Dalit rights bodies to gather for a National Dalit Agenda ahead of 2024 polls
Focus on rising atrocities against Dalits, land rights for Dalits, caste discrimination at higher educational institutions
More than 50 Dalit rights organisations and labour and farm workers’ unions are set to gather for a two-day National Summit in Hyderabad later this month to put out a National Dalit Agenda ahead of the 2024 general elections.
Among issues that will be at the centre of discussion are rising atrocities against Dalits, land rights for Dalits, caste discrimination at higher education institutes leading to suicides of Dalit and Adivasi students, ensuring implementation of reservation at all levels of government, and the issue of whether Dalit Christians and Muslims should be included in the SC list.
Leaders of the Centre for Dalit Studies, Dalit Shoshan Mukti Manch, All India Dalit Rights Movement, All India Agricultural Workers Union, Bhartiya Khet Mazdoor Union, and other outfits — mostly associated or allied with the Left parties, said they were participating in the summit, which will be held on August 26 and 27.
Ramchandra Dome of the Dalit Shoshan Mukti Manch acknowledged that the topic has divided the Dalit community along deep fault lines, while M. Laxmaiah of the Centre for Dalit Studies said this would definitely be among the issues discussed at the summit.
Even as the Commission of Inquiry constituted by the President continues its work on examining the issue of whether Dalit converts should be included in the SC list, the debate on the issue has sharply divided Dalit activists.
One section of activists believes that since the creation of the Scheduled Castes List was rooted in the practice of untouchability and since untouchability was a feature of just Hinduism — theologically, the SC list should not be open to Dalits who converted to Islam or Christianity. The argument is that they had converted out of the oppressive religion into supposed egalitarian religions and hence cannot now claim the identity.
The other section has argued that people from historically Dalit communities who tried to come out of the casteist structure by converting to other religions continue to face discrimination within and from outside their respective communities and hence should be included in the SC list to be protected by laws meant especially for them.
Currently, the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950 mandates that only Dalit people practising Hinduism, Sikhism or Buddhism can be eligible for SC status. The initial version included just Hinduism and some castes within a region of Punjab. In 1956, the Kaka Kalelkar Commission report helped with the addition of Sikhism, following which Buddhism was included in 1990.
But even as the split deepens, Mr. Dome said he believed there were concerted efforts behind this. However, a separate group of cultural and religious outfits linked to the Sangh Parivar had a few months ago done the same and arrived at the conclusion that the SC list should not be open to Muslims or Christians as it was a categorisation based on an aspect of Hinduism. They had also resolved to submit a representation in this regard to the Commission of Inquiry set up for it, headed by former Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan.
The Dalitleaders also spoke out against privatisation of government bodies, ensuring recruitment in government jobs through reservation and the Uniform Civil Code.
While announcing the summit at a press meet in Delhi, V.S. Nirmal of the All India Dalit Rights Movement said, “This government has always identified us as our respective castes when they want but only when they want to counter Muslims, they use us as a front and then we are all Hindus. The attempt at the summit is to discuss all key issues and arrive at an agenda that centres Dalit issues ahead of the 2024 elections.”
The summit in Hyderabad will have over 50 organisations participating, along with Dalit academics and intellectuals. Mr. Nirmal said that former UGC Chairperson Sukhdeo Thorat had also been invited to attend to help arrive at the final agenda.
Courtesy : The Hindu
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