Dalit parties have worked to strengthen caste system

Insight's  National Core Group Meeting

The Roundtable team express their deep condolences over the passing away of Bhagwan Das, this morning in New Delhi. His tall legacy as an Ambedkarite and Buddhist will continue to guide our efforts in our struggle against caste.

----------- 

Bhagwan Das, a research associate of Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar, is best known as compiler and editor of the four volumes of Thus Spoke Ambedkar. He spoke to Prasanna Raghav about his meetings with Ambedkar and the trajectory of Dalit politics in India: 


When did you first meet Ambedkar?

My father, who was politically and socially aware through his readings, was a great admirer of Dr Ambedkar, referring to him as Ummeedkar, the one who brings hope. I used to read every newspaper article about Babasaheb with great interest. When i first went to meet him in Simla in 1943 with a request for a job, i had to wait for seven hours. Impressed with me, he promised me a job and i got my appointment letter in 15 days. 
 

Mahatma Gandhi was also against discrimination of Dalits. How were the two leaders different? 

Gandhi was no friend of untouchables. Though Gandhi sensitised the people of India towards the evils of untouchability, it was only due to Gandhi's fast-unto-death that the right of untouchables to choose their own representatives was snatched away from them in elections. He included and excluded us at the same time. 

What changes have you witnessed in Dalit politics since independence? 

It has deteriorated. In the pre-independence days, Dalit leaders used to be well educated and informed about issues regarding their community and the society as a whole. The movement was vibrant. Unlike today it wasn't only lip service and vote-bank politics. They encouraged untouchables to take up education. For example, Babasaheb started three colleges across Maharashtra and a school in Mumbai. Ambedkar didn't only talk about fight against exploitation but also against the caste system. But today, everybody uses Babasaheb's name only for political gains. No present-day politician can ever come close to following what the great Dalit leader preached. They don't even know about his teachings and principles. No Dalit leader can ever acquire a pan-Indian identity like Ambedkar. And that's why Dalits continue to wallow in poverty and illiteracy. 

Do you think that proliferation of Dalit parties and leaders has changed the course of Indian politics? 

It has certainly, but only for the worse. Instead of abolishing discrimination, Dalit parties have worked to strengthen the caste system, by further driving a wedge between scheduled castes and other groups. Their method of assertion is wrong. Only a few people in the corridors of power have benefited from the ascendancy of some Dalit leaders. For example, a chamar leader will only work for his community since Dalits as a whole are not united. 

Has reservation in jobs, education and legislature helped to improve the lot of Dalits? 

Quota has helped but it has not been implemented properly. Prejudice against us is very strong and officers from our community are still humiliated at the workplace.


Courtesy: TOI, April/15/09

Other Related Articles

Why are the Debates on Menstrual Taboo One-sided?
Friday, 15 September 2017
   T. Sowjanya In a nutshell, the answer is, the views expressed in the online protests are of women belonging to a particular set of social groups! This is a response to the recent online... Read More...
"Don’t guide us, we know what to speak": The Dalit women of Kabirnagar
Monday, 14 August 2017
  Pradnya Jadhav I had been waiting for a long time to meet Jamanabai and her daughter Sangita, and today I was going to meet them. Almost everyone who I have met in the past few days regarding... Read More...
The Hollowness of Noisy Bodies and a misplaced sense of student politics
Wednesday, 26 July 2017
  Nasima Islam Through this brief venture of mine, I would like to address a crucial issue that covers one of the most significant problems of contemporary student politics in India. Given the... Read More...
'The Manu Smriti mafia still haunts us': A speech by a Pakistani Dalit Rights Leader
Thursday, 15 June 2017
  Surendar Valasai Probably the first comprehensive political statement for Dalit rights in Pakistan framed in the vocabulary of Dalitism was given in 2007 by Surendar Valasai, who is now the... Read More...
Guru's 'Ethics in Ambedkar's Critique of Gandhi': An exercise in rhetoric
Tuesday, 16 May 2017
  Mangesh Dahiwale Gopal Guru is an erudite scholar and a political scientist of high reputation. His command over political theories is a sign of his scholarship. However the above-mentioned... Read More...