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By Indian Dalit Muslims Voice (IDMV), 18th May 2009


This election was for sure, a thunder of warning giving way to rain of clarity, passing a sunbeam of reminder and realization to many. Some shocks on BSP’s way happened when BSP supreme Mayawati’s social engineering formula, which reaped rich dividends in the assembly polls, failed to click with voters this time around with only a handful of Brahmins, Thakurs and Muslims winning. BSP somehow still managed to win 20 seats out of 80 quite far from there expectation of grabbing at least 40-50 under their rule.

Fresh from the 2007 experiment, BSP had pinned its hopes on bringing into its fold Brahmins and Muslims along with its loyal vote bank among the Dalits.

The party, earlier known for its extreme views on the upper castes, had ironically distributed tickets liberally to Brahmins (20), Thakurs (6) and Muslims (14) in hope of collecting votes of even these castes along with its core vote base to provide a smooth sail for the party nominees. But the success rate this time disappointed the predictions of Pandits of the party which are unlike the assembly polls with only five Brahmins, four Thakurs and four Muslim candidates managing to win.

In the last assembly polls, the BSP chief whole-heartedly gave tickets to some 80 Brahmins of which 42 won their respective seats and the party all determined to return the favour back, allotted them important positions in the government and also in the process to woo them in the party fold organised Brahmin Bhaichara committees.

This is clear indication to Maya that people can’t be made fool for long and Dalits votes should not be taken for granted every time. Maya has to think on her strategy again which needs a thorough introspection in and out.


Maya’s blame game after elections is now on a full swing. Maya is all set and has already started to blame Muslims for not supporting her this time in Lok Sabha election. If only she can answer, why at all Muslims shall support her. But alas! Like hundred others this questions remains in the queue too. May be she was too sure of her wining by giving tickets to few Muslims who are already on fame because of their inactiveness for any constructive community work for Muslims or maybe she thought Muslims can be fooled again and again.

Election result came with a lot of surprises for all the monotony prevailing in the country. The worst struck were Dalits. Dalit Politicians are completely wiped out from the Maharashtra and in other states their condition is hardly any good to mention. Maya made the same mistake which Lalu made in Bihar. RJD’s condition is pathetic which could only manage 4 seats in comparison to 24 seats in last election. Pity on the poorly formed strategies.

Indian voters are up from the long hibernation. They are loud in their demand for development. It’s pretty tough for any Political party to win and woo the voters without any visible and practile work’s credit on their side. The formula of emotional blackmailing and the emotional blackmail, and the tactic of raising religious issues and hurting particular communities’ sentiments, are no more to stay here.

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The diminished importance of regional parties and the rise of the national parties in these elections is also a sign that smaller parties such as the BSP need to develop more aggressive electoral strategies.

Dalits are usually taken to be a homogeneous category that includes all the scheduled castes, but the ground reality in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan and other states in north India is that there is plenty of space for fragmentation because of the different levels of their politicization.

Many Dalit castes such as Dhobi, Pasi and Bhangi, for example, rarely use the word Dalit to define themselves because their individual caste identities are more significant for them. While the democratic processes of the country bring all the lower castes together under one homogeneous category, Dalits also divide themselves along caste lines as and when it suits their purpose. The political parties also precipitate this process to win Dalit votes.

This was clearly shown in the 15th general election as the voting pattern of the Dalits in all north Indian states where Dalit politics is practised differed vastly. In Bihar, the success of Nitish Kumar, the leader of the Janata Dal (United) who is heading the state government with the support of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), shows his policy of mobilizing the Mahadalits, as he calls the more marginalized Dalit castes such as Nat, Dhobi and Mushahar, by giving them special government support has paid dividends as they have shifted to him from the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Left parties which were their earlier patrons. In addition, the process of communalization of Dalits at the grass roots by the Hindutva forces, or the Hindu way, also seems to be succeeding as shown by the victory of the BJP in several places. Thus, the results break the myth that the Dalits of Bihar prefer to go with radical emancipatory forces rather than with rightist forces.

In the case of Uttar Pradesh, the sarvajan politics of chief minister Mayawati to bring the Brahmin and Dalit votes together is yet to mature, though it seems to be working to some extent, as seen by a slight increase in the number of seats won by her Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). However, the success of the Congress and an increase in the BJP’s seat tally in UP is a warning for Mayawati that the Dalits cannot be taken for granted. Although the success of the Congress might not rest only on Dalit votes, as the Muslims too have voted for it, Mayawati should take this as a sign that the card of identity politics she was playing in this state is losing its importance.

In states such as Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, although the BSP has achieved some success, the Dalits are yet to emerge as as a powerful political voice.

In Maharashtra, the results show that the Dalits have not been able to develop a separate political space. The success of the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party implies that the Dalits are divided between these parties. Similar is the case in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, where no separate Dalit party or BSP has been electorally successful.

The election results show that there is a big question mark on Mayawati being a potential prime ministerial candidate, a role that will require her to attract a major percentage of combined Dalit votes in addition to other castes. The diminished importance of regional parties and the rise of the national parties in these elections is also a sign that smaller parties such as the BSP need to develop more aggressive electoral strategies.

Badri Narayan is senior faculty member at the GB Pant Social Science Institute, Allahabad.

http://www.livemint.com/2009/05/18001833/Dalitcentric-parties-may-need.html?h=B

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Dalit Voice, May 2009

Bangalore: At the April 2, 2009 G-20 summit in London, whenever the BBC referred to India it was called the “world’s largest democracy”. BBC like all Western institutions is also anti-China. And to spite China, they praise India. May be they get a vicarious pleasure out of it. Fine.

But we the Untouchables of India (20%) know what type of democracy is practised here.

The recent parliament election in April — and the periodical elections to state legislatures and other sundry elections — are India’s only argument to claim that India is a democracy.

