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Backward Classes: NEW COMMISSION TO HELP DALITS, By Dhurjati Mukherjee, 14 April, 2017 Print E-mail

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New Delhi, 14 April 2017

Backward Classes


By Dhurjati Mukherjee


There has been an outcry across the country over the alleged indifference to exploitation and oppression to dalits, tribals and those from lower castes. This is nothing new. History has shown that the lower classes and castes have always been at the receiving end. A section of political analysts think this has been a fall-out of neo liberalism and the trend has manifest itself in protecting the interests of the rich and even the middle income sections. Moreover, the all-round emphasis on the urban sector and the stagnation of the rural sector over the years has aggravated the situation.


Generally the cases of atrocities in the past and even today used to be related to economic issues viz land, wages, water, housing and/or the practice of untouchability. But this got a new dimension with the resistance of dalits to follow the neo Brahmanical nationalist cultural practices by Hindutva champions have landed them into problems. The situation all over the country and specially in the northern States smacks of discrimination in the worst form.


Keeping this in view, the Centre’s approval to set up the National Commission for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) with constitutional status is undoubtedly a symbolic gesture of putting the backwards on par with Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. The announcement, complying with the birth anniversary of Ram Manohar Lohia, a well-known parliamentarian and mascot for Mandal classes, has come at the right juncture, showing the government’s concern for these impoverished sections.


The proposed panel to be named National Commission for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes will be created through a Constitutional amendment similar to the ones providing for National Commissions for SCs and STs. This week the Lok Sabha passed the constitutional amendment to introduce the Commission, which would now require passage by the Rajya Sabha with two-thirds majority and receive ratifications from more than 50 per cent State governments. It will replace the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) and will have all powers to effectively tackle their problems, including grievance redressal in an effective manner.


The Commission has before it various problems but the most important would be deciding the demand of Jats for OBC status. It goes without saying that the endeavour of the Commission should be to upgrade the conditions of these backward classes though this remains a herculean task given the present conditions prevailing in the country.


Experts believe that after Babasaheb Ambedkar the socially oppressed and downtrodden communities have begun asserting their political rights and challenging the century-old traditional caste hierarchy. The new dalit assertion and socio-economic developments have created a new political class among dalits and this class has spread political awareness, some of whom have launched struggles for achieving socio-economic justice for the masses.


One may mention here that in the State-wise report on crimes against dalits in 2015, Gujarat stood at the first place with a total number of 6655 cases, while Chhattisgarh, another BJP ruled State appeared in the second place with a total number of 3008 cases and Rajasthan, again under a BJP Government, came third with 2144 cases. 


Recal that after Rohith Vemula’s suicide in University of Hyderabad, students formed a Joint Action Committee for Social Justice demanding a Rohith Act on lines of the Nirbhaya Act. It demanded that the Act be introduced and implemented to ensure legislative protection for students from marginalised communities in higher educational institutions. As is well known, flogging of dalits in Una in Gujarat and the Rohit case have given a new impetus to the social movement to demolish Hindutva and the brahmanical fascist forces. As crime and discrimination against dalits has been on the rise, the present National Commission is expected to tackle the problem in a comprehensive manner.


Another responsibility of the Commission would be to give attention to dalit women. At a recent meeting in February in Bengaluru, organised by the Indian Bishops’ Commission for Dalits and Indigenous People, it was pointed out that Christian dalits suffer further as the government denies them State benefits for Hindu dalits. It regretted the fact that the law allows for job and educational quotas to Hindu dalits but denies them to Christians and Muslims on the ground that their religion does not recognise the caste system.


The dalit movement has emerged as a truly democratic revolution though the State has till date failed to deliver true citizens rights to the oppressed communities. Thus, the government had to prove it was catering not just to the demands of upper castes but also to all sections of society. The various incidents in different parts of the country, where the backward classes have been affected, such a panel is expected to boost the morale of the community.


What is necessary at this juncture is a profound and thorough conviction of justice and necessity and importance of political and social rights. It is high time that the new dalit resistance employs political and philosophical imagination in the struggle to annihilate caste with socio-economic justice just as Dr B R Ambedkar thought of during his lifetime.


Development has to be such that all sections of society get equal opportunities and the State helps in ensuring that they could join the mainstream of life and society in a dignified manner. All round development of each and every community is what is needed at this juncture and this should be accorded top priority. Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation, had been a votary of equality and a communitarian approach but successive governments had not given this the emphasis it desired.     


One may also refer to Ambedkar’s observation: “The castes are anti-national. In the first place they bring separation in social life. They are anti-national also because they generate jealousy and antipathy between caste and caste. But we must overcome all these difficulties if we wish to become a nation in reality”. This has yet to become a reality primarily due to the lack of political will and the intention of the political leaders to rule on the basis of ‘divide and rule’ policy but the setting up of the new panel is expected to change things in the coming months. ---INFA   


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)


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