Speaker: Anand Teltumbde, Writer and Activist
9.30pm | 9 December 2010 | Kaveri Mess | JNU
Caste atrocities continue unabated: The parliament and all its ruling parties have watched with silent complicity every time a dalit is killed by the caste-Hindus, when a dalit woman is raped to subdue the oppressed castes, or the dalit’s villages are raged to the ground to reassert the oppressive caste hegemony. These are just a few forms of atrocities and violence in which casteism manifests to capture media attention, to be again receded to the oblivion of everyday life, normalized and accepted as a part of our social reality. According to a survey by the National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights, 27 atrocities against dalits are perpetrated every day, 13 dalits are 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 which has always served as a loyal mouthpiece of the brahminical and feudal ruling classes. The rate of conviction in cases of dalit atrocities is a dismal 15%. It took 12 years for the Patna lower court to sentence those responsible for the Laxmanpur-Bathe massacre, and even then it left unpunished the real perpetrators. The CBI too absolved the BJP and NCP members involved in the Khairlanji massacre, and no case was filed under the Prevention of SC/ST Atrocities Act. The police routinely refuse to register complaints of atrocities and violence against the dalits, let alone taking action against the guilty perpetrators of the dominant castes. While the formal institutions of justice have proved to be an ally of the casteist forces, the parallel ‘justice system’ of the dominant castes: the Khap Panchayats or the village panchayats, regularly punish members of oppressed castes through social boycotts, denying work, corporal punishment and even executing death sentences.
The material conditions in which the dalits are forced to live are getting worse every day. According to even Government sources, which always underplay the distress of masses, admit that 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 the villages. Even in urban areas the percentage of regular income earners among dalits is abysmally low, with most of them employed for manual works as contract workers. 60% of the dalit wage-earning households in rural areas and 70% in urban areas fall below the ‘Poverty Line’. The only area where the dalits constitutes a majority is in the job of safai workers where their presence is a staggering 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. Likewise, OBC representation in university faculty across the country is a mere 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. Those belonging to the ‘upper’ castes, who demographically are just about 15% of the population, have a complete stranglehold over the means of production, including land, and over all available opportunities of state-funded employment and education. They constitute the bulk of the industrialists, senior executives, bureaucrats and landlords; controlling 96% of industry and trade, and 71% of agricultural land and natural resources. According to the report of Working Group on Development of SCs drafted during 8th five year plan, 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. 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 decreased from 7.06% to 2.89%. This is all that Indian parliamentary ‘democracy’ could achieve in the last six decades for dalits, OBCs and religious minorities.
NONE of the parliamentary parties have worked towards what Dr. Ambedkar had envisioned: the annihilation of caste. They rather systematically and opportunistically reinforced this oppressive structure for their own electoral ends. The discontent and pressure from below has forced the government to very reluctantly legislate reservation, but like most of the pro-people legislation, this too has become a dead letter. 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 conditional support and opposition. Even those parliamentary parties which claim to champion the dalit cause, like BSP, SP, JD(U) etc., have reduced the fight against the prevailing brahminical social order 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 and other oppressed sections out of its purview. Reservation is only one step towards the goal of a just and exploitation-free society. This has to be a part for the struggle for a revolutionary transformation of the society, without which the aim of annihilation of caste will remain ever elusive.
All parliamentary parties are 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 land reforms. 85% of the dalits in Kerala where the CPM has trumpets its fraudulent land reform are landless.
Real political power for the dalits and other oppressed masses therefore can not come through parliamentary means but through the revolutionary movement. The parliament, the courts, the government, the police, etc. have all systematically helped in maintaining the status quo of the present brahmanical system, where dalits are deprived of even the minimum human dignity and livelihood. This is particularly true of India’s countryside, where most of the dalits live, and daily face the brunt of feudal oppression. The state has also co-opted a small section of the dalits who have been successful in improving their own class-status, who serves the present brahminical system rather than serving the interests of the dalits. 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, and for the annihilation of caste there needs to be a unity of the anti-caste movement and the revolutionary movement to overthrow the present oppressive social order.