I have been truant in posting, although there have been a plethora of events in political and social spheres across the globe that exercised my mind. However, I have been inventing petty excuses for not giving vent to my feelings here. True, I have commented on some of these developments through my weekly column in the Kannada daily I edit.
The reports that some of Mysore City Dalit leaders, notably, former union minister Mr V Srinivasa Prasad and reputed writer Mr Devanur Mahadev, embraced Buddhism at a recent function in Bangalore disturbed me. Not because such conversions will affect Hinduism. I was concerned, because such demeaning practices, sought to be associated with the Hindu religion as such, are still followed by sections within the Hindu fold. In my opinion no person with a sense of self respect will stay attached to a religion or a caste that discriminates against and treats as ‘untouchable’ someone within its own fold.
A few months ago when a section of Dalits embraced Buddhism at a function organized in Gulbarga in connection with the golden jubilee celebration of Dr Ambedkar’s conversion to Buddhism, I commented at some public functions that this event should serve to wake up the Hindu religious heads, those Hindu zealots, and organisations who swear in the name of Hinduism These conversions were reflection of the righteous indignation of the oppressed, who may feel that they would be better served by switching their religious faith.
I strongly feel that if such conversions serve to bring about a change in the outlook of tormentors in the name of caste, I wholeheartedly welcome the action of Dalit Leaders. If I were a Dalit, I would have done the same and abdicated a faith that does not respect me. I would have advocated all Dalits to embrace Buddhism. But it is naive for one to believe that with mere change of religion the demeaning practices vis a vis treatment of Dalits can be ended overnight. A person who changes his shirt will remain the same self, A Dalit who changes his religion will remain a dalit till he asserts his being in the same religious- fold.
True, in urban areas, we do not see this pernicious practice. It may be due to fear of being prosecuted or it may due to a feeling that such practices are inhuman. Or, maybe due to cosmopolitan environment of the city. The rural scene is different. Some elites among Dalits, English-speaking and well placed, embrace Buddhism, leaving a sea of the vast , preponderant, illiterate section of the Dalits behind. Aren’t they being escapist? Real role models are those who choose to remain within one’s fold to fight it out.
Dalits would do well to shed their inferiority complex and take pride in being what they are. We see this awakening in Andhra Pradesh where Dalits affix their caste identity along with their names, like Krishna Madiga and Rama Mala. The elite among the Dalits who have climbed up the ladder should turn towards those who have remained outside the purview of reservation.
I am referring to creamy layer concept. Why should children of IPS, IAS, KAS officers, MLAs, Judges, MPs, amongt the Dalits, continue to enjoy benefits of reservation? They can set an example by foregoing their entitlement as Dalits, to enable their lesser brethern to maximise social benifits extended to their caste members under the quota system.
However, I see some good tidings sweeping in parts of the Country. Sri Pejawar Swamji has been saying on a number of pub lic platforms that it was high time the Hindus, who still believed in discrimination, looked inwards. Introspection is the operative word.
(Krishna Vattam is the veteran Deccan Herald and Praja Vani journalist, currently the editor-in-chief of Praja Nudi and The Mysore Mail.)