Saharanpur violence : Did BJP lose its trump card in the game of Dalit politics?
Amid clashes between Dalits and Thakurs, the Uttar Pradesh government has constituted a Special Investigation Team to probe the caste based violence. The rioting started when a BJP MP Raghav Lakhanpal organised a shobha yatra on the occasion of Ambedkar Jayanti. The MP didn’t have the permission for the procession and stones were thrown when it passed through the sensitive areas of Saharanpur. The villagers complained that it coincided with their plan of a programme on Ambedkar and his ideology. They have said that upper caste villages try their best to not allow any commemorative event and function relates to Babasaheb. To protest against the mistreatment by traditional upper castes, many Dalits there have vowed to convert to Buddhism.
Dalit leaders and thinkers have long protested against BJPs appropriation of B.R Ambedkar and the attempt to erode Dalit identity by assimilating it in the fold of Hindutva and communalising lower caste groups. The saffron right-wing party has often been accused of being anti Dalit and upholding the vested interests of the upper castes.
Politics in UP is underlined by strictly delineated caste lines. BJP launched a massive outreach programme to win Dalit support and it’s strategy of appealing to non-Jatav Dalits paid rich dividends in the assembly elections this year. But it seems Dalits are moving away from BJP now and with the elevation of Yogi Adityanath as CM, the Rajputs of the state are now more assertive and emboldened. The Dalit villagers said that the Rajput men burnt over 60 homes in their village and the police is hands-in-gloves with them, as a Dalit village elder said.
A new phenomenon amidst this caste hostility is the rise of a Bhim Army, a Dalit mobilisation group, lead by a man named Chandrasekhar ” Ravan “. Bhim Sena has called for a broad alliance of all lower caste groups and Muslims to countervail the power and hegemony of upper castes. Bhim Sena is getting popular and is trying to fill the vacuum created by the waning popularity and support base of BSP and its leader Mayawati. There is a growing sentiment that Mayawati is inaccessible to the common people and has failed to address the aspirations of the Dalit youth.
Yogi Adityanath has to send a stern message to the chauvinist Rajput groups if he has to preserve the social engineering formula of widening the base of the BJPs electoral pyramid by appealing to Dalits on the plank of development, poverty eradication and ending caste-based discrimination.
Discrimination against Dalits and other historically marginalised and oppressed sections still continues after more than 70 years of independence. And the dominant feudal groups see Dalit assertion as an attack on their privileges and rights.