Caste Divi­sion, Dalit Sen­si­tiv­ity Tricky Hur­dles for BJP

Suc­cess and fail­ure of Dal­its will de­ter­mine the chances of BJP re­gain­ing their trust and re­main­ing part on the elec­toral com­bi­na­tion

The Economic Times - - Pure Politics -

Ro­hit Vem­ula’s sui­cide were seen as part of the evolv­ing nar­ra­tive since gov­ern­ment­was­formed­inMay2014. Fromthe­out­set,ag­gres­siveHin­dutva pur­sued by con­ser­va­tive Savarkarites and bel­liger­ent sec­tions within BJP failed to en­sure that their anti-mi­nor­i­ty­ism was not si­mul­ta­ne­ously seen as ex­pres­sion of Up­per Caste hege­mony.

As a re­sult, Dal­its in­se­cu­rity rose con­sis­tently through 2014 and 2015. Re­peated calls for re­vis­it­ing the reser­va­tions pol­icy — right from the high­est ech­e­lons — has not helped de­spite Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi’s reaf­fir­ma­tion that the pol­icy is not up for re­view.

Mountin­ganx­i­etya­mongDal­it­shas come into sharper fo­cus from Jan­uaryafterVem­ula’ssui­cide­an­dis be­ing ad­dressed by the govern­ment with well-pub­li­cised gam­bles. Their suc­cess or fail­ure will de­ter­mine the chance­sof BJPre­gain­ing­th­etrustof Dal­its and re­main­ing part of its suc­cess­ful elec­toral com­bi­na­tion.

The man­ner in which sec­tions of govern­ment tack­led the fall­out of the Vem­ula tragedy has alien­ated large sec­tions within Dal­its. In the nor­mal course, draw­ing Dal­its into the Pari­var’s fold was the task of Rashtriya Swayam­se­vak Sangh and non-BJP af­fil­i­ates. The BJP merely fol­lowed up ini­tia­tives. But the in­ci­dent in Hy­der­abad was trig­gered by ri­valry in stu­dents’ pol­i­tics and pulled the party — and later the govern­ment — into the lead role and in­side an arena where nav­i­ga­tion was al­ready prob­lem­atic. The Akhil Bharatiya Vid­yarthi Par­ishad dis­played un­due bel­liger­ence af­ter “their govern­ment” was formed and its lead­ers in­volved “el­ders” within BJP when the mat­ter should have been tack­led within the frame­work of stu­dents’ pol­i­tics. The min­istry too in its en­thu­si­asm stepped in when it should have ide­allystayed­away.Claim­sof BJPlead­ers, in­clud­ing the HRD min­is­ter, that Vem­ula was not Dalit was par­tic­u­larly dam­ag­ing.

Manyinthecom­mu­ni­tyfelt­thatthe BJP, not con­tent with col­lud­ing to take a young life away, was now aim­ing to snatch the Dalit iden­tity of the de­ceased scholar. If in­dig­nity while grow­ing up was not enough, post­hu­mous hu­mil­i­a­tion be­ing heaped on a vic­tim of caste dis­crim­i­na­tion.

Thisas­sump­tion­can­be­ques­tioned, but it be­came the dom­i­nant per­cep­tion among sig­nif­i­cant sec­tions of this com­mu­nity.

The­con­ver­sionof Vem­ula’smother and­broth­er­toBud­dhis­madded­tothe widen­ing schism be­tween BJP and the SCs and is sym­bolic of the fail­ure of the BJP’s Dalit pol­icy. To over­come this set­back, Modi at his well-pub­li­cised pub­lic meet­ing in Mhow de­clared that he owed his po­si­tion to Dr BR Ambed­kar. It was ac­com­pa­nied by a much wider “dis­cov­ery of reveals, the pri­mary strug­gle of the com­mu­nity has been for dig­nity and not to sim­ply com­bat poverty.

Earn­ing so­cial re­spect is equally, if not more, im­por­tant than end­ing hunger. Food is of lit­tle value if it can­not be eaten on the same ta­ble with Up­per Castes. The RSS has cham­pi­oned so­cial re­form in Hindu so­ci­ety since its in­cep­tion, but those who ad­here to the caste sys­tem, risk the Pari­var’sgrowtha­mongDal­its.Caste divi­sion and Dalit sen­si­tiv­ity re­main treach­er­ous hur­dles for the BJP.

While the BJP’s strug­gle to re­tain SCs in its fold is un­likely to end in suc­cess very soon, it is on rel­a­tively surer ground among non-Dalit stu­dents. The plank of ul­tra­na­tion­al­ism, fab­ri­cated by the Sangh Pari­var in the af­ter­math of events in JNU, has met with suc­cess among stu­dent groups and Hindu youth.

This is ev­i­dent from the fact that the ag­i­ta­tion did not spread to other cam­puses and the rad­i­cal groups failed to se­cure sup­port be­yond what al­ready ex­isted.

Clearly, crack­down on rad­i­cal group­shas­not­gen­er­at­ed­na­tion­wide re­sent­men­ta­gain­st­gov­ern­ment.Toa great ex­tent, the Pari­var has pre­vailed with its def­i­ni­tion of pa­tri­o­tism and has forced a de­bate within its ide­o­log­i­cal par­a­digm.

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