Dalit Organisation Sets Bold Agenda for National Dalit Summit
Representational use only. Image Courtesy: PTI
Kolkata: Asserting that dalits, adivasis and women are becoming soft targets of lumpen elements in West Bengal, the Paschim Banga Samajik Nyaya Manch is taking forward the call of National Dalit Summit. It is part of the forum's efforts to organise the dalit population of the region cohesively.
Tapan Naskar, a 65-year-old dalit activist and a local representative of Paschimbanga Samajik Nyaya Manch, a unit within Dalit Shoshan Mukti Mancha in the state, shared his reflections from when he was in government service. In his tenure within the civil service, he endured the taunts of his upper-class colleagues who questioned the merit of quota beneficiaries like himself, he said. "Our background, our struggles to establish ourselves are against the backdrop of the economic struggles that we have to wage," he told NewsClick.
He added, "Social and casteist divisions are extremely sharp in North India. In West Bengal, due to the long Left Front rule and the social reformist movements, these divisions are not so severe. However, feudal remnants of society are still very active. Hence, in present-day West Bengal, dalits, adivasis, and sections of women are becoming soft targets of lumpen elements. Here, the approach of the rulers on these issues is also essential. Earlier, any such incident was dealt with iron hands. Now, due to the lacklustre attitude of the state government, such incidents are occurring frequently.
For the past eight years, the country has been ruled by those from the clique of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Bharatiya Janata Party, who believe in the Manuwadi philosophy, Naskar said. Their main aim is to repackage the Varna Vyavastha (caste system) and restrengthen it, and to build a Hindu Rashtra by destroying the present Constitution, he alleged.
This is like the country returning to the Middle Ages, wherein reactionary forces with regressive mindsets can be seen behind the rapid increase in sexual assaults and social oppression of dalits. Police records are only the tip of the iceberg, he claimed.
The activist pointed out that during the last two years, that is, in the pandemic period, exploitation has increased manifold, making this the right time to build a strong resistance movement.
"The avenues for dalits to get justice are being obstructed. On the other side, rampant privatisation initiatives have started at the behest of the Central and state governments, both pursuing neoliberal policies and paving the way for corporatising the country's natural resources, such as water, forests, and land resources of Adivasis," he said, talking with NewsClick.
"In the private sector, there is no reservation. The worst-hit sections are dalits, adivasis, and other backward sections of the population. Education and employment are being dismantled due to rampant privatisation of the public sector and freezing of recruitment in government departments in Central as well as state government units," the activist said. He added that reservation in education and employment in the private sector should, therefore, be introduced, and if needed, suitable amendments to the Constitution should be made. Only social movements cannot address the concerns of these marginalised groups.
"In the Garia station region of South 24 Parganas, from where we belong, there is an old movement by an organisation called Pound Kshatriya Samaj. While they run a free hostel for SC students, they do not follow the Ambedkarite principle of "educate, agitate, organise". As a result, there had been no prior movement of the Dalit SC community before we successfully set up the area committee of Paschimbanga Samajik Nyaya Manch. Now, we have started organising the Dalit population of our region in a cohesive manner," said Naskar
Naskar had been a part of the convention organised by the Paschimbanga Samajik Nyaya Manch, which was presided over by former Kalyani University Vice Chancellor and educationist Dr Basudeb Barman.
NewsClick spoke with Alokesh Das, general secretary of Paschimbanga Nyaya Manch, who said that in the convention, the proceedings of the national Dalit summit were reported back to the audience.
The convention discussed societal equity. The 17-point charter of demands of the National Dalit Summit, which took place in Hyderabad from August 26-27, was explained to the convention participants.
As many as 87 dalit organisations from 24 states had met at the convention, raised these demands, and decided the courses of action for the Samsad Abhiyan on December 4. With the same set of demands, including state-specific needs, more than a couple of lakh signatures will be collected throughout the state.
Conventions will be held throughout the districts of the state, and the set of demands will be popularised by going to the Dalit families of the state who are losing their lands due to forced acquisition and rights violations, the organisation said.
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