A Global Caucus To "Protect' Dalits"

Author: Crystal Hsu
Author: P N Benjamin
Publication: Vijay Times
Date: October 5, 2005

The Dalit Freedom Network (DFN) is organising a two-day international conference in Washington D C on October 5 and 6 to globally raise the issue of reservation for Dalits in the private sector and caste-based discrimination. In this connection, addressing a press conference in New Delhi on 15 September, the chairman of the All India Confederation of SC/ST Organisations, Udit Raj, has said: "In the era of globalisation it is imperative to fight certain causes globally".

The meeting will seek to "expose" the Sangh Parivar, sensitise the U.N. for protection of Dalit human rights, and will seek US help to Dalits to get reservation in the Indian private sector. It will also appeal to the United States to provide work opportunities to Dalits.

One does not have any quarrel on the fact that Dalits have been and are discriminated but simply because a meeting in the US will give greater focus, one cannot inter-mix social facts. NGOs get enormous funds for Dalit causes. It is perennial money- drawing sources for the NGOs and hence they unite on this to catch the world attention and boost the funding prospect. To my mind, the DFN meeting is not simply an event but a part of an agenda to isolate the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes from the Hindu society and create social disorder in the country.

Caste discrimination, particularly untouchability, in the Hindu society was one of the major concerns of the Government in the post-colonial India. The adoption of a Constitution on 26 January 1950 that officially abolished untouchability and caste discriminations, and directs the State to reorganise Indian society along democratic lines, is a milestone. Lest ambiguity should become a tool to browbeat constitutional verdict, as spelt out in its Preamble, the Indian State is directed to accord due representation to outcastes and tribals, in every branch of the State and complement it with various socio-educational-economic measures.

The Supreme Court, Human Rights Commission and Scheduled Caste Commission have reviewed various laws enacted by India Parliament and reservation for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the governance of the country as well as in educational institutions and a number of other measures adopted by Government.

Instead of educating the discriminated section of Indian population to avail themselves of the opportunity provided by the Government, the Dalit Rights activists work as a tool in the hands of national and international forces of vested political and personal interests. Even the affluent sections from amongst the Dalits come under the influence of the foreign funded NGOs and exploit their own people for their political and personal interests.

Despite the known stand of anthropologists and sociologists that caste cannot be equated with race, the NGOs working for Dalits cause maintain, "caste discrimination is racism". In India there are a number of castes and sub castes belonging to the same race and there has been discrimination even within the various sub sects of Dalits due to various reasons. By lampooning discrimination of the SCs, the discrimination within the SCs sub sects has been largely overlooked. Discrimination, apart from being violation of human rights, is also poignant when one realises that it is by the same race against the same race.

Similarly, the benefits and the concessions given to the SCs are mostly cornered by the upper castes of the SCs. There are several instances of fight within the Dalits for garnering the benefits being provided by the Government to them.

The on-going caste consolidation for sharing political power is another important factor for caste tension in the country, though it has no similarity with the caste discrimination as it was before Independence. Social segregation of different castes and sub castes does not mean any discrimination against each other. It is more or less a segregation of different clans, which is prevalent in some form or other in different parts of the world.

Raising their voices against caste discrimination from an alien soil is against the concept of national sovereignty. The NGOs are doing it to garner more foreign funds from the international agencies in the name of Dalits cause. With huge amounts of foreign funds at their disposal the main job of the social activists are to alienate the Dalits from the cultural mainstream of the country and provide an opportunity to damn the Hindu organisations.

Outwardly, the activities of the NGOs working for Dalit's cause may look quite rational, but in the absence of any specialized agency at Government level to scrutinize their hidden agenda and the alleged misuse of the huge amount of foreign funds being received by them gives an impression that their intentions are not as pious as they claim to be.

It is well known that these foreign funded NGOs are the safe houses of the lobbyists, who are working for various international agencies engaged in destroying the cultural heritage of the country. Unfortunately, the media has hardly taken any interest to look into the allegations in depth and bring out the truth. The media has not come forward to counter the aggressive voices raised by the NGOs for discussing the domestic issues at international for a. Instead it has always projected the views of the NGOs without any scrutiny. This has created an adverse impact on the credibility of the media.

The NGOs responsible for raking up the on going controversy have only contributed to the rise of social tension without any visible benefits to the Dalits.

Some pertinent questions could be asked at this stage. What is the social vision of NGOs? Or, to be precise, what is NGOs' perception of the Indian Republic and society? Where do Dalits stand today vis-a-vis institutions of the state, and institutions that are outside the state? Is there any institution or NGOs other than the Indian State that make specific provision of representation to Dalits? What is the proportion of Dalits in the corporate-like offices of the NGOs? What is the position of Dalits in their workforce and what percentage of the money funding agencies granted has been utilised for the upliftment of Dalits?

An individual's or organisation's social doctrine is best reflected by its actions. If an organisation, as against the constitutional verdict of 22.5 per cent representation to the Dalits, is not prepared to accord at least one per cent representation, it has no legal sanctity to exist. If NGOs cannot give representation to Dalits, what is the guarantee that they are not working against the interests of the Dalits? The NGOs thrive on Hindu- bashing but can we recall one major NGO, which has produced a worthwhile critique of the Varna or caste order?

NGOs have, slowly but steadily, not only robbed the Indian Republic, corporate houses, and foreign funding agencies but also robbed space available to social movements. If every institution in India must justify its existence before the judgment seat of the Constitution, can the NGOs which are only legitimising Dalits' exclusion and questioning the State's sovereign authority, and that too from a higher `moral' pedestal, be permitted to go scot free?

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