One of the big red herrings strewn across Team Anna’s path is the alleged Dalit cause. From assorted Leftist intellectuals to Dalit groups, it has become fashionable to take potshots at Anna using the Dalit bogey: where are the Dalits in your anti-corruption cause? By implication, they want to say: if there are no Dalits with you, your cause itself must be wrong.
Udit Raj, a Dalit activist, claimed the Anna group’s Jan Lokpal Bill was against the constitution: “If Dalits have achieved anything, if you see any diversity today, it is because of the constitution, Parliament and bureaucracy. You cannot discredit the constitution.” He wants to present a Bahujan Lokpal Bill of his own.
Sure, he’s welcome to it. The more the merrier.
Chandra Bhan Prasad, another Dalit writer, who has written for Firstpost, elaborates: “SCs see everyone questioning parliamentary process as villain. The scepticism started the day he (Anna) questioned the integrity of electoral politics.”
Point taken, Mr Raj and Mr Prasad. Maybe Anna should figure out ways in which his anti-corruption campaign can be more inclusive, since it can be nobody’s case that corruption does not affect Dalits.
However, what Mr Raj and Mr Prasad should be introspecting over is whether Dalits themselves have done what they should to protect the constitution fathered by Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar.
This is what Ambedkar said about the constitution and its primacy:
However good a constitution may be, it is sure to turn out bad because those who are called to work it happen to be a bad lot. However bad a constitution may be, it may turn out to be good if those who are called to work it happen to be a good lot. The working of a constitution does not depend wholly upon the nature of the constitution. The constitution can provide only the organs of state such as the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. The factors on which the working of those organs of the state depend are the people and the political parties they will set up as their instruments to carry out their wishes and their politics. Who can say how the people of India and their parties will behave? Will they uphold constitutional methods of achieving their purposes or will they prefer revolutionary methods of achieving them?”
We can read two meanings into this: one is that Anna should work within the limits set by the constitution and parliamentary processes. But equally, since the worth of the constitution depends on the people administering it, Anna & Co may be right to question whether the people running the parliamentary processes are doing it right.
But more, important, one wonders if Ambedkar himself would have approved of what the Dalits are doing with the constitution and democratic processes.
A public interest litigation (PIL) filed by one group of Dalits in the Supreme Court shows that Dalits are often their own worst enemies. In fact, they have done everything to subvert the constitution and a Supreme Court judgment which holds that the “creamy layer” must be excluded from reservations.
The PIL, filed by a Dalit from the Balmiki community, claims that barely five to 10 communities from the scheduled castes and tribes (SC/ST) have cornered all the benefits from reservations – when there are 1,677 Dalit communities needing those benefits. The court on Tuesday sought responses from both centre and states.
The PIL mover, OP Shukla, wants to exclude the Chamar, Mala, Mahar, Meena, Dusad, Pasi and Dhobi communities from the list of SCs because they have already benefited from it. “A select 5-10 castes/tribes among the target group have become financially so strong (as) to be compared with the higher castes of society. Therefore, further empowering them by way of giving them continued and further reservation will amount to unjust enrichment and will amount to violation of constitutional provisions,” The Times of India quoted the Shukla’s PIL as saying.
While political Dalits like Udit Raj and Chandra Bhan Prasad would like to believe (correctly) that upper caste oppression remains the main challenge, one doubts if Ambedkar would have approved of Dalits who stop thinking about their own downtrodden segments.
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