The sight of disruption and destruction perpetrated by sundry groups that claim to stand for the rights of the Scheduled Castes is more painful than condemnable. The Bharat Bandh observed by some of these groups today, with Maoists throwing their weight behind the strike, is a classic example of what the caste group should not do if it is serious about reversing centuries of persecution and charting a new path of prosperity. It was heartening to learn some years ago that a Maharashtra-based Dalit businessman, helped by a New Delhi-based Dalit intellectual, had come up with the idea of “Dalit Capitalism”. Given the fact that reservations wouldn’t benefit every needy Dalit even if all seats in government jobs were to be set aside for the Scheduled Castes, additional paths for the uplift of the historically disadvantaged group must be explored. What better way to do so than striving to be richer, ending the monopoly of a caste in Indian businesses! But for capitalism by any group to succeed, the wannabe capitalist must first grow some respect for both public and private property. If Dalits continue to be underprivileged in the scheme of things of the subaltern parts of the country — even as a minuscule percentage have been enjoying job quota for at least three generations in cities — there are now ample opportunities to turn entrepreneurs. Turning businessmen would, inter alia, develop in them a respect for people’s properties, which they are indoctrinated to look down upon as bounties collected by exploiting them.
The protests of 2 April do not make eminent sense also for the premise this Bharat Bandh is based on. The Supreme Court had rightly observed last week that the Scheduled Castes & Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, was seeing rampant abuse. The number of cases reaching their legal conclusion was alarmingly low. Nobody, however, suggested that this law should be scrapped. What the apex court proposed instead is quite sensible: A DSP-level inquiry into all future complaints of this nature and approval by a higher authority in cases where some action is warranted against a public office bearer. While the court asked the Union government to make new rules to this effect, the Narendra Modi dispensation acted immediately under the pressure of Dalit groups by filing a review petition against the highest court’s decision. Yet, what are Dalits angry for? Would any judicious citizen support the idea that a given law should be allowed to stay prone to misuse?
The mayhem one has been noticing over the past few years in the name of Dalit activism from Maharashtra to Telangana and from Punjab to Tamil Nadu is a result of the alliances communists have struck with various Dalit groups: Periyarites are running amok in south India; communist unions provoke the Dalits in western India and their student unions incite the caste group in the entire stretch between Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University to the Chennai branch of the Indian Institute of Technology. Disruption is fundamentally a communist activity. Ideologically, the advocates of Fascist socialism oppose capitalism and hence they cannot allow an atmosphere where businesses run smoothly. Practically, as the have-nots stay have-nots, that economic stratum justifies the raison d’être of communists. This, in fact, was once (in)famously stated by EMS Namboodiripad: “If the poor no longer remain poor, who will vote for us?” The strategy becomes all the more plausible as one observes that one communist party after another has its upper echelons stacked with Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas. Historically, however, whether one believes that the varna hierarchy debarred the Shudras from certain activities or one holds the converse view that activities defined the varnas, the Dalit must have been free to do several businesses that did not come under the domains of the self-styled upper castes. Socialism imported from the West brought in licence-quota raj that prohibited most people from doing any kind of business, affecting mostly the Dalits whose expertise lay in cottage and small-scale industries. Communists wouldn’t let Dalits appreciate this logic because, politically, their double standards bring them another benefit: Hindu votes fail to consolidate. Sadly, the Dalits are unable to see through this hypocrisy of the communists who are loath to sharing power with the so-called lower castes even as the breast-beating brigade sheds copious tears for the caste group. Whereas the apostle of non-violence, the Buddha, whose ‘religion’ many Dalits are officially adopting, would not have approved of vandalism, even Karl Marx, who applied the one-size-fits-all formula of “class conflict” to societies across the world, would agree that society bows to the rich. In the words of Chandra Bhan Prasad, it’s time India’s rulers moved from Indira Gandhi’s failed slogan “Garibi Hatao” to a credo that is bound to succeed: “Amiri Badhao (enhance people’s richness)!”