnad Desai | Published: July 2, 2017 1:05 am
ram nath kovind, meira kumar, ramnath kovind, presidential elections, dalits, dalits in india, indian express news Two Dalit candidates for the highest post would have been unimaginable even 25 years ago.

During the Janata Party government of 1977-1980, came the first possibility of a Dalit (Harijan as the Congress used to say) politician becoming prime minister. Babu Jagjivan Ram’s chance was denied by Charan Singh, a Jat leader of the Bharatiya Lok Dal and a power in the coalition.

Jagjivan Ram, one of the most senior leaders of the Congress and an ‘untouchable’ from Bihar, never became prime minister. It says something about how far India has travelled in the last 40 years that in the presidential election, his daughter Meira Kumar is competing with Ram Nath Kovind as a rival. Two Dalit candidates for the highest post would have been unimaginable even 25 years ago.

Here we are with a certainty of a Dalit president. India has come a long way. How did it happen? It took relentless organising of the Dalit vote by Kanshi Ram, who must be honoured as one of the most influential political leaders of post-Independence India, for us to have come this far.

Make no mistake, if Babasaheb Ambedkar is being honoured by all parties, if Dalit candidates are sought after, it is because the Dalit vote bank is a formidable one. With 18 per cent of the population, Dalits are one of the largest minorities.

Universal adult franchise and secret ballot at elections have proved to be the most transformative elements of the process, which is revolutionising an old hierarchical society into one where all citizens will be equal to each other. We are not there yet, but we can get there.

Many further boundaries remain to be crossed. The most obvious is the position of Muslims as a minority. Whatever the slogan of secularism did, it did not relieve the deep social and economic deprivation of the Muslims, as the Sachar panel report demonstrated. Muslims are not a homogenous community as Dalits are despite the many jatis among them. Muslims in the Hindi heartland are different from those in the South or in the Northeast.

A single Muslim party would be a novel if not a shocking idea to many Indians, not just the Hindutva supporters. The Congress was too possessive of its hold on the Muslim vote to allow such a party to thrive. Nor have any of the other ‘secular’ parties encouraged the consolidation of the Muslim vote. Muslims have had to rely on agents to represent them.

The Dalits learnt long ago not to trust the Congress. Muslims have gone off the Congress since the Babri Masjid demolition. Other parties, the Samajwadi Party, for one, have divided up the Muslim vote among themselves. The Muslim vote is fragmented. But there will never be permanent improvement in the status of Muslims till they have a single party. India needs a Kanshi Ram for Muslims.

The last frontier is women. Their neglect is a matter of everyday scandalous news in the media. The proposal for reservation of seats for women has been safely stored in the deep underground. It is unlikely but a women’s party may yet be the only way to achieve equality.

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  1. S
    Jul 14, 2017 at 3:52 am
    What happens at the top is not a reflection of ground realities. On the Indian sub-continent, even in Muslim Pakistan and Muslim majority Bangladesh, women have been prime ministers, but this evidence is not relevant for gauging the status of women in these countries. A P J Abdul Kalam and Zakir Hussain, both from a Muslim background, have held the highest office in India.Now a Dalit is certain to hold that office. So what? Would a Dalit student be able to rent accommodation in Delhi with greater ease in consequence of the outcome of the impending presidential election?
    1. D
      D Trivedi
      Jul 7, 2017 at 1:48 pm
      From history of preindependence era we see that All Muslim single party with One high profile Muslim leader was one of the most important factor in division of country at the time of independence from British. All Muslim single party is not the answer to issues facing Muslims in India. It needs change of at ude by population in general towards religious affiliation. Also Muslim themselves need to change their perception and at ude towards modern education and geopolitical situation all over the world if they have to take advantage of the economic growth of India. Education and Economic empowerment is the answer to this problem. There are umpteen examples of embracing the education with economic empowerment. We have seen any amount of reservation or sops in one or other form does not help unless there is change of at ude by and for the Muslim community in general population. Same goes for All Women party. It is the at ude towards women in society that is of importance.
      1. R
        Jul 3, 2017 at 5:48 pm
        Many Hindu people feel pain on problems faced by our Muslim brothers and I found many discussions on this issue in Indian news papers while the same problems faced by dalit/Harijan are never highlighted and felt. There is a Sacher committee reports for Muslims but do the Sacher committee considered the fact that religious Muslims produced disproportionate number of children with respect to their wealth to be taken care by the tax payers. Why don't they put restrictions on the production. Our religious Muslim brothers will not follow the state education system which is in support of our country as well their own wellbeing. They are following the madrassa education system which is best suited for oil rich countries where money is in abundance and keeping their half population bound in chain. Dalit are very natural to India and no Government should share their right with the muslims. I never heard a dalit rising voice against India. Their tolerence level should be appreciated pay off.
        1. K
          Jul 2, 2017 at 4:06 pm
          120 million dalits should join with 120 million muslims to give two fingers to BJP,Rss and monkey sena.time has come dalits must punish the Hindu forces who made them slaves.
          1. G
            George Cruz
            Jul 2, 2017 at 10:35 pm
            Out of 120 million Dalits not all Dalits vote for the congress. Today there are millions of Dalits who worked hard to get education, get jobs, strived to be successful in life don't blindly vote for the congress party or communists. Just look at the results of the UP election, the Dalit supremo Mayawati lost big as well as the SP. Even the recently converted Dalit Christians may not support the congress because congress party is a sinking ship, and moreover the Christians in general are educated, never have committed terror/killing like the Muslims in India (Kashmir) or around the globe.
            1. H
              Jul 3, 2017 at 2:11 am
              LOL. During Congress rule many dalits were lynched. But none of you SECUS raised the issue or returned awards and other drama. But one Muslim was killed all all SECU broke loose. Dalits are not stupid. They fully understand which side of bread is buttered. They realize BJP/RSS offer better deal the Congress and other SECUS. Most of those who talk of dalit Muslim alliance are working for Muslims. There are Muslim billionaires in India, but not a single dalit.
            2. A
              Jul 2, 2017 at 3:30 pm
              Women party may happen but not Muslim. The answer is simple as to be Pan Muslim party you have to be very progressive or very fundamentalist . Full on fundamentalist party will come in conflict with state and other citizen soon and wont be sustainable. Then a very progressive muslim dispension should have taken shape. But for this to happen it will come in conflict with religious beliefs within the community. Ironically this had been higlighted Like Kanshi Ram may not be for women rights per se but when he saw he passed baton to Mayawati. The general polity of Muslims is towards fundamentalism but as it could not be sustained so they pick second non toxic option - zpah , avoid fitna by being hypocrites.
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