People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 46

November 13, 2011


Yet Another Attack


G Mamatha


JUST a few days back, prominent national dailies had reported that 'Bharat is catching up with India' with banner headlines. Their main argument is that SC, ST and minorities and even those states with backward development indices are catching up with the rest of the regions/population in some select indicators. Of course, the same report (India Human Development Report, 2011) from which they had derived their conclusions stated that the caloric consumption of people in rural India had fallen. This quite naturally, true to the media's character had gone unreported, except for one daily. We should thank our providence that at least one daily had reported the existing poverty and deprivation in the country. Similarly, we should also be thankful to the media for the occasional reportage on the inequalities, distress and discrimination prevalent in our society.


In one such report, it is brought to our notice that in Raigarh district in Orissa, “As part of a drive against encroachment on government land, a big herd of cattle was pushed into agricultural fields to stampede the crops cultivated by Dalit farmers”. This had happened in the village Chicho-umariya, where 150 acres of the nearly 250 acres declared as grazing land, owned by the government are cultivated by 65 Dalit families for decades. The move to clear the 'encroachment' was initiated not by a legal/constitutional authority but by extra-constitutional authority – the 'sarpanch-pati'. As the name itself indicates, he is the husband of the sarpanch, who yields power marginalising his wife who was elected by the people. Incidentally, this man rightfully belongs to the BJP.


The cruelty of this inhuman act of the 'sarpanch-pati' can be gauged from the fact that he had perpetuated this crime when the harvest was ripe and about to be reaped. The Dalit families cultivating this land were in fact expecting a 'good harvest' courtesy some good monsoon this year. All their hopes were dashed by the inhuman act of this 'sarpanch-pati'. It is not surprising that this patriarchal being harbours discriminatory casteist ideas. Now that he had done his job, in the mask of Supreme Court judgement directing for the eviction of all illegal occupation of government land, he is threatening with social boycott and the blocking of their ration supplies if the Dalits choose to complain. Naturally this cannot be done on the strength of one single individual. He derives this arrogance from his economic superiority and casteist bias and this is, in fact, nothing new in our country. And he is not alone, but has 'community' backing.


Many cases of atrocities in our country have their basis in the intolerance of the upper caste landowners particularly with relation to land ownership. Whenever they find that Dalits are acquiring economic means to develop, they feel threatened. They fear that economic empowerment of Dalits will lead to their questioning the prevalent discriminatory social practices. So, they use their economic might, political power and social control to ensure the subjection of Dalits. This was reflected in Karamchedu, Andhra Pradesh-25 years back, Khairlanji, Maharashtra-five years back, Mirchpur, last year and now in Chicho-umariya. Irony is – except for their tall talk of social justice, the State is just looking senile, in spite of all these repeated incidents.


The skewed policies of the government are reflected in its failure to implement policies for the economic empowerment of the deprived sections. It failed to allot sufficient budget to the SC sub-plans and spend whatever meagre is allotted to the designated purposes. A case in point is the diversion of the SC sub-plan funds, amounting to Rs 678.91 crores, to the scam tainted CWG Games.


In rural areas, this is reflected in the land ownership patterns. A predominant section of the SC population – nearly 73 per cent – in rural areas is engaged in agricultural sector. In 1981 only about 32 per cent of SC rural workers had access to land. This declined to 27 per cent by 2001. Even among those who hold land, a large number of them are small or marginal farmers, who are forced to work as wage labourers too. According to a data only 6 per cent are medium or large farmers and even this number witnessed a decline from the 80s to the 90s. The wages earned by SC in non-agricultural occupations is less than that earned by non-SCs in rural areas. It is natural that with this 'hold' over economic means and a history of social discrimination, the Dalits are forced to live at the 'mercy' of upper caste landowners.


Unless these discriminatory economic relations are not altered, years may pass but we cannot expect social justice. Thus, as has been repeatedly stated, the fight to end caste discrimination is invariably linked with the struggle for economic equality.