The case of Radhamma, a Dalit lady from Kolar (69 kms from Bangalore) should have shocked all those who take pride in Hindu Dharma and fight for it. It would have been the most natural thing to see our Hindu saints and Mathadhipatis going to her home, support her and put a stop to any politics being woven around this despicable story of untouchability. It was not just the district collector’s job or the police man’s duty, but the duty of every Hindu who thinks his dharma needs to be safeguarded against such atrocious behaviour.
Except RSS and BJP inspired Samarasta Manch workers going there and helping the Dalit lady to stand firm, nothing much was seen. As a report in a Chennai based daily suggested, there might have been some politics too behind the sudden exodus of children from the school, as many of them belonged to the scheduled castes. Still that doesn't dilute the gravity of the incident. There is nothing new or unprecedented in this unfortunate tale of our deep rooted hatred for our own people - our flesh and blood.
Gohana, Jhajjhar, Madurai, Coimbatore, are just recent ones, and we find ghastly assaults on Dalits everywhere, and in all the states the instances of assaults on Dalits are increasing. Though this relates to our societal failure to have all castes join mainstream of non-discriminatory path of progress, the ilk of Girish Karnad and Pratap Bhanu Mehtas make it distorted and use Dalits and Muslims as an instrument to beat Hindus, and blame organisations like BJP/RSS through gross misrepresentation. Let them remain what they are. They love to have strong criticism from the hurt Hindus as that provides them a false aura of martyrdom. Such writers and artists have a sick mindset and a pathetic hatred for Hindus and their contribution to enhance social strife and hate amongst various sections of the society is immense.
But the question is what the Hindus are doing to forge solidarity, breaking all barriers of discrimination? We don't speak on Dalit atrocities, we don't reach them out when they need a help, we don't befriend them except for nauseatingly artificial shows of collective meals and some slogan shouting in their favour whenever we smell a repeat of Meenakshipuram. Dalits don't appear on the invite lists of our personal celebrations - marriages or mundans, we don't have them included in our Diwali, Dushehra or Holi and don't stall parliament on issue of atrocities on them. But we want them to stay Hindus and leave them alone to fight their battles in a heavily prejudiced system.
It’s the rich, powerful, influential class of Hindus that organise huge Bhagwat weeks, conferences and congregations. We organise successful meetings of all denominations of Hindu sects to denounce untouchability and caste based discriminations, and pass very aptly worded resolutions which form a protective moral shields around the castes which consider themselves as superior and higher in comparison to the other castes. But we fail miserably to monitor and review if such resolutions have resulted in the reduction of atrocities and discriminatory behaviour against the scheduled castes? Has that helped Dalits get better behaviour of the so called higher castes? Has it, in any way, helped to end ‘two glass system’ and ‘two crematorium’ system prevailing in many parts of southern India? They want their right to Dharma, for temple entry, for being treated equally in temple pujas, for fetching water from temple pond, for cremating their dead in the common crematoriums, for sending their children to same good schools, yet they have to fight for such small matters which should have been given to them with respect and honour by the Hindu pandits and saints and leaders.
We forget that Dalits are us, they are our kith and kin, our blood brothers. They have led battles and wars for the Hindu dharma, they have shown as much if not more brilliance, courage and perseverance for the cause of the nation and our dharma. The Brahmins and the other so called higher castes do not have a right to dictate terms or to tell them that they have to remain out of boundaries because they belong to a caste which, to them is ‘lower’. If a priest discriminates in temple or puja affairs on the basis of castes, he should be de barred from performing such religious acts as he is sinning and working against the basic tenets of Hindu Dharma which exhorts to treat all equally.
It’s true that through the spiritual movements like Mata Amritanandamayee, Gayatri Pariwar, Swaminarayan, Sri Sri Ravishankar the essential unity of the human race cutting across all barriers of caste and creed is being established and the attitude of their followers has brought in a fresh air of brotherhood amongst all castes. The RSS stands as the tallest and the most successful effort to bring about the change and have the Dalits join mainstream of education and social life with a complete evaporation of such discriminatory attitude in its working. One sees the highest number of inter-caste marriages and social get together within the RSS families. RSS workers are running thousands of service projects aimed for their mainstreaming and ending discriminations among Dalits all over India. Reservation in government jobs and educational institutions have worked wonders for the elevation of living standards and empowering Dalits. Yet, the task to end such an apartheid remains gigantic and much to do with our caste ridden politics, where the very first question asked to an aspirant of any post or election ticket is “Kaun Jaat Ho ?” or What is your caste?
Nobody speaks about ending caste based discriminations any more, as it is now a universally accepted norm. Dalits are a vote bank, and hence for political gains they must be shown respect in our speeches which means nothing on the ground level but triggers a competition in demagoguery and shamanism . Nobody is interested to give Dalits a place they deserve, a position of real decision making, a representational share in any organisation or party. The cosmetics we see are merely notional showcases , and those Dalits who have been fortunate to find a place amongst the pantheons of the rich, powerful and so called high castes, remain so low profile and possessed with their own personal benefits that the impact of their notional inclusion is also lost on the ground. They don't help their community, they don't voice their concerns even feebly, they adopt the language and idioms of their superior bosses to define incidents of atrocities on Dalits as ‘political’ and cover up the real motive behind them. And the discriminatory behaviour crosses religious fault lines- in Islamic and Christian communities too, those converted from Dalits find a lower place in comparison to those who were erstwhile Brahmin or Thakur Hindus.
In our contemporary times, when anything and everything that hurts our societal harmony and inclusiveness has become a tool in the hands of those who control media and are showing precipitated hatred against Modi and Hindu pariwar, it is difficult to have a balanced and fair dialogue on the failure of our heavily “high caste” intellectual class on addressing the Dalit issue.
The pains of Dalits do not matter to the secular intellectual Moguls, unless that can be used for an immediate attack on Hindu pariwar. And then the matter is forgotten.
Let us focus on what we can do. It is incumbent upon the Hindu leadership, their saints to rise to the occasion and empower Dalits. To be a Hindu should also mean to be taking lead to end such discriminations. To me, it is more important than any temple or beef issue.