Caste As Sole Criterion


Elections have become a big business. We have many elections to a variety of bodies: zilla parishad, panchayat, taluk board, legislative council, Rajya Sabha, cooperative institutions etc.

We found a very sound argument to discredit Indian elections as a barometer of democracy in the just published book, Wars, Guns & Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places, by Paul Collier, an academic economist (Harper Collins, 2009, pp.277, $30).

The recent parliament elections proved that every party selected candidates only on the basis of caste which became the sole criterion for selection, plus the candidate’s ability to spend money. Can this be called democracy?

Many parliament elections have been held — one worse than the other. Genuine people’s representatives can never get elected. They lack the right jati and the strength of money. Plus the right political connections.

Our Khatri Sikh PM, Manmohan Singh, is called a “good man” by the upper caste rulers. But even such a “good man” cannot get elected even to the country’s lowest elected post: a panchayat. The masses of people of India simply do not know him.

Even if you have the right jati and the Big Money, when your supporters go to the polling booth, your votes are already cast by the rowdies employed by your opponent.

In the words of G.K. Galbraith India is a “functioning anarchy”. It is not a functioning democracy.

Permanent Upper Caste Rule


In Karnataka, the Lingayats and Vokkaligas — the two dominant upper castes — permanently rule. The overwhelming majority of “lower castes” have no say.

“If democracy means little more than elections, it is damaging to the reform process”, Paul Collier says. He is right. Elections in India is nothing but caste power and money power — plus gangsterism. Such elections can retard rather than advance a country’s progress, he warns.

The worst sufferers are the Muslims (15%) and Christians (2.5%) who can never get elected. These two sections have suffered under this great Indian “democracy”.

Dalit representatives can get elected only from the “reserved constituencies” in which only the puppet of an upper caste landlord is set up. A Dalit who challenges the upper caste hegemony will never be selected. And if he contests as an independent he will be put down.

Every candidate, irrespective of his party, concentrates his attention mainly on the densely populated urban slums — where the poorest Indians, Dalits and Muslims live — but always ignore the fashionable upper caste localities. But once a candidate gets elected he never visits the slums but always found in the company of upper caste rich who never go to vote. How can this be democracy?

Indian electoral system is totally corrupt and loaded against the over 85% of the oppressed castes and communities.

Still India is praised as the “world’s largest democracy” to spite China which has better democracy than what it is in India, according to Jaya Prakash Narayan (JP).

Source:

http://www.dalitvoice.org/Templates/may2009/reports.htm

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SACHAR COMMITTEE REPORT

There have been demands for the entire Muslim community to be categorized as a backward class, ignoring the internal differences among Muslims — exactly what the report probes by looking at the question of caste, which has long being dismissed by elite Muslims.

Arshad Alam

One of the important ways in which democracy is measured has to do with ways in which democratic societies treat their minorities. The democratic index of any society therefore, should not only encapsulate legal protection of minority rights but should also enable those conditions that facilitate the participation of minorities in public life. The Sachar Committee Report is one such document, which highlights that the Indian state has not kept its promise to its largest minority, the Muslims.

This is certainly not the only or the first instance when the Indian state has been reminded of dereliction of its duty towards Muslims. The Gopal Singh Committee Report, 1983, and the findings of the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) from 1990s onwards have been grim reminders of the educational and economic conditions of Indian Muslims. Only time will tell if the Sachar Report will meet the same shelved fate as the Gopal Singh Report did.

However, given the enormous interest that this report generated in both the media and the public at large, one hopes that some policy decisions will be made on the basis of the report once the new government is sworn in. We saw some action through the PM’s fifteen-point program for minorities, the establishment of Ministry of Minority Affairs and talk of separate budgetary allocations for Muslims. Without sounding cynical, one hopes that such newfound sensitivity of the government outlasts the election results.

However, it is disconcerting to note that much of the debate since the publication of the Report has made the case that ‘Muslims as a whole’ are a marginalized community. In other words, the debate about the ‘Muslim condition in India’ has neglected the state of internal differences among the Indian Muslims. As a result, the debate on Sachar Committee has been silent about internal inequality among Muslims and consequently about the unequal access of various Muslim castes and classes to the state’s resources.

This debate has been adequately matched by a demand for Muslim reservation by a section of Muslim leadership. They argue that the data provided by the Sachar Report qualifies the entire Muslim community to be categorized as a backward class. It follows from this argument that, as has been the practice for ameliorating the socio-economic conditions of backward classes, a certain percentage be earmarked for Muslims in the state’s resources. Largely coming from upper caste Muslims, this demand is hardly new. Similar demands have been heard before even in the 1990s. The publication of the Sachar Committee Report has seen renewed articulation of these demands.

What is, however, different now is that the considerable media interest that the Report generated has created favourable conditions for widespread, and often sympathetic, dissemination of such a Muslim demand for a separate quota. Also the demand during the 1990s did not have any sound empirical study to back up the assertion of Muslim backwardness. Today, those who demand Muslim reservations have something to wave in their hands. They claim that Sachar Report has only confirmed what they had known for long.

A closer look at the Sachar Report, however, tells another story altogether. In fact the Sachar Report is one of the few documents which has brought out the internal differences within the Indian Muslims in much detail. The data presented in the Report resists any attempt to homogenize the Muslims as one backward mass of people. Rather, it points out that sociologically Muslims are varied and that there are layers of marginalisation within the Muslim society.

One of the important dimensions along which Sachar Report probes the internal differences among Muslims is by looking at the question of caste, which has long being dismissed by elite Muslims as alien to Muslims despite increasing sociological evidence to the contrary. It is interesting to look at the findings of Sachar Committee on caste differences among Muslims and what it means to their location in the economic and educational sector.

The Report distinguishes four caste groups within the Indian Muslims:

* Those claiming foreign descent such as the Saiyyids, Sheikhs, Pathans and Mughals
* Those Muslims who are converts from the high caste Hindus
* The middle caste converts whose occupation are considered ritually clean and
* The converts from the erstwhile untouchable castes.

