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How fresh SC-ST reservation is turning political and internal matter of Hinduism

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*

The scheduled lists for castes and tribes are being added and deleted according to political conveniences. In Uttar Pradesh, Rajbhar community which actually hail from the most backward communities and mostly landless has been added as scheduled tribe by the state government. Frankly speaking Kols, a tribe living on the Bundelkhand bordering with Madhya Pradesh has a bigger claim to be in the Scheduled Tribe list but has suffered a lot. There are others like Mushahars who in all senses are scheduled tribes have been kept as scheduled castes. 
Frankly speaking more than these changing of the list, if the government can have some radical work to resolve their livelihood issues, that would serve the purpose. With land reforms not on the agenda either of the governments or of the political parties fighting for the cause, job reservations already finished or diluted,  these are  purely and deliberate political attempts to put the communities in competition with each other, build up your work on the contradictions of the communities, mobilise them against your own neighbors and become foot soldiers of Hindutva.
Reservation debate in India has become vicious. There is no effort to engage with others. The argument is that it was meant to break monopolies but definitely not to create other monopolies. The issue was that it reach to all in proportionality but it is  not. The sub categorisation of it is opposed though many states already have it. The best example of a  proportionality  in reservation is actually Tamilnadu state where sub castes too have been categorised. Sub caste issues have been often raised to divide the Dalits but it is also important to understand when there is no dialogue among them these things will happen.
Right now, I am appalled at the debate on the issue Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims to be included at the SC list. The debate is turning more into a propaganda than in real attempt to understand the crisis. All debates are being used to twist facts. There is no doubt that in the Constituent Assembly debates there is not much as the Dalit question was considered an issue internal issue of Hinduism but conversion has been a strong weapon of Dalit movement. Many felt that conversion to Buddhism alone is 'pure' as defined by Baba Saheb but they fail to understand that Baba Saheb has become hope for a hugely diverse Dalit identity movement irrespective of caste, ethnicity and languages. 
In the 1990s when Dalit Rights organisations were struggling to take the issue at the international level to highlight the issue of caste and ensure that it gets as much importance as race gets in the west, we witnessed lively debates how castes and discriminations exists every where. Right from Burakumin community in Japan to Dalit Christians, to Muslims and many in the slave trade in Africa, Nigeria where people claim caste system exists. That was an amazing solidarity among groups. Then happened the World Conference against Racism and Xenophobia in  Durban and by this time there was a huge unity among the groups but this conference failed because of the Americans as well as Indians.
Now, the unity between diverse sections of dalits is challenged. The friends who were together have been made to look different and unwanted. I know the root of this is reservation. This is a fact that nobody is ready to have relook at these issues. That has potential to create huge crisis in India. This is purely power politics and nothing beyond. All the talks of Dalit Muslim, Dalit Christian unity fall flat to it. Ofcourse, the Christian and Muslim elite and institutions never ever considered the Dalit issue as an important except when the issue of their own political survival comes. The role of the minority institutions in this regard whether Jamia Milia Islamia or St Stephens college, Delhi, has been absolutely disgraceful as far as reservation is concern.
My position on this is very clear. While historical debates do not suggest much on this issue as far as Muslims and Christians are concern yet caste is a reality. Whether it is Hellas and Halalkhors in Uttar Pradesh engaged in manual scavenging or Wattals in Jammu Kashmir, there are Dalits in Muslims and Christian communities. There are enough documentations of Dalit Christians not being allowed in churches of the upper castes. There are separate burial grounds for Dalit Muslims in many places.  
Then when Christians and Muslims can get under the OBC quota then why so much of resentment in the SC category. There are Muslims and Christians in tribal category too and nobody object to it. 
One position is that as citizens of this country, Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims have every right to be participants in the nation building like any other. It is for the government and political parties to come to a conclusion how could this be done. One way could be leave it to the state governments to decide about this as it should depend on the proportionality of these communities in every state. 
Right now, it is difficult because the Sangh and Hindutva forces always want to stop the conversion which they think is the biggest threat to the country. If reservation are allowed for Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims, according to them, it will lead to conversion which is a 'threat. So, Reservation of Scheduled castes has now become an 'internal' matter of Hinduism and all those outside it, unfortunately, are not being targeted by the Hindutva alone, but ironically by their own friends who used to sit together, discuss together the power of Ambedkarism.  
---
*Human rights defender 

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