Globalization, Religion and their impact on Dalits
D. Murali Manohar
Dept. of English
University of Hyderabad
Globalization is a boon for some and a curse for others. Similarly, religion is a boon for some and a curse for others. The boon factor of globalization is for property owners, businesspersons, industrialists, real estate personnel, capitalists, entrepreneurs, software companies to mention only a few. The curse factor is for labor, employees of middle income group, part-time workers, oppressed and exploited people such as scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, other backward castes and Muslim minorities to mention a few.
Liberalization bill was introduced by late former Prime Minister Sri P. V. Narasimha Rao in 1991 during his tenure when the present Prime Minister Sri Manmohan Singh was the then Finance Minister. There was a lot of outcry against this bill. However, it was passed in the Parliament as the majority was with the ruling party, which was the then coalition party. I knew that it would affect large sections of people of India. I was an undergraduate student then. I forecasted this result of affecting whole of India and particularly the Dalits. Let me talk of Dalits a little later. I would like to say that the Globalization has affected the job avenues to across the class and castes. There used to be lot of employment opportunities to the graduates and post-graduates and the nature of job was permanent. After the Globalization, one could find only jobs on contract basis/Part time/consolidated payment. The government is only an observer of all these developments. They cannot go against the World Bank terms. They dance according to the music of World Bank and International Monetary Fund. The effect of Globalization is seen in Uttar Pradesh, which was reported in an English paper[i] as “Brahmins seek ‘Dalit Jobs’”. The applicants were “Brahmins, Misras, Shuklas, Tripathis and Tiwaris”. How should we understand this? Do the upper castes affect dalits or dalits affected by upper castes? One of the applicants says to the Deccan Chronicle news reporter that; “It is better to become a scavenger than to become a criminal. If I do not get this job, I may have to take to crime to fend for my family, which is dependent on me for a square meal” (DC : 2). I was reminded of Kancha Ilaiah’s chapter “Dalitization not Hinduaization” in his book Why I am not a Hindu. He proposes:
Dalitization requires that the whole of Indian society learns from the Dalitwaadas (here I am speaking specifically about scheduled castes localities). It requires that we look at the Dalitwaadas in order to acquire a new consciousness. It requires that we attend to life in these waadas; that we appreciate what is positive, what is humane and what can be extended from Dalitwaadas to the whole of society. (Ilaiah 115-116)
Are the upper castes learning from the experiences and consciousness of “Dalitwaadas” as opined by Ilaiah? If Globalization can affect the upper castes, one can imagine how much it can affect the Dalits.
As far as religion is concerned, the boon factor is for high castes of chathur varna caste system of Hinduism such as Brahmins, kshatriyas, vysyas, and sudras. However, Kancha Ilaiah has excluded sudras in his book Why I am Not a Hindu (1996)[ii] from the boon factor. I have a problem with him about sudras excluding from the boon factor not as same as the other three castes enjoy the boon factor. How can he say that sudra’s are excluded from the boon factor? In fact, the Sudra castes such as Reddys and Kammas are, whom he calls Neo-Kshatriyas, the ones who follow the untouchability most along with the Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vysyas at the villages. The curse factor is for scheduled castes in which there are hundreds of sub-castes. This is the reason why the dalits convert to religions such as Christianity, Islam and Buddhism.