The Report then collapses these four divisions in two categories:

* The Ashrafs and
* The Ajlafs.

Ashrafs, which means ‘noble’, includes all Muslims who claim to be of foreign descent. It also includes converts from high caste Hindus. They are the upper caste Muslims in India.

The second category of Ajlafs, meaning degraded, comprises of ‘ritually clean’ occupational groups and low caste Hindu converts to Islam. They are the low Muslim castes of Ansaris, Butchers, etc and primarily make up the bulk of Muslim OBCs.

(It must be mentioned here that the Report, following the Census of 1901, also talks of another Muslim category called Arjal (which means of no use), who are coverts to Islam from ex-untouchable castes but still continue to follow ‘unclean’ occupations. However, for the purpose of analysis and also because the population of Arjal Muslims is very low, the Report clubs it together with the Ajlafs.)

Chapter X of the Sachar Report gives the position of Muslim OBCs and compares its socio-economic profile with that of the upper caste Muslims or General Muslims. Let us look at some of the comparative findings:

Education: The literacy rate of Muslim OBC is 62 percent, which compares unfavourably with General Muslims at 66 percent and Hindu OBC at 65 percent. Thus there are more number of illiterates within the Muslim OBC category as compared to the other two. Similarly General Muslims by far outnumber Muslim OBCs in terms of access to higher education.

Employment and Economy: 9.2 percent Muslim OBCs are unemployed as compared 7.7 percent of General Muslims and 7.5 percent Hindu OBCs, thus making it the highest category in terms of unemployment. In both rural and urban areas, unemployment rate is highest for Muslim OBC. In terms of their respective shares in formal sector, the Muslim OBCs are at a mere 3.4 percent, while General Muslim are at 6percent in rural areas. For the urban areas the figures read 3.5 percent and 7 percent respectively. The marginalized situation of Muslim OBCs is also reflected in the fact that a much smaller proportion of worker in this category are engaged in regular wage/salaried jobs, especially in the urban areas. Thus while only 20.4 percent Muslim OBCs are employed in regular wage/salaried jobs, the figures for General Muslims are 31.2 percent and it is 36.4 percent for Hindu OBCs. It is noteworthy that Muslim OBC employees receive salaries that are significantly lower than General Muslims and Hindu OBC. The Report also points out that Muslim OBCs are poorer than General Muslims and that their monthly per capita expenditure is the least among all the three categories. Moreover, within the Muslims, a larger percentage of Muslim OBCs fall in the low-income category as compared to General Muslims.

Representation: In public employment, except for central security agencies, Muslim OBCs lag behind General Muslims and Hindu OBCs. Thus in Railways there are 4.5 percent General Muslims as compared to mere 0.4 percent Muslim OBCs. In Central Public Sector Undertakings, Muslim OBCs similarly have a meager presence of 0.6 percent while General Muslims comprise 2.7 percent of the workforce. And in universities, in both teaching and non-teaching staff the General Muslims are far ahead than OBC Muslims. Poor representation of Muslims in public employment has been touted as one of the main reasons for demanding Muslim reservation. It is important to recognize, however, that Muslim OBCs are much more marginalized than the General Muslims. Moreover, as the Report itself points out, it is not just Muslims, but even Hindu OBCs are under-represented, although it rightly points out that Muslim OBCs are nearly absent from the higher echelons of public services.

The above facts culled from the Report makes it amply clear that there are different levels of marginalization within the Muslim community. Muslim OBCs are much more marginalized as compared to General Muslims as well Hindu OBCs. But the extent of Muslim OBC deprivation is perhaps not fully captured by the Sachar Report due to its own methodological limitations. According to the Report, based on 61st round of NSS survey, Muslim OBCs account for 41 percent of the total Muslim population while General Muslims are 51 percent. However, this cannot be considered accurate since the Report itself makes it clear the above calculation is based on self reporting data and hence is contingent upon a number of factors, more importantly on the self perception of the respondent. It is for this reason that the percentage of OBCs has fluctuated from 32 percent in 1999-2000 to the present level of 41 percent in 2004.

There are some genuine problems with this figure of 41 percent. For one it is nearly 10 percent short of the Mandal Commission estimate. Moreover, if one looks closely at the tables provided by the Sachar Report, it is clear that in two states having considerable Muslim population — Bengal and Assam — the OBC Muslim population is only 3 percent of the states’ total Muslim population. This is simply inconceivable. Let’s take the case of Bengal as an example. Studies have shown that Muslim presence in this region has been a result of conversions from low caste Hindus. Over a period of time, the process of Ashrafization, akin to Sanskritization among Hindus, has seen many of these low Muslim castes taking on caste titles of upper Muslim castes. The most common group to which Ashrafizing low Muslim castes joined was the Sheikhs, making this social category very numerous and fluid. Thus in the Census of 1872, the total Muslim population of Bengal was 17.6 million, out of which only 232,189 were returned as Sheikhs. However, by 1901, out of a total Muslim population of over 21.5 million, 19.5 million were returned as Sheikhs! Partly due to the way the upper caste Muslims have been defined in the Sachar Report, the caste of Sheikhs has been included among the category called General Muslims. This means that numerous low caste Muslims are treated in the Report as belonging to upper caste or General Muslim category. It is for this reason that OBC Muslims in Bengal constitute only 3 percent of Muslim population while in reality they would constitute the overwhelming majority of Muslim population in Bengal.

