Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A case for a ‘Dalit’ in the higher echelon of the society

The Varna system that has plagued India for millennium still continues to rule roost in the country which is often hailed as the role model for emerging democracy in the world. We talk about a society for all, a compound where everyone despite and in-spite of his caste and creed gets an equal opportunity to rise and shine. But have we truly been able to break the chains of the Varna system that shackles our minds?

The Brahmins, the Khatriyas,the Vaishyas and the Shudras are the four pillars of our society,  rather the demarcation that still exist and continues to divide the society into four parts on the basis of birth. And it’s not that nothing has been done to dilute this demarcation.

The Constitutional forefathers tried hard to remove this demarcation by providing for reservations for the mass that had the misfortune to be born in this ‘low-caste’,a term that was defined many centuries ago  by those who were in the higher pedestal of the caste system.

Whether this reservation policy has worked for the 166,635,700 persons, Scheduled Castes population, constituting 16.2 per cent of the country’s total population can be argued upon for hours and yet when the talks will end there will be no concrete conclusion. And the same holds true for the merits of providing reservation, it’s hundred times harder to arrive upon a conclusion when it comes to the merits of reservation.

Reservation is something that tries to make the playground equal and fair for those who because of their birth have been deprived of quality living and education.

The question is whether providing for reservation enough? Is the policy of providing for empowerment at the bottom of the strata so that it can gradually gain strength and social acceptance as as it grows effective enough? Is this affirmative action not required at the higher level? 

Reservation is provided in colleges, in jobs but as once reaches the top level it is done away with.

Who would provide for a more positive impact and an inspiration on the dalit population in specific and the whole society as a whole? A dalit Prime minister or say a dalit corp-orator?

Inspiration like a waterfall flows and from a higher point to the lower. I may have sympathy for someone who is pulling a rickshaw than someone who is holding a constitutional authority at the center but if it comes to it I be more positively affected by someone who has reached the highest heights in-spite the tough circumstances rather than someone who is still toiling in the streets.

If I had to make a choice of constitutional heads like the PM, Presidents or CVC and I had a list of candidates to choose from, all equally good and each one being in the list on their professional merit ,I would select someone who comes from the suppressed background, a dalit officer or a leader would be my first choice, everything being same.

Why would be the next logical question? After all at the top the only deciding factor should be merit and professional integrity.

My answer to that is empowerment comes from power. Let us for some time focus on the caste issue and keep questions of integrity out of the equation.  

Mayawati becoming the CM, has given a psychological empowerment to the oppressed SCs of the rural Uttar Pradesh. Similarly when Ajit Jogi was the Chief minister of Chhattisgarh the tribal’s felt more at home. They had this feeling of being a part of a society that’s equal and just and a democracy that has provided opportunities where someone from amongst them can become the head of the state. When Lalu Prasad Yadav was the chief minister of Bihar, thesocial and economic conditions of the backward class improved and this improvement is something that is hard to express in numbers and stats but one which can be felt when you interact with them.

We need to look beyond reservations and we have to shelve off the resentment towards this ‘supposed unfair’ advantage. Reservation sooner rather than later will be done away with, but the perennial problem of the oppression of the Schedule castes and tribes is something that needs a more mature understanding and requires a multi-pronged strategy.

Empowerment implies rising up from the lowest strata and being able to stand equally shoulder to shoulder with the other members of the society.

The faceless dalit needs to become a part of the emerging India and for that they need faces that go beyond Bhim Rao Ambedkar and Jyotirao Phule. Their ability and capability needs to be rewarded and precedents set for the young generation to follow.

The word ‘Dalit’ should not be limited to the political playing fields of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar or Maharashtra. They need to be pushed to places where they are given opportunity and responsibility from where they can act and come out as a beacon for the country as a whole.

The social equality that we talk about can only be achieved if we have a dalit who is heading institutions rather than following orders somewhere down in the hierarchy.

We need a society where a dalit doesn’t have to hide his identity and a society where the oppressed class can do away with the tag of being dalit. A tag that means ‘shattered’ and ‘crushed’ among many other different connotations.

Barring current Lok Sabha speaker, Meira Kumar and former president KR Narayan, we haven’t seen a single dalit leader who has been given any noteworthy constitutional opportunity to work at the higher echelon of our democracy.

We don’t just need a dalit CM, but a dalit Prime Minister, a dalit CVC and an India that doesn’t discriminates, gets angry or looks down at a dalit when he is standing tall.

For all of us.

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