Dr. B. R. Ambedkar has been the inspiration to all dalits in order to fight against the oppression. He did fight as much as he could during the freedom struggle for the freedom of oppression. One could see the impact of Ambedkar’s call for conversion from Hinduism. As a result, lakhs of dalits came forward to embrace Buddhism. Dalit Buddhists are still trying to convert dalits from Hinduism and Christianity to Buddhism. I am of the opinion that dalits were born Hindus including Dr. Ambedkar. Due to the ill-treatment, oppression, exploitation of Dalits, the Dalits are spreading their wings to the other available religions, which seem to discriminate less than the Hinduism. It is not that religions such as Christianity and Islam are free from oppression. They do show discrimination as the writers have shown in their works. For example, Bama in her book Karukku (2002)[iii] and Saleem in his Vendimegham (2006)[iv] have shown how Christianity and Islam respectively are no better than Hinduism. Having been in Hinduism, first his father then Narendre Jadhav himself in his book Outcaste: A Memoir[v] moves into Buddhism also takes his family along with him. His wife Sonu, of course, does not leave Hinduism completely. She tries to argue with her husband, in order to know, how to forget the local deities who are part of Hindu rituals and way of worship. The question I would like to ask in this gathering is that why do not the Hindu organizations such as Kanchi kama Khoti, Viswa Hindu Parishad and Rastria Swayam Sevak, Bhajarang Dal, International Society for Krishna Consciousness and other allied Hindu organizations do not condemn the atrocities against dalits who are practicing Hinduism. The opinion of Vasant Sathe reiterates my argument:
If the objective to bring these underprivileged people on the same level as the rest, then the best solution would be for the Shankaracharyas and various religious heads to come together and declare, as was done Adishankaracharya, “that by birth everyone is a manual worker. It is by education that he becomes twice born.” Janamana Jayate Shudro-Sanskarat Dwijam Ucchate. Let anybody who goes to school be declared a Brahmin with the right for upanayan. This way we will be able to make every human being a true seeker of truth i.e Brahmin. Thus a true Vedantic revolution of equality will be brought about.[vi]
There are attacks on Dalit Hindus who celebrate Hindu festivals with the utmost devotion. To give you an example in a village called Pyapili, Kurnool District, Andhra Pradesh when the dalits were participating in the procession of Ganesh on the immersion (Nimajjanam) day, they were attacked by the upper castes. No Hindu organization condemns this act. Why don’t they? Don’t the Hindus want scheduled castes to worship and celebrate Vinayaka Chaturthi and other Hindu religious festivals in their village? Why should the upper castes try to suppress their devotion to Lord Ganesh? The Dalit Hindus have been celebrating the Hindu festivals with utmost devotion. They also participate in all the cultural activities. To quote the celebration of Vinayaka Chaturthi in Narendra Jhadav’s Outcaste, one finds how devotionally they worship and participate in it. Can any Hindu stop any Dalit who is practicing the Hindu religion out of his own interest or out of his own parents’ ancestral practice? No religion is a private property. Any one can practice any religion. It is guaranteed by Indian constitution. I must say that there is a change in the attitude of caste Hindus towards the dalits. It may be slightly seen only in towns and cities but not at the village level.
On the one hand, I expect the Hindu religious organizations to condemn atrocities on dalits, on the other hand, I also expect the intellectuals also to condemn it. Recently, I attended a National Conference on Democracy and Caste in India at CIEFL from 10-12 August 2006 in which I wanted to hear from the much acclaimed intellectual and social critic called Partha Chatterjee to condemn the atrocities plead for casteless society. However, I felt that he came with an agenda that whatever the Dalits do, they cannot be considered on par with caste Hindus. There may be a change in the attitude of the high castes but still they cannot expect the Dalits to be accepted. If this is the response of a famous educationist and critic of society, you cannot expect Dalits to vote for the parties like BJP, which is fully a Hindutva Party. Recently, the RSS has expressed that “only dalits and deprived can uplift us, this is undoubted truth” says a hardhitting editorial in the latest issue of RSS Hindi organ Panchjanya”[vii]. Why will the dalits vote to a party that may have made a Dalit as the President of the Party for some time and claim that they had given a post of a President. Dalits are more aware and more conscious about the ploy that the upper castes play with the Dalits. They are tired of exploitation. I would also advice the Congress party to be cautious about the psyche and emotions of Dalits. So far Dalits have been backing up the Congress thinking that it is a secular party although most of the leaders are upper castes still they have been voting for Congress. It is not a communal party. The Congress party may have the agenda on the principles of secularism giving importance to all castes and classes. The Congress party has large number of upper castes and the representation of Dalits according to the proportionate of Dalit population. How secular are these congress leaders? Even as members of Assemblies or Parliament, they have to face the political, social and religious oppression and suppression. I would also blame the Dalit leaders who are in the positions and work for the welfare of Dalits either doing nothing or doing a little. How many of them are really working for the Dalits’ welfare? They also contest in elections and become M. L. As / M. Ps and behave as equal as the other upper caste leaders. If at all, any Dalit leader who has done substantially for the welfare of Dalits is, it is Mr. Ram Vilas Pashwan. As a Railway Minister, he had filled thousands of posts in the Railways.
Can any caste Hindu prevent any Dalit worshipping Hindu gods? They cannot do at all places. They can definitely do at the villages because the population is less and everybody knows about every body’s caste. How could any one know who belongs to which caste? There are some temples, which ask the devotees to show/prove that they belong to upper castes. Masaala Eeranna was denied permission to enter into Raghavendra Swami temple in Mantralayam which is in Kurnool District. The reason was that he was a Dalit. Moreover, he was an M.L.A at that time and he contested in a reserved constituency. Obviously, he was a public figure and his caste was known to everybody. There is a tradition in this temple that no male devotee should enter the Garbhagudi with a shirt on his body. The men have to go half-naked. Otherwise, the devotees are not allowed.
