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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 20 New Delhi May 5, 2018


Saturday 5 May 2018, by Nikhil Chakravartty


From N.C.’s Writings

The gruesome killing of three—a girl and two young men—at Mehrana, a village near Mathura on the UP-Rajasthan border on March 27 has spread shock waves.

The inhumanity of the lynching of the three on the order of the village panchayat brings out the grotesque dimension of the prevailing social inequity in our country. The original report said that the girl had eloped with one of the young men, while the other had helped them to go away. The girl belonged to a Jat family while the young man and his friend were Harijans. On their return, the village panchayat, which is Jat dominated, decreed that all the three were to be hanged. They were beaten up and then lynched and even after that when life had not ceased, they were dragged and burnt in a pyre. The parents of the Harijan victims were also beaten up.

This is the real picture of what it means to be dominated by the so-called upper castes. The Jats are the most ruthless and for them the Harijans are mere chattels who do not deserve to be considered human. In the rural set-up, particularly in the socalled Cow Belt, this is the grim reality. In the current election battle, the talk of stability is very much in the air. But so long as the rural scene is dominated by such heinous persecution by the upper castes on the lower castes, how could there be stability in our society?

It is this reality of the prevailing social inequity which explains why the very announcement of the Janata Dal’s decision to implement one single item of the recommendations of the Mandal Report touched off such a storm that it ultimately forced V.P. Singh to resign. The fierce campaign that was unleashed against V.P. Singh last year reflects the ugly display of the same mentality of preserving upper-caste domination as is to be found in the horrendous crime of the Jat elders in the village panchayat at Mehrana. The very fact that V.P. Singh was ruthlessly hounded out of office for having spoken up for the social underdog has made him so tremendously popular among the deprived castes as could be seen in the mammoth crowds that come to his campaign meetings in all parts of the country today.

Those who raise the cry of protection for the economically vulnerable alone, in effect fight shy of facing the ugly reality of caste oppression in Indian society. There can be no equity or stability for this nation unless and until this scourge is franky recognised and eliminated.

The social oppression in the Indian village is hideous in its cruelty. This brings one face to face with the phenomenon called Devi Lal, who claims to be the tribal chieftain of the Jat fraternity, the oppressive class in the North Indian village. He and his family have been indulging in depredation on the political scene in the last two years in particular. In his own family, there was the mysterious disappearance of a young lady and no police or judicial investigation has been enforced. Some of the women’s organisations involved in social action have taken up the case, but as usual, the law’s delay is hampering the process of justice. It is amazing that this character is regarded as one of the pillars of Chandra Shekhar’s party pledged to socialism, as its signboard proclaims.

The pampering of Devi Lal by different political formations in the country symbolises the degeneration of our politics because of the peculiar electoral system by which caste and communal affiliations get priority over urgent social issues. Unless and until this drawback in our parliamentary system is rectified, the politics of this country would be in captivity in the hands of the Devi Lals and such other caste leaders. It is here that there is urgent need for a nationwide crusade cutting across party barriers, and also those outside the orbit of party politics, to right the wrongs committed by caste oppression and communal discrimination.

This has to be the agenda for Indian politics beyond the voting in the coming general elections.

(Mainstream, April 6, 1991)

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