THE DALIT VOICE
‘WE WILL BE MADE SLAVES IN HINDU RAJ’
This is the third of a four-part series, based on a conversation between Yoginder Sikand and Daulat Ram Bhagat, a Kashmiri schoolteacher from the Scheduled Caste Megh community
After 1947, Hindu leaders in Kashmir made efforts to stop the practice of untouchability. Perhaps there was a realisation that if Dalits continued to be suppressed, they might convert to Islam, in which case the Hindus would be reduced to an even smaller minority than they already were in the state. Wherever the Muslim population is higher, you will find that dominant caste Hindus practice a lower degree of untouchability and discrimination vis-à-vis the Dalits. So, in Doda, since the Muslims are a majority, untouchability is not that severe now. But I have had to face caste discrimination myself, despite having been a government school teacher all my life. Once I was posted in a village which had only Hindus living in it and no Dalits. Because I was a Dalit, no Hindu would let me stay in their homes, so I had to live in the school building itself. In many villages in Doda, Dalits are still treated or thought of as lesser beings. In towns things are changing now somewhat because our people are going in for education.
In Doda, Muslims are a majority, so untouchability is not that severe. But I have faced discrimination, despite being a teacher all my life
But in the plains of Jammu, where there are very few Muslims left, discrimination against Dalits by dominant caste Hindus is fairly common. In Doda, we have this massive Muslim population, so it is not possible for dominant caste Hindus to treat us the way they might want, because they know that if they do, we might join hands with the Muslims. So, today, we can eat in Rajputs’ homes and they come to our houses too. But even now some ‘upper’ caste people are opposed to our progress and, though they may not say this openly, they still regard us as inferior. Some ‘upper’ caste people would call me “Masterji” to my face, but behind my back would say, “Oh, that wretched chinal [a term of abuse applied to Meghs], he has the gumption to wear shirt-pant!” Even now many ‘upper’ caste people cannot tolerate the thought of a Dalit in a position of authority over them.
Today, there is much talk of Hindutva and Hindu unity. The RSS and the BJP are particularly vocal about this. They want the Dalits to join their camp too. But you know, in Hindu Raj we will be made to wash the feet of the Brahmins and other so-called ‘upper’ caste people again. We will be forced into slavery again. That we cannot allow. Here in Doda the BJP tried to woo some Dalits, but they were not very successful. They managed to get only very few Dalit supporters. I tried to convince some of these brainwashed Dalits to abandon the BJP. I told them, and I keep telling my people, that the BJP has never raised the severe economic, educational and social problems of the Dalits. If they do, their ‘upper’ caste base will be angered.
To be concluded next week SOURCE www.Tehelka.com