On 25th May 2020, George Floyd, an unarmed Black man was murdered in police custody in Minneapolis, USA. A video showing a white police officer kneeling on his neck for almost nine minutes while he was pinned to the floor went viral. Following this, large anti-racism protests took place with many white people also standing against racism and police brutality. I think that is one of the toughest things: stand against your own community and your own people and demand justice.
In India, from Rohith Vemula, Delta Meghwal, Akhlaq, Pehlu Khan, Dr. Payal Tadvi to Hathras, Balrampur, Azamgarh, Bulandshahr, Dalits are struggling to fight the social boycotts imposed by dominant castes, Dalit women are still seeking justice for mass rape, the death of manual scavengers keeps hitting national newspapers headlines, and the list of caste-based atrocities is increasing everyday but the Savarnas, the so-called upper castes, or the dominant or privileged castes, haven’t dared to expose their own existence. They’re always silent on Brahmin Supremacy, Brahminical patriarchy and their silence is violence and violation of many civil rights movements. On the other hand, these people are always asking about how to be an ally of the Dalit Rights Movement?
As outrage continues over the Hathras gangrape, another Dalit woman was reportedly drugged, gangraped and killed in Uttar Pradesh’s Balrampur. Two minors were raped in Uttar Pradesh’s Bulandshahr and Azamgarh, mere hours after the death of the Hathras case victim.
Indian dominant castes are not just silent because the girl is a Dalit, they are silent because the rapist and killers are upper caste Thakurs. The Hathras rapists and murderers are going scot free on the basis of upper caste privilege and impunity. How can I expect people from their communities to come on to the streets, carrying placards and saying “Dalit Lives Matter”?
Maybe they don’t know what Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar said: “We must uproot Brahmanism.”
Meanwhile the most phenomenal question some dominant caste woke liberals throw at our faces is by asking how members of privileged caste or dominant caste be allied with the Dalit Rights Movement? This question occurs only to the privileged and dominant minds that are interested in Dalit projects, but does it come from a place of sincerity? Definitely not. It doesn’t come from a place of sincerity. And yet, I offer answers with generous honesty.
1. Pass the mike, shut your mouth and listen carefully.
First, they (who’re asking to be allies) really need to ‘pass the mike’ and shut their privileged and dominant voices and learn to listen carefully to Dalit voices which are new, unheard, unseen and unobserved from their lenses. However, they are not listening enough so they are unable to empathise with our issues and so they sympathise through victimization. I think you need to learn to say ‘No’, you don’t need to have comments on each and everything, have an opinion on everything. There are definitely many things which you might not know because of your privileged environment and privileged lived experience. Those who have the lived experience of caste have many things to say, share, but their voices are hijacked by dominant communities many times and they don’t get the mike and platform to speak about their ignored, unseen experiences. So the privileged castes really need to accept the fact that for centuries they’ve been speaking on behalf of Dalit communities and it’s high time to pass the mike and just listen carefully and try to understand the perspective from below.
2. Don’t dare to appropriate our spaces and don’t dare to take our leadership.
I have seen many men and women from dominant and privileged castes appropriating our spaces and speaking on caste even if they don’t have the lived experience. Many privileged caste women talk about caste while at the same time, they don’t want to lose their privileges. Nowadays, many women are appropriating our spaces since they have married or they have dated a Dalit person or Non-Brahmin person. So even as an outsider, they feel that they know enough about the anti-caste movement. As they engaged with a partner who is marginalised, they feel that they’ve broken caste and that they now have the right to appropriate the space of Dalits and assume that they have an equal share in Dalit leadership. If you really want to support and ally with the anti-caste movement, don’t dare to take our leadership.
I think the lived experience of caste is necessary to channel Dalit leadership. It is giving us strength, inspiration and motivation and it matters because the discourse and dissent is fundamental in the Dalit Movement. It’s not easy to get involved in the caste struggle, many times you need to fight with your own mind and thoughts because even if you are dedicated towards the anti-caste movement you are still a part of caste society and graded inequality.
