The bloodstains of a 28-year-old man, Rahul, smeared the opening pages of this year’s calendar. He succumbed to his death in the recent rift between Marathas and Dalits, which revealed a much deeper and dangerous political drama playing out behind the scenes.
The Marathas, who allegedly belong to a Hindu Kshatriya caste, constitute around 33% of the population of Maharashtra, which works in favour of the saffron flag-bearers, whose Hindutva ideology seems to match those of the Marathas right now. On one hand, these flag-bearers of Hindutva claim that ‘all Hindus are our brothers’ – but, on the other hand, they are suppressing people from the already-oppressed Hindu minorities in the state.
Coupled with the uprising of Dalits, these clashes across Maharashtra have instilled fear in the minds of the so-called elite class. In my opinion, this is especially true, since after the victory of Jignesh Mevani, a Dalit leader who was recently elected as a member of the legislative assembly from Vadgam in Gujarat, they fear that minorities will get too strong and take over the political discourse in their state as well.
The unity among Dalit groups may be much more than the unity observed among the proponents of Hindutva. But politically, they are still weaker. The people from minority communities need to redesign and reorganise themselves to achieve the goal of peace, and to regain their respect and dignity in the country – unlike other groups, which are aiming to dominate over the others.
It is quite evident that Jignesh Mevani’s victory has given renewed hope to the Dalits all over India, who have mostly been on the receiving end of the discrimination by other communities. However, going by the current scenario, it seems that the right-wing forces are here to stay – and they will destroy the peace.
There was communal tension during the UPA’s tenure as well. However, I don’t think it was as prevalent and blatant as what we are witnessing today. Indeed, this is illuminating the true anti-Dalit nature of the present government. Starting from Modi’s ‘false promises’ during the election campaign to his total silence during the Rohit Vemula case and the Una tragedy, the NDA government seems to be failing its own people. Even the hope that the current President Ramnath Kovind will play the Dalit card for the betterment of the whole community seems to be going down the gutter. For instance, to this date, there has been no assessment of the economic hardships faced by the casual labourers, a large numbers of whom are Dalits, post-demonetisation.
In my view, the Dalit uprising and the clashes between the Marathas and Dalits were timely, as the anger suppressed within them over the years had to come out someday. But, if we fail to recognise the strength in the unity of these repressed people, I fear that we may end up losing not only our secular polity but also the very essence of this country.