It was a sad day for Dr. Udit Raj, one time fire spewing Dalit leader, who gave up a promising career in Indian Revenue Service (IRS) to organise and lead the Dalits, to embarrassingly state that he has not surrendered to the BJP (Indian Express, January 25, 2016).
Here was the man who strove to outdo Kanshi Ram not very long ago and adopted the same route of first focusing on SC/ST employees in Government service through his organisation the All-India Confederation of SC/ST Organisations. For over a decade, Udit Raj’s main target was the Bharatiya Janata Party and its surreptitious agenda of promoting the interests of the Aryavrat.
For that matter Udit Raj, the first time member of Parliament who defeated sitting minister Krishna Tirath of the Congress party from North-West Delhi, has joined the disreputable company of Ram Vilas Paswan, Sanjay Paswan and even Krishna Tirath, who all chose the BJP and rode the Modi wave, knowing full well the Sangh’s deep disdain for the Dalits and its open contempt for caste based reservation, merely to promote their political career in the short term for power and pelf.
It is also ironical that Udit Raj chose to criticise Dalit activists a day after his leader and the Lok Sabha Speaker and eight times BJP MP from Indore, Sumitra Mahajan questioned in Ahmedabad caste based reservation while Raj is lamenting over denial of reservation to SC/STs in promotions and refusal of various governments, both at the Centre and the states to fill up reserved seats in employment and education 70 years after the framing of the Constitution. And the same day another self-confessed admirer of Narendrabhai Damodardas Modi, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) prominent face Kumar Vishwas too joined the chorus, again in Ahmedabad replacing caste-based reservation with economic criterion. We will return to AAP later. But Ahmedabad has been chosen by these eminent personalities to reassure the Patidars led by Hardik Patel of the Sangh’s real agend of doing away with caste-based reservation.
Fact of the matter is that Rohith Vemula’s killing, and I consciously call it killing because, those who drove Rohith to suicide, starting with the Vice Chancellor P Appa Rao to the now acting Vice Chancellor Vipin Srivastava to the Union Labour and Employment Minister Bandaru Dattatreya to the nation’s first woman HRD minister Smriti Irani, not to mention the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and its HCU president N Susheel Kumar are all complicit in the crime and liable to be charged with abetment to suicide under Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code which entails imprisonment upto 10 years.
None of the Dalit leaders in the BJP have the courage to state this openly and stand alongside Rohith’s bereaved mother and the Ambedkar Students’ Association (ASA), he represented in Hyderabad Central University (HCU), demanding stringent action and criminal proceedings against the perpetrators of the crime. Therefore Udit Raj needs to look inwards for crocodile tears shedding quality, with which he has attempted to smudge all those rising in support of Rohith today.
Having said that, one has to share Udit Raj’s anguish that the Communists, of all hues have consistently shied away from the caste issue, pretending it did not exist. Udit Raj himself flirted with the Left politics for a while as a scholar in JNU. Rohith too as his friends recall was very active in the SFI in his university between 2012 and 2014, after which he left the SFI to join the ASA feeling a certain inadequacy in the CPM affiliated students’ body on the whole caste question.
Rohith’s constant companion till the day he died were Ambedkar and Marx’s writings. Sadly Ambedkar too had distanced himself from the communists on their failing to address caste discrimination in textile mills in his time when the Dalits were not allowed in certain sections of the mills for fear of polluting the cloth. Ambedkar protested against this but the great Communist leader Sripat Amrit Dange refused to intervene and motivate the trade unions to abolish this blatant apartheid practice.
The last CPM Plenum held in Kolkatta from December 27 to 31, too circumvented this vital question of Dalit exploitation and discrimination by making only a general statement saying, “No social transformation is possible, in fact, cannot be conceived without the vast mass of people belonging to all exploited classes rising in revolt against the exploiting ruling classes…”
Of course there are Marxist nee Maoist leaders like Vara Vara Rao who has been a source of inspiration and guidance to the ASA and Rohith in these dreadful times and the CPI-Maoist is focusing mainly on the tribals settled in our forests. And no doubt much to the chagrin of the likes of Udit Raj in Hyderabad, the SFI is agitating along side the ASA on Rohith’s suicide. But sadly a sustained agitation and a militant espousal of the Dalit cause is lacking in the CPM. Otherwise perhaps the HCU authorities wouldn’t dare act so blatantly against Rohith and his fellow Dalit students.
What about Muslims? Almost the entire Muslim population of Mumbai turned up evidently in sober but silent protest at the funeral of Yakub Memon, obviously unconvinced of the severity of the punishment meted out to him by the highest court of India. There were so many activists, judges and even intelligence functionaries who pleaded with the Chief Justice of India till the eleventh hour to spare Yakub Memon’s life.
Rohith and his friends in the ASA were raising the same issue when they were condemned as anti-national and thrown out of the hostel and the university academia, their scholarship stopped and an FIR lodged against them by the ABVP for ostensibly committing an anti-national act. The latest provocation was the ASA’s attempt to hold the screening of the documentary film ‘Muzaffarnagar Abhi Baaqi hai’ on the atrocities committed against the Muslim community in Muzaffarnagar in 2013 in the run up to the general elections. This defiance of the ABVP diktat further infuriated the saffron establishment and resulted in harsher action against Rohith and his comrades.
Again while there may be a token statement by the Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi, that anger, that vehemence that indignation so characteristic of the Muslim youth when it comes to say the arrest of some poor Muslim boy by the Indian security agencies ostensibly on trumped up false terrorist charges, where is that? Why is it missing?
Fact of the matter is and there I tend to agree with Udit Raj the Dalits are left to fend for themselves. The general indignation against this caste apartheid, where all the right thinking people of the country rise in protest and agitate against such inhuman treatment of human beings, to overturn the unquestioned supremacy of the ruling castes, is missing that is why Rohith had to end his life in despair and futility. Many more Rohiths did this before him and many, many more will continue doing this almost every day in each corner of the country as long as the right thinking youth does not rise like it rose for Nirbhaya.
By Faraz Ahmad
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