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What can a ‘sincere’ upper caste person do?

Pardeep Attri

It's just like when you've got some coffee that's too black, which means it's too strong. What do you do? You integrate it with cream, you make it weak. But if you pour too much cream in it, you won't even know you ever had coffee. It used to be hot, it becomes cool. It used to be strong, it becomes weak. It used to wake you up, now it puts you to sleep – Malcolm X.

After I wrote the last article on Untouchability & Satyamev Jayate, I got an email asking me - so do I think no upper caste person does any good for Dalits? It is a perfect time for this question. I had wanted to write on the same topic for some time now as there was a discussion going on in a forum on almost the same topic – do organisations owned/run by upper caste people really do any work for Dalits?

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Before, I answer this question; can anyone tell me an instance in history where upper caste people 'collectively' have done anything for the upliftment of Dalits? You may point to some individuals who have done their bit but if you check out the history of India, there is no such instance where upper caste people 'collectively' have done anything for the betterment of Dalits. All that upper caste people want is power and upper caste people have perfected the art of projecting themselves as friends of Dalits. By winning the friendship/support of the Dalits, so called 'progressive upper caste people' are able to use Dalits as a pawn in the social-economic-political game. Dalits are nothing but a game played by 'progressive upper caste people', based on tokenism or false promises of equality. In this game, played on the rules of deception, only upper caste people have gained and Dalits have remained on the bottom rung.

Many so called 'progressive upper caste people' are just like foxes, they keep hiding their true nature and they misguide till the time comes to put their jaws on the misguided. Such people are more dangerous than the people who snarl openly against Dalits. I have never seen a 'sincere' upper caste person helping Dalits without any real motive. 

I don't agree that the real motive of 'progressive upper caste people' is to elevate the living standards of Dalits, or to impart education or to awaken them for their human rights. When 'progressive upper caste people' come to help Dalits, they always have a clear motive, which is apart from helping the Dalits, to get benefitted by earning money. Till now, I have never seen any 'progressive upper caste preacher' teaching our people truth, or teaching our people unity. Unity among Dalits is more important than unity among Dalits and upper caste people; if Dalits are not united among themselves how can they be united among others? And this unity among Dalits is never taught by any 'progressive upper caste preacher', and that may be because of the hidden fears. So called 'progressive upper caste preacher' will show 'sympathy' (which Dalits really don't want) during the day and by evening will sit in his/her Mercedes and vanish into the dust, never to be seen again. And Dalits will come back to their ghettos and live the same life. I don't believe 'crocodile tears' will ever solve the problems of Dalits, problems which are more intense than can be resolved by one day 'sympathy' shows.

I strongly believe that what 'progressive upper caste people' should do is work among themselves. Dalits are not casteist. When 'progressive upper caste people' want to work with Dalits, they are just taking the 'escapist path'; they just want to 'prove' that they are with Dalits. But by taking this escapist path, they are not solving the problem of caste discrimination. As I said above Dalits are not casteist, so 'progressive upper caste people' need not prove to Dalits that they are not casteist; what 'progressive upper caste people' need to do is to work among their own community. What 'progressive upper caste people' need to do is teach their own fellows about the realities of caste discrimination and how Dalits are suffering and are getting murdered since thousands of years.

Whenever so called 'progressive upper caste people' have started working for Dalit organisations, they have always influenced the decisions of Dalit organisations. They have diluted the enthusiasm of Dalits already working there at the organisation. Also, I strongly believe what discrimination Dalits have faced/felt or what Dalits know about the realities of caste, no one from the upper caste people can ever feel or know. 'Progressive upper caste people' usually own money and they take over the Dalit organisation and after that their whole motive changes.

You may point out that I am biased against 'progressive upper caste people' but I am not against 'progressive upper caste people'. Let 'progressive upper caste people' form their own organisations working among their own communities, making their communities aware of caste realities, change the thinking of their own communities and highlight casteist behaviour of their own communities towards Dalits (and let Dalits form their own organisations working among Dalits). Dalit organisations will give full admiration, credit and recognition to such organisations. If our goal is the same we'll definitely meet the end result: end of caste.

~~~

Pardeep Attri blogs here. Cartoon by Unnamati Syama Sundar.

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