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India 360: What makes Dalits angry?

CNN-IBN
Jun 20, 2007 at 05:18pm IST

New Delhi: It was a bloody day in Maharashtra after protests over a statue of Babasaheb Ambedkar being defaced in Kanpur took on mammoth proportions.

The entire state including Nashik, Osmanabad, Aurangabad, Buldhana, Thane and Ulhasnagar were engulfed in the protests, which led to the lynching of a Dalit youth by a raging mob resulting in more protests.

Police had to open fire in Osmanabad - killing two people - and a curfew was delcared in four cities to bring the people under control.

Curfew was clamped in 14 localities of Pune's Pimpri-Nigdi area on Thursday morning due to large-scale violence in the area on Wednesday.

A similar situation had arisen after a Dalit's family (Bhaiyyalal Bhotmange's family) was brutally killed in Khairlanji village, Maharashtra, on September 29.

His wife and 17-year-old daughter Priyanka were raped in the most savage manner by men belonging to the OBC caste.

So why is Maharashtra becoming India's Dalit flashpoint? That was the big question of the debate on CNN-IBN's India 360 with Sagarika Ghose.

On the expert panel were Udit Raj, President, National Justice Party, Professor Arun Kamble, National President Dalit Panther of India and Praveen More State Secy – NCDHR National Campaign on Dalit Human rights.

The Dalit movement in Maharashtra unlike the Dalit movement in UP is leaderless and weak. Dalits in Maharashtra are relatively better educated and very radicalised but they lack a leader like Mayawati. The leadership in Maharashtra is divided; it is weak, leaving angry youth to just take the law into their own hands.

Sagarika Ghose: Why is it that the incident of the defacement of a statue in Kanpur in UP should cause this spontaneous wildfire protest across Maharashtra?

Arun Kamble: This is not only the Kanpur incident. This is the reaction of the Khairlanji incident because till now there is no arrest of the sarpanch and the deputy sarpanch of the Khairlanji. This is not only the Kanpur incident. So the Khairlanji incident is the main reason behind this.

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Sagarika Ghose: But is this the way to express protest with these kinds of wildfire damage to property, violence – is this the way to carry the legacies of B R Ambedkar who’s 50th death anniversary we are about to celebrate on December 6. Is this the way to honour the memory of Ambedkar?

Arun Kamble: I condemn the Kanpur incident and also I condemn the violence in Maharashtra and in India because Dr Ambedkar accepted the non-violence weapon of democracy. So I condemn the violence. This mob is totally leaderless and with lack of leadership these things have happened in Maharashtra and even in India.

Sagarika Ghose: But whose fault is that. Whose fault is the lack of leadership? Isn’t it because people like you, people like the Dalit Panthers, people like other leaders have simply orphaned the Dalit youth? They have no one to turn to. They have become impatient with their leadership and thus they have taken to the streets in their anger.

Arun Kamble: After Dr Ambedkar there is no leadership in Dalit as such. Dalit Panther is the only organisation.

Sagarika Ghose: But why has there been no Dalit leader like Mayawati in UP in Maharashtra where the life blood of Ambedkar is supposed to run.

Arun Kamble: There are so many groups in Dalit leadership. Even in Parliament they are not raising these issues of atrocities.

Sagarika Ghose: But why the Maharashtra society has failed to generate Dalit leader. Why this deification of Ambedkar given the fact that a statue was defaced. Should the Dalit community rise up in anger just because a statue is defaced?

Udit Raj: Dr Ambedkar is an icon for Dalits and he worked for their cause. Maharashtra is the place where Dr Ambedkar was born, his movement started there, so definitely the first reaction will be from there. Coming to what Professor Kamble just said about the sarpanch not being apprehended, well all I can say is that the anger is mounting. There are two reasons behind it, one of course the people are sentimentally attached to Ambedkar, and the second reason is that the government is failing to take preventive measures. And even after if incidents happen then also they don’t take appropriate action.

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Sagarika Ghose: The Dalit protest movement is taking the law and order into your own hands, spontaneous expression of anger, burning of trains damaging shops, is this the way to carry forward the legacy of B R Ambedkar?

