On Ambedkar Jayanti, many drop surnames, castes
Vikas Pathak, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, April 15, 2011
The candles of Delhiites are out again: this time against caste. A
Delhi BJP spokesperson and a clutch of professionals and students got
together on Ambedkar Jayanti at 26, Alipur Road — the address where
Dalit icon Ambedkar spent his last years in Delhi — to "renounce"
their castes. Organ
ised by NGO Swaraj, volunteers with candles in hand read out an oath
renouncing caste and their surnames in front of a garlanded statue of
the Dalit icon.
Their claim: this gesture would help secure a casteless society in India.
However, the group — predominantly upper caste — was ideologically
disparate. The students were by and large against caste-based
reservation — considered non-negotiable by most Dalit and OBC groups —
and many supported Youth For Equality, an anti-reservation platform.
For them, dropping caste should also mean dropping caste quotas.
But Delhi BJP spokesperson and Swaraj president Sambit Patra, a
doctor, who announced he would be Sambit Swaraj from now, was quick to
add, "I am fully in support of reservation as it exists, as it is a
constitutional feature that had the full blessings of Dr Ambedkar."
But is it a BJP event, aimed at enlisting Dalit support for the party?
"No, I am doing this as part of our NGO Swaraj that works among
Dalits," Sambit Swaraj told HT. "But I am sure my party too
appreciates all attempts at empowerment of Dalits, which the
horizontal equality brought about by renouncing caste would eventually
Among the students dropping their surname was Naushad Ali from Hindu
College, who became Naushad Gandhi. "I thought I should utilize this
opportunity to make the point that I do not want to be looked upon as
just a Muslim."
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