THE INSTITUTIONS that the Constitution validates to fight caste oppression are inactive, underlines Dalit scholar and author Suraj Yengde in his book Caste Matters, which has gone for reprint within seven days of its publication.
The book, released on July 22, highlights several facets on tackling the problem of caste discrimination in contemporary times. It also highlights the need to dismantle the divisions created by a neo-liberal economy.
Speaking at a discussion on his book at Tata Institute of Social Sciences on Wednesday, Yengde said: “There is a need to dismantle oppressive measurements that work within the government, whose primary targets are Dalits and Adivasis, to whom they don’t want to give the state’s resources. A kind of neo-liberalism is operating against them (people considered to be from lower caste).”
Yengde, a PhD holder from University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, is a postdoctoral fellow at the Initiative for Institutional Anti-racism and Accountability, Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy in Harvard Kennedy School.
“Privatisation is at the helm of making people poorer and poorer. Multiple institutions today, including the police, judiciary and legislature, continue to remain ignorant of Dalit rights, pride and futurism. Rather, caste oppression is reinventing itself. At present, there is only a Dalit subaltern movement fighting at the grassroots level,” he said.
“The notion of caste has to be hierarchically melted. How can we have a normal dialogue when we are burdened with stereotypes and prejudices? I want prejudices to melt. Let me engage with another person on their human virtues.”
Yengde said he wrote the book to focus on how to survive discrimination and take stock of the problem in contemporary times. By diving into structural and non-structural variables of caste, he said he wants to “make a call for action and intends to solidify certain conversations that don’t get reported”.
The book demands material resources be provided to the Dalit community. “Brahminism is deployed into the community. However,
Ambedkarism is for (demanding) material resources. What do I do with my caste? Should I just wait for government money when I can be the owner of land? I want my people to be empowered and material resources provide empowerment, “ he said.
Maintaining that today, 70 per cent of all Dalits in rural areas are landless labourers, he said: “The land belongs to us and we deserve more than what we have got… Confines of political reservations do not liberate the people… It is limiting the sacrifices of our people.”
Mumbai University Professor Ramesh Kamble, advocate Dr Suresh Mane and TISS Professor Dr Varsha Ayyer also addressed the event. Kamble pointed out that the book does not address why democratisation has failed in India and why have erstwhile Dalit leaders become a part of Brahminical pockets. Mane, however, lauded Yengde for staying connected with the Ambedkarite discourse and the quest for knowledge. Ayyer spoke about the lack of diversity among published Dalit writers.