People's Democracy, 3 Dec 2006
THERE is an urgent need to carry out serious study and research into various aspects of Dalit and Minorities affairs and provide inputs for future policy formulations. It is also imperative to seriously analyse as to why despite six decades of reservations and big social movements led by the likes of Ambedkar, Phule and Periyar, there is no radical improvement in the lives of Dalits and other oppressed sections of the society.
This was stated by CPI(M) Polit Bureau member and MP, Sitaram Yechury, while inaugurating a new course ‘PG Diploma in Dalit and Minorities Studies’ of the Jamia Millia Islamia University, New Delhi, On November 24, 2006. Dr K R Narayanan Centre for Dalit and Minorities Studies will run this one-year duration course. Professor Mushirul Hasan, vice chancellor of the university presided over the inaugural function.
Yechury while delivering the keynote address, titled “Globalisation and Marginalisation of Dalits and Minorities”, said the launch of such a course at this point of time was highly significant. The Khairlanji massacre of dalits and the Sachhar committee report have sparked off discussion on the status of dalits and minorities throughout the country.
Yechury termed the upsurge of dalits witnessed across the country as a very positive development. However, he warned about conscious efforts to confine this rebellion within the narrow confines of caste, thus preventing it from joining the mainstream democratic movement. He called for fighting such compartmentalisation. Debunking those who try to pose the issue as a question of caste vs class, he said this framework is both ahistorical and unscientific. Saying that the process of class formation is still taking place in our society, which is already stratified by caste structure, he asserted that the most oppressed of castes are also the most oppressed of classes. “Therefore there is an overlap of both caste and class. Social oppression and economic exploitation are two sides of the same coin and class struggles cannot advance without tackling both”, he said.
Referring to the lack of any improvement in the lives of dalits and tribals despite six decades of affirmative action of reservations and social struggles led by the likes of Ambedkar, Phule etc, Yechury opined that the main reason for this failure was the lack of focus on economic empowerment of these sections. He wanted the K R Narayanan Centre to go into these aspects rigorously and come out with its findings. Yechury concluded his speech calling upon dalits and minorities to break out of the efforts to isolate and separate them from the mainstream struggles.
Professor Mushirul Hasan said the findings of Sachhar Committee did not surprise him as everyone knew that the condition of Muslims in India has been deteriorating over time. He charged all governments, barring the Left-ruled Bengal, Kerala and Tripura, of practicing minority exclusion and said there was documentary evidence on this. He felt the agenda of economic empowerment of Muslims has been hijacked by fundamentalist forces within the community, who actively promoted identity issues. He called for shifting of focus back to economic empowerment of the community.
Professor Mujtaba Khan, chairman of the centre, earlier welcomed the guests and made preliminary remarks. He praised the Left parties, particularly the CPI(M), for always standing by the minorities in their struggle for justice, be it in Ayodhya, Gujarat etc. He felt it was unfortunate that some sections of the community fall prey to canards about the Left being anti-religion.
Khan informed the gathering that there is encouraging response to the centre from scholars and 30 of them have already registered for PhD programme at the centre. (INN)