By Karanveer Singh
When the BJP announced its Presidential Candidate, Ram Nath Kovind, the first information about him that was reported to the masses was that he is a Dalit leader. Amit Shah himself mentioned his caste more than 15 times in the announcement itself.
Ram Nath Kovind’s nomination has been pictured as the saviour of Dalit which identifies the political stand towards the exploited and ignored Dalits. Suddenly, the presidential election became a matter of caste, and the opposition was left with no choice but to nominate a Dalit candidate themselves and hence, the Meira Kumar announcement.
It became a Dalit versus Dalit game, sadly enough as it was not some empowering move but for a show to garner 20% Dalit vote of India (approx.).
What does the announcement mean?
BJP to win the 2019 election needs a strong hold in UP which has more than 21% Dalit vote (as they say, whoever wins UP, wins India). No major party could afford to appear as an anti-Dalit party while prior to this the other parties had a stand to choose a neutral, non-BJP candidate.
The sad part about this is that the label of “Dalit empowerment” has once again been presented as a reformative move but it is all a facade. BJP has kept mum at all the anti–Dalit crimes that has been occurring in the country for the past few years and this is their reply to it which is as ridiculous as the topic for discussion about the presidency appears.
In all simplicity, the government is just portraying that they are okay with Dalit atrocities as long as we have a Dalit president in exchange.
The most basic argument that comes forward in favour of the move is that it might reduce the anti-Dalit crimes and bring confidence in the Dalit community.
It can be negated through two points.
Firstly, in 1984 during the Sikh genocide (which has been the worst case in the independent India) our President was Giani Zail Singh, a Sikh and still the genocide happened.
Secondly, when the majority of the Dalit community lives under a threat of being abusively dominated by an upper caste boss of his/her (considering recent incidents), it doesn’t help, because the presidency doesn’t affect it in anyway.
The reality, however, is that the Dalits are still far from being empowered. The reserved seats for the Dalits in the government hardly raise the Dalit issues. Dalits are still subjected to chronic discrimination at every level of society.
Surprisingly enough, the discrimination has been more prominent at the upper level of it which constitutes all the highly educated people of the country who still practice casteism.
Dalits are lynched inside and outside their homes. They are beaten up, robbed, raped, assaulted, extorted for the reasons that are not reasonable, and excuses that are not excusable.
The Dalits or the Scheduled castes and tribes in the country are as weak as they were a decade or two ago. The elections at every stage have manipulated their upliftment through fake promises and laying down a smokescreen.
This wouldn’t change with a Dalit President, this would change with a receptive population and its receptive leadership.