Sunday, May 2, 2010

[ZESTCaste] Dateline Hisar

Dateline Hisar

The Indian Express Posted online: Saturday , May 01, 2010 at 0233 hrs
After a Jat mob set fire to a Dalit settlement in Mirchpur, in Hisar
district, killing a polio-stricken girl and her father among others,
Haryana's dysfunctional politics has drawn national attention. Rahul
Gandhi's sudden visit to the victims' families, and his assurance that
the Congress president would keep tabs on the state government's
handling of the affair, is clear reproof to the Congress
administration in the state. It is also an acknowledgment that such
narrow caste exploiting politics can't coexist with the party's plans
to draw Dalits under its social umbrella.
Haryana is among the states with a larger concentration of SC
populations, at almost 20 per cent. In recent years, caste identities
have become sharper and more aggressive, encouraged by a political
class that feeds on these divisions. In the last few years, Dalit
assertion has been accompanied by convulsions of inter-caste violence
— in Gohana, in Mohamedpur, in Kila Jafargarh, now in Mirchpur. These
old hatreds just need an excuse to burst into flame — and as in
Mirchpur, there is no answer to the Dalit villagers' anguish, their
fear at staying on in the same area. Let down by the police, they are
insecure and disillusioned with the state.

And the Congress has been only too complicit in this arrangement. Its
state government strains mightily to look away from the social
intimidation and rough justice practised by Haryana's khap panchayats.
Its only real intervention, in fact, has been to claim that
prosecuting khaps would be a rash and destabilising step. With a state
government that can't square up to its responsibility towards
Haryana's Dalits, the Congress's fine-sounding words about Dalit
welfare seem empty. If the party's plans for a grand social coalition
are to work out, it needs to reach out and reassure Haryana's
vulnerable Dalits that these incidents will be met with swift
punishment. If the Congress wants to reclaim the grand social
coalition in north India, sustain its hold over Haryana, it must
articulate a brave and inclusive alternative to the petty math of
playing caste tensions against each other.


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