City Dalits credit enlightenment, development to reservation
Justice Katju’s advice to give up reservation hasn’t gone down well with residents
Known for his controversial and politically incorrect stance wherever he goes, Justice Markandey Katju’s insinuation to Dalits in Jalandhar — to give up reservation — hasn’t gone down too well with residents of the region.
While 32 per cent of the population of the state (and 45 per cent of the district) is Dalit, the Dalit vote bank being one of the major decisive factors of the region ahead of the elections. Often key political decisions are made with Dalits on mind.
Ironically, though, even as Dalits remain ignored in the sectors of education, health, scholarship schemes or property ownership, they are the most important when it comes to votes. In such a scenario, the idea to give up reservation has only earned the ire among city Dalits and scepticism even among the most cosmopolitan ones among them. While members of the Ambedkar Mission Society said they had called Justice Katju after due deliberations and they had made their disagreement on the issue clear beforehand.
Retired Prof GC Kaul, a staunch Ambedkarite and one of the members who invited Katju, said: “Justice Katju had put an FB post deliberating his idea of reservation. Members of the committee had seen these and held a meeting in which a letter was drafted by our senior-most member expressing clear disagreement with his view of reservation for Dalits. After at least two board meetings, the letter was sent to Justice Katju who wrote back to us saying he would raise the point but also present solutions to it.
He also said he would speak on many other issues not only this. The committee had raised its clear disagreement on the issue.”
Reacting to the row, Professor Kaul said: “A lot of development seen in the Dalit society in the past is due to reservation. Reservation is largely responsible to enlightenment in the community. It is imperative for development. We cannot disagree with the fact. A lot of Dalits started going abroad in the 60s. The process speeded up in the 90s and in this entire chain of events and awareness reservation had a pivotal role. However, we agree to Justice Katju’s concerns that the present political system is headed for a collapse. And it can’t be fought without an intellectual streamlining of like-minded forces in the country on a political platform.”
Lahori Ram Bali (80), a staunch Ambedkarite and one of Ambedkar’s oldest living supporters, reasserted from stage today that while the society did not agree with the country’s political system, it disagreed with Katju on his stance on reservation.
A peep into the history
While the state had over 8,000 Buddhists as per the 2011 Census, a majority of these are Ambedkarite Buddhists who are directly or indirectly inspired by Babasaheb’s conversion to Buddhism in 1956. The Ambedkarites, as Bali and Prof Kaul point out, aren’t in agreement with Dalit politics of the state as they maintain it doesn’t address the actual Dalit issues at the grass-roots level.
The Ambedkar Mission Society has as many as 600 members and the city has over 3,000 Dalits who are sworn Ambedkarites. The society doesn’t deem those contesting from political parties as true mission members, as it terms itself free from political agenda. The Ambedkar Bhawan in Jalandhar is one of the oldest such bhawans in the state and Jalandhar being one of the Buddhist hubs where Ambedkar had been visiting since the 1950s. The city has an Ambedkarite-Buddhist history running back to the inception of the movement of Dalits for larger constitutional rights in the country. Lahori Ram Bali, who invited Katju, is one of the oldest associates of Ambedkar. While in 1958, 5,000 persons embraced Buddhism in the state (at Chak Hakim, Phagwara), many of Ambedkar’s earliest associates were from the region.
Dalits ignored in various sectors
While 32 per cent of the population of the state (and 45 per cent of the district) is Dalit, the Dalit vote bank being one of the major decisive factors of the region ahead of the elections. Often key political decisions are made with Dalits on mind. Ironically, though, even as Dalits remain ignored in various sectors, they are the most important when it comes to votes. In such a scenario, the idea to give up reservation has only earned the ire among city Dalits and scepticism even among the most cosmopolitan ones among them.
Courtesy: The Tribune