And this is not the case in Bengal alone. Sociological common sense regards that lower caste Muslims or the Ajlafs constitute roughly 75-80 percent of the total Muslim population in India, an estimate which is also backed by various OBC organizations

Now with this ratio in mind, if we revisit the data provided by the Sachar Report, it becomes clear that the deprivation levels of Muslim OBCs far exceed that compiled by Sachar Report. Thus with this ratio in mind, poverty, unemployment, etc will be more acute for the lower caste Muslims. And this is just one aspect of the problem. The other is that the category of General Muslims will not appear as under-represented and deprived as it is made out to be by some Muslim intellectuals and politicians. If one computes the Ajlaf-Ashraf distribution at the ratio of 80:20 percent, then the Ashrafs/General Muslims would roughly comprise 4.5 percent of the population of the country. And it becomes amply clear that in terms of representation in public sector etc., they are not as marginalized as they appear at first sight in the Report. The real story of Sachar Report then is not that Muslims as a whole are marginalized but that OBC Muslims are the most deprived and under-represented category when compared to Hindu OBCs and General Muslims.

Ironically enough then, the Report which is one of the few documents which brings out internal caste differentiation among Indian Muslims, is being cited to bolster claims of Muslim reservation. Primarily driven by the Ashraf elite, such a demand of Muslim reservation rests on bogus claims that hardly get substantiated through the data present in the Sachar Report. If the demand of Muslim reservation is met due to political exigencies, then a handful of well-placed Muslims will corner all the benefits to the detriment of Muslim OBCs. Moreover, there is a real danger that the gains that have accrued to certain OBC Muslim castes through their inclusion in the Mandal Commission list will be nullified in the long run.

The question then is: What can be done to ameliorate the conditions of low caste Muslims? It is a canard spread by the elite Muslims that being classified as OBCs hasn’t helped the lower caste Muslims at all. On the contrary, it is only through their inclusion in the OBC category that we are able to see even the marginal presence of Ajlaf Muslims in public representation. But there is a need to strengthen this process. The Sachar Report makes it amply clear that it is very difficult for Muslim OBCs to compete with their Hindu counterparts. According to their own estimates, Muslim OBCs comprise 15 percent of the total OBC population (although the percentage is much higher) of the country, which is nowhere reflected in terms of their representation. There is therefore an urgent need to think of strategies that may lead to the betterment of socio-economic conditions of the most deprived section of Muslims.

In terms of existing policy framework, two things can be done. The first is to do away with the existing anomalies in the OBC lists both at the Central and the state levels. According to the Sachar Report, there are a number of Muslim castes, which have not been included in the central list. For example in Madhya Pradesh, 10 Muslim castes have not been included in the Central OBC list, in Bihar 17 such castes have not been included and so on. Moreover, there are also various low Muslim castes whose names do not figure either in the central or the state list. In Gujarat, for example, the People of India project found 85 Muslim communities out of which 76 were non-Ashrafs. However, in the Central list only 22 have been included while in the state list only 27 groups are included. Similarly in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh there are a number of Ajlaf groups who have been left out of the purview of affirmative action. Inclusion of such groups will go a long way in ameliorating the present pitiable condition of Muslim OBCs.

The second measure, which should be pursued simultaneously with the first, should consider bi-furcating the Central OBC list into OBC and MBC (Most Backward Classes) category, as is the practice in many states like Bihar. After empirically verifying the extent of deprivation of particular Muslim castes within the overall OBC quota, they can be placed in the MBC list, thus giving them a more level playing field.

http://www.outlookindia.com/full.asp?fodname=20090417&fname=arshad&sid=1&pn=4

Courtesy:
Mr Khalid Anis Ansari

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Dear IDMV Members,

I would like to request you all to work on and help me out with the following matters:

1. We are trying to make a complete directory of contacts of those associated with Dalit /OBC Muslims issues for which we are looking for certain contact details as listed below, of Dalit/OBC Muslims writers, NGOs, Social workers working on Dalit cause specially Dalit Muslims :

i) Complete Mailing Address
ii) Telephone / mobile numbers
iii) Fax No.
iv) E-mail ids/ website Address

2) It will be appreciated if you can take effort in providing us with the details about several Books, Magazine and other Literature dealing with Dalit Muslims problems and the contact details of such writers and publications.

The idea is to have a collective source of all sorts of information that pertains to Dalit and poverty struck people with more emphasis on Dalit and Backward section of Muslim society so that the same resources can be circulated among us to share views, ideas, news and other information on a constructive day to day basis.

3) We created this blog www.dalitmuslims.com to stand as a voice against the atrocities of Upper caste and negligence of government towards the forgotten and secluded part of Muslim society.

Let us profusely and openhandedly contribute to this blog on all the cruelty and extremity carried on Dalit Muslims and the violation of Human rights and fundamental rights and discrimination meted out to poor and Dalit/OBC Muslims.

4) With all respect to everyone’s experience and intelligence, we would like to have your suggestions to evolve a common agenda (manifesto) for forming common policy and strategies for a much needed all round upliftment of Dalit Muslims.

5) Let us join our hands to work and strive for unity among all Dalits irrespective of their religion for a better and a more visible result.

Let us ensure that Dalit/Poverty stricken people of either caste, religion etc. are not exploited/ used and abused by the upper caste especially ruling caste people.

6) Political empowerment for Dalit Muslims/OBC Muslims is need of the hour. And for that to happen we have to ensure their representation in various Commission, Govt. Organization, and Various Muslim Organization.
Secular parties should be approached to give tickets to them so that their voices can be heard on a stronger note in the corridor of power. Emphasis should be given on due representation of Dalit Muslim in all respect and in all walk of life.

7) We have to together work hard and strive persistently for getting reservation for Dalit Muslim/ OBC Muslim separately. The Centre as well as State Govt. should be forced to amend constitution and pass legislation.

A clear and strong stand should be followed on the Reservation issue. Neither we should be confused and misguided nor should others be made to believe the false argument of Unity among Muslim against reservation for Dalits. It should be clear that the foundation of Unity does not exist at all when a major chunk of people suffer from socio-economic, educational and political backwardness. These issues are sensitive and should not be compromised on.