3. Don’t liberate Dalits, liberate yourselves, your own caste people and expose your own epistemologies.
Since my undergraduate days I’ve been hearing this question: how to be an ally? I think now it’s become a very popular question which the dominant caste people very easily ask but I never heard it come from true honesty. Still, I feel strongly that it’s my duty as a dedicated Ambedkarite to sincerely educate the unconscious masses who because of privilege are unable to find the right path. So, I think you don’t need to liberate Dalits, Dalits are capable enough to liberate themselves and their communities but you really need to think for yourself. Liberate yourself, your own caste people and expose your own epistemologies. Go back to your families. Have conversations with them and wherever you find something is really unfair, change them. Educate them. Write on your Uncivilized Culture and expose your own existence, engage in what Suraj Yengde calls ‘Cultural Suicide Bombing’. Do it, you really need to become ‘Cultural Suicide Bombers’. I think it’s fundamental to expose your own epistemologies to find the truth of your existence and to understand and revisit the brutality of your ancestors. When all the dominate castes of this country become “Cultural suicide bombers” and ‘Sacrifice their privileges’ in order to dismantle the caste system, only then can they easily wipe their casteist minds.
I know what I am asking for sounds really hard, but if you take inspiration from Ambedkarites it will become an easy task. Maybe you are conscious of the fact that ‘Annihilation of Caste’ was written primarily for the Oppressor Castes. Hence, fight your own battle. If you succeed in annihilating caste inside your own households and communities then that will become a major contribution to the Anti-caste Movement. Dalits have been fighting their battle for centuries. Our battles are different. You start yours. Open your heart to get a sense of real Humanity. We will meet on the other side, as Humans.
4. Don’t project yourself as Dalit.
I know many women who have been hiding their real caste identities and projecting themselves as Dalit women. Many times Brahmin women show themselves as Bahujan. I am not denying that women are subaltern voices but it doesn’t mean you can project yourself as Dalit and take all the glory of inclusiveness and gain sympathy. This is nothing but enjoying of privileges that you have and being unfair to all the Dalit women and men.
Our caste, class, sexual identities, religion, regions and the many intersections which exploited us: these triple, multiple burdens of society, we are carrying on our shoulders. Still we are surviving. We are healing. Every time there is caste violence, we need to prove how as I am a Dalit woman, I’ve experienced caste based violence, but those women who’re projecting themselves as Dalit women or most Backward caste women: they need not prove anything. Because they are dominant caste woke liberals!
5. Ally with your own community and fight Casteism on your own fronts.
I have seen that nowadays many people are utilising social media to show their activism, which is good, but Non-Dalit women names are taking front place. They have been assuming themselves to be Dalit just because they are speaking so much on Dalit issues, but the question is why do they never show it with actions? These privileged Non-Dalit women have many forums to speak on us. They take all the visibility. I think they really need to think for themselves. It’s high time for self-realisation. All the dominant and privileged castes, can you please ally with your own community? You must go look into your Brahmin family, backward caste and other dominant families and study them and ally with them.
To talk against caste you don’t have to be Dalit. As I already said, being Dalit is a painful experience but when upper caste persons talk against caste it is made out to be something of celebration and pride. Why don’t you ask or observe your own households, in how they treat your own servants, maids, BMC workers, sanitation workers? Why don’t you open their eyes, have conversations with your own families?
Are Brahmins united in their understanding of Dalit struggle? Or do they have varying or contradicting opinions on the question of caste? The existence of casteism has to be attributed to Brahmin groups who reap the benefits of it. Brahmins from all quarters – moderate, liberal, conservative and extremists – uphold the glory of the Brahmanical order. Educate your caste brethren. The Brahmin groups who are working in liberal projects or radical movements do not go back to their caste constituency to educate their own caste brethren. Being an ally is akin to volunteerism, where one can dodge responsibility and take a day off.
6. Stop victimization, join the Dalit movement by following Dalit voices, appreciating and empathising with it.
Now stop victimization of Dalits through your writings, poetry, research papers, movies. We are able to show the world our aesthetics through our writing, poetry, academics, research papers, movies, arts, etc. Now we know English, we