Undoing injustice against Dalits requires upper caste support

Even as Dalit politics takes centrestage in the run up to the Lok Sabha elections and the Dalit vote portends to be a key determinant of who forms the next government, India’s urban upper castes remain steadfastly indifferent to Dalit issues other than when they show up as protests at their doorstep.Advertising

Unlike in the pre-1947 era, when eradicating casteism was an important strand of both the freedom struggle and many Hindu reform movements, most savarnas today believe that there is little more that they need to do to redress three millennia of injustice against Dalits. Discrimination and violence against Scheduled Castes (SCs) are seen as an embarrassing relic of the past best left to the police and courts, while Dalit demands for economic justice are something for politicians and government to address.

Metropolitan liberals are more likely to embrace #MeToo and LGBT causes or even anti-racism than get involved in repairing the appalling legacy of caste. Combating casteism is neither cool nor a moral priority.

There are three reasons for this. First, thanks to our Constitution and progressive laws, the most abhorrent forms of casteist bias have been criminalised. Second, overt casteism is no longer visible in the anonymity of our cities; atrocities directed at Dalits are largely of rural provenance. The third and perhaps most important reason why the socially privileged feel absolved of any further responsibility for fighting casteism is the policy of reservations. Mandatory quotas in universities, government jobs and elected offices are seen as having done enough (and indeed too much in the eyes of many) to create secure pathways for SCs to achieve upward mobility.

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