8) Reservation shall not be a long struggle, as it was till now provided all Dalit Muslim/OBC Muslim writers come on common platform accompanied by other Dalit (Hindu/ Buddhist/Christians) writers as all Dalits sail in the same boat of suffering and discrimination. So far the efforts and service of Dalit writers/ OBC writers have been very appreciative but we need to increase the pace.

9) There is an urgent need to form a Body forum to make sure that Dalit muslims/ OBC Muslims’ rights are not violated or ignored either by Society (upper caste) or by Governmental machinery. Dalit Muslim should have a Forum/platform to ventilate their grievance very loudly and effectively.

10) Since we are working for a noble cause which shall continue for ages together to attain completeness, let us also work for communal harmony, terrorism & left-wing extremism and all sort of violence as it’s our nation and us in the end to be affected by these entire disturbances.

11) We have to work hard to force all state Governments and Central Governments for formulating policies concerning Reservation to all Dalits, extended to all Dalits irrespective of their religious obligation. Hence, Dalit Muslim and Dalit Christian are included in the list too.

12) Reminding the State on a consistent basis on all the basic and fundamental rights denied to unfortunate Dalits like:

(1) Education
(2) Health
(3) Employment
(4) Right to live a dignified life.

All the faulty and favored policy for ruling/ upper caste should be disclosed in order to secure Dalis rights. Dalits have been marginalized by systematic discrimination and elimination. A great conspiracy has been done against all Dalit to deny justice to them.

13)We have to ensure happenings of programmes and policy on part of the Central as well as State Govt. for social and economic developments of Dalit Muslim / OBC Muslims. Which include their

(1) Education
(2) Health
(3) Livelihood
(4) Poverty alleviation
(5) Housing and other basic amenities by honestly implementing Govt. policy/ Plan meant for Dalit.

14) We have to really work hard for getting due representation of Dalit Muslim/ OBC Muslim in Police, Para-military force and Armed force and above all administration.

This will be a great help to nation, as this will strengthen our social fabric and as well as will act as an exercise towards building confidence among minorities.

15) We have to strive hard for forcing political parties to make comprehensive plan for implementation of recommendations of Sachar Committee and Shri Rangnath Mishra Commission report without any further delay. As we all know nothing concrete has been done so far by Govt. as far as these two committees reports are concerned.

16) We have to develop certain devices and mechanism to act as Watch-Dog on recruitment for jobs in all sort of organizations and subsequently end discrimination in this matter. Private Companies / Enterprises should be approached to provide due share to backward classes. An eye should also be kept on disbursement of various economic schemes to reach Dalit Muslim which is lacking so far.

17) Certain special plans should be chalked out to end educational backwardness of the Dalit Muslim/ OBC Muslim in particular and minority community in general.

18) There is a need to initiate a drive against all negative ‘ism’. Nepotism is one of the menaces to be fought especially in politics & Govt. job. They have to be fought for the benefit of all. We should device ways and means for this; your valuable suggestions in this regard will be very helpful.

19) We can take up corruption at large, as it is so rampant and pervasive in our society. Opinion is to be mobilized to take black money and money in foreign banks.

20) At present, in this socio-economic & political scenario, we have to inspire and motivate Dalit Muslim to believe that the panacea is hard work and good education. We have to forget and give up crying on our unending limitations like poverty and illiteracy rather we have to grab every possible opportunity or create them, if needed in order to survive in this struggle for a better life. At all cost, we must have access to good education, health and Rozghar. These all might be difficult to achieve given the high price of living and cunning manipulation of the system to favour upper / ruling caste but the faith should always go on.

Last, but not the least, we are grateful to all those who are campaigning for the cause of Dalits and poverty ridden people and especially Dalit Muslims. We appreciate all such individual efforts and look forward to unite them in a single strong collective force.

We are even grateful to Mr. Yoginder Sikand, Mr. V.T. Rajshekhar (Chief Editor) D.V. Banglore, Mr. Khalid Anis Ansari, Mr. Ashok Yadav, Mr. Irshadul Haque, Prof. Imtiaz Ahmad, Mr. Tanvir Salim, Mr. Kasheef (Editor – TwoCircles.net), Prof. Ram Puniani, Mr. Arun Khote, Mr. Masood Ahmed Falahi, Mr. Altaf Ahmed, Adv. Irfan Engg., Dr. A.A. Enggineer and many-many other who have already contributed generously to this blog and we are very sure this missionary zeal to fight injustice will continue in future, may be with a more strong and fast pace.

Thanks & Best Regards,
Mohammad Shahanshah Ansari
Indian Dalit Muslims Voice
Jeddah, Saudi
E-mail: shahanshah.java.@gmail.com
http://www.dalitmuslims.com

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By V.T Rajshekar & Yoginder Sikand

Countercurrents.org

V.T.Rajshekar is the editor of the Bangalore-based English fortnightly ‘Dalit Voice’. Here he speaks to Yoginder Sikand on various aspects of the Dalit movement and about Dalit-Muslim Relations.

Q: You have been arguing that the Dalit movement should aim at the strengthening of caste identities, instead of the abolition of caste, in order to do away with caste oppression. Can you explain what exactly you mean by this?

A: I have not propounded a new thesis. This argument is based on my understanding of caste dynamics in India. Each caste or jati is an identity by itself, and I believe that unless caste identities are strengthened, caste oppression cannot be effectively challenged. Now, the ‘upper’ caste Brahminical elites argue that we are promoting ‘casteism’ by stressing our own caste identities. They sometimes say that caste should be abolished, but of course they are not sincere about this. They want to preserve their own caste identities and their own hegemony, while demanding that the ‘lower’ castes, who form the vast majority of the Indian population, should forget their identities. They want us to submerge ourselves into the so-called ‘Hindu’ community, of which they presume to be the natural leaders and spokesmen. In this way, by Hinduising the Dalits they want to preserve their hegemony, which they see being increasingly challenged by radical Dalits, Tribals and Backward Castes, who refuse to be considered as Hindus. In actual fact, we are not Hindus at all, so why should we forget our identities and choose to be identified as ‘Hindus’?