What about the temples which have Dalits as gods and deities? Who is the temple priest in a Dalit deity temple? I would like to talk about a temple that is built and being worshipped by all castes mostly the Dalits. The temple priest is a Brahmin. The temple was constructed with initiation by the town M.L.A. along with donations from businesspersons and philanthropists. She became a yogini without wearing any clothes. There was spiritual power in her. Every year in the month of July and every month of third Friday there are bhajans and Keerthans on her name. Jatara (festival) is celebrated with lakhs of people descending to the town from the surrounding villages. The deity belongs to Mala community one of the sub castes of Scheduled Caste of Andhra Pradesh. This temple is called Mahayogini Laxmi Temple located in Adoni Town, Kurnool District, Andhra Pradesh.
How united are Hindus? Are there no differences and hegemonies with in the Hinduism? Ilaiah calls Vaishnavism as fundamentalist Hindu religion whereas the Veerashaivism as the liberal Hinduism. Are not there conflicts between Vaishnavism and Veerashaivism? Tamilnadu is known for Vaishnavism and Karnataka is known for Veerashaivism. Siv Sena is one group of Hinduism and Bhajrang Dal as another group which has Hanuman as their revered god.
How does globalization affect Dalits? It is through privatizing the public sector organizations or closing down the factories. There was an attempt to privatize or sell the shares of B.H.E.L one of the profit making industries in India to private businesspersons. It was due to the opposition of CPM party and CPI parties, which are alliances of UPA, the government rolled back. Otherwise, the much-profited public sector named Bharat Heavy Electrical Limited, one of the Navaratnas, would have been sold. The result would be several dalits who are employees of this would fear that they would lose their jobs or in future, the dalits would not be taken into it.
Globalization has resulted in reducing the staff in government departments. If the number of staff is reduced, it affects both the upper castes as well as Dalits. After the implementation of reservation, so many Dalits are being educated. When the rate of educated Dalits is increasing more, the hope of getting jobs is negative. Moreover, when the Dalits are getting educated, the effect of Globalization is breaking their bones. When the Dalits had no education, there were government jobs, and when the Dalits are educated, there are no government jobs. Even if there are jobs, most of them are contract jobs or ad hoc basis jobs. There is no security to jobs. In fact, they are appointed for less than a year. Moreover, there is no guarantee that the same post is given to the same person. When it comes to contract basis, sometimes, they do not even observe or follow reservations. There is lot of insecurity in the people of India. Even if they have jobs, they have to do the jobs that they do not aspire. They have to compromise on the jobs that they get. As I have already mentioned the upper castes are applying even for Dalit posts such as Karmachari.
Moreover, as a privatization process, there is no reservation policy. In accepting reservation policy except Tata Group of Companies (“Tatas ready for caste quota in private sector” by Subhodh Ghildiyal, Monday 29th November 2004, http://www.ambedkar.org/) and Videocon Company, apart from these two companies, no other private company is willing to observe reservation policy in the recruitment of their company personnel. It is a private limited company. Furthermore, in all the public sector companies, government department services employers are hired on contract basis. Choosing only upper castes as the employees into the companies as the companies are owned by the upper castes themselves. Nonetheless, the private sector companies or factories are largely owned by the upper castes and they would recruit their kith and kin or the upper castes alone. Aren’t the dalits, thus, affected by globalization? The upper castes are forefront in taking loans in lakhs or crores from the public and private sector banks and establish companies. If the dalits approach, they do not respond properly. Moreover, how can the dalits show collateral security in order to obtain industry loan? The process is made easy for the others but not for the dalits. Are not the dalits affected psychologically of this caste system? How could the Dalits dare take loans or crores of rupees as a loan with out collateral security?
They only have, if at all any Dalit dares to take either small-scale industry loan or large- scale industry loan, education but not the assets which can be shown as collateral security.
