Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal’s statement two days ago that his government was working for the uplift of Dalits in a manner better than Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati (no comment on the latter’s seriousness on the issue) can at best be described as plain politics. But, his argument to support the claim proved otherwise, if it was not his policy makers’ naiveté or goof-up.
While the Dalit politics in the state has never gone beyond compulsory delimitation exercises to reserve certain constituencies, recently the Left has been trying to champion heir cause after the BSP itself failed to make inroads into the state. Based on a so-called survey of Dalit households conducted by CPIM, the party has at least made a right claim, of religious sanction giving legitimization to social discrimination in the state. Dhumal’s welfare measure of providing every assembly segment with an ‘Ambedkar community building’ proves this beyond doubt.
At a function in Lucknow he said that “These ‘Ambedkar buildings’ would help the Dalits and poor to hold social and cultural functions like marriages at a very low price. Having separate community building for the Dalits means giving official sanction to caste discrimination. The CM went on to state that all villages with more than 40 per cent population of Dalits will be developed as Chief Minister Adarsh villages where all basic infrastructure would be provided. This measure too serves no purpose except legitimizing caste and the divide thereof.
The CPIM had recently claimed that more than 50 forms of social discrimination are being practiced in the hill state, while a Dalit rights groups a few days back had submitted a memorandum to the Governor to declare 20 areas in the state as ‘victimised-Dalit’ areas.
Between 2007 and 2009, Himachal Pradesh had 698 cases registered regarding victimization of Dalits, out of which 18 cases led to conviction, while 120 ended with acquittals and the rest are pending. While political parties in the state have directly started targeting the Dalit vote bank, the real issue of social equality remains a mirage.