Fleeing Villages to Escape Caste Shackles, Why Dalits are Facing House Apartheid in Towns and Cities

In an interview to The Mooknayak, Lucknow-based Buddhist-Ambedkarite thinker Professor R B Singh claims it’s a well thought out strategy to push them back to villages.
Professor R B Singh
Professor R B Singh

Dr Ambedkar exhorted the Dalits to migrate to towns and cities to escape caste-based discriminations. However, the community is facing housing apartheid there as well. Buddhist-Ambedkarite thinker Professor R B Singh claims it’s a well thought out strategy to push them back to villages. 

The Mooknayak spoke to him in Lucknow to understand the functioning of the deep-rooted caste system. Attainment of English education — according to him — is of “paramount importance” to fight this injustice.

Driving home the importance of settling in cities, he said when Dr Ambedkar emphasized on the importance of education and metaphorized it as the milk of lioness, he was actually referring to the English education that comes in handy everywhere — in courts, private sector, etc.

“You cannot continue to live in villages, you will have to go to cities if you want to get quality education or prepare for competitive examinations to get into medical colleges and IITs (Indian Institute of Technology) through the NEET (National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test) and the IIT-JEE (Joint Entrance Examination) respectively,” he said. 

Revealing terrible realities of village life, he said even a 15-year-old is addicted to alcohol, and the government unfortunately wants this sorry state of affairs to continue.

“The government can put a check on this social evil but it won’t as it knows that it leads to a neurological disorder — wherein the ability to think falls. Since no government wants its people to develop critical thinking to prevent them from evaluating its works and policies and indulging in descent, it encourages alcoholism,” he alleged.

As Lord Buddha said that greed leads to sorrow, he said, the greed is being created by offering them (the marginalised) freebies. 

“Dr. Ambedkar asked the downtrodden to manage to move to cities so that they can explore a new world and explore and grab ample of opportunities available there. But if the landlords in the big cities come to know that you belong to a Dalit community, they deny you accommodation — notwithstanding the grandstanding of the so-called Hindu Rasthra (Hindu nation),” he said.

As a result, he said, the Dalits end up hiding their caste identities or compromising with it.

“They are forced to live as a savarna (‘upper’ caste). And as a result of living as a non-Dalit, they begin behaving like one. This compromise makes them gradually move away from Buddha and Ambedkar. It hampers the Ambedkarite movement,” he explained.

What’s the solution? Ghettoisation — according to Singh — is perhaps the only solution to the problem. 

“Dalits must be in majority in a few urban pockets, where they won’t feel restricted, won’t have to hide their caste and can live with pride with their Panchsheel flag (a Buddhist flag, implying that non-discrimination),” he said.

The academician, who is also involved in the real estate business, claimed he facilitates the members of Dalit community in getting relatively cheaper accommodations as they have a low budget.

He said such settlements are usually on the outskirts of the city but close enough to commute. “With the ongoing expansion of cities, such places will be part of the main city,” he claimed.

Asked about the challenges faced by Dalit students, he listed out problems at three-fronts. “One, poverty; two, the language — as youngsters belonging to the rural marginalised families are generally not very well-versed in English, which is in a way urban and elite language; three, deep-rooted casteism in the society that prevails irrespective of geographical boundaries,” he explained.

These barriers, he said, push the students back to their villages. 

“It must be fought back with determination and strong will power. Dalit students should accept the challenges and address them and keep moving towards big cities,” he advised, arguing that the Buddhist and Ambedkarite ideology provide the socially outcasted impetus to overcome all such challenges.

The professor said the thoughts of Budha and Amebdkar have immense power. It is a proven fact that those who follow the ideology tackle all odds and progress in every walk of life.

Asked if the Ambedkarite ideology is threatened by the Hindutva as it is often alleged, he said the advent of the Bahujan (SC, ST, OBC and Muslims combined) media is “effectively countering the growing majoritarianism”. And therefore, he said, the Ram Mandir (Ram temple) “euphoria, on which Rs 1,800 crore was spent, fizzled out within days”.

Is exodus to cities leading to counter revolution? Singh, who belongs to a village in Deoria district in eastern Uttar Pradesh and is a keen observer of the trend, claimed that the exodus of the ‘lower’ caste people to cities to escape caste system has “forced the savarnas to re-work their strategy”.

He said casteism being abated and untouchability being abolished to a great extent in villages is in fact a part of a well thought out conspiracy to prevent the migration of the Dalits to cities.

“The intent behind systematically shifting casteism to cities or towns from its hub of villages is to restrict the Dalits to villages where they continue to remain alcoholic and educationally and socially backward,” he alleged.

Will the community ever find its way? 

Singh, who considers Kanshiram as his guru (ideal), hits out at Mayawati — Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief and former UP chief minister who claims herself to be the champion of Dalit causes — for alienating her party cadres who are allegedly asked for money to let them speak to their leader. 

He said the motive behind this is to ease the things for BSP national coordinator Akash Anand — the nephew of behenji (Mayawati is popularly referred as behenji, which means elder sister) whom she herself named her uttaradhikari (heir or successor). 

His fortification is aimed at ensuring that the party cadres do not ask him questions. 

The optimist professor said Dalits will find their way out for sure. He dismissed the notion that the downfall of the Ambedkarite parties will result in the downfall of the Ambedkarite movement.

He said the Dalit youth are now connected to the world with the help of the Internet — which is proving to be a “major milestone in their holistic development”.

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