Zaboor Ahmad

Dalits and minorities, particularly Muslims and Christians, considered foreigners despite a thousand years of shared history, are facing violence in a systematic manner within the framework of neo liberal economy. Intensity of violence against minorities and Dalits is growing steadily. The Hinduvta brigade claims that non-violence and tolerance have been the hallmark of Indian civilization, but contemporary facts prove otherwise. The violence against the Dalits and minorities, particularly Muslims, in India has certain underlying threads common to the two groups.

Dalits and Muslims have certain common dietary habits like non-vegetarian foods. Consumption of beef has often been the focal point of communal politics and this pretext has been used to bulldoze them into taking to vegetarianism. Caste rules dictate not only one’s occupation, but also rules regarding marriage, ritual purity and untouchability. But these rules have weakened considerably under the impact of modernization. Dalits, a marginalised community within the Hindu fold, are receiving education and jobs under the reservation regime. Caste rigidities in colleges and college canteens are not being followed strictly. People from dalit and upper-castes sometimes choose to marry each other, but their families often maintain a distance, the fallout being eloping of couples. The self-styled elders, councils, called khap panchayats, that act as the guardian of customs and social code in villages, pass not only illegal orders often sentencing the couple to barbaric murder. Often the result is lynching, especially if the man happens to be a Dalit to create fear in society not to repeat such acts.

If the girl happens to be from the Dalit community she is paraded naked in the streets and set ablaze. Girls have been cleverly called the honour of family, which is basically a ruse and a pretext to keep the power of patriarchy intact. Even then patriarchy is weakening. The Supreme Court on 15th September 2015 asked the UP Police to produce a dalit youth whose two sisters were allegedly ordered to be raped and paraded naked by a khap panchayat as punishment for his affair with an upper-caste girl with whom he eloped.

 Dalits are facing considerable hardships everywhere. The wayout for ending their sufferings, according to some, is conversion, be it to Islam, Buddhism, or Christianity. Minority communities are bearing the brunt of mass communal violence. The khap panchayat of Bhagana village in Haryana took over more than hundreds of acres of government land used for playground and social functions of Dalits was usurped by upper-castes, resulting in conversion of Dalits to Islam like those of Valmiks in Rampur town of UP, and the wholesale conversion of Meenakshipuram villagers to Islam in 1981. Dalit IAS officer Umrao Salodia alleging victimisation by BJP government converted to Islam. B R Ambedkar did cross the Rubicon by converting to Buddhism. Since then his action is continuously being followed by Dalits as an answer to their victimisation.

In a rapidly modernising India an attempt is being made to reformulate the Hindu religion by rightists to keep the main props of caste intact.  Be it patriarchy defended through khap panchayats, or women being made the honour of family, defended through illegal social structures and physical assault on Muslims for talking to Hindu girls, or travelling in the same vehicle as in the case of a lynching in Bangalore, Hinduvta votaries view dalits and Muslims as threats to their plans.

The author teaches political science at an intermediate college in Vessu, Anantnag. He may be contacted at ahmadzaboor@