Skip to main content

Lesson from Una attack: Since everything has changed, now it’s about cows, violence

By Gagan Sethi* 
It has been about 40 years that I have been witnessing, engaging, intervening in cases of crass violence on the Dalit community in Gujarat.
People say nothing has changed, the situation has remained the same, it is still like the old times.
I have participated in hundreds of training programmes with Dalit men and women, helping them learn law, build confidence in their identity, cajole them to stand up to their rights, fight the fear instilled in them by their upper caste school teachers as also by cops ranging from low-level police constables to PSIs serving local police stations near villages. Many of our programmes collectively help them look at self- employment opportunities, so that they are not dependent on feudal landlords’ wages.
These programmes have also helped them build cooperatives of land, forestry, salt, fish, vegetables, so that they are economically better off. They have helped them trained for jobs in banks, service industry and compete in examinations of public prosecutors and Judicial Magistrate First Class (JMFC) with amazing results. I have witnessed well-known Dalit rights activists like Martin Macwan and Manjula Pradeep spend their life moving across the state to get Dalits, especially young boys and girls, to help build self-belief in themselves. For this, they would organize different types of cultural activities involving dance and theatre, even training them run their own enterprises.
And still they say nothing has changed! I refuse to believe it. My thesis is: Everything has changed.
If I go from Golana in 1986 to Una in 2016, I see both acts of crass physical violence on young Dalit men as shameless acts of barbarism.
So what has changed? Earlier the perpetrators brandished their upper caste identity and saw it as their right to kill, maim, insult Dalits whenever they felt the “need” to punish the latter for acts of belligerence. Today, the same perpetrators have to find newer political tactics of creating tension between OBCs and Dalits, since the direct exploitative tactic has changed. OBCs’ caste identity has been put aside, as their superiority is no longer accepted by the Dalits. Pushed to the wall, Dalits, along with Muslims, are now sought to be called cow killers and beef eaters; hence they are dubbed anti-Hindu and, therefore, anti-national. Hence, they should be taught a lesson. In the process, the OBCs are sought to be given a chance to “prove” that they too are Hindus.
The 2002 Gujarat carnage saw Dalits and tribals being pitted against Muslims. In fact, they were almost used as canon fodder. They were the ones whose names appeared in FIRs. While some got bail, others are still languishing. I guess they provided these “services” because they were seeking a share of economic gains in an effort to take over retail trade of meat and, at some places, liquor.
Dalits today are far more empowered than they were in the 1970s. Rural middle and upper caste men are far more vulnerable. Agriculture and allied industries are no longer lucrative, as cheap labour is not available. The carcass which the scavenger community cleans up is now finding markets directly, and the local upper caste middlemen are being bypassed. The mobile phone gets them access to Kanpur directly. This empowered confidence hurts.
Hence my thesis: The violence that one sees comes out of jealousy, it is an outrage at becoming economically weak. Indeed, acting as agents of political machinations is no more the only route to survive.
All the frustration of transiting from an agrarian land-based to a commercial entrepreneurship-based livelihood needs a higher level of education and mobility. To survive, one would need to display street smartness, too. This frustrates, and so either they commit suicide, or become violent. Little do they realize that in the process they are used as canon fodder by the ruling elite.
The cops, in the process, are often left in the role of being mute, impotent and almost helpless spectators, waiting for specific orders as to how to act safe. They know, they could be dismissed or suspended for dereliction of duty at the drop of a hat.
So what has not changed is the continued violence. But the motivation behind the violence has completely changed. Earlier, coming from a sense of caste superiority, there was a clear display of right to ownership of the Dalit body.
Today, the violent acts are one of helplessness of shattered ego,misdirected at Dalits and Muslims because of continuous indoctrination of the upper castes, OBCs, uneducated or literate but unemployable youth, by misinterpreting the role of the cow in Hindu society as something to be protected with all the resources. The fallacy is to protect the cow and you will prosper; you start losing out if they kill them.
I only wish they were given a tour of the Gau Shalas of Gujarat, with someone unraveling before them the state-politician-trader nexus in the whole game.
Isn’t it time that the Dalt leadership starts working with these youth from the earlier upper castes? After all, they are becoming increasingly vulnerable. Shouldn’t one help them see their state in what is described in the Frerian language “false consciousness”? In return, all that the Dalit leadership should do it to ask them to come to have a cup of tea in a scavenger’s house!

