Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Strategy for the Dalit Movement



I had written an article about the need for the dalit movement tofocus on renaisannce at individual, family and community level,rather than political. I am trying here to describe how that, overtime, can impact/merge into dalit politics.The Dalit movement is significantly constrained by the limitationsimposed by the Pune pact. The Pune pact does this by ensuring thatdalit politicians cannot get elected without the support of nondalits. Given the geographic distribution of the dalit population,dalits can hope to come to power in only a few states. Moreover giventheir predominantly rural presence, with the concomitant illiteracy,limited organizability, poor communicability, etc, there has beennoticable lack of a pan-india mass level nature to the movement.Despite the efforts of multiple dalit parties (RPI, BSP, et al),dalit politics continues to be marginal and matters only at thefringes. It is only due to the intense fragmentation in the votingpattern in the past decade, that dalit political strength has becomevisible. However I predict that the growing political strength is nowhitting the natural barriers imposed by the pune pact and thescattered nature (geographical and socio-religious) of the dalitpopulation.In this context, I think that the strategy of the dalit movementought to be to hit the metros. Anyway, the rural poor has been movingtowards the cities. In the abscence of any significant property inthe rural areas, the pull of the cities pull dalits first into thecities. So the dalit parties should focus on the cities first. Thecities allow the dalit population more freedom to pursue variousvocations and derive subsistence from them. Violations of theirfreedoms are also more noticable due to the sensation seeking media'spresence. Most importantly, their presence in cities allows thepolitics of the cities to be driven by their numbers. This ishappening in Mumbai. I am not proposing something. These things arealready happening. I am merely saying that we should capitalize onthese visible trends. Wasting precious money on pursuing upliftmentthrough political power in rural areas is poor strategy. The dalitmovement should focus on cities.1. We should attract dalits into cities and help them settle down2. Dalits in cities should be organized and energized with Ambedkarithought and religious renaisannce. Dalit community institutions whichembody the social ideals of the dalit movement will drive this.3. Dalits should win economic power in the cities and over time usethat power to influence the politics and participate in it. Anywaythe cities are creating the wealth with which India is shining. Sothis is feasible, since we would then be representing the money bags.4. We should work hard to ensure that the dalits coming intothe cities get to experience the freedoms that were denied to them inthe villages. This can be both a driver and an output of (2)Its time to move from outside the market/village/city to inside themarket/village/city. "Challo Dilli" should be mapped to ChalloMumbai, Challo Chennai and Challo Kokkata, Challo Bangalore. We canleave the upper castes in the villages. Most dalits do not own anysignificant property in the villages anyway. In the cities, no nondalit should be able to win elections in cities without being fullyacceptable in terms of his/her alignment with dalit friendly policies.This can turn the perverse logic of the pune pact on its head andspeed up the dalit movement.
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