One of the worst hit in Uttar Pradesh elections is a loud rhetorical section that speaks in the name of all Dalits. And, it seems to be, happily, dumb-founded.
The very small Dalit middle class/ employee strata or even tiny elites, drawn almost exclusively from the relatively advanced and reservations-monopolising, Ambedkar-worshipping single castes in their respective regions (Mala, Pariah, Mahar etc.) from the very big Dalit populace (forming one-quarter of the Indian population) is curious in many ways.
Particularly, the second and third generation among them is even unique in its uniformity of conduct and public pronouncements.
This Dalit middle class's structural position is worth considering. This minuscule section takes away all the 16.5 plus 7.5% reservations in jobs and education in public sector. It has a self-interest in not letting the benefits reach beyond their own caste to include other Dalit castes, or at least, no particular interest in such a thing. Its position not dissimilar to five or so percent of upper castes (UC) grabbing 50% of all seats and jobs in the name of 'general' quota or 'open' competition.
However, unlike the upper castes who, with their all-round advantage produce more candidates in hoping for education and jobs than already disproportionate numbers effectively reserved for them, this Dalit strata eliminated competition not only from others (the very idea of reserving seats) but also minimized the possibility of it coming from their own majority Dalits (escapes almost everyone's attention), this section gets whatever little it does without much competition and almost always without competence where it is required. Negligible competition also results in the perverse fact of handing the public positions/jobs etc. to the ineligible.
Though a lot of antagonism, jealousy, backbiting and prejudices they encounter in the public places, institutions is squarely due to the uppercaste aversion to Untouchables, not all of it is only such. Nowhere is this strata's performance is as unsavory as in social movement realm.
This section believes in no solidarity, behaves like a gang of thugs in eliminating criticism and self-criticism and persistent in turning every discussion a fight, debate into one of ad hominem, with no sense any more between a friend and foe and all the shades in between, the cynicism and ungratefulness are the hallmarks of this welfare-dependent but actually welfare-monopolising Dalit section.
It is not exactly a 'class' but a combination of caste, networking, Ambedkar 'rituals', unifying symbols and even sensibilities and a strong sense of mutual help.
Additional and no less important features of this stratum is its lack of any property (but protected by income from the jobs or scholarships) and also any attachment with the hard labor, though still discriminated and subject to daily humiliations and exclusions, though mostly spared of the atrocities that happen to other Dalits elsewhere. However, this is also a section which is pampered by the upper caste establishment.
(This collaboration between the always UC-baiting and resentful Dalit Middle class advanced castes and happily entertaining UCs is a complex and curious story that requires a detailed post of its own. But one telling example can give the flavor of it. Almost always the left/liberal interview panels, with a mind-bending cynicism only leftist Brahminicals are capable of, select candidates for the English professor posts in central universities in Dalit quota such candidates who cannot speak or write in the language they are supposed to teach.)
This section has remarkably committed in two important ways that cannot be explained by their class position fully. Whenever there is an atrocity committed against their more vulnerable and less protected members, it springs to action with a professional revolutionary's seriousness and even selflessness. Another is its absolute and instinctual aversion to Hindu practices, beliefs and by extension, its current Hindu Nazist version.
Always alert to any slight, suspicious of any gesture of solidarity yet paranoic about ever perceived threat of the encroachments, this is the only section among Dalits that returns the typical Muslim antipathy towards Dalits with matching apathy directed back to them. This Dalit section is a hurdle to much delayed yet much-needed Dalit-Muslim cooperation. Rohith Vemula could fight against peresecution of Muslims partly because he is not from this section of Dalits in class or generation terms.
In Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, this solidarity-aversive, anti-educational and equally anti-Hindu Nazist Dalit middle class met its ultimate deadlock. Like UC leftists, the Dalit middle 'class' is against Modi's Hindu Nazists due to its principles (or ideology) rather than any material need for it. It is unlikely to surrender to Hindu Nazists in any big way anytime soon, but it is unlikely to adapt to the new reality that demands larger accommodating alliances.
*With Kuriakose Mathew and 2 others. Source: https://www.facebook.com/chittibabu.padavala/posts/10158184471105315