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Deadly Caste Clashes.

India, May 29 -- Saharanpur district of Uttar Pradesh has been on the boil for over a month as the Thakurs, also known as Kshatriyas or Rajputs, have been engaged in violent attacks on the Dalits in which several people have been killed, several others injured and houses burnt in village Shabbirpur. Prime Minister Modi, who has been paying glorious tributes to Dalit icon Dr Baba Saheb Bhimrao Ambedkar and misses no opportunity to profusely quote him as the builder of modern India, has not spoken a word on the clashes between Thakurs and Dalits.

After the hugely successful 'Mujaffarnagar experiment' to control politics in Uttar Pradesh, the BJP has been able to bring the powerful dominant communities including Rajputs, Jats, Lodhs, Kurmis into its fold on absolute hate propaganda against Muslims. After the ascendency of Yogi Adityanath, the Thakurs in Uttar Pradesh are virtually celebrating. The government seems unable to understand the responsibility of running a state administration without any caste biases. There are reports of Thakur civil servants being given important positions in administration. RSS and other allied organisations are not that active in the state as Hindu Yuva Vahini has outnumbered them and most of the leaders of the Vahini hail from powerful Rajputs as well as dominant OBC communities resulting in violence against Muslims, in particular, and now against those Dalits who are asserting.

Saharanpur has been the active hub of BSP's powerful Ambedkarite assertive politics. The Dalits here have been active in the BSP movement for long and an alliance of them with Muslims is always a winning combination. The other powerful community in the district is Gujjar but unfortunately in the politics of farcical sloganeering, the Thakurs and Brahmins have dominated the art of manipulating things which has reduced Gujjars into political non-entity despite being in majority in the region. Seen from this background, the rise of Bhim Army is a threat to Rajput supremacy.

The huge protest that Bhim Sena organized at the Jantar Mantar has shown the strength of the Dalits who may not be willing to depend too much on political parties for resolving their crisis particularly related to their integrity and dignity. People were expecting Bhim Sena chief Chandrashekhar Azad to be arrested at the Jantar Mantar but he has not been arrested so far. Bhim Sena has grown in Saharanpur region as it started working positively through starting schools and developing entrepreneurship among the Dalit community. The primary strength of the Bhim Army is the Chamar Community, which makes us ponder whether the Hindutva forces consider it as a threat or want it to grow so as to eliminate BSP and Ms Mayawati who enjoyed immense power in this region.

On May 23, BSP President Ms Mayawati toured village Shabbirpur village where the houses of Dalits were ransacked by the Thakurs. The administration did not allow her to use a helicopter hence she went by road and it was a boon as thousands of BSP workers from Ghaziabad to Meerut, Mujaffarnagar were waiting for her en route to Saharanpur. She had a road show and she spoke of maintaining law and order and asked for actions against the culprits. She also provided financial support from her party to families who had lost their houses, a work which the state government should have done. One may disagree with her but she has been measured in her response which many of her critics in the community called as tame surrender to upper caste politics, but people should not forget that you can't expect a four time chief minister to speak tit for tat and khoon ka badla khoon se lenge kind of language which the Hindutva politicians have been speaking. Ms Mayawati showed much maturity but it is also time for her to be aggressive and cater to the vast demands of the young educated Dalits who are now getting restive with slow or no responses from her party on Dalit issues such as the current one. People felt that she has taken almost over a month to visit Saharanpur, yet it warmed her already depressed cadres.

As the Dalits were returning from Ms Mayawati's programme in Shabbirpur, Saharanpur, clashes and violence was reported. The Thakurs attacked the Dalits resulting in several deaths. It is ironic that the Uttar Pradesh chief Minister or the Prime Minister has not spoken a word on it.

The Rajputs have become hyper during this government. Economically, they are not a power house with land getting fragmented. They have no strength of population to control politics of the region. In the government services, the percentage of Rajputs is very low. But with the growth of Hindutva and its muscular politics, Rajputs again are being 'militarised'. This is a desperate attempt and will only be suicidal for, it is 21st century world where each one is being watched and observed. It is the age of human dignity and human rights too. In the age of democracy Rajputs can't live their present through the 'past' pride. A Maharana Pratap can be an icon in terms of valour but in today's world you cannot confine a community to respect only heroes from among them. The creation of 'community' based heroes is a political construct of Sangh Parivar so that we all are stuck inside our communities and do not accept any other thought of liberation. Such confinement makes look Maharana pratap as a Rajput icon while relegating Dr Ambedkar merely as a Dalit icon. The Rajputs and for that matter any other upper caste must liberate itself from the prejudices of the past and that is possible only when it is able to positively understand the writings of Dr Ambedkar. The political parties which want to use Ambedkar just to garner Dalit votes will never be able to do justice to him.

Dalits are responding to discrimination in different ways. Many believe in political response, others think of a mighty Bhim Sena and a few of them respond through religious conversion. Over 180 families converted to Buddhism in Saharanpur. Earlier in Sambhal, the Balmikis which is a community of manual scavengers left Hinduism and embraced Buddhism because of their continuous isolation. Even the barbers were not cutting their hair. How has it happened that all of a sudden the anti-Dalit feelings in the state are growing? We need to probe it. The fact is that Barbers are one of the most humiliated communities in rural India. At many places their job is not just cutting hair. In our traditional village system of Manu, they are supposed to help during weddings by washing feet of the guests from both the bride and groom's sides and do all kind of work which none would advise in modern democratic society. But such is the 'power' of varnashram dharma that even a humiliated barber enjoy humiliating those who he feel are 'lower' than him. This is what Baba Saheb Ambedkar called long ago as graded inequality, ascending order of reverence and descending order of contempt.

Published by HT Digital Content Services with permission from Indian Currents.

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Publication:Indian Currents
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:May 29, 2017
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