This article appeared on dsujnu.blogspot.com
The gruesome burning of an eighteen year old dalit girl and her father in Hisar, Haryana by dominant caste Jats is yet another instance of how nakedly casteism pervades our society. The polio stricken girl along with her aged father was burnt to death by a mob of 100-150 people who set around ten houses ablaze. A trivial scuffle led to the immediate unleashing of the feudal wrath of the caste-hindus, who had the political power and social clout to dare and commit such an atrocious crime without fear. In Gohana, thousands of dalits were made to flee their homes after which 50 dalit homes were set on fire in 2004. In Jhajhar the police supervised and facilitated the lynching of five dalit youth in 2002 by a mob comprising of dominant caste villagers led by VHP and Bajrang Dal, who alleged that the dalits were slaughtering a cow. These are just three incidents of caste violence in recent memory in the state of Haryana, touted to be one of the economically ‘advanced’ regions of the country. Caste atrocities in other economically ‘developed’ states of the country have also been regularly committed. The horrific incident of Khairlanji in Maharashtra in 2006, where four members of a dalit family were slaughtered, two women of the family Surekha and Priyanka were paraded naked in public before being raped and murdered, is fresh in public memory.
Such murder of dalits by the dominant castes takes place on a daily basis in every part of the country. When the usual methods of terrorizing and suppressing the oppressed castes are challenged, murderous gangs are raised to crush the assertion of dalits. Ranavir Sena, the upper-caste private army of the landlords committed a series of massacres in Bihar in the 1990s. The mass murder of 58 dalits including 27 women and 10 children in Laxmanpur Bathe were part of the Naxalite movement. 23 dalits were killed in Shankarbidha in Janaury 1999 while eleven were hacked in Jehanabad in February 1999, both by Ranavir Sena goons. The upper caste landlords committed these genocides to crush the assertion of the oppressed castes, who as part of the revolutionary movement were part of the struggle against the feudal forces for land and dignity.
These are neither isolated nor exceptional incidents: The carefully nurtured myth of Democratic India is exploded each and every time a dalit is killed by the caste-Hindus, when a dalit woman is raped to subdue the oppressed castes, or a dalit family’s house is raged to the ground to reassert the caste hegemony of the oppressors. These are just a few forms of atrocities in which casteism surfaces, to be again receded to the oblivion of everyday life, normalized and accepted as a part of our social reality. While the social scientists sitting in the temples of higher learning theorize about ‘the withering of castes’, atrocities on dalits go on unabated. According to a survey by the NGO National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights, 27 atrocities against Dalits every day, 13 Dalits murdered every week, 5 Dalits' homes or possessions burnt every week, 6 Dalits kidnapped or abducted every week, and 3 Dalit women raped every day, 11 Dalits beaten every day. Only the most gruesome of these incidents get reported in the mainstream media. This should not surprise us when the dominant castes have a stranglehold over the Indian media, as much protected from the entry of dalits as has been the temples.
The present social order has failed to deliver justice to the dalits: The brahminical Indian judiciary is the custodian of injustice meted out to the dalits. The rate of conviction of dalit atrocities cases is a dismal 15%. For example, it took 12 years for even the Patna lower court to sentence those responsible for the Laxmanpur Bathe massacre, and left unpunished the real perpetrators. Even the CBI has absolved the politicians of BJP and NCP who were involved in the Khairlanji massacre, and no case was filed under the Prevention of SC/ST Atrocities Act against the perpetrators. The police refuses to register complaints of atrocities and violence against the dalits, let alone taking action against the dominant castes. Where the formal institutions of justice have proved to be useless, the parallel ‘justice system’ of the dominant castes, be it the Khap Panchayats or the village panchayats, regularly punish the members of the oppressed castes through social boycotts, denying them work, corporal punishment and even pronouncing death sentences. This state of affairs even after 63 years of so-called Indian independence shows that Indian political system is nothing but a dictatorship of the upper/dominant castes in the mask of democracy, where political power, economic and educational resources, and social hegemony is in the hands of the minority of oppressor castes.
The Indian state and all its institutions including the political parties, judiciary, police, bureaucracy, media, reproduces and strengthens the caste-system. This constitutes merely the super-structure of the caste-based feudal social relations, wherein the numerically miniscule dominant castes have ownership and access to all the resources, while the majority of the people who serve them have nothing but hunger, disease and death. In India the caste system is an integral part of the production system, with huge disparities in ownership of land or capital resources, education, healthcare facilities on caste basis. Two-thirds of dalit households are landless (According to the draft paper of the Ninth Five-Year Plan, 77% of dalits and 90% of the adivasis in India are either ‘absolute landless’ who own no land, or ‘landless’). Unemployment and underemployment is the highest among the dalits and backward castes, with a very high number being employed as landless workers in villages. Even in urban areas the percentage of regular income earner is abysmally low, with most dalit or oppressed caste members being employed as for manual works as contract labour. 60% dalit wage labourer household in rural areas and 70% in urban areas fall below the ‘Poverty Line’. The only area where dalits constitutes a majority is in the job of safai karamcharis where their presence is a whopping 73%. Even today in almost all states of India, dalits especially dalit women are made to do manual scavenging, whereas 88% of seats for SC & ST in class I / II government jobs have not been fulfilled. OBC representation in university faculty across the country is 1%. The Arjun Sengupta report shows that 88% of all SCs and STs, 85% of all Muslims and 80% of all OBCs survive on less than Rs. 20 per day. On the other hand, the upper castes, who demographically are just about 15% of the population, constitute the bulk of the Indian ruling class – industrialists, senior executives, bureaucrats and landlords; controlling 96% of industry and trade, and 71% of agricultural land and natural resources.
Liberalisation is only making it worse: Since the inception of five year plans in India less than 2 percent of the total expenditure has been spent on the SC, ST and OBCs combined (report of Working Group on Development of SCs during 8th five year plan). Non-plan spending on social services has fallen by 16 per cent in the 2010 budget. Within this miniscule budget, the specific allocation for SC, ST and OBC has gone down from 7.06% to 2.89%. Budgetary allocation of funds for the masses (like agriculture, health, education etc.) is getting drastically reduced. The resources of the people is being drained out by MNCs. Rampant unemployment and lack of access to education are making things worse for all but the privileged few who hail from the dominant caste-class background. The current policies of rampant land grab for SEZs and imperialist plunder has also affected the dalits severely. The dalits being landless in most of cases they are dispossessed of their livelihood once the agricultural land which they cultivate is handed over to MNCs. After the adivasis the dalits form the majority of the people displaced since 1947.
NONE of the parliamentary parties have worked towards what Dr. Ambedkar had envisioned: the annihilation of caste. They rather systematically and opportunistically reinforced this most oppressive structure for their own electoral ends. The discontent and pressure from below has forced the government to very reluctantly legislate reservation, it is evident that there is no will to implement it. During the Mandal Commission days, both Congress and BJP had openly opposed reservation, while the ‘Official Left’ had maintained a very dubious, opportunistic dithering between support and opposition. The parties which self-styled champions of dalit cause like BSP, SP, JD(U) etc. the fight against brahminical social order is only restricted to the fight for reservation and representation. While reservation is indeed important, by its very nature it only benefits the comparatively better off section of the oppressed castes who could afford some education, leaving out the vast majority of the dalits out of its purview. Besides, education or comparative economic prosperity notwithstanding, the oppressed castes are discriminated against because they belong to a certain caste. The victims of the Khairlanji were indeed among the better educated and landed people in their village. Even those who get into an institution through reservation are discriminated against and harassed.
All these parliamentary parties are also ruthlessly pursuing the imperialist agenda. All of them support SEZ, land grab and corporate loot of resources. None of the states in India have so far seen successful land distribution among landless dalits. Even the ‘left’ ruled states where claims to land reform is trumpeted every now and then, in reality the so-called land reforms were instrumental in promoting a particular form of agricultural economy- the cash crop based economy- binding it more closely to the international imperialist market nexus. In whole of post ‘land-reforms’ Kerala for example, the dalits, dalit Christians and Muslims comprise the vast majority of those dispossessed from land or excluded from the purview of land reforms. 85% of the dalits in Kerala where the CPM has trumpets its fraudulent land reform are landless. The reformist ‘land reform’ that some state governments pretended to do was done in the aegis of Wolf Ladejinsky, an agent of the world Bank and US imperialism. He assisted some of the state governments to undertake this devious ploy to divert the huge masses of landless population, vast majority of whom are dalits and adivasis, from the revolutionary movement of Naxalbari and its clarion call of ‘Land to the tillers’. And this central question of land is not addressed by ANY of the parliamentary parties, including the official ‘left’ or the self-styled champions of dalit cause like BSP, SP, JD(U) etc.
The fight for social justice, for the dignity of dalits, access to resources and most importantly, real political power can be won by the oppressed only with a revolutionary social transformation. The entrenched feudal forces in the Indian society in tandem with imperialist forces will never allow any change in the inhuman conditions in which dalits in this country are forced to live. The parliament, the court, the government, the police have all systematically helped in maintaining the brahminical status quo, where dalits are deprived of minimum human dignity and livelihood. The system also co-opts. It has co-opted a small section of the dalits who have been successful in bettering their class status. This section, rather than serving the interests of the dalits, serves the present brahminical system. Therefore, to democratise the society, to end the continued violence on dalits and other oppressed majority of our society, to entrust the means of production to the real producers, there must be a unity of the struggle for annihilation of caste and the revolutionary movement to overthrow the present oppressive social order.