Udit Raj: I don’t agree with it. You are just imagining the situation. Who are responsible for it? It’s the cast, castism that feelings against Dalits atrocities and inaction on the part of the Government. These are the factors, which are contributing to such incidents.

Sagarika Ghose: What is the root of the anger on the part of the Dalit youth. Why are they so very angry that they are resorting to this after hearing an incident in Kanpur?

Praveen More: It’s the continuation of after post Khairlanji incident.

Sagarika Ghose: But the Khairlanji incident showed how the Dalit leadership even there had failed. It took them about four weeks to actually wake up to the fact that Khairlanji had happened. It was only when the media took it up and the Dalit leaders woke up to the fact that it had happened.

Praveen More: Basically from NCDHR point of view we are thinking that for so many years there is atrocities against SCs and against Dalits. Even though after the Khairlanji the state responded and even after Khairlanji there were agitations and protests in Nagpur, Solapur and Mumbai. The reason even though in this situation is atrocities.

Sagarika Ghose: The police are failing and the state administration is completely not responsive to the Dalit rights. But the Khairlanji incident, according to our panellist, is the reason for this outbreak not the defacement of the statue. But the question remains why is there no Dalit organisation in Maharashtra the way there is in UP. Is it primarily caste atrocities that are driving this spontaneous rage or is it also the inequalities of economic growth. You go to Nashik you see malls coming up you see newly rich class. Is it also the ostentatious inequalities perhaps of growth that are fuelling these protests?

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Arun Kamble: Yes the Khairlanji incident is also responsible for this. There are so many classes even in Dalits but they are all together now. In Maharashtra there is no proper leadership and we want a new political organisation here in Maharashtra. Now days there are lack of leadership of political party.

Sagarika Ghose: But apart form lack of leadership is it also a case that inspite of reservations a simply lack of jobs and lack of economic opportunities.

Arun Kamble: Yes that’s true. Social and economical inequality is also responsible for this.

Sagarika Ghose: Why has Maharashtra failed to build the kind of organisational structure that Mayawati and Kanshiram were able to do in UP? They actually took Ambedkar’s teaching to grass root, in the land of Ambedkar why has this not happened.

Praveen More: Even though at present those who are representing Dalits are divided. But my point is that these people are divided but apart from this from Ambedkar’s time the congress people and other people are against our Dalit movement and other things.

Sagarika Ghose: But Mayawati can do it why can’t Maharashtrians?

Praveen More: In Maharashtra the leadership will definitely come, each movement started from Maharashtra whether that is Kanshiram Saheb movement or any other movement. It will start form Maharashtra. I will assure and we are hopeful again that the new leadership, which will lead this country, will come from Maharashtra because it’s the land of Baba Saheb and it is giving leadership to the country.

Sagarika Ghose: Dalit youth in Maharashtra are fearsomely angry. There is no leadership no organisation that can channelise their anger. Therefore they are taking to the streets. Mr Udit you were saying that you believe that the situation in Maharashtra is heading toward civil war.

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Udit Raj: Yes I do believe. Everybody is talking about that the leadership is there in UP and it’s not there in Maharashtra. It’s not the question of leadership only. What has happened is that why such incidents are happening. Lets talk about the mindset, which contributes finally to such incidents. Let me tell you that even if there is proper leadership in Maharashtra, when it comes to Dr Ambedkar’s statue or when it comes to the dignity and respect of Dalits, it’s bound to get such kind of natural reaction.

Sagarika Ghose: You are basically saying that the rights of the Dalits in Maharashtra are abused daily on a day to day basis and their human rights are violated.

Udit Raj: I am not saying that. I said now time has come that we should discuss about how these caste systems has to be finished.

Sagarika Ghose: Is Maharashtra sliding towards more and more cast conflict.

Praveen More: Yes because in Maharashtra this caste conflicts are coming up even though some times OBCs and Dalits are fighting for reservations and other things. But for some other elements they don’t want such unity even though in Maharashtra Dalits are coming forward.

Sagarika Ghose: So the demand for reservations growing but there is no social equality and there is no economic equality either.

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