The Failed Dalit Struggle

Published On: June 23, 2021 01:03 PM NPT By: Giri Bahadur Sunar

The dream of creating a classless society has remained just a dream. It could never become a reality.  

Nepali Dalits are doing double struggle; the caste-based struggle and class-based struggle to emancipate themselves from the existing Hindu caste system. Caste and class are interwoven in the Nepali context – inseparable. Rather we can say class is a byproduct of the Hindu caste system where Dalits are at the bottom of the social structure. Dalits are socially, religiously, culturally, educationally, economically, politically discriminated against and excluded groups for ages. The intellectual and political struggle is going on but caste and class struggles are becoming an untiring and never-ending process. Still, Dalits are not able to create a casteless society, and in similar ways communists have failed to create a classless society.

Why did Dalits and communists fail?

In response to this question, I would like to borrow the statement of Bishwo Bhakta Dulal “Ahuti”. According to Ahuti, “Nepali political parties did not recognize the Dalit agenda as a major agenda of struggle except the Maoist party of Nepal but the Maoist party, too, dropped the agenda of the Dalits and got mixed with the hybrid new communist party having the pure characteristic of a capitalist’s party”.

Dropping the Dalit agenda by the Maoist party is very simple because most of the Maoist leaders were from the Hindu Brahmin family. Intentionally, they used Dalits as a ladder to reach the top (power) and now they have dropped the Dalit agenda because they achieved their desired goal, and continuation of this agenda means endangering the Hindu religion. The Hindu religion stands on the base of the caste system. The caste system is the backbone of the Hindu religion. So, no upper caste people want to dismantle the Hindu religious structure.

The real mastermind behind the Hindu caste system was Manu. Manu was a clever and the most criminal mind of the world but some Hindus think of him as a great seer who created an immobile society 5,000 years ago and it is still the same. Manu divided humanity into four categories: the highest category is of the Brahmin, who never works, who only worships, who only prays and Brahmin is the highest and the lowest is the Sudra who works and supports the whole society. The condition or division of labor has been changed now because of capitalization and its global marketing system. All are free to choose their choice of occupation but caste or occupation-based discrimination still exists. Thos belonging to the so called upper castes have freedom to choose their choice of occupation but the Dalits can’t. A Dalit can’t choose to be the priest of a Hindu temple.

The caste struggle is not possible in Hindu society because there is no hope of upgrading caste which is based on birth and Karma. It is fixed by birth which is why a Brahmin (priest) remains a brahmin. Brahmin will remain on the top; either they are poor or rich, it does not matter. Kshatriya (warriors) will remain Kshatriya, no matter how powerful they are or weak. The Businessman (Vaishya) will remain a businessman. Just because they are rich, they cannot become a brahmin, they cannot purchase the caste. They cannot rise; they will remain third class, however rich they are or poor. The Sudras (untouchables) will remain Sudras: they have to do all the labor related work and they cannot move from there, becoming educated or rich will not make any difference; the untouchable will remain untouchable forever as long as the Hindu caste system exists.

Manu was clever enough to create a rigid caste or class system in Hindu society. He was able to convince and condition Hindu people that the reason behind having birth in a Sudra family was their past life Karma (action) which is not avoidable in this life. The reason behind becoming poor or disabled is all because of past life’s Karma so Hindu Dalits or poor gave up the idea of caste struggle. The mindset of Hindu peoples was dominated by religious ideology but there is the hope of mobility in Karl Marx's ideology, the poor can become rich and the rich can become poor at any time but Karl Marx or communists also failed to create a classless society. Since the inception period, the ideological struggle had led to armed struggles and class struggle has continued to create a classless society, numbers of struggles happened between the haves and haves not groups but no classless society could be formed. Inequality and injustice are continuing.

Why communists failed?

Here, I am not discussing the Nepali communist parties because they is not a community party in Nepal anymore. Rather, all of the so-called communist parties are brokers of imperialism. I am talking about Russian communists, Cuban communists, and others where the governments took the buffaloes of their citizens with the promises to provide milk equally but failed to provide equal milk. With this example of buffalo, I mean to say that the communist party took the property of their citizens to make it national property. The aim of converting private property into public was to create an equal society but communists failed. Communist countries uphold the principle laid down by Satirist George Orwell in Animal Farm that all are created equal, but some are more equal than others. This means in practice that Communist Party members get more and better food, housing, clothing, and recreation than the mass of the people, who live in darkness because they know not Marx. Anyone who suggests that Communists live like ordinary people is guilty of a heresy called egalitarianism, upon which the great Lenin himself pronounced anathema. The struggle is becoming an unending process. The dream of creating a classless society has remained just a dream; it could never become a reality.

