Dalits, Muslims and Politics

Amir Hussain Tehsini for TimesHeadline.com

Religion and Caste for many Indians is a very basic and predetermined form of identity, the anciently old traditions of the Indian society are firmly grounded on these categorizing principles which segregate the society first on the basis of religion and further into caste, the unalterable social groups into which they were born and are usually expected to raise a family with. The division of Indian society into rigid social groups, traces its roots in India’s historical background that stand impermeable and persist until today.

Caste is a form of social stratification, hereditary transmission of a lifestyle which often includes an occupation, ritual status in a hierarchy and customary social interaction and exclusion based on cultural notions of purity and pollution. The word ‘caste’ is a Portuguese invention that consists of two Indian words – ‘varna’ and ‘jati’.

The ‘varnas’ are a broad system of social ranking found in the ancient Hindu scriptures, The system of varnas is attested in Hindu texts dating back to 1000 BCE,  there are four traditional varnas – from top-to-bottom, priests, warriors, traders and labourers. The Dalits form a fifth category of people considered beyond the pale of varna system- the oppressed.

The Indian Constitution guarantees equality as ‘Fundamental Rights’ in Articles 14, 15 and 16 under Part III. Article 14 guarantees equality before law and the equal protection of laws. Article 15 prohibits discrimination ‘only’ on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth, or any of them. Thus, discriminating against anyone because of their caste is illegal. However, in India you are often able to tell a person’s caste through simple markers such as their surname, this is hard to enforce.

The recent incidents have deliberately hurt the peaceful ethos of the country, where Muslims and Dalits the member of the Hindu society are constantly under attacks by the so called cow vigilantes thus following a pattern of vigilante violence targeting Dalit and the Muslim communities over the issue of cow slaughter.

An Overview

On 28 September 2015 evening, Muhammad Akhlaq was killed, he was attacked by the mob after a public announcement was made that the family of Mohammad Akhlaq had killed a cow and consumed its meat on Eid-ul-Adha. Mohammad Akhlaq, a Muslim man who was beaten with bricks and sticks in response to rumors that he had slaughtered a cow and eaten beef, the incident was equally condemned by intellects and all section of the society as this has badly portrait the image of the Indian society in front of the world. The level of intolerance was on its peak in the country and thus frustrated by all this nearly three dozen novelists and poets returned awards granted by India’s National Academy of Letters.

The story doesn’t ends here, the unlawful acts of attacking human lives didn’t stopped even after this there were continuous reports in media about similar incidents where either there was a Muslims or a  Dalits under attack.

Reports of attacks by vigilante groups protecting cows became more frequent last year, the vast majority of the attacks were against Muslims, but public protest was muted until the videotaped attack on the Dalit family of Una the July 11 incident. These vigilante groups have carried out violent attacks on Muslims and, more recently, Dalits.

Political Analysis

As political parties prepare for elections in key states, especially UP is considered to be one of the most important state with dense and varied population when it comes to the National consensus, ‘the road to Delhi passes through Lucknow’ the famous echo in the political row , This is the state where Muslims and Dalits are the key to Pandora’s box and often decide the election results, Samajwadi Party (SP) has always played their Muslim card and manage to turn the elections on their side, similarly the key to the Dalit vote bank lies with Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) which has always managed to secure the Dalit vote bank in the state. The question what’s left for BJP? With their fire brand image leader Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP is all set for UP-2017.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has distanced himself from right-wing cow protection groups. In the most extensive remarks he has made on the self styledvigilante movement, Mr. Modi said that the vast majority of the organizations were not legitimate “gau rakshaks,” or Hindu cow protection volunteers, but “antisocial” groups masquerading as such.

“I feel so angry about them,” he said during a televised public forum. “I have seen some people who indulge in antisocial activities for the whole night, but wear the garb of cow protectors during the day.” Mr. Modi was not specific about which episodes had inspired his remarks, however it was a clear warning to the antisocial elements trying to destroy the peace and harmony in the country. The attack on Dalits was captured on video and has gone viral on social media, this may complicate his party’s efforts to attract Dalit voters in the upcoming state elections.

This feature story has been contributed to TimesHeadline.com by Amir Hussain Tehsini , who is a well known Human Rights Activist & currently works as a CRM Analyst at a US based MNC

e-mail: amir.tehsini@gmail.com
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