Founder, Janvikas, Ahmedabad

Comments

TRENDING

Sorry state of Indian academics: why was I thrown out of Delhi varsity interview room?

By Dr. Abhay Kumar*  The interview for the post of political science (Guest) was scheduled on Saturday afternoon, September 10, 2022. Given my previous experience, I was not willing to appear for it. But friends persuaded me to go and fight for our rights. I reached the college well before the time. When my turn came and I entered the room. The first question was asked about my experience. I said that I had taught for four semesters at NCWEB. I mentioned that I had taught ”Comparative politics”, “International Relations”, “Comparative Political Thoughts” and “Indian Government and Politics”. I said that as a teacher I had taught all the articles listed in the syllabus of the same Delhi University and the expert could ask anything about any reading or ideas. Friends, the first question asked by a female member, perhaps she is the principal of the college if I am not wrong, to give the full form of NCWEB! The second question asked by a male expert, perhaps he is the political science dep

Musician and follower of Dr Ambedkar? A top voilinist has this rare combination!

Some time back, a human rights defender, Vidya Bhushan Rawat, who frequently writes for Counterview, forwarded to me a video interview with Guru Prabhakar Dhakade, calling him one of India's well known violinists.  Dhakade is based in Nagpur and has devoted his life for the Hindustani classical music. A number of his disciples have now been part of Hindi cinema world in Mumbai, says Rawat. He has performed live in various parts of the country as well as abroad. What however attracted me was Dhakade's assertions in video about Dr BR Ambedkar, India's undisputed Dalit icon. Recorded several years back at his residence and music school in Nagpur, Dhakade not only speaks candidly about issues he faced, but that he is a believer in Dr Ambedkar's philosophy. It is in this context that Dhakade narrates his problems, even as stating that he is determined to achieve his goal. A violinist and a follower of Ambedkar? This was new to me. Rarely do musicians are found to take a

Tokens, symbols or incipient feminists? : First generation women sociologists in India

By IMPRI Team  The online event on the theme ‘Tokens, Symbols or Incipient Feminists? : The first Generation of Women Sociologists in India’ was held as an initiative of Gender Impact Studies Center (GISC), IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi under the #WebPolicyTalk series of The State of Gender Equality – #GenderGaps. Inaugurating the session, Zubiya Moin welcomed the speaker and participants to the program, followed by an introduction to the eminent panelists. Commencing the program, Prof Vibhuti Patel made her opening remarks welcoming Prof Kamla Ganesh, Feminist Sociologists and then greeted Prof Ratna Naidu and the editors of book ‘Reimaging Sociology in India: Feminist Perspective’, Dr Gita Chadha and Dr. Joseph M.T. along with Prof Arvinder Ansari and also welcomed all participants. She set up the stage by making us familiar with women sociologists and their works. Dr Gita Chadha, Editor of the book ‘Reimaging Sociology in India: Feminist Perspective’ After th

Omission of duty by BSF and police: Hindu forcefully kidnapped, taken to Bangladesh

Kirity Roy, Secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), & National Convenor, Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity (PACTI) writes to the Chairman, National Human Rights Commission: *** I am writing this to focus on the life and situation of the poor and marginalized villagers living alongside the Indo-Bangladesh border of West Bengal. Through the several complaints we made throughout the years to your good office, it is now evident that the people of this border are living in an acute crisis, not only from a financial perspective but also in terrible distress. The people of the border are devoid of their basic rights and are subjected to immense torture, harassment and restrictions mostly enacted by the Border Security Force personnel, who are supposed to be posted at the international borders with intentions to protect the Indian citizenry. However, on the contrary, incidents of victimizing Indian citizens are being witnessed at large by the BSF. 130 Bhot

Tamil Nadu govt claiming to reform Hindu religion, temples. People deserve better

By NS Venkataraman  For the last several decades, there have been hate campaign against Hinduism in Tamil Nadu in a subtle or not so subtle manner. Initially, it was a hate campaign against brahmins and the brahmins were abused, insulted and physically attacked. Fearing such conditions, many brahmin families left Tamil Nadu to settle down in other states in India or have gone abroad. Now, the brahmin population in Tamil Nadu is at microscopic level, for which these hate campaigners against brahmins were responsible. Later on, emboldened by the scenario of scared brahmin families not resisting and running away, the hate campaigners started focusing on Hindus. For some years, when M.G.Ramachandran and Jayalalitha were the chief ministers of the state, the hate Hindu campaigners were not much heard, as both these chief ministers were staunch believers in Hindu philosophy and have been offering prayers in temples in full public view. However, in the last eighteen months in

