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India: ‘Dalits and the Left must come together to stop BJP’

Tuesday 1 August 2017, by siawi3

Source: http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/dalits-and-the-left-must-come-together-to-stop-bjp/article19388206.ece

‘Dalits and the Left must come together to stop BJP’

July 29, 2017 23:43 IST
Updated: July 29, 2017 23:43 IST 25 mins ago

A.S. Jayanth

INTERVIEW with JIGNESH MEVANI, Kerala

Minorities are not taking to the streets like Dalits, they should come out in large numbers in a Una kind of struggle

Dalit politics saw a resurgence in the wake of the public flogging of Dalits at Una in Gujarat in July last year. Jignesh Mevani, a lawyer-turned-social activist from that State, has emerged as its most visible spokesperson. In Kozhikode to attend a host of events, he spoke to The Hindu. Edited excerpts from an interview.

A year after the Una incident, what has changed significantly in Dalit politics?

The most visible change is the raising consciousness among the Dalit youth. The ‘institutional murder’ of Rohith Vemula, the Una flogging, and the Saharanpur episode have given tremendous hope to them and the progressive camp. We could also bring about a class perspective in the Dalit movement which it lacked or lost in the last two decades after getting entangled in identity politics. Within a year, I hope I can initiate land struggles in Karnataka, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, Gujarat, and Rajasthan.

There have been targeted attacks on the minorities too…

Yes, but the minorities are not taking to the streets like Dalits.

They are scared. Incidents like Dadri and Junaid’s murder call for their coming out in large numbers in a Una kind of struggle.

Of late, you have been critical of the CPI(M), saying though they supported the Una agitation, they are silent on second land reforms in Kerala?

I will call it opportunism. You are coming to Gujarat and joining Dalits and say “keep your cow’s tail with you, give us our land”, why don’t you do it in Kerala? Why don’t you distribute land to Dalits and tribes?

Successive governments in Kerala claim they don’t have land to part with?

Most of the Dalit beneficiaries of land reforms in Kerala have got only homestead land, not agrarian land. If the lease period of Tata and Harrisons is getting over, and you have thousands of acres of land, why don’t you distribute it among the landless?

You have said that a single political entity cannot stop the onslaught of the BJP. What kind of an alliance are you envisioning?

The roots of fascism are so entrenched in the Indian soil that we can have an interim relief only after keeping the BJP out of power. We can come out with a common minimum programme when anti-BJP forces are ready to come together. I believe the way Dalits came out after the Rohith Vemula episode, the kind of movement we could create in Una, the way Bhim Army has come up — if all these get properly coordinated with other weaker sections of society, we can have a political platform. As of today, I’m not personally desperate to join parliamentary politics.

I think now the Central government needs to be cornered on the question of unemployment.

Where are the two crore jobs promised by Narendra Modi? The SCs, STs and OBCs who get benefits of reservation, and Jats, Patidars and Marathas who seek it, should join hands to ask where are jobs? Without jobs, how will there be reservation?

What should be the role of the Left in this scenario, who you once called your “natural allies”?

Dalits and the Left must come together, there is no other way. Without annihilation of caste, class struggle will not become a material reality and without class struggle, caste cannot be annihilated.

In Kerala, if the Left government is interested in the annihilation of caste, all those caste-based clusters and colonies should be wiped out.

The future of Dalit politics?

Those who have popularized Ambedkar and turned him into a demigod are conveniently silent on Ayyankali, who was far more radical. People talk about Ambedkar as they want the Dalit consciousness to be confined to the Constitution and not veer towards his radical writings. The Dalit movement needs to incorporate Ayyankali, E.V. Ramasamy, and Jotiba Phule with the same affinity, with which they have so far embraced Ambedkar.