Sunday, December 19, 2010

Separate colonies for Dalits: Is it a solution for the atrocities against them?

On December 6, the death anniversary of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, I saw a few people at Deekshabhoomi advocating for separate colonies of the Dalits to prevent caste-based atrocities against them. They held the banner of some Vyavastha Parivartan Manch (forum for change in social system). They were proposing an attractive plan, and however impractical the plan was, there was no one to open a debate and assess the plan from every aspect.

The core argument of the Forum was the incidence of Khairlanji could happen only because the Dalits, to which the Bhotmange family belonged, were minority in that village, and this was the chief reason that the perpetrators could work out their plan. They also held that the incident of Khairlanji was not a unique one, not at least an exception, but the atrocities upon the Dalits by the upper castes are a common scene in the villages of India.

Plan for Separate Colonies of Dalits:
The plan for the separate colonies of the Dalits that they suggested was:
  1. Evacuate the Dalit minorities from the villages and settle them in larger colonies of about 5000 people at prominent locations.
  2. Provide them with built residences and agrarian land as they held before their re-settlement.
  3. Separate police stations, educational institutions, etc. for these colonies run by the Dalits wherever possible.
  4. Make constitutional amendments for this plan etc.

My argument:

I strongly oppose this plan, but let me make it clear, before I present my reasons for opposing, that I do not deny the problem. The atrocities against the Dalits are truth. They do happen even 60 years after the commencement of Constitution of India. There is a problem, but the solution that the Forum has provided is not a solution at all.

It is a truth that the Dalits are minorities in our villages, but this is not the sole reason of atrocities against them. The reasons are far deep-seated in the socioeconomic and religious arena.

Lower socioeconomic status of the Dalits is one of the most important reasons of the atrocities happening against them. The Hindu tradition has always considered them at the lowest level of the social structure. It held them even below the Shudras. Orthodox Hinduism never let the Dalits to get a good social status. This, with several other reasons, led to the largest ever mass conversion in his modern world. But even after the conversion to Buddhism, the Dalits were never allowed to get to the social status that they were looking for. Also with regards to economical status, only a small portion of Dalits could improve itself. A large majority remained the same as they were, save the changes that came with ever-evolving time. The main cause behind this was lack of education.

Before going ahead, we should discuss a three-fold reason of lack of education among the Dalits even after conversion to Buddhism.

  1. Poverty.
  2. Lack of taste for education.
  3. Lack of examples in their own group to illustrate benefits of education.
It should be noted that I have noted the third reason specifically because I have noticed several times that Dalit children find no one to look at when they are in their primary and middle schools. They can find not a single example in their own community that would engrave the importance of education on their little minds. They can find no reason why to learn. And what about the well-educated Dalits? They keep away from their own brethren and live in their own world. They establish organizations of themselves, they agitate for their own reasons, and they do everything but assimilate in their own brethren whom they left behind in the villages and urban slums.

What’s the solution?

Let’s go to our original problem. What is the solution to the problem of atrocities against the Dalits? I believe that the way is to correct things in a reverse way.

  1. Set examples. To set examples, the educated Dalits must mix up with the less-fortunate brethren.
  2. By this way, they can create taste for education in them.
  3. Education will help to eradicate poverty and improve socioeconomic status of the lower class Dalits in a long run.
Implications of separate colonies:

Separate colonies of Dalits would cause segregation of the Dalits from the Indian society. This is something like asking a ghetto for themselves. The Constitution of India asks its subjects to ensure Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity amongst its citizens. This move would strongly go against the spirit of Fraternity and hence against the sprit of Constitution of India.


There is a problem and there is a solution, but separate colonies of Dalits is not a solution by any means. Segregation would only deteriorate the problem. Improving socioeconomic status of the Dalits by disseminating education in them and creating of taste for education in them by setting examples is the best way as far as I can see. I do not hold that this is the sole and only solution for this problem. There may be some other aspects that I could not see. I would be happy to learn of them.