As the country marks the 128th birth anniversary of Dr.Bhimrao Ambedkar on 14 April 2019, Dalit communities across India are preparing to deliver a blow to the RSS/BJP and its allies for the nightmare of the past five years. Polling for general elections is already in progress and there is little doubt that most Dalit voters are committed to voting out a party that has unleashed one of the cruellest and all-round attacks on Dalit lives, on their dignity and their age-old striving for liberation from the hated Manu-inspired caste oppression.
This anger among Dalit communities has crystallised over the five years of Narendra Modi led NDA govt. that had held out big promises when seeking votes in 2014. Dalits, like other sections of people, had felt that perhaps a new opportunity was opening up for economic advance, if not social justice. Yet, those dreams have come crashing down.
Ironically, even Modi and Amit Shah seem to have given up on Dalit support, as can be seen from the BJP’s election manifesto that they released with much fanfare recently. The 38-page long list of promises and drum beating about their so-called achievements has just one line on Scheduled Caste communities, which says they will provide them with the Constitutional protection and rights. Nothing else. No mention of social justice or caste oppression. No mention of dilution of laws. No mention of jobs or vanishing reservations.
What happened? What did Modi and his mentor the RSS do for social justice? Why is there such seething rage among Dalits? Have a look at the systematic attack that these five years have been witness to.
End to Special Funding for Dalits
Dalits make up 16.6% of India’s population. According to a well established policy, the Central govt. was required to spend at least the same proportion of their Budget on empowerment and uplift of Dalit communities. The previous govts. had not done so, but at least some effort was there and on paper, the policy was there. What was needed was effective implementation and making it a law. The Modi govt. scrapped the Planning Commission, and scrapped the accounting of Plan and Non-Plan expenditure. Behind the cover of this they scrapped the separate allocation of funds for Dalits and Adivasis. Now, there are only schemes left. And, if you look at the schemes, you will find the dark reality of Modi’s Manuwadi approach towards Dalits. Allocation for Dalits was only 8.79 percent in 2014-15, 6.61 percent in 2015-16, 7.06 percent in 2016-17, 8.91 percent in 2017-18 and 6.55 percent in 2018-19. So, for the whole five year period it comes to an average of only 7.59 percent per year. That’s less than half their proportion in population. Even this allocation is neither fully spent nor is it spent on programmes which are really targeted for Dalit communities. They build a bridge and use up SC sub-plan funds for it, saying that Dalits are also going to use it! In this brazen way they are hoodwinking Dalit communities.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report for 2016 there was an increase of 25 per cent in crimes committed against Dalits among which women are worst victims. Rapes of Dalit women have doubled in last ten years. Studies show that in five years of present Government, atrocities against Dalits have seen a jump of 6-8 times, in comparison with five years of earlier regime. In 2015, 38,670 cases of atrocities against Dalits were registered while in 2016 this number jumped to 40,801. Thousands of cases went unregistered due to hostility of police or terror tactics of upper castes. BJP ruled states of UP, Bihar, Rajasthan and MP are leading in committing these atrocities. The Government has not published data since 2016, probably because it would expose the Government’s real face.
The atrocities data reveals three horrific trends. First, pending cases have increased by 99 percent. It means there is no investigation or action after registration of First Information Report (FIR). Second, in comparison to previous years there has been an increase of 50 percent in pending cases where charge-sheets have been filed in courts. Third, conviction rate which was already below 30 percent fell further by two per cent. This is not even 1 percent of total number of complaints.
BJP Govt.’s Support to Dilution of POA
When the Supreme Court diluted the protective provisions of the Prevention of Atrocities Act, the Modi govt. again revealed its true Manuwadi roots by not vigorously opposing the matter in the Court. Much later, when protests engulfed the whole country it pretended to wake up and make amends.
But in doing so, it could not let go of its frustration at being forced to act by Dalit communities. BJP state govts. falsely charged hundreds of Dalits in criminal cases for alleged violence during the 2 April 2018 bandh, called by Dalit and Left organisations to protests against the Supreme Court ruling. What was the “violence”? Dalits were defending themselves against armed upper caste gangs who attacked Dalit demonstrations in several places in MP, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and elsewhere. Over 10 people were killed. But it is Dalits who are still facing charges in some of the states. Bereaved families were not even given compensation.
Dwindling Jobs for Dalits
Under Modi’s robber rule, while corporate houses have been enjoying profits, and getting concessions, common people have been reeling under one of the worst waves of job losses and general unemployment. And, in this onslaught too Dalits have suffered more. This is because there is wholesale contractualisation of jobs in both public and private sector – mostly jobs in the third and fourth class categories. This means that private contractors appoint the employees – and they are free of the Constitutional requirement of reservation!
So, Dalits have seen enormous job losses as well as closing down of opportunities of fresh jobs. The govt. itself has admitted that nearly 60 lakh govt. posts are lying vacant in central and state spheres. That means at least 27 lakh jobs for Dalits have not been filled up, which reservation would have got them.
There are other insidious ways in which Dalit jobs have been repeatedly targeted, including the infamous Supreme Court ruling to scrap the roster system for teachers’ appointments in academic institutions. Here again the Modi govt. remained a mute spectator.
Safai Karmacharis Continue to Die
In absence of any effort of modernisation of work of cleaning, the much hyped but insensitive Swachh Bharat campaign has triggered more deaths of workers on the job. In 2018, 112 safai karmacharis died while cleaning sewers’ continuing the trend of the past few years. The Government boasts of India being the fastest growing major economy of the world, but we see death of a sanitary worker every third day. Actually the Government does not have even a proper count of these workers who are forced to work in fatally insecure conditions. Total numbers, claimed after so-called survey of 12 states, does not tally with 26 lakh dry latrines still functioning according to the Government. Even big departments like Railways under the central Government and many departments in states do not have any institutional arrangements for ensuring safe cleaning.
Attacks on Education
Besides the general starving of education system by cutting funds and allowing private schools and colleges to flourish, several higher educational institutions saw open attacks on Dalits both in personal physical form, by BJP/RSS affiliated students or institutional form through holding up of scholarships and research grants. This is what led to the tragic suicide of Rohit Vemula in Hyderabad’s Central University.
There has been a concerted drive by the Modi govt. to curtail funds for school education, restrict scholarships cut special provisions like text books and uniforms – all of which is affecting Dalits immensely. Because it is they who first bear the loss, coming as they do from economically backward communities. They also face extreme discrimination in the face of limited resources.
The well planned attack on Dalits when they gathered at Bhima Koregaon village near Pune on 1 January 2018 to commemorate a victory over Brahminical rule 200 years ago, was carried out by well known Hindutva activists. Subsequently, while Dalits were arrested and harassed, and falsely implicated in cases that are still going on, the real culprits were shielded by the Maharashtra Fadnavis led govt. In fact, the state BJP govt. turned the whole thing on its head and implicated various other activists for the violence, thus also trying to divert attention from the activities of the extremist Hindutva organisations like Sanathan Sanstha.
All these, and many such events have exposed the BJP’s real face – that of RSS motivated, Manu Smriti inspired ideology. It is this that has turned Modi’s rule as one of the most hated contemporary periods in the lives of Dalits. It is this that should be remembered on the 128th Anniversary of Dr.Bhimrao Ambedkar, with the pledge to throw out this Manuwadi govt. lock stock and barrel.