Re-evaluating the Dalit discourse
On the occasion of 125th birth anniversary of Babasaheb Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the NDA government at the Center has come out with a plethora of initiatives for the empowerment of Dalits in the ecosystem of innovation and entrepreneurship. Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DICCI) celebrated the successful completion of its glorious decade along with the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment that was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The event successfully captured the imagination of movers and shakers in the capital. With more than 1200 Dalit entrepreneurs participating in a national seminar in New Delhi, the day-long event further discussed and explored avenues of cooperation and partnership between Dalit entrepreneurs and the government with DICCI as an enabler and interface between the two. The chairperson of DICCI, Mr. Milind Kamble succinctly put forth his views on the subject and asserted that Dalits wants to contribute to the growth of the national economy as any other entrepreneurial community. The historical significance of the event cannot be undermined, as it was the first occasion when the Prime Minister has participated in any event organised by a chamber of commerce and industries including CII, FICCI, and Assocham. The Cabinet decision on standup India clearly reflects the government’s commitment to encourage Dalit entrepreneurs. The scheme is clearly focused on handholding support for SC/ST and Women borrowers. The government of the day is ready to engage with the entrepreneurial instincts of the Dalit community. It is a globally uncontested fact that entrepreneurship in any society is a significant indicator of robustness of national economy and catalyst for development.
The pessimism within
As a composite community with more than 20 crore population, it is legitimately expected to have multiple voices and perspectives on empowerment. It will be amateur to believe if one individual or institution can claim to represent the concerns of the entire Dalit community. DICCI as an institution has successfully voiced the concerns of the entrepreneurial community within the Dalits.
There are voices of inconsistencies within the intellectuals representing the subaltern community. Instead of creating further cleavages and eternally relying on historical injustices, we need to create an alternate narrative and summarily discard the manufactured atmosphere of negativism. The Dalit youth today is aspirational and is not willing to join the bandwagon of antagonism. The Dalit youth is not gullible anymore. The so-called flag bearers of social justice through articulation of sophistry have mastered the art of tapestry. They are after all not the sole repositories of wisdom on social justice.
Thinking beyond constitutional contours
The narrative of empowerment ideally cannot be born out of an atmosphere of antagonism. Agreed that Dalits have traditionally borne the curse of being socially, politically and economically deprived segment of the society. Constitutionally mandated affirmative action in education, employment and political representation has greatly benefitted the community. More than six decades of preferential treatment has substantially uplifted thousands of Dalits like myself.
It is evident from the fact that I am being published here and read by you. To avoid redundancy the paradigm of empowerment needs to evolve with time and rapidly changing circumstances. Government opportunities are constantly shrinking and Dalit youth across the nation is willing to take risk, and participate and subsequently benefit from the growth and development of the nation.
We are now flooded with examples of changing dimensions of empowerment in the political circles as well. The victory of Askhok Choudhary (SC), from an unreserved constituency- Kanti (AC), falling in northern Bihar district of Muzaffarpur along with many other Dalit victors in local polls from unreserved areas cannot be deemed coincidental. Leaders from Dalit community are coming forward and demanding to contest from unreserved parliamentary constituencies as well. The new Dalit agenda that has been kick started with the aspirational leadership of DICCI is percolating to other spheres as well.
Father of modern jurisprudence and a great thinker Plato has perfectly summarised the concept of Justice as doing one’s own work. The idea of justice needs to evolve with time. My humble submission to the perpetually pessimistic naysayers is to welcome the emergence of DICCI as economic phenomena. Suit-Boot for Dalits represents a symbol of empowerment. When Babasaheb said that, “On 26th January 1950, we are going to enter into a life of contradictions. In politics, we will have equality and in social and economic structure, continue to deny the principle of one man one value.” I have little doubt when I see the picture here where more than 1200 well-dressed Dalit entrepreneurs with full confidence are set to change the course of history.
(The writer is a research scholar at the University of Delhi. Views expressed are strictly personal)