Protesting Social Protests

Contrary to the general enthusiasm over Anna Hazare’s fast over Lokpal bill, the dalits have struck a divergent note, warning that the government should not accept the Gandhian’s demand against parliamentary processes, saying it would set a dangerous trend and make backward classes vulnerable.

via Dalits come out against Anna Hazare’s fast – The Times of India.

The no-caste dalits, formerly called untouchables, are not opposed to Hazare’s quest to rid Indian government of corruption.  Rather, they fear that social protests sidestep the democratic process, and if these protests succeed, the next one might be against them.

Dalit intellectuals said the possibility of mass mobilisation forcing a “set of solutions” on the Centre against constitutional processes raised fears that affirmative action could be a victim of similar techniques.

For thousands of years dalits lived on the fringes of Indian society; they were not allowed to mix with any of the varnas, or upper-class, castes.  When India finally won it’s independence from Britain in 1959 the caste system, a part of the Hindu faith, was outlawed.  In recent memory a system of affirmative action has been established, guaranteeing dalits seats in Parliament, access to a college education, and a quota in the job market.  If the majority of Indians protest against these quotas that could ” sound the death knell for SC quota in jobs and education” for dalits.

Common Concern, a group of dalit intellectuals, met on Tuesday and expressed opposition to corruption in sociological terms. “Dalits face corruption not from bureaucracy but from civil society where caste system is the biggest oppressor. And this civil society wants to overturn the Constitution which has given us respite from caste system,” was its refrain.

Although the caste system has been outlawed, it is still a major problem for the 25% of Indians who belong to the group.

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