Secularists' new trip to Dalit platform?

by Chandrabhan Prasad

India is passing through a crucial phase of its history. So is the Dalit movement. In the age of globalisation, the new Dalit has come to realise that world pressure can be applied to compel ruling Varnas to make him an equal partner.

No economy in the world can escape globalisation. The new Dalit is aware of the strength and limitations of the process. On the flip side, he will be among the first victims. It is feared that the State will withdraw from its social responsibilities, transfer assets under its control to the private sector and wash away hands from all developmental activities. In the process, government jobs will decrease and more Dalits will be jobless. The state's regulatory authority over society will decline, leaving them at the mercy of the retrograde Varna order. But globalisation does offer another advantage. Let the entire world know how Indian society treats its one-fourth populace, forge solidarity with discriminated racial, ethnic groups, and pressure Indian ruling Varnas to share assets, institutions and knowledge systems. Sensing a new platform where more articulate Dalits are at the helm, and which in turn may impact Dalit consciousness decisively, the secularists are making an attempt to infiltrate it. They seem to realise that without involving Dalits, the very notion of "secularism" as a political doctrine will have no credibility. And if the experiences of the past decade are taken into account, it is clear that Dalits have been distrustful of the "secular" campaign. The BSP chose a "non-secular" path in UP, Ram Vilas Paswan joined the "communal" bandwagon, and two major Dalit parties of Tamil Nadu are in the NDA. This phenomenon has been puzzling "secularists," who had earlier failed to read the Dalit mind completely. The latter sees political outfits or individuals, more for their social vision than anything else. In what way was RSS/BJP progressive till 1989 when today's secularists tied up with them to defeat Congress? Or in what way was Jan Sangh, the largest constituent of Janata Party, progressive in 1977 when today's "secularists" joined hands with them to defeat "Indira-autocracy?" Or in what way were TDP or DMK progressive only few years back, or Laloo or Mulayam Singh Yadav today? While the "secularists" are yet to offer any credible explanation, I was anguished to see Fali S Nariman, former Solicitor General of India and a noted lawyer, speaking in favour of Dalits' Durban move in the evening of August 3, in Delhi. The seminar was organised to solicit public support in favour of the Durban move. Eminent "secularists" had gathered, which, to me, was a happy occasion as friendless Dalits always look for friends who can support their cause.. I was anguished because the moment I saw Mr Nariman occupying the dais with me, I was reminded of his outburst against Dalits in his infamous article "Making A Mockery of Merit," which appeared on the edit page of The Indian Express on May 20, 2000. He had commented on the Union Government's move to introduce the Constitution 88th Bill 1999, which sought to lower eligibility criteria for SC/ST candidates in promotions and recruitment. The venomous article, condemning the Dalit intelligence, argued, "This would necessarily put a premium on sloth and inefficiency in the higher echelons of administration and make mockery of merit in all government services, which is the linchpin of all good governance." In his long article, Nariman went on quoting various clauses of Constitution and judgments to "prove" how "unjust' the Government's move was! If Nariman is to be believed, then every Dalit recruited under reservation is inherently "incompetent" and his presence can "ruin" the entire system of governance. This is the dirtiest anti-Dalit view I have come across in the recent past. The question is, why was Nariman invited to the seminar and why did he come when he held such a poisonous view on Dalits' intelligence and their abilities? The answer is not far to seek. Nariman and his likes are pushing their agenda, trying to win Dalit confidence on "secularism" and not on the "anti-caste" agenda. Nariman and his accomplices did not explore whether the Congress or the Third Front government would have supported the Durban move! The new Dalit must be alert as "secularist" infiltration in this new initiative may turn it into a "secular versus communal" discourse. The political climate created by the campaign would benefit third front forces and not Dalit forces like BSP. And that, too, at the cost of losing focus of the initiative!

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