The atrocities, discrimination and oppression of the SC is not a new phenomenon. It has been there for ages. So it is unfair and unjust to lay the blame at the door of the BJP. This is not to mean that everything can be just passed off pointing to the past. But statistics and an objective scrutiny of the social scenario will reveal that there has been a gradual downward slide in such crimes. What is unsettling is that the political parties want to fish in troubled waters. Their actions and their utterances clearly show that they are not interesting in alleviating the suffering but in augmenting it and opening the wounds – they are itching to pour oil in the burning fires so that they would garner votes of this most vulnerable section of the Bharatiya populace.
My own experience with the SCs issue starts from 1957. When I went to my husband’s village in Kanyakumari district I found a grave – a mound of mud with a cross by the river side. On enquiry, I was told that a woman used to come from a far off place for the annual church feast. She would remain there for a few days and leave. Once when she made her annual visit she died and the people of the village did not know her caste and hence buried her outside the village cemetery – which was only for the upper castes.
Catholic churches in some places have separate cemeteries for the SCs and other lower castes. So even in death they are discriminated. I was in charge of a village project in the 80s. The village consisted of three groups – the upper caste which owned all the lands (these are Nacikers), the costal people (the fisher folk) and the SCs. The only tea shop in the village had separate tumblers of aluminum for the SCs, glasses for the others. They were not allowed to sit in the benches in the tea shop. Once when the cattle of the SCs strayed into the lands of the upper caste, the caste people cut off their tails. When an SC dies, his/her body was not allowed to be carried through the caste area. They were not allowed to wear chappals or hold an umbrella.
This later, from my own experience in three districts of TN, I discovered was the general pattern. Wells again were separate. No SCs were allowed into the houses of the others. They were segregated. In almost all the villages their houses were at the end of the village where all the drain and slush of the village was directed and channeled. I had been to Trichy in the 80s when the floods occurred, it was the same story: the huts of SCs were left stinking in the water, nobody helped them out. Not one of them had a pucca house. Later when I was a Consultant for a few NGOs I had the opportunity to visit some of the villages where they worked. I found that the SCs were deceived. In their name foreign funds flowed, but not even a hand pump was made available to them. They had to drink water from the nearby pond or rivulet in which the buffaloes, cows are bathed and the pigs also drink from the same source.
In this context I must mention that the SCs themselves practice a caste system among their own castes. For example, not a single Pallar would inter marry, drink or eat from a pariah’s house. It is relevant to mention that in Tamil Nadu there are two political outfits – one headed by Dr Krishnaswamy is for the Pallars; the other headed by Thol Thirmavallvan represents the other sub sects (the Pariyars,the Chakkiyars and others). One must note that the PMK headed by S Ramadoss had even issued a diktat forbidding the Vanniyars from marrying in the SC community. There has been rioting (burning of the villages and murders) if such marriages happened – this is recent, and Ramdas’ son Anbumani Ramadoss was a Union minister at that time. As far as I know not a single Congress member condemned this; neither did it visit these villages and affected families. I am narrating all this because I want to show that the discrimination and atrocities against the SCs has been abetted and fomented by politicians chiefly by the Congress. No Central government intervention worth the name was directed to punish those who practiced such discrimination during its regime. The SC commissions are not only show pieces but rehabilitation centers for providing taxpayers money and other perks to the Congress aged sycophants.
So why are the Congress and the AAP and other parties now so agitated – making it look as though for the first time in Bharat’s history these things are happening. The NGOs are no better. They too add to the unrest and ignite the SCs. It seems to me that the one and only motive of these vested interests is to destroy the peace of the country, not to bring solace to the SCs; and of course in the process they do thump their chests to exhibit their distress-pose as champions of the downtrodden and get the votes of the SCs? They want to blame the BJP because they want votes. These parties themselves discriminate. They do not condemn any atrocity against the SCs if it happens in a non BJP ruled State. How honest then are they in their distress at the plight of the SCs? This kind of picking and choosing to foment unrest and instigate tension and violence against the ruling party is no solution. It only goes to prove that these parties are not honest and really are not keen to find a permanent solution and bring solace to the victims. They indulge in political tourism shows. It is another kind of exploitation of the SCs and their sufferings. Then where is the remedy?
Unless and until we all stand united to wipe away this social sin, we cannot find any solution. Why had the Congress simply closed its eyes and looked the other way when parties were abetting this discrimination. For that matter the Congress is the chief culprit in the social sin against the SCs. Too long they have remained indifferent and allowed the SCs to be kept suppressed and oppressed because then it was easy to keep them as a vote bank.
It is obvious that the Congress and other parties only offered lip service. This is substantiated by the Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu in his article, ‘The culprits of Una’ (Indian Express 2nd Aug) where he gives data which clearly is a proof of the hypocrisy of other political parties. He states, “The irony of this opportunism becomes all the more glaring when one finds that Uttar Pradesh (8,066 cases) and Bihar (7,874),are among the top states as far as crimes against SCs were recorded. It is also pertinent to note that 113 Dalits were killed in Bathe, Miyanpur and Bathanitola when Lalu Prasad Yadav was the chief minister. All the accused were later acquitted.” This is not to justify the atrocities that are unabated against the SCs – neither is it a justification of the flogging of the SCs in Una. It is only to show that the blame game resorted to by the Congress and other political parties against the Modi government must stop. It is crystal clear that the Congress, the AAP and other parties are more keen on converting these atrocities to incite the SCs and to garner votes. This is again another kind of atrocity committed against them.
It is not enough if one visits Kalavati’s hut and shares a meal; it is not enough to drink tea with those affected families in Una and make a show. This is not only hypocrisy but also making the SCs a tool and a vested interest which reveals a base callousness towards their centuries old discrimination. Instead they all must be one united voice and resolve not only to condemn the discrimination and atrocities but must request the government to bring in stringent laws against the perpetuators. It is the obligation of all political parties to be united in this and not indulge in blaming the Modi government. This becomes an obligation on all political parties to show solidarity and erase this blot in the social milieu. It is not something impossible. But it calls for genuine concern, steel like resolve to arrest the atrocities, and to remove the social stigma and discrimination against the SCs.
Will the netas abandon their vested interest? Will they put the nation and its honor on top of their list of priorities ?Will they unite in this national task to clean up the social fabric of the polity and usher in a humanism where there is no place for discriminating any human being? Where the ghettos are removed and the uniqueness of every individual is upheld. This is the national task in which each and every one –be they the religious leaders, the political leaders, the caste leaders and every common citizen need to all work towards. I am reminded of poet Tagore and his immortal poem which sums up beautifully what is needed and what we must aspire for, and hence let me quote him hoping and praying that it will find an echo and resound in the hearts of my people –
“Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high; Where the world has not been broken into fragments by narrow domestic walls; Where the words come out from the depth of truth; where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection; where the clean stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habits; where the mind is led forward by thee into ever widening thought and action – Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.” (Rabindranathan Tagore)
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