In a way, Manu has been more successful than Marx. The idea was that if the classes are completely static, there is not going to be any struggle, competition. For 5,000 years, Manu’s idea has remained in practice, and the Hindu society has never been in a class struggle. The poor are there, the rich are there, but there is no class struggle. Poverty never became an issue of struggle in the Hindu caste system; poverty was believed to be a result of the past Karma of an individual. The system of Karma closed the door of any type of flexibility.

Not only communists but also democratic governments or democratic political parties failed to eliminate the existing caste-based discrimination. In India, Dalit leader Dr BR Ambedkar got the opportunity to write the first constitution of independent India. He did write the constitution and did his best to eliminate caste-based discrimination from the Indian society and though he initiated different political movements, campaign and through his highly intellectual writings but failed. In a hopeless situation, he said, “Though I was born a Hindu, I solemnly assure you that I will not die a Hindu.” Dr Ambedkar converted himself into a Buddhist along with millions of Indian Dalits with the hope to free them from the Hindu caste-based discrimination but caste-based discrimination still exists in India.

Dalits will remain Dalits as long as the Hindu caste system exists. Annihilation of the caste system in the constitution and making laws based on the constitution is not enough. Law is there but the law enforcing offices are from the same upper caste people who want to sustain the Hindu religious rituals, norms, and values. Dalits constitute 13.5 percent of the total population in Nepal but their representation is invisible. To make the reach of Dalits in such positions and power, reservation or quota systems were made in bureaucratic systems, political parties, and other institutions but it created enmity between the so-called upper caste people and the so-called lower caste people. The upper caste people think that Dalits are their enemies as if Dalits are outsiders. Dalits deserved quota as other discriminated groups such as women, indigenous people, Muslims, Madhesis, differently able people, and other marginalized and excluded groups do. It is a democratic process to uplift and empower the downtrodden but the question remains how long the reservation quota system will remain? The Indian reservation system has continued but caste-based discrimination has not ended; rather it has increased in India. The really excluded or deserving candidates are not getting the fruits of the inclusion process. Reservation or quota system is not for sustaining the existing discrimination; it is a short-term solution but some want to sustain and play the political game out of the system.

What next if all doors are closed?

It is complicated to predict. What next? All systems failed. The first step to be taken is the abolition of all reservations and quota systems. In the place of reservation or quota system, all positions of power - whether they are in the political parties, judiciary, legislative, executive and others bureaucratic and institutional organs - need to be manned with people based on the population of all castes and groups because all caste groups are taxpayers so all taxpayers deserve their participation in all structures of the state equally based-on population. Second step would be mass religious conversion into not only Christian but also into Buddhist or Islam because the Hindu religion is the religion of caste discrimination. Let’s take an example of Christianity. The Christian religion is growing very fast in Nepal. If it continues at the current pace, the Hindu religious groups will be in minority sooner than later. Once the Hindu religious groups come in the minority, they will not discriminate against Dalits the way they are doing at present but chances of discrimination with Dalits will remain the same as long as the Brahmin priests take the leadership of the Christian religion.

Reports of caste-based discrimination are coming from within the communist parties as well. According to the Scientific Communist Party manifesto, private property won’t be converted into national property as done by Lenin and Stalin; rather, it will be converted into the property of communes. Third is, the democratic way but it is a very flexible system with too much freedom which will additionally make Dalits more vulnerable if the law is not properly enforced. We need a social democratic system that will eliminate the system of nepotism. It's time for a new democratic system, a fairer, and more equal and sustainable democratic system. The fourth is reforming the Hindu religion system. The so-called upper caste and lower caste people both need to unite together and make a consensus to change all existing discriminatory religious scriptures and create new Hindu religious scriptures where all humanity fits together.

Racism is even stronger than caste system because of the structure of body or color which is openly visible to everyone; it is noticeable but caste is not like this. People can’t notice or differentiate Hindu people with their appearance but Dalits are discriminated against only in a close society where people are known to each other and people are identified with their family names. In the future, visible or physical forms of caste-based discrimination may not be there but it will remain in a subtle form or a psychological form in the people’s minds along with Hindu religion, and the psychological discrimination against Dalits will continue. Caste liberation is an unending project. Each race, each caste, each class, and each individual has the feelings of superiority over other similar groups. So, the ego of being superior will not die even if people become economically equal, educationally equal, and socially equal. Deep down, there will be a feeling of superiority that I am from this group and they are from that. This will continue. This is human nature.

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