By Pervez Bari
BANGALORE: Dalits and Muslims of the country have resolved to take steps for building grass-roots level social alliance and to evolve joint strategies to address issues common to both the communities.
This decision came at the end of the day-long round table Dalit-Muslim Dialogue held at the Indian Social Institute here in Bangalore on 12th October, 2019 which was participated by leaders and intellectuals invited from different states along with national leaders of Popular Front of India, (PFI). The Dalit-Muslim Dialogue was hosted by PFI.
The programme was inaugurated by prominent Dalit writer and founder editor of “Dalit Voice” V. T. Rajshekar, a veteran journalist. Popular Front general secretary M. Mohammed Ali Jinnah welcomed the delegates and secretary Anis Ahmed presented the keynote paper. Popular Front National Executive Council member E. M. Abdul Rahiman was the moderator.
Inaugurating the Dialogue veteran scribe V. T. Rajshekar recalled that renowned Dalit leader late B. Shyam Sunder was the father of Dalit-Muslim unity as he in 1968 had laid the foundation for “Dalit-Muslim Unity Movement” while presiding over the All India Backward Classes & Other Minorities Convention held at Lucknow. The veteran Dalit leader Shyam Sunder then had evoked urgency to the programme and gave a call for “Change! Change swiftly! If you do not change now you will never change”.
Rajshekar pointed out that Shyam Sunder’s ideas emphasized Federation as a solution for resolving the problems of Indian Minorities and enforcement of constitutional rights, preservation of culture, electoral reforms etc.
Rajshekar dubbed BJP as Brahman Jati Party. He said Dalits and Muslims are blood brothers while the former should consider Muslims as their elder brother. The enemies of both the communities are the same. He pleaded for such a dialogue between Dalits and Muslims every three months to take stock of the situation and overall welfare of each other.
He said that Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar has given us road map of empowerment i.e. educate, agitate and organize. However, Dalits and Muslims are clamouring for political power without following the road map as enunciated above.
Meanwhile, Anis Ahmed, PFI national secretary, while presenting the keynote paper said that the new policies brought by the government such as strengthening NIA, UAPA and also the planned NRC will act as new tools to target Muslims and Dalits. The pace at which the BJP government is proceeding it seems evident that they will very shortly come open with their anti-Dalit policies.
Ahmed emphasized that under such circumstances it is important that there should be a fresh start for looking into and exploring new avenues to build a strong Dalit-Muslim alliance to counter the rise of Brahminical Fascism. This will require a proper understand on the dynamic movements among both the community and a practical roadmap. The alliance should not just be limited among the leadership but should also reach at grass-root level. Due to the influence of Brahminical monopoly in Indian politics, BJP and other mainstream political parties including Left, Socialist and so-called secular parties are alienating Dalits and Muslims. Both sections are being treated as vote banks, he added.
Ahmed stated that Dalits and Muslims have consistently been the victims of violence. Every passing day we come across instances of organized brutal attacks on the Dalits by the upper caste groups. The upper caste groups have developed a sense of immunity from any legal action as in most cases the law agencies either cover up the cases or target the Dalits with fake charges. Similarly, the Muslims have been victims of organized attacks such as communal riots and most recently the trend of lynching. The attacks on Muslims are on a rise and though such cases gain media attention, in most of the cases the culprits are never punished. The security agencies have always displayed a biased attitude towards Dalits and Muslims. Draconian laws such as UAPA, NSA and sedition law have always been a weapon in the hands of the security agencies to target Dalits and Muslims.
The pre-independence leadership of Dalits and Muslims understood the problems of both the communities and the agenda of the Brahminical order to marginalize both the communities. The Muslim leaders of colonial India supported the demand of Dr. Ambedkar for separate electorates for Dalits. The Brahminical forces understood the future impact of the Muslim-Dalit solidarity hence the narrative of a single Hindu community was brought up. Unfortunately, the Dalits and Muslims could not formulate a practical alliance between the two communities at the grass-root level. Muslim leadership also never concentrated on socio-political alliance building with the Dalit forces for fighting Fascism, Ahmed observed.
Dr. Tasleem Rahmani, National secretary of Social Democratic Party of India, (SDPI), putting forth his views on the occasion said until and unless the Dalits and Muslims unite together socially and politically you cannot bring a change in the mindset of Brahminical forces which are totally biased towards them. He questioned when Dalits say that they are not Hindus then why they behave like a Hindu?
He wondered that despite having 30 per cent seat share Dalits could not join hands as a block to share power but are scattered among different political parties. Similarly, Muslims having 16 per cent vote share could not unite to become a force. They were divided not on religious lines but in various political entities.
Bhai Tej Singh, National president of Ambedkar Samaj Party, said that Dalits’ political empowerment is only possible through Dalit-Muslim unity. There is no other way out except the force and spirit of Islam and true Ambedkarism. The Muslim organisations of the country should make friendship with a Dalit to give long-cherished “Dalit-Muslim Unity” a practical shape to make the dream of our political empowerment come true.
The political unity may not last long until and unless it has solid foundation of Qaumi Ittehad beneath it. In order to strengthen this base and liberate Dalits from the clutches of Hinduism, it is utmost essential for us to do away with the blot of caste inflictions. So long as the caste tag is not removed, the liberation is meaningless. For political empowerment to be complete the social alliance should precede political alliance, he added.
Adv. Sharfuddin Ahmad, National vice president of SDPI, said that Dr. Abdul Jalil Faridi of Uttar Pradesh was the first person to give a call to Muslims and Dalits to get united. He was the first person to lay the foundation of a united Dalit-Muslim political struggle in post independent India.
He said Muslims under the Brahminical Order is a great challenge because of attitude of Muslims and working of Muslim organizations. Hindu identity and culture of Scheduled Castes not properly dealt with legally aas well as socially. Hindutva is not a religion but a militant form of politics, he added.
Mohammad Shafi, National general secretary of SDPI, said that first of all Brahminism embedded in Dalits ad Muslims should be thrown out and then chalk out the path of unity between the two communities.
It may be stated here that most of the Dalit speakers more often than not during the debate eulogized the qualities of Islam such as equality, fraternity, justice etc. They described Hinduism as a dangerous religion which differentiates between caste, creed and gender. It is portrayed maliciously that Dalits are part and parcel of Hinduism and as such they should come out of it to break the cast barrier.
Amongst others who spoke on the occasion included Supreme Court Advocate Bhanu Pratap Singh, who is the National President RJSP (Rashtriya Janhit Sangharsh Party), Elyas Thumbe, SDPI Karnataka state president, Adv. Mohammad Yusuf of PFI etc.
Meanwhile, the delegates present in the Dalit-Muslim Dialogue passed two resolutions which are as follows:
- Build Grass root level alliance between Dalits and Muslims
The Dalit-Muslim Dialogue has concluded that Muslims and Dalits face the similar social, economic and political problem. The threats and challenges faced by both the communities are also very similar, hence, there should be a united effort to face the current challenges and uplift both the communities. The session also observed that any alliance between both the communities should not be limited to the leaders but reach to grass-root level. Such a grass-root level unity will need leaders of both the community to conduct such dialogues at local level to engage masses of both the communities. The delegates resolve to take necessary steps to build and strengthen bridges between the communities for a long term goal.
- Develop coordination for intervention in issues
The delegates of the Dalit-Muslim Dialogue observed that the situation in the country is worsening due to the politics of hate and violence. There are numerous reports of violence against Dalits and Muslims. There must be coordination between both the communities so that both can play a role in protecting constitutional rights of each other. The delegates resolved that Dalits and Muslims organizations and leaders should take up ssues related to each other by building better coordination.
Meanwhile, apart from the inaugural and concluding sessions there were three other sessions in the day-long Dalit–Muslim Dialogue programme. In the three sessions the second discussed the “Understanding Issues Common to Dalits & Muslims & Understanding Forces Targetting both Dalits & Muslims”; third session was on “Muslim Approach to Dalit Issues & Dalit Approach to Muslim Issues”. The discussion in the penultimate session was on “Issues in Dalit-Muslim Alliance Building”.