May 18, 2017

India: BJP's electoral math and caste violence in Saharanpur between Dalits and Thakurs (Edit, The Telegraph)

The Telegraph, May 19 , 2017

Core maths


The arithmetic followed by the Bharatiya Janata Party is a strange one. The more they add the more they end up dividing. In Uttar Pradesh, the adding up of the votes of the upper castes, non-Yadav other backward classes and non-Jatav scheduled castes helped the BJP win the assembly polls. But these new caste calculations have led to a higher representation of the upper castes in the state assembly. And this has resulted in the inevitable - deeper divisions in an already fractured society. A manifestation of this was seen in a series of episodes of violence in Saharanpur that erupted between Dalits and Thakurs that left houses gutted, several injured and at least one dead. On being asked about the deteriorating law and order condition in the state, the chief minister, Yogi Adityanath, has given the reassurance that law and order would soon reign in UP. That may be quite an optimistic view.

The BJP and the other saffron groups are committed to the ideology of Hindutva. Their efforts to turn India into a Hindu rashtra since 2014, when the BJP took over power in Delhi, are hardly secretive. Consequently, debates over issues such as triple talaq, Ram Janmabhoomi, eating or selling beef and so one have come into focus. The BJP is therefore perceived as against the largest minority community. But that, too, has never been a secret. Rather, this communal streak has helped the BJP mask the resurgence of caste system. In the past few years, crimes against Dalits have increased manifold. Rajasthan, which has the highest rate of anti-Dalit atrocities, registered more than 600 cases between April 2015 and March 2016. Meanwhile, the Patels of Gujarat, the Jats of Haryana and the Marathas in Maharashtra have protested against reservation for Dalits. In spite of the BJP celebrating Ambedkar Jayanti, Ambedkar Bhavan in Maharashtra was demolished. Mr Adityanath was selected as chief minister not only to please the Hindu community but also the upper castes - he is a Thakur. Hence, the clashes in Saharanpur should not be seen only as evidence of the decline in law and order in the state but also as part of a larger national pattern. A further question cannot be avoided. The violence has drawn out the Bhim Army, which, apparently, fights atrocities against Dalits. While gau rakshaks go round killing people with impunity, why is there a hurry to link the unit to Naxals?