Look at the Afro-Americans in America. They are challenging white hegemony, not by denying their blackness, but precisely by stressing it, by cultivating pride in being black. This is also what we in the Dalit movement in India are trying to do. We need to strengthen our own caste identities in order to counter casteism or caste oppression. We have to take pride in being Dalits. We have to proudly say that we are Chamars, Malas, Yadavs or whatever. We have to recover our own histories, our own stories of struggling against Brahminical oppression, our memories of our own historical contributions. That’s what Mayavati seeks to do, for instance, when she begins her speeches at rallies with the slogan: ‘Mai Chamari Hoon, Mai Tumhari Hoon’ (‘I am a Chamar and I am yours’).

Any community which forgets its past, its identity, is doomed to slavery. This is exactly what the Brahminical elites want when they say that Dalits should cease to identify as Dalits, and should, instead, consider themselves simply as ‘Hindus’. They want the Dalits to hate themselves, which is what all the Brahminical scriptures teach, so that we can never take pride in our identities and thereby challenge Brahminical oppression.

Q: But wouldn’t the strengthening of the identity of each Dalit jati lead to a weakening of the Dalit movement as a whole?

A: Not really. To the contrary, it would help cement inter-caste unity among the Dalits in the long run. You see, the Dalits are not a single category. There are hundreds of different Dalit castes, each with its own history, their own identity. At the village level no one identifies himself or herself as a Dalit. Rather, he or she would say that she is a Mala, a Madiga, a Chamar, a Ravidasi or whatever. So, there is really no such thing as a Dalit identity in that sense, and so it is wrong to think that strengthening the identity of each Dalit jati would lead to a fracturing of an overall Dalit identity.

My argument is that unless each jati among the Dalits gets its due share in accordance with its population, the Dalit movement will not be able to manage the question of inter-jati relations among the Dalits as a whole. It’s like a wheel with many cogs and links, and unless each cog and link is well oiled, the wheel itself will not be able to move. My thesis has been opposed by some Dalits, who accuse me of trying to divide the Dalit movement. But such opposition generally comes from people who belong to those Dalit castes who have gained much more than other Dalit castes from reservations in government services for the Dalits, and who use this argument of a single, homogenous Dalit identity to deny such benefits to other, weaker Dalit groups. Thus, for instance, in Andhra Pradesh, the Malas gained much more than the Madigas from reservations for Dalits. The Madigas rightly saw that the Malas were using the cover of a unified Dalit identity to garner these benefits for themselves. We in ‘Dalit Voice’ supported the demand of the Madigas, for which we had to face considerable opposition from the Mala elites. So, as I see it, the stressing of jati identities works particularly in favour of the smaller and weaker Dalit jatis.

Q: Some people might argue that reinforcing jati identities of the Dalits, as you propose, would only further reinforce the structures of caste oppression and hierarchy. How do you look at this argument?

A: When I say that we must strengthen our caste identities, I don’t say we should do it simply for its own sake, but, rather, in order to challenge caste oppression. Jatis form the bedrock of Indian society and cannot be done away with. So, recognizing this basic sociological fact, what I say is that while each jati must preserve its own identity, the basic principle that governs inter-caste relations must be overturned. In Hinduism, which is simply another name for caste oppression, relations between the different jatis are governed on the basis of the principle of social hierarchy, with the Brahmins at the top and the Dalits at the bottom. What we say is that this hierarchy must be torn down, and that the relations between the different jatis should be on the basis of egalitarianism. All jatis should be considered equal, and each should have its share of power and wealth on the basis of its numerical strength. So, the Brahmins, who form just 3 % of India’s population, should have 3% of its resources, while the so-called ‘lower’ castes, who form almost 80% of the population, should control 80% of the resources. But, today you have a situation where the Brahmins and other ‘upper’ castes control well over 80% of the country’s resources, and this is sanctified by the Hindu religion! That is why we say that Hinduism or Brahminism is a form of sanctified racism.

Q: Some might argue that strengthening jati identities might result simply in the creation of new Dalit elites who claim to speak on behalf of their jatis, with the conditions of the oppressed among the Dalits remaining unchanged. How would you react to this argument?

A: It is true that within each Dalit caste, particularly among the numerically larger and politically more influential castes such as the Chamars in north India, you do have the emergence of a small elite class. Now, the problem of class differences and exploitation within the Dalits, or for instance, the question of gender oppression among the Dalits, is a very real one. But our argument is that we need to focus all our attention on tackling what we call the ‘principal contradiction’-which is Brahminical hegemony and oppression. Once that issue is successfully tackled we can address what we see as ‘minor contradictions’, such as class divisions or gender oppression within the Dalit fold.

Q: What implications does your theory of caste identity have for Dalit politics?

A: I believe that the strengthening of Dalit identities is crucial in order for the Dalits to capture political power. If you see the results of the recent elections, for instance, the defeat of the BJP owes, to a large extent, to the mobilization of Dalit caste identity in opposition to Hindutva, which the Dalits are increasingly realizing is nothing else but Brahminical fascism. Dalits and Backward Castes now feel that they must have their own political parties, for the other parties, whether the Congress, the BJP or the Communists, are all controlled by the ‘upper’ caste Hindu minority. And in order for Dalit-Bahujan political assertion to be strengthened it is imperative that we stress our own jati identities.

Q: You have also been arguing that religious conversion is a must for the Dalits in order to challenge Brahminical oppression. At the same time you admit that caste identities remain intact even after Dalits convert to other religions. What then is the role or meaning of conversion?

