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Caste & the Tamil Nation

On Dalit Phobia

Chandra Babu Prasad
6 June 2006


Book Note by the Publishers - Vitasta Publishing Pvt Ltd:

Chandra Bhan Prasad is one of the leading Dalit intellectuals in the country. He has been writing regularly for various newspapers and magazines on Dalit-related issues. He believes in confounding readers with new ideas and challenging them to think afresh away from the traditional paradigm.

One may not agree with him, but one will find it difficult to brush aside his arguments. While India is marching ahead through the shopping malls and Express National Highways, the average Dalit has not moved forward. He is subjected to same tyranny or humiliation, which his forefathers faced, if he dares to walk the road not trodden by his predecessors.

1958-born Chandra Bhan comes from Azamgarh district of Uttar Pradesh. The urge to rebel and fight for justice took him to the CPI-ML in 1983. He was a research scholar at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi, where he specialised in Chinese Science and Technology. He began the Dalit Shikhsa Andolan (Dalit Education Movement), which has since spread to many districts of Uttar Pradesh.

Excerpt from Dalit Phobia:

Sapru related to Mahatma Gandhi the whole story. Malaviya put the Hindu point of view. Then in a soft, slow flow Dr Ambedkar began. He said in low voice: "Mahatmaji, you have been very unfair to us. It is always my lot to appear to be unfair." Replied Mahatma Gandhi: "I cannot help it." Then Dr Ambedkar explained the whole situation and his viewpoints. The sober Biblical language had its visible effect upon Mahatma Gandhi. He was convinced of the justice of Dr Ambedkar's demands. At length, Mahatma Gandhi replied: "You have my fullest sympathy. I am with you, Doctor, in most of the things you say. But you say you are interested in my life." "Yes Mahatmaji, in the hope that if you would devote solely to the cause of my people, you would become our hero, too," said Dr Ambedkar in reply. (pp130-131)

Dalits have faced social ostracism of a peculiar kind. Centuries-old prejudices pushed them to the southernmost corner of traditional Indian villages almost invariably. How was this possible, all over the country, unless there was a design or a conspiracy? Dalits constitute the same proportion of the total population throughout the country. Chandra Bhan enumerates the history behind this unique phenomenon and argues that this is not possible unless there was a colossal shifting of humankind. He draws profusely from Dr B. R. Ambedkar. Hindutva forces may not take kindly to him for saying that Dalits were outside the Varna hierarchy and that they worshipped different gods and goddesses than the Varna followers. He talks of history's longest fought war between the Dalits and the non-Dalits in the process of adjustment. Is the Varna peoples’ hate for Dalits a manifestation of hatred of the victor for the defeated and the fear that the Dasas of the Vedic times may assert themselves and challenge the old Order?

Chandra Bhan calls this Dalit Phobia and argues that this gets passed on genetically through generations. Otherwise, how does one explain that the chief executive of an MNC, the editor of a newspaper and the fishermen at Nagapattinam (Tamil Nadu) share the same disdain when it comes to dealing with Dalits. It must be pathological and hence the treatment must also be so. He suggests Dalit therapy and demands international action to cure the disease while describing this as more vicious and pervading than Apartheid. Is it after the Poona Pact with Dr Ambedkar that Mahatma Gandhi realised the need to work among the Harijans (Dalits)? The author argues it is indeed so and points out to the bold arguments Dr Ambedkar had with the Mahatma. The book also reflects why an average Dalit holds Dr Ambedkar in such a high esteem. He could stand up and resist the Varna Order. It must have needed a massive courage to face the Mahatma and tell him about the centuries of injustices meted out to Dalits. Those who blame Macaulay for ills of `India’s education system are in for a shock as the book finds him as a liberator of Dalits. Chandra Bhan is an ardent Macaulay fan. Macaulay liberated India from the Brahmin-oriented traditional education system and Varna jurisprudence, he argues. He also holds Macaulay Party every year to celebrate the man and his ideas.

While trying to analyse how Dalits gained importance and social recognition, the book concludes the 1942 Quit India Movement to be a Vedic reaction to the British who had dared to induct Dr Ambedkar in the Viceroy’s Council and thus the Council’s ruling elite.

A must-read for anyone trying to analyse Dalit psychology and the hate sense of the Varna Order for these deprived groups. People often confuse Dalits with the Backward Castes. The book describes the Backward Castes as a part of the Varna Order unlike Dalits who are still treated as untouchables. This may help understand why the same yardstick of reservation was not applied for two different social categories by the Constitution makers.

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