Deep mistrust in Muslims, fear of violence, mixed signals from the government keep Dalits away from anti-CAA protests - LiveNow24x7: Latest News, breaking news, 24/7 news,live news

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Monday, 2 March 2020

Deep mistrust in Muslims, fear of violence, mixed signals from the government keep Dalits away from anti-CAA protests

Even as Muslim numbers swell in the anti-CAA-NPR-NRC demonstrations across the country, the conspicuous absence of sizeable Dalit protests anywhere in the country, given that the community is equally vulnerable to similar repercussions which the Muslim community fears is unmissable. While most narratives highlight the concerns of the Muslim community, they are comparatively silent on the complex reasons of vulnerable communities other than the Muslims for not participating in these demonstrations.

Not only the leaders from the other communities are hesitating to come and speak in these protests, but the Dalit public as a whole is finding it difficult to make sense of the urgency of protests. This warrants the necessity to fathom the sources of their confusion, worry and fear.

File photo of anti-CAA protests at Jantar Mantar in Delhi. PTI

File photo of anti-CAA protests at Jantar Mantar in Delhi. PTI

Although Dalit leader Chandrashekhar Azad is found addressing rallies across the country, he struggles to do the same in Uttar Pradesh. His first attempt to address a rally in the state in all these months resulted in his detention in Lucknow. Whatever little protests from other communities are coming up is mostly hosted on platforms provided by the Muslim community as leaders of these communities are not able to bring out their own community to oppose the CAA.

Azad might be touring other states interacting with Dalits and Muslims but in Aligarh’s deep pockets of Dalit areas, people could not recall his name on being asked about him. He should keep this stark reality in mind and instead of focussing on the country as a whole, Azad needs to unite his community in Uttar Pradesh first. Aligarh’s history of communal disturbances, riots between Dalits and Muslims and Aligarh Muslim University being the centre of Muslim education make it an appropriate site for a better understanding of the imbroglio.

The frequent snapping of the internet, fear that mischievous text messages might trigger unrest is palpable in Aligarh. The deep feeling of distrust between Muslims and Dalits only makes the atmosphere far more delicate. The Dalits are traversing the twilight zone of trust deficit vis-à-vis Muslims and are facing the brunt of uncertainty with regard to government policy to map citizens.

Although the narrative of only Muslims fearing the Citizenship Amendment Act is being built upon, there are other people who are equally apprehensive about these moves. The Dalits are apprehensive about the implications of the NPR-NRC process and expressed their fear of failing to prove their citizenship if asked to establish. The government’s fluctuating stance is feeding the confusion and fear further.

Initially, people thought that like Assam, they need to submit various legacy documents but the government later on clarified that in NPR no documents would be asked. However, the statements from the government that all existing documents like Aadhaar, PAN card, passport, driving license and ration Card are not proofs of citizenship further compounded the fear among people. People are uncertain as to what sorts of documents would be required eventually.

The benefits of government schemes hardly reach these communities despite the documentation and document-making has always been a struggle for them. This time there is a crystal difference between the apprehensions of Muslims and Dalits. The fear among the Muslims stems from the sense of hostility and practices of exclusion whereas the Dalits saw the State’s apathy as the major reason for their anxiety.

Such is the cynicism that has gripped the Dalit-Muslim relationship that the Dalits are doubtful of the intentions of the Muslim community and are apprehensive that they might be tricked to tag along with them. The fear of violence in the protest sites is also another reason for the Dalits staying away from these locations with the police strictly controlling the mobility of the Dalits in and around these spots. Sporadic withdrawal of internet is adding to the already existing fear of clashes.

Moreover, the Dalits have found it unconvincing the attempts made by the Muslim community to convince them that they will suffer as Brahmanism will be back as a full-fledged system due to the implementation of CAA and other demographic exercises.

It is because of the social settings and segregation of places of residence, trust deficit has increased between Dalits and Muslims. There are no attempts to have a common understanding of issues affecting them. Minimal efforts have been made to forge an alliance between the two communities on a social level. There were attempts to bring them together through political parties but these yielded no substantial results as far as trust-building is concerned.

Keeping the condition on the ground in mind, it is only natural that the sudden appeal from the Muslim community to the Dalits to join the protests have had little or no impact on them.

Tarushikha Sarvesh is an assistant professor of Sociology, Advanced Centre for Women’s Studies, Aligarh Muslim University and Abdul Hafiz Gandhi is an assistant professor at Unity PG Degree and Law College, Lucknow.

March 02, 2020 at 02:02PM

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