A: Religious conversion remains a potent weapon to challenge ‘upper’ caste oppression. This is what the unchallenged leader of the Dalit revolution, Babasaheb Ambedkar, himself insisted. He argued, and correctly so, that conversion to any egalitarian religion was indispensable for Dalit liberation, for Hinduism, which is based on the caste system, cannot give them equality and self-respect. Ambedkar himself converted to Buddhism with several thousands of his followers. But Buddhism is just one alternative for the Dalits. For any disease you have a variety of cures. Likewise, to cure the disease of casteism, Dalits can try out various religious alternatives, such as Buddhism, Islam, Sikhism or Christianity, depending on local conditions.

Q: But what about the stigma of caste that continues to remain with the converts even after their conversion to non-Hindu religions?

A: Caste is an identity like a tribal or ethnic identity, and so naturally it remains even after conversion. My point is not that one’s caste identity does or should disappear after conversion. That is quite impossible. It is also true that caste discrimination continues even after conversion. However, it is important to note that the severity of caste discrimination is considerably much less in the case of Christians and Muslims, because their religions, unlike Hinduism, do not sanction caste, and are fiercely egalitarian in their social ethics. This is why for more than a thousand years Dalits have been converting to Islam and Christianity in search of self-respect and a better social status. This explains why the vast majority of Muslims and Christians in India are descended from Dalit and other ‘low’ caste converts. Some of the most radical challenges to caste oppression have come from Dalit converts.

Q: You stress the need for Dalit-Muslim unity, but, as the recent events in Gujarat so tragically illustrate, this project is yet to take off. How do you look at the issue in the light of the Gujarat pogroms in which Dalits were used to attack and kill Muslims on a massive scale?

A: I believe that the torching of the train carriage in Godhra might well have been the handiwork of Hindutva fascists themselves, as some newspaper reports have argued. They used this event as an excuse to unleash a terrible massacre of Muslims all over Gujarat. For this purpose they employed the Dalits and Tribals, as they have been repeatedly been doing in several other pogroms euphemistically termed as ‘communal riots’. They succeeded in using the Dalits and Tribals because of years of propaganda work among them, trying to Hinduise them and instilling in them a fierce hatred of Muslims. In this way, the ‘upper’ caste elites sought to set their own major enemies-the Dalits and the Muslims-against each other.

Now, despite this, or, you could say, precisely because of this, we insist on the need for Dalit-Muslim unity. Hindutva, or Brahminical fascism, is aimed at the enslavement not only of the Muslims and Christians, but also of the Dalits, Backward Castes and Tribals-in short of all peoples other than the ‘upper’ caste Hindus. That is why we strongly urge that we must all unite against ‘upper’ caste rule.

Q: How have Muslim leaders responded to your proposal for Dalit-Muslim unity?

A: Dalit-Muslim unity is warmly welcomed by the Muslim masses, who are mostly of Dalit origin themselves. However, the Muslim elites, especially from the north Indian ‘cow-belt’, are quite opposed to this. They see this as a major threat to their own claims to lead the community. So, they pay lip sympathy to our demand for Dalit-Muslim unity, but when it comes to political choices, they often join hands with the Congress or the BJP or other such ‘upper’ caste Hindu-led parties simply in order to suit their own vested interests. Take the case of the self-styled Shahi Imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid. He initially supported the Congress, but just before the recent elections he declared his support for the BJP and appealed to Muslims for vote for it. However, the Muslim masses are now increasingly politically aware and conscious, which explains why in the Jama Masjid area most Muslims voted for the Congress, instead of the BJP, despite the Imam’s support for the latter. As I see it, the Muslim masses are growing increasingly disillusioned with the politics of the Muslim elites, and sooner or later they will realize the need to dump them and join hands with other oppressed groups such as the Dalits, Backward Castes and Tribals.

Q: In this regard, how do you see the role of sections of the ‘ulama and of certain Islamic groups that are hostile to Dalit-Muslim unity, and who seem to imagine all non-Muslims, Dalits included, as being by definition, what they call ‘enemies of Islam’?

A: Yes, some sections of the ‘ulama do probably feel this way, although they have never said this to me directly. I would agree with you when you say that this is a major obstacle in the path of building unity between Dalits and the Muslim masses. Personally, I feel this is a distorted understanding of Islam, for my own reading of the Qur’an tells me that Islam insists on the need for Muslims to struggle for the liberation of all oppressed peoples, irrespective of their religion. I feel that the sort of exclusivist interpretations of Islam that you have mentioned are voiced particularly by organizations that are heavily dependent on Saudi funds. The Saudis have a vested interest in promoting such a distorted understanding of Islam. But today the oppressive Saudi rulers, who have been able to survive all these years only because of their close ties with western imperialists, are themselves under grave threat, and I think it won’t be long before they are overthrown by internal opponents.

To come back to your point about such exclusivist understandings of Islam that stand in the way of unity between Dalits and the Muslim masses, I must say that Muslim leaders, including the ‘ulama of the madrasas, have only a very superficial understanding of caste, Brahminism and Indian social history. That’s why they do not properly appreciate the need for Dalit-Muslim unity. That explains why when we talk about the need for oppressed Muslims to challenge the hegemony of elite Muslims we are dubbed by some elite Muslims as agents working to divide the Muslims from within! That is the same argument used by Hindutva-walas, who accuse us of dividing the Hindus on the basis of caste. So, on the whole, I would say that when elite Muslims speak about the need for Dalit-Muslim unity very often they are hardly serious about it. They are not willing to critique caste oppression within the Muslim fold, to interrogate the notion of the ‘ummah’ as a seamless monolith, and to recognize the existence of caste, class and gender oppression within the larger Muslim community itself.

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The book review is by Dr. Ausaf Ahmad.

