On The Role Of Dalits In The Fight Against Fascism In India
This is not a story about the praxis of the Dalit movement in India. In the 2019 general elections, the combined forces of the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party in the crucial state of Uttar Pradesh could not match the Hindutva wave riding might of the BJP.
The problem is indeed one of praxis; a praxis that does not hinge on an identity. My proposition may appear problematic, but it is necessary: the identity politics of the Dalit movement has only strengthened Hindutva.
It has been done by appealing to solidarity felt in oppression. Oppression exercised by the caste hierarchy Hindutva prescribes. The question is, how to counteract such an order?
The concepts and roles that an order prescribes by itself will not subvert the order; they were designed to serve it. Hence, in appropriating a facet of the caste hierarchy—even if it is the most oppressed one—only re-enforces the terms and relations that Hindutva prescribes. Caste can be subverted only if the constituents of its idea of society militate against the very idea it represents.
Put differently; it is not enough merely for Dalits to demand the same ‘rights’ and recognition as Brahmins. Their very identity within the fold of Hindutva places them in unequal relations vis-a-vis each other. To subvert the order, the very basis of these identifications would require reconstitution.
Norms like names only exist because they are adhered to, responded to, and the repetition of this creates the sanctity they enjoy.
There is one distinct advantage which the Dalit identity does enjoy, however. As the most oppressed section within Hindu caste identity it is also the section which has the greatest exposure to the suffering of stratification. This is the stuff universalism is made of.
Only a community which can understand this suffering can empathise with minorities who suffer under the same order of oppression. Be it poor Muslims who are lynched in the name of a bovine, Christians whose worship is desecrated, or the downtrodden classes who struggle to make ends meet.
There is a need for a two-fold movement. Dalits need to recognise the situation at hand and, following Ambedkar, seek an exodus from the confines where Hinduism seeks to place them. On the other hand, in the negation of their particular identity as the subaltern in the caste hierarchy, they may discover that they have the freedom to create themselves anew.
In such a moment, could they reach out to the oppressed of communities not their own and create solidarity that is not based on culture per se, but one forged in resistance to oppression? This is the question they must answer if they are to take any measure of leadership today in the fight against fascism in India.
Courtesy : Youth Ki Awaaz