Jignesh Mivani represents a dangerous form of Dalit assertion which is not only divisive, but also anti-national
It is time we acknowledge that the Dalit leadership from across the spectrum has much more to do. As a young Dalit student committed to the cause of equality
propounded by Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, I am
ambivalently amazed to see 2018 kick-start with a debate on Dalit assertion. There can be multiple hypotheses constructed to interpret the rising Dalit assertion. Commentators, according to their respective
understanding and affiliations, view this phenomenon as either aspirational or rebellious. The discourse makers have been toying with the idea of what a new Dalit
narrative should be like? And who will be the real
stakeholders defining the 21st century’s Dalit chronicle?
The Dalit narrative has clearly evolved from the
conventional idea of victimhood. No one is denying the historical context of exclusion and inhuman treatment to the community. Amidst this sea of despair, there does lie a ray of hope with people like Tina Dabi, Neeraj Ghaywan and Milind Kamble who struggled, fought and succeeded against all odds.
Dissent, despite the reckless havoc it creates, remains the essence of democracy. After the provocative
demagoguery of Umar Khalid and Jignesh Mevani at the celebration of 200th year of Koregaon battle, a boy lost his life, shops were shut, buses were burnt with Mumbai coming to a standstill. What did we achieve through this vandalism? Nothing. Margaret MacMillan, a renowned Canadian historian, indicates the flexibility of history to make one delusional as “We can learn from history, but we can also deceive ourselves when we selectively take evidence from the past to justify what we have already made up our minds to do.” It was only Govind Gopal Gaikwad, a Mahar from the village, who collected the mutilated parts of Sambhaji Maharaj’s body, stitched them together and respectfully conducted his last rites. There are multiple such examples in the Indian history that bolster inevitability of the Dalit Samaj. Very briefly, let’s recollect the authors of India’s two major relics: Mahabharata and Ramayana, Valmiki and Vyasa, respectively, who if alive today would be categorised under Scheduled Castes as per the Indian Constitution. Dr Ambedkar was the Chairman of the drafting committee of the Constitution. Dalits have been and will be pivotal to the unity and integrity of our country.
An ostensible layer of elitism among Dalits has
however been created in politics and bureaucracy.
Well-to-do Dalits must explore the idea of increasing their catchment area of reservation benefits, before opposing the disadvantaged brethren standing against them.
The crux of my argument is that the voice of reform for the deprived sections must come from within the
community. Undoubtedly, Jignesh Mevani could be a stakeholder here, but allowing him to dictate the nature of next-generation reforms of social justice with communist/
Naxal tinge would amount to a great disservice to the community as a whole. Babasaheb Ambedkar observed, “An ideal society should be mobile, should be full of channels for conveying a change taking place in one part to other parts. In an ideal society, there should be many interests consciously communicated and shared.” There are many such insights conveyed by Babasaheb, but our leaders have selectively interpreted Ambedkar’s ideas to suit their predispositions.
(The writer is a senior research fellow, India Foundation)
Maoist practically captured and subverted the Dalit tradition of the Bhima-Koregaon commemoration
The anniversary of Bhima-Koregaon battle is celebrated every year. Few thousand Dalits participate in it on their own. This year, however, the case was different; the preparations were going on for the last 8 to 9 months. Many rounds of meetings were held for it. The names on the invitation letters speak volumes about their background and intent. Two prominent names among conveners were Sudhir Dhawale (Who spent 40 months in Nagpur Central Jail for Maoists activities) and Harshali Potdar, a so-called research scholar who was on the police radar for Maoist-Naxal links. Also known Urban Naxal front, the Kabir Kala Manch activists, who were in jail for 4 to 5 years for their Maoist activities were also involved in the mobilisation of people.
The most brazen case is of Prakash Ambedkar. He has a direct link with Naxal- Maoist groups. His close
relative Milind Teltumbde is secretary of Maoist Central Committee with many serious cases registered against him and currently absconding.
Then there was Umar Khalid who attended Shaniwarwada programme, who was personally present at Nagpur Central Jail to greet Maoist convicted leader Prof Saibaba when he secured interim bail.
Then comes Jignesh Mewani, newly-elected Gujarat MLA, who appealed for street- fight against Hindutvawadi forces, the narrative which Maoists always refer to
during their mobilisations.
The Police encountered protesters, the teenagers mostly from the age group of 13 to 18 years abused Police officers deployed on the spot with highly vulgar, abusive language crossing all limits of civil behaviour. The Police were left stunned with such language.
Within last few years, the Police force has established a decisive edge over Maoists in the jungle warfare. The Police are about to win the battle of attrition. Traditional Moist strongholds are cleared by Police, the number of new recruits is dwindling, so Maoists compensating their numerical losses by targeting Urban youth. At the same time, the Dalit leadership is fractured and the Dalit young generation has moved towards Developmental Narrative of BJP, as per trends from Uttar Pradesh assembly results and 2014 Lok Sabha results.
As per the programme, Jignesh Mewani, Umar Khalid and Kolse-Patil were supposed to go to Bhima-Koregaon after Shaniwarwada meeting. But all of them disappeared after the Pune meeting, Why? Did they plan violence in advance? Did they run away to avoid focus? Did they avoid Bhima-Koregaon trip knowing what was going to happen there? These are serious questions to ponder over. The judicial inquiry must delve deep to find out answers.
We must be extremely careful and must assume utmost patience by avoiding anything which could drive away Dalit masses from the mainstream. Whole society should stand firm to thwart grand design to drag innocent and gullible Dalit society into violent Maoist movement only to stamp them as “Criminal” Society, otherwise, there would be civil war-like situation within next few months/years. Maoists are preparing for a long,
exhausting battle in urban areas; this is the conclusion of Bhima-Koregaon episode! We must keep our eyes and ears open to avoid inferno of caste clashes!
(The writer is an analyst at Institute for Conflict Research