Social stratification of Indian Muslims along caste lines, is by now no secret. It is well known and recognized. It is true that Islam as a religion and a social philosophy does not recognize caste distinctions ( compared to some other Asian religions where caste is integral to their philosophical outlook), but,Muslims are not a socially homogenous group in any part of the world. However, the perception that Islam gives birth to a sociologically monolithic ideological group remained a hindrance in correct understanding of Muslim societies for a long time although many Muslim groups in India belonging to lower stratum of Muslim societies such as Momin Ansar and Jameeat Raeen etc. had organized themselves, at least politically. Now, even lesser known Biradaries such as Salmani Biradari, Idrisi biradari etc have organized themselves.

Although, elite Muslim leadership have always claimed that Muslims in India are a homogenous cultural group and thus, worthy of a separate political deal, existence of different social and cultural groups amongst Indian Muslims has always been recognized at the cultural and literary levels. Famous Satirical Urdu Poet, Akbbar Allahabadi used to denote common Muslims by the names like Budhdhoo, Jumman, Shabrati, Ramzani etc. In contrast, the persons of high caste were referred to with the names of Sayyed, Mirza, etc.
Mirza ghareeb chup hain in ki kitab raddi
Budhdhoo akad rahe hain Sahab ne yeh kaha hai.
[Translation: Mirza (a high caste Muslim) is depressed as his book has been discarded. Budhdhu takes pride in the sayings of English man.[
or
Council mein bahut se saiyyed, masjid mein faqat Jumman
[Translation: There are many a high caste people in the council, but in the mosque, there is only one , Jumman, (a low caste Muslim).
The book under review , Basic Problems of OBC and Dalit Muslims is a collection of essays on various dimensions of OBC and Dalit Muslim problem edited by Mr. Ashfaq Husain Ansari who has been a member of Indian Parliament, (seventh Lok Sabha), and President of Backward Muslims of India and First U.P. State Backward Classes Commission. Mr. Ansari is a social activist for the cause of Backward Muslims but with a difference. He is an activist with an intellectual bent, deeply interested in theoretical positions and analytical results. This book can be presented as a proof in support of this claim.

This collection of essays has been divided into three parts: Part I contains 18 contributions from different authors, activists, journalists and chroniclers etc. Part II contains seven essays written by the editor himself, while Part III is a reproduction of a “thin volume” published earlier by the editor. This part also contains nine different contributions on different aspects of the issue at hand. Naturally, the first part constitutes the core of the book. It contains contributions from Imtiaz Ahmad, Madhu Limay, Nadeem Hasnain, Praful Bidwai, Swami Agnivesh and Walson Thampa, D. Raja, Ashok Yadav, Udit Raj, Dilip Karanth, Shamsul Islam, Sayyid Hamid, Sharad Yadav, Iqbal Ansari, Anwar Ali and the editor himself. This is quiet a heterogeneous list and any volume which contains contributions from all these people is also bound to be heterogeneous. It contains analytical pieces from scholars like Imtiaz Ahmad and Nadeem Hasnain. These contributions are more analytical. Written in a scholarly manner, they fulfill all technical requirements of academic writings. These things may not be noticeable in the contributions of a more journalistic nature. Some of these journalistic contributions have been collected from different news magazines and newspapers. Generally speaking, journalistic writings are more dated than the academic writings as they are responses to specific socio-political and historical stimuli. Hence, the editor would have done better if he had also given the date of publication of the contribution. This would have helped the reader to anticipate the circumstances which would have warranted this response. This would have made the collection more useful.

It is usually agreed that Islam has no place for caste based distinctions. There is no superiority of one adherent over the other except by the way of piety. The Prophet (pbuh) is reported to have declared in his last sermon, “The whites have no superiority over the Blacks nor the Blacks have any superiority over the whites except by piety.” Similarly the Almighty God declares in the Holy Quran, “ [42 : 13] . Caste system was a unique Indian institution, which is not found in other social systems. However, notwithstanding with the normative reality, the caste system penetrated to Muslim society as soon as it arrived in India The Arab society where Islam appeared and flourished was a tribal society. The tribal culture contains more equality and various forms of communal ownership. In contrast, India was an agricultural and feudal society. The idea of high and low was not unfamiliar to incoming Muslims armies who used to consider themselves superior to indigenous converted Muslims. Some writers conjecture that it may be the beginning of a caste system. That is why they classify Indian Muslim population into indigenous and non- indigenous. Another point of interest may be to investigate whether caste system is as much hierarchal amongst the Indian Muslims as it is amongst the Hindus. Imtiaz Ahmad, famous sociologist thinks that there is not much of a difference as both societies have evolved caste pattern that are very similar to each other. Main features of caste system are very common between Hindus and Muslims. The caste factors are quiet prominent in selection of profession and in deciding the marital bonds in both societies. To this reviewer, the Muslim society exhibits only this much difference that there is no caste consideration in Muslim place of worship while caste has penetrated the Hindu place of worship also.

With the emergence of era of Mandal and kamandal, the caste discussions have become the prime topic of social, legal and economic discussions in the country. Foremost among these discussion is a demand for reservation in educational institutions and in jobs. At the time of adoption of a new constitution for Independent India, a scheme of reservation was adopted for selected castes and tribes mentioned in a schedule of the constitutions and hence called, Scheduled Caste and Schedule Tribes. The present schemes of reservations are enforceable only to those scheduled caste and tribes which are within the general framework of Hindu Society . Later, the gamut of Hindu society was expanded to include those who have converted to Sikhism or Budhism. However, if a member of scheduled castes converts now or has converted in past to Islam or Christianity, he loses all benefits receivable to him as a member of a scheduled caste. In other words, those backward castes which belong to Muslim or Christian religions are not entitled to these benefits. There are many essays in this book from different spectrums of political thought which shed light on various aspects of the issue.

In short, this is a good collection, which shall be useful to both the lay man and serious students of the issue, who wish to make themselves familiar with the issue of problems of backward classes of India and Dalit Muslims. Serials have done a good job in the production of this book.

COURTESY:
MR Tanvir Salim

Boston, USA

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