Mohammed Anas | Caravan Daily
DALITS ARE protesting against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens in their own ways, though the media often does not take note of these. Resentment among Dalits is palpable. The RSS and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have taken note, though, and are turning to them with a new-found warmth.
Both the PM and the RSS have stated in their rallies and programmes, this week, that Dalits are persecuted in countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh while the new citizenship law in India will provide a new relief to them.
The ruling BJP has instructed its Scheduled Caste (SC) functionaries and Union ministers to spread awareness about the CAA among the Dalits, to explain how it would help them, in ways as to mollify them.
Modi’s wooing of Dalits
The Prime Minister has addressed several rallies recently, from Jharkhand to Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan. In all his speeches, he said the CAA will work to the advantage of the Dalit community. He declared at a public meeting on Ramlila ground that most of the refugees from Pakistan seeking citizenship in India are Dalits.
“Daughters of Dalits are misbehaved with and they are forced to convert from their religion,” the Dalits here were told. But, even after Modi’s speech, Dalit organisations continued their shrill protest against the CAA.
‘40% of population in India will be affected’
Grandson of Baba Bhimrao Ambedkar, Prakash Ambedkar, who is also leader of socio-political outfit Banchit Bahujan Aghadi (BBA), told Caravan Daily that the media painted a wrong picture about the ongoing protests that this was a fight between Muslims and Hindus. “It is incorrect to say that the CAA will discriminate against Muslims alone. The CAA and NRC will affect the Dalits, the Adivasis and the Tribals the most. Together, they constitute around 40% of India’s population. Most of these people don’t have documented proof of their domicile. In fact, this is a fight between the citizenship defined by the RSS and the citizenship as enshrined in the Constitution,” he said.
Conspiracy against Bahujans: Bhim Army
Bhim Army, an organisation of Dalits (mostly Jatavs), has been at the forefront of anti-CAA protests in the country, especially in UP. Its founder Chandrashekhar Azad had taken part in the December 20 Jama Masjid protest in Delhi. He had said that the CAA “is an anti-Dalit legislation as it will grant citizenships to outsiders and will increase welfare competition for the backward sections (Dalits) of the society.”
Delhi coordinator of Bhim Army, Kush Ambedkar, says that the CAA and NRC will make life hell for Dalits, as most of them are homeless, roaming labourers. “They keep moving from city to city. How can they keep proof of their residence with them? They are largely landless and paperless citizens. The new law, if implemented, will wreak havoc for them,” he told the Caravan Daily.
Dalits only need awareness about CAA: RSS
The RSS functionaries believe that the Dalits are not opposed to the CAA and that they only need to be told what was the purpose of the new law. On Monday, senior RSS office-bearer, Dr Krishna Gopal, called a meeting of BJP’s SC/ST cell. He told the SC/ST leaders to understand that Dalits faced atrocities in neighbouring countries and that the only shelter for them was India.
“Dr Saheb trained all these leaders (SC/ST) to go to people and convince them that the CAA will be a saviour for Dalits and other backward classes. They will be saved from persecution in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh and that coming to India will be a homecoming for them,” a Delhi BJP worker, who was present in the meeting, told Caravan Daily.
Effort to saffronise Dalits
Dr Ratan Lal, Professor of History in Delhi University, is a Dalit and has been an active anti-CAA campaigner. He says that the CAA is against the soul of the Constitution and thus it is against Muslims and Dalits.
“Prima facie, this law seems to be against Muslims, but actually this is part of the larger BJP design that aims to target Dalits and the tribals too. Despite BJP coming to power a second time with full majority, large sections of the Dalits and tribals have remained in abject poverty and want. They want to saffronise such groups via this law. It’s a well-thought-out plan to saffronise the Dalits and the Tribals,” Dr Lal told Caravan Daily.
However, Dr Lal feels that the CAA-NRC move to rope in Dalits will backfire for the BJP. “Dalits and tribals are original residents of this country. Even though a majority of them don’t possess documents to prove their official citizenship, they won’t tolerate any attempt to uproot them. They will hit the roads against the discriminatory law,” said Dr Lal.
Dr Lal said that had the BJP been serious about empowerment of Dalits and tribals, they would have planned reservation for them in private sector. “The BJP is feigning to care for the Dalits and tribals of Pakistan, but they don’t give a damn to the Dalits in India,” he said.
One often hidden facts about Dalits and tribals is that they keep themselves out of the fold of Hinduism. Ashok Bharti, chairman of the National Confederation of Dalit and Adivasi Organisations, said that the BJP has brought the CAA and wants to implement the NRC just to Hinduise the Dalits and the tribals.
“Apart from targeting Muslims, the sole purpose of this CAA-NRC drama is to bring the Dalits and tribals into the fold of Hinduism, or rather the Hindutva. Unfortunately, the BJP and RSS have exposed themselves and they will continue to face protests nation-wide,” he said.