ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

A+| A| A-

The Dalit Question

Dalit liberation is essential to the liberation of all the Indian people, and impossible without it.

Most political struggles do not result in a decisive upper hand for either side; elements of success and failure are intertwined; there are, after all, no positives without negatives. In this sense, 2016 was a significant year in the struggle for Dalit liberation. The year marked 10 years since the barbarism of Khairlanji in the Bhandara district of Maharashtra, where four members of a Dalit family were lynched on 29 September 2006 in a most gruesome manner by persons who belonged mainly to the politically-dominant, “backward caste” Kunbi–Maratha jati. In the face of a short period of governmental, civil society and big media indifference to what had happened, Maharashtra’s Dalit community took awhile to react defiantly, but when it did, the government came down on the demonstrators with a very heavy hand. After all, the dispute at Khairlanji had a lot to do with land and a pending case against some Kunbi–Marathas under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

Early 2016 witnessed the tragic suicide of Rohith Vemula, a PhD student at the University of Hyderabad, at first deprived of his fellowship because the authorities could not countenance his politics under the banner of the Ambedkar Students’ Association (ASA). Two particular campaigns of the ASA in which Rohith was in the forefront raised the level of intolerance of the authorities even more, especially when the ASA took on the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP, the student-wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Bharatiya Janata Party). ABVP’s false complaint to a BJP Union Minister, Bandaru Dattatreya (a prominent member of the “backward-caste” political establishment), was forwarded to the then Union Human Resource Development Minister, Smriti Irani, and onward to the university’s vice chancellor, P Appa Rao, which led to Rohith’s suspension. The Dalit-Lives-Matter kind of movement that followed, and especially the role of persons like Radhika Vemula, Rohith’s mother, in that campaign, has indeed been remarkable.

Dear Reader,

To continue reading, become a subscriber.

Explore our attractive subscription offers.

Click here

Back to Top