It has become commonplace to live by double standards – there’s little convergence between what people say and what they actually do. 14 April is celebrated as the birth anniversary of Dr. B R Ambedkar.
This day witnesses innumerable celebrations, discussions and discourses all over the country and now abroad too. For instance, a group of Ambedkarites is celebrating the birth anniversary at the United Nations Head Quarters in New York.
Mostly these programmes are conducted by Dalits and their speeches and behaviour during these celebrations will make it seem as if a social revolution is going to be brought about soon.
The philosophy of Buddhism and annihilation of caste is on their lips. As soon as the events are concluded, they are back in the caste fold. Be it Gandhiji or any other statesman, we least internalise what they stood for. At the time of independence, Gandhiji said that the state would no longer be required as each village would be autonomous and self sufficient, and that wealth would be controlled by trusteeship.
He even questioned the need for the Congress to exist once Independence was achieved. Who remembers this now? There is less need for the so-called upper castes to follow the axioms of these statesmen, for even if they don’t change their life is manageable.
If we had a mindset to adhere to social, political and philosophical contributions of statesmen and thinkers, could we not have become like the USA, China or Japan? What Kabir Das preached in the medieval ages was revolutionary.
We read his thoughts, spoke and wrote about them, but never allowed them to become a part of our behaviour. Can Dalits, backwards and women afford to behave in this manner if they want to change their lives? For, their pitiable condition needs change.
Dalits practice more casteism among themselves than Brahmins, Rajputs or Vaishyas. Since ages they have been dining, sitting and interacting but do not allow inter-caste marriages. Barring educated Dalits like Chamaars, Khatiks, Valmikis and Mushhars, they not only have reservations about dining together but also practice untouchability.
For last two-three decades, education and consciousness among Dalits and backwards have risen but that has led to more fragmentation. Everyone is rushing to float his own organisation and more caste-oriented organisations are coming up and engage in blaming each other to obtain petty benefits.
In Andhra Pradesh and Telangana there is a fierce quarrel among Maala and Madiga, in Haryana one will see disputes between Chamaar and Valmiki and situation in Uttar Pradesh is not any better as most of the castes gang up against the Chamaars and vice-versa.
They should know that by perpectuting old caste frameworks their social, political and religious situation will remain the same. By organising their caste, small and personal successes are achieved but at what cost? This becomes the reason for Dalit castes to become antagonistic to each other.
I have been experiencing it for the last two decades. Being the Founder National Chairman of All India Confederation of SC/ST Organisation, I led a powerful national-level struggle as a result of which reservation was saved.
I also contributed in expansion of Buddhism. I stood with any discriminated and harassed person who met me, and sought to redress his or her grievance.
I was in the Indian Revenue Service and without fear of losing my job, I launched the struggle under the banner of the Confederation in 1997, resulting in three constitutional amendments to restore benefits of reservation.
On 4 November 2001, I embraced Buddhism to become a true Ambedkarite. After that we popularised the cause of reservation in private sector. In 2003, I resigned from the post of Additional Commissioner Income Tax and floated the Indian Justice Party.
During elections, Dalits are not seen around Dalit leaders and make up their mind to vote for established parties be it Congress, BJP or others. After the formation of the government and when atrocities are unleashed and rights infringed, then Dalits and OBC remember their leaders and ask them to fight for them. Do they realise that at the time of voting, they ought to have listened to their leaders? Rather they start targeting what I or Ram Vilas Paswan and Athwale are doing for society.
Since 2003, mainly Dalits have been accusing me of being a stooge of either Congress or BJP. They do so for no reason except sub-caste prejudices. They do not realise that they are digging their own graves.
On one hand they were for their sub-caste unity and discredit to others while on the other their life line, reservation, has been diluted sometimes by courts and at others by government policies.
The recent judgement of Supreme Court in the matter of filling up of vacancies in education and the Prevention of Atrocities Act 1989 have caused great harm. How can we counter if we stand divided?
Outsourcing of jobs and the contractual system in government has diluted reservation. I was weakened by sub-caste discrimination. It was not my choice to be born in a particular caste. To delink from my caste identity, I became a Buddhist. Yet caste followed me everywhere.
If Dalits and tribals are still backward, the reason is that they are not following Ambedkar’s philosophy. Reservation has been diluted in government jobs and education which was the main source of economic empowerment, dignity and participation in governance.
This year Government of India is marking the Birth Anniversary of Dr. Ambedkar as Justice Day. Nothing is going to help Dalits till they purge themselves of their caste prejudices and get united, not only in speech but in behaviour too and follow the axiom of educate, unite and struggle.
The writer is a BJP Member of the Lok Sabha and represents North-west Delhi.