Dalit communities: The deafening voices of the ‘silenced’ in India


It is appalling to know that even in the modern Indian Democracy there are sections of population that are silenced, our leaders and policy makers  have remained

During my studies on marginalised and Dalit communities in North India, I realised that there is deep pain ingrained in the marginal people that’ there is no one listen them’(koi unhe sunane wala nahi hai) .An Old Dalit lady of Jatav caste in the village Sahabpur near Allahabad said with deep pain to my research team that “no one listens to us as we are poor’. An interesting narrative which we heard in a Mushhar (rat pickers) village near Sasaram in Bihar which narrates multiple divides between politicians, academicians and policy makers and the most vulnerable section of the Indian public.

An old man of Mushhar patti(hamlet of rat picker caste) told us that (bhaiyya Ye saheb, Suba, Malik-Hakim, Mantri-Santri log ya to hume sunate nahisunate hai to samajhate nahi,samajhate bhi to jo hum chahte hai usaka thik ulta karate hai.” (Brother, these Sahibs, Suba owners -doctors, ministers either, don’t listen to us, even if they listen, they don’t understand us, and if they do understand us, they just do opposite of what we want).

This shows how ignorant our politicians and policy makers have been of the hidden desires of marginal public. In that process we suffer through multiple disconnects from our own marginal people. If someone listens to such complaints of people from rural areas one may find many phrases which express this common complaint of the marginal public that is ‘not to be heard’.

We listen to those in our electoral democracy who acquire electoral value in terms of vote. Politicians listen assertive communities. They don’t listen communities who are in small numbers and meek and mild. If they listen, they don’t understand.

In various states we have lists of schedule castes sections. In these lists of SC many communities in various states of our country, are mentioned. But know only about a few of them who are big in numbers and have acquired capacity to assert their voices due to various historical reasons.

In Uttar Pradesh around 66 communities are mentioned as SC Communities, together they are also called ‘Dalits’.However we are only aware about few communities from that list such as Jatavs, Pasi, Kori, Valmiki etc. More than 50 Dalit communities are suffering through invisibilities. The caste like Hari, beggar, van manush, tatwa, Kuch badhiya, kabutra, mushhars who are not yet ‘politically visible’ in Uttar Pradesh. Similarly, in Maharshtra communities like Mahars, Matang, Mang, Chambhar etc. are known in the political and the public discourse. Similarly, in Andhra Pradesh more than 50 communities are mentioned in SC list but we know castes like Mala and Madiga.

Our conventional politics and politicians most of the time just speak and talk, and do not understand the relevance of listening. So the innovative politics which is knocking the door of democracy needs to cultivate the art of listening to the communities who either speak less or don’t speak at all. If people who are suffering in this society make a cry- ‘hai koi hume sunane wala’ (Is there any one to listen us)

So most of Dalit communities are not part of our political and public discourse.

One reason behind it is that these all communities are not big in numbers and scattered in the context of their settlements. So, they don’t constitute influential vote banks in the domain of electoral democracy.

Secondly most of them are not able to produce an educated section within the communities to write and speak for them. These communities are not yet able to produce their own politics. Many of them have yet produced their community leaders. They have also not evolved their caste histories in terms of their caste Identity. Some of them are trying to enter in the politics of local self-government in Uttar Pradesh but they haven’t yet produced MP’s or MLAs from their own caste.

Due to these reasons they lack capacity to assert their voices. It is appalling to see that many of these invisible Dalit communities even lack capacity to aspire for a good life. Since they are politically invisible and unassertive, they are not heard by our politicians and policy makers.

Therefore, how can the desires of these smaller and marginalized communities these communities be heard?

First, we need to prepare ourselves to listen the marginals. For which we need to have an empathetic heart. This empathy is also expressed in metaphor as’ par kaya pravesh’(enter your souls in the body of others). One needs to develop ‘sukh-dukh sambandh’ with the marginals so that they may open up and narrate their wishes and desires.

Second, those who lack everyday life experiences of the marginal communities, are not able to understand the nature of the hidden desires of marginals, Dalits and Subalterns. Further we need community leaders who can explain these desires to the politicians and policy makers.

Third problem is the problem of is of language. Language does not mean hear-English, Hindi of folk dialects. Language here means the language of the heart and mind of the downtrodden. The other meaning of the language is the language, terms and the vocabulary of governance and the state. What we realized during our studies is that there is a wide gap between the language of the state and the language of these people. They are unaware of the legal and administrative terms. So we need a group of community leaders in various marginal communities who can interpret the language of the state for the marginal public vice-versa.

Listening marginals is an art which we need to cultivate in making of our personality. We need to understand spoken words which they mostly express in their own folk dialects. There is also a need to understand language of silence and murmurs of these voiceless communities. This will help deepening of our democracy to the grass root.

Our conventional politics and politicians most of the time just speak and talk, and do not understand the relevance of listening. So the innovative politics which is knocking the door of democracy needs to cultivate the art of listening to the communities who either speak less or don’t speak at all. If people who are suffering in this society make a cry- ‘hai koi hume sunane wala’ (Is there any one to listen us). There is a need to develop cadres in the political parties who come forward today and say, “look we are here to listen you.”

Understanding the local dialects, structures of desires of the marginals and the popular vocabulary must listen to them. Here I site an example of the gap between our language and the language marginalize while touring in the villages in Uttar Pradesh I did not find people in the villages who are aware of terms like democracy. But they know relevance of ‘Izzat’ (dignity). So, for them one of meaning of democracy is the sense of dignity which is linked with the sense of the equality. So new politics which aspires to be inclusive must understand the people’s desires as expressed in their language.

These are the enduring complaints of the marginals as expressed by win the past by popular saints like Kabir, Ravidas and Shiv Narayan in their bhajans and Vanis. Now there is time to listen them and understand their anguish, pain and desires.

Source: National Herald

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