Emerging dimensions of India’s foreign policy in the context of global politics

By IMPRI Team  The three-day course took place recently, providing participants with an understanding of the development of Indian foreign policy, the complexity of geopolitics, and its flexibility to adjust to and even shape global outcomes. Many distinguished academics, senior scholars, former Indian diplomats, and journalists who are skilled observers and commentators of India’s foreign policy will serve as instructors for this course. Day 1 The three-day immersive online certificate training on “Emerging Dimensions of India’s Foreign Policy and Global Politics”, an initiative by the Center for International Relations and Strategic Studies (CIRSS) at IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), began on July 14th, 2022 at 5:00 PM (IST) on Zoom platform. Dr Souravie Ghimiray served as the emcee throughout the 3 days of the event and welcomed the distinguished speakers of Day 1. The esteemed panel on Day 1 consisted of, Dr Soumita Basu, Associate Professor, Department of Intern

Demographic parameters of India@75: resource allocation, political representation

By IMPRI Team  As per UN Population Prospects 2022, India is going to be the most populous country in the world. In this regard, IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi with #IMPRI Center for Human Dignity and Development (CHDD) , organized a panel discussion, #WebPolicyTalk, as part of the series The State of Population Development- #PopulationAnd Development on India@75: Most Populous Country? The moderator of the event was Mr Devender Singh, Global Studies Programme, University of Freiburg and a Visiting Senior Fellow at IMPRI. The panellists for the event were Prof P.M Kulkarni, Demographer, Retired Professor of Population Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University(JNU) , New Delhi; Dr U.V Somayajulu, Co-Founder, CEO and Executive Director, Sigma Research and Consulting ; Dr Sonia George, General Secretary, Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), Kerala; Prof K.S James, Director and Senior Professor, International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), Mumbai. Th

Bhagawat Gita shows the way for the attitude to life and desirable goal of life

By NS Venkataraman*  When a mother delivers a human body, this body has no identity. Then, parents, relatives, friends consult each other and discuss the alternate appropriate names and arrive at a suitable name for this human body and this body is known and identified by this name. This human body, which steadily grow just like animals, plants and others and after experiencing the pleasures and pains of worldly life alternately for several years, perish one day, for the body to be burnt or buried. This body, bearing a name as it’s identity, comes in to the world and goes away from the world and the name that is the identity for the body also goes away along with the body. This is the scenario for several thousands of years that have gone by. The question: One question that does not seem to be still “convincingly explained” in a way that will appeal to the brain in the human body, is as to whether this human body only consists of flesh, bone and blood with well

Tattoos and intimidating gestures can't always win cricket matches for India

By Sudhansu R Das  Team India waited with baited breath for the outcome of the Pakistan vs Afghanistan match. Speculation was on about India’s return to the game if Pakistan loses to Afghanistan until Pakistan’s tailender, Naseem hit two massive sixes to win the match for Pakistan. Unfortunately, Afghanistan lost the match after being in a strong position till the last over of the game; two full touch balls in the final over turned the match into Pakistan side. The Afghanistan team would never forget this blunder and shock for a long time. India’s team management should introspect and take tough decision keeping in view of the tough match situation in the world cup matches. India lost two crucial matches in the Asia Cup. It could not defend a big total of 176 against Pakistan due to mediocre bowling attack, sloppy fielding and unimaginative captainship. It failed against Sri Lanka in similar fashion; it could not defend another respectable T 20 total of 171 runs. It was a pat

Not my burden of shame: Malaysia's apathy in tackling problem of sexual harassment

By Jeswan Kaur*  "There was no such thing as child abuse. Parents owned their children. They could do whatever they wanted." -- actress Ellen Burstyn Condemning, judging and humiliating - it this the very nature of people in general or is this what Malaysians are best known for? When a 15-year-old actress recently made a damning revelation that she was molested as a child by her perverted father, support was far from coming. Instead, many name shamed Puteri Nuraaina Balqis, calling her "stupid" and rebuking her for seeking cheap publicity by insulting her father. They "advised" her to pray more, "be thankful to her father for bringing her into this world and remember that she would be given something by Allah for insulting her father." Would any of those who condemned Puteri Balqis "enjoy" being molested, raped or sexually harassed? Would they fancy calling their house a sanctuary when safety was no where in sight? Do these insensitive