The writer Chandra Bhan Prasad has tried to create another class ? that of Dalits. He seems to be at pains to paint it as distinct from all the existing divisions in the Indian society?Hindus, Muslims, Christians and the like. He claims to ?have reasonably established that ?Dalits and non-Dalits are two different sets of people and their differences manifest in terms of demography, geography, history, culture, systems of faith and attitudes?. .. ?That means, they (Dalits) are still ?not hundred per cent Hindus?.? He quotes Ambedkar to say that, ?Contempt for Buddhists was the root cause of untouchability.?
?Since the Pusyamitra-led Shunga dynasty had the sole agenda of destroying Buddhism, the non-Vedic Buddhists may have been treated as ?war prisoners?. Due to more than a thousand years history of hostility between Vedic and non-Vedic people, the non-Vedic people had to pay a price?with no rights over assets, institutions or culture: they became untouchables.? Yet, the fact remains that all untouchables are not Buddhists. On the contrary, Hinduism adopted Lord Buddha as an avatar with Buddhism as its integral part.
He has made an excellent exposition of his theme and subject. He expounds a therapy to what he calls ?Dalit phobia?? It is remains debatable whether it could be compared to apartheid, slavery or discrimination against the Blacks practised in USA. He opines: ?Without international intervention on the lines of apartheid in South Africa, the ailment is incurable.?
The writer has taken great pains to research, document and dilate on the thesis once he set about for himself the topic to go about. That Dalits have been subject to untold misery, humiliation and neglect at the hands of the upper castes during the last so many centuries is an undeniable fact. But times are changing and changing fast.
He makes many startling disclosures and propounded revolutionary opinions. In his introduction to the book he spells out the objective: ?to decode the reasons, historical or otherwise, for emergence of Dalit phobia? which he explains that ?they (non-Dalits) lose control of themselves and the fear and distrust translates into hating Dalits almost as a biological reaction. This is Dalit phobia. Without realising this, we continue to see it as a social problem.?
He goes on to make a strange comparison: ?The European migrants to the New World were like Bangladeshis migrating to India or workers from Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh moving to Punjab and Delhi for greener pastures. In other words, they were the underclass looking for better living.?
?All the?. examples from the West will help one understand the various hate regimes existing elsewhere, more particularly in a developing country like India. The case of Dalits or untouchables in India follows the same hate pattern though often more vicious and more violent than any hate regime?? The present man ideologically or culturally brutalised by his past, becomes a phobia patient. So, in normal circumstances the present man lives normally. But he develops abnormalities when his past is invoked or the past context becomes a point of reference.
As a great fan of Lord Macaulay the writer ?holds (a) Macaulay Party every year to celebrate the man and his ideas?. He quotes him extensively and calls him ?a modernist believing in democracy and equality, wanted to destroy the Hindu and Muslim systems of indigenous education as these were nothing but the Hindu and Islamic theology?He spoke in favour of the Shudras and the untouchables.?
It is difficult to say how will the self-respecting Indian, proud of his roots and nation react to writer'sopinion: ?Lord Macaulay was the earliest Gandhi or the grandfather of the nation called India; ?the latest (perhaps he means earliest) Pandit Nehru or the father of the Indian modernity;?essentially an anti-imperialist (although he was a servant of the British imperialist empire);? wanted India as a modern nation; and;? wanted the seeds of Western science and philosophy to be implanted in India.? But what else did the imperialists do?
?I always consider the principle of protection to agriculture?, Macaulacy thundered (author'swords), ?as a vicious principle?. That explains why India and Indian farmer became dependant upon foreign countries for food. ?He was also the first to speak for the rights of the untouchables and lower castes to hold public offices in India.? (Yet, perhaps, there was no Dalit officer under British regime).
He also claims that ?the 1942 Quit India Movement was a Vedic reaction to the British who had dared to induct Dr. Ambedkar in the Viceroy'sCouncil. Being liberal themselves, the British thought it prudent to quit India. They were not thrown out of India, a fact we all know?The entire process of Independence was described as the Transfer of Power and not Liberation from the British imperialism??He has made the book quite up-to-date in the sense he has mentioned the latest incidents of violence and hate against Dalits that took place in the current year itself.
Above all, the book is an admirable attempt to present what he feels and he succeeds expressing his opinion remarkably well. In the foreword, Dr Nivedita Menon says, the writer is ?an unabashed votary of capitalism and stands for the rise of a Dalit bourgeoisie? and strangely ?believes that a political alliance of Dalits with Brahmins is more possible and potentially more productive than an alliance with the Shudras?.
?One may not agree with him?, states the cover of the book, ?but one will find it difficult to brush aside his arguments.? And that is why, it remains a book worth reading as much for the non-Dalits as much for Dalits.