"Dalits yet to be formidable political force but are more than mere vote banks", Devanur Mahadeva
Despite constituting a sizeable chunk of the electorate across the country, Dalits are not a formidable political force in India. Prominent Dalit writer from Karnataka, Devanur Mahadeva, believes that the divisions within are to blame.
In an interview with OneIndia, the maverick writer explains that Dalits are more than just vote bank and why he believes that the fundamental flaw is in the parameter of development.
Dalit appeasement is not new to politics neither is it negligible. Elections are fought on the basis of who woos the community best in many states like Karnataka where Dalits form the largest voter chunk. Mahadev while acknowledging that appeasement is a reality also added that it is not wrong.
"Dalits belong to the lowest rung of the society. When something is done to help them, the society is helped at large. Everything that is done to help the poor and the downtrodden bridges the gap between the haves and have nots so it is not wrong to work in their interest. Anything done in the interest of have nots brings about a balance in the society," he said.
When politics trumps Dalit rights
The Dalit writer and activist claimed that the divide between the rich and the poor in the country wider than ever. So much so, that those who own wealth also own the government.
"Many a political parties start-off for the 'welfare of Dalits' but when politics takes over, rights of Dalits takes a backseat. While politics takes its own course, what we forget is that the divide between the rich and the poor is wider today, probably the widest ever. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is today surrounded by the likes of Ambani and Adani who call the shots for the government. The system is crumbling because the ruler has been reduced to a contractor," the writer said.
He emphasized that concern shown to Dalits by many parties is extended politics to woo a vote bank but Dalits are much more than just that. Reacting to Karnataka BJP chief B S Yeddyurappa hosting lunch for Dalit families, Devanur Mahadeva said that the very fact that it made news shows whether the concern was genuine or political. "If there was a genuine concern, it would not make the news. If it is politics, it will make news now it is self explanatory," he smiled.
What ails Dalits in India?
For years they have faced inequality and discrimination but Dalits lack unity, is Mahadeva's belief. "In Karnataka, even if Dalits constitute 24 per cent of the electorate, they are divided from within. There are 101 sects and sub-sects. Dalits will become a huge political force in India if they blend beyond the barriers of sects and stand united, until that time, there is very little hope," he said.
Sops or opportunities? What does empowerment meant to Dalits?
Freebies, welfare schemes, sops have been political parties' mantra for decades to woo communities. Prime Minister Narendra Modi while addressing the BJP cadres after the party's massive win in Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections stressed on the need to do away with freebies. Devanur Mahadeva does not agree.
"Economic empowerment as well as equality is true development. Both have to be delivered in tandem failing which there is no development. The parameter of development has to change. Participatory democracy encourages self-development but it can't happen when someone if dying of hunger. Schemes have to be temporary but one should realize that it is only temporary," he stressed.