Why do governments encourage private sector by providing power, landing, tax exemption, road, infrastructure and complete autonomy with out touching upon constitutional obligations? In Hyderabad, so many private companies have been allotted lands by the state government at a token of cheap rates that are otherwise very costly. “The government is unashamedly transferring the precious urban land in use of the poor to the rich industrialists and builders. The massive slum demolition drives that are continuing in cities are but a part of it. Since majority of the dalits live in urban shanties, they are the worst sufferers of these drives.”[viii] I am sure this kind of thing is happening in Vishakapatnam, Tirupati, Chennai and Bangalore as well. “The entire prescription of the AP to the agrarian crisis is thus inimical to the interests of small peasants. It is not only dalit cultivators but even the dalit landless labourers would be affected very adversely by such policies. Their rank has been swelling by growing landlessness, creating pressure on wages and corresponding accentuation of crisis. The social crisis in village setting necessarily manifests in caste strife and atrocities. The increased incidence of caste atrocities during the decade of globalization as compared with that during the pre-globalization period testifies to this fact.”[ix] Anand Tantumbe (http://www.ambedkar.org/)
All these land allotments in Andhra Pradesh made to the private companies made in the name of development. What is development? Have the governments done anything to improve the state economy or National economy to enhance based on extra effort in raising source of income or funds. Whether it is state government or central government, both governments are after in queue to the international organizations such as World Bank and International Monetary Fund. What do they do with the loan money? Some part of the loan money is shared by first the project directors, concerned Ministry, private contractors, and at the ground level you have some improvement which is there for a short period.
As part of Liberalization, so many small-scale industries such as weaving, handmade, leather, handlooms and pottery are affected by liberalization. Today one finds so many multinational companies flooding into India. What is the goal of any multinational company? The goal of any multinational company is to make profits. Of course, they sell products, which may or may not match with the quality of Indian products. The subject psychology would tell us naturally one is attracted to the products that are new; and has not seen any time. Relatively, the cost of the product would be more or less. The people would not mind the cost, as the variety and quality are different.
In my conclusion, I would like to appeal to all the Hindu organizations to come forward and condemn the atrocities on dalits and help them in practice whatever religion they would like to embrace. Indian Constitution guarantees this right to all citizens. In the name of globalization, do not divide the nation between haves and have-nots. Please stop riding/grabbing the Dalit lands in the name of development and globalization. The dalits are educating themselves after long decades, therefore, make room for them to get employment opportunities and do not deprive the jobs by selling the stakeholders from the government side and binding to the dictums of World Bank or IMF.
[i] Deccan Chronicle, Friday, 2nd December 2006, p.1.
[ii] Kancha Ilaiah, Why I am not a Hindu, Calcutta: Samya, 1996.
[iii] Bama, Karukku. Trans. by Lakshmi Holmstrom. 1992. Chennai: Macmillan, 2000.
[iv] Saleem, Vendimegham, Vijayawada: Sri Vijaya Laksahmi Publications, 2006.
[v] Narendra Jadhav, Outcaste: A Memoir, New Delhi: Penguin, 2003.
[vi] Vasant Sathe, “Don’t divide Indians on caste”, Deccan Chronicle Monday, 13th April 2006.
[vii] “RSS says all parties have good Hindus”, Deccan Chronicle, Monday, 24th July 2006.
[viii] See Article on “A Dalit Ctitique of the Approach Paper to the 11th Five Year Plan” by Anand Tentumbde (http://ambedkar.org/)
[ix] Anand Tentumbde (http://www.ambedkar.org/)
Globalization, Religion and its impact on Dalits
Dr. D. Murali Manohar
Dept. of English
University of Hyderabad
Dalits have been practicing Hindu religion right from Dr.B.R.Ambedkar’s early days to even today. They have been trying to be part of Hindu religion. It is well known fact that Ambedkar did not want to die as a Hindu due to caste system and casteism. It could be a small matter to the Hindus thinking what if he does not die as a Hindu, nothing is going to change in India. The result of ignoring the statement of Ambedkar by the Hindus and Hindutva are paying the price for it. The Scheduled castes are moving towards Buddhism and Christianity. It is very difficult for the SCs to remain in the Hinduism. There is not only freedom from the caste system for Dalits but also job avenues if they convert to Christianity.
From the politics point of view, the Dalits will never vote for parties like BJP, Shiv Sena and other allied parties with BJP. Without the support of Dalits, I do not think BJP can dream of forming the government or winning the support of Dalits. Even today the untouchability is practiced and no Peetha or Hindu Organization condemns the act. How can they expect the support of Dalits? Whether the Dalits practice Hinduism or Christianity or Islam or Buddhism, they do not support Hindutva parties that neglect them.
The Dalits are adversely affected after Globalization. They have been losing jobs as a result of modern technology in the agricultural fields, roads and buildings, construction of the water projects. Moreover, there seems to be a strategy to make Dalits lose opportunities in the Public Sector Organizations either they have been closed down or they have been privatized. The examples are attempts to privatize the Airports, existence of private Flights, attempts to reduce the share of investments in LIC, BHEL etc.; selling the lands at cheaper rates to IT companies and providing facilities such as subsidized power and water supply rates in Hyderabad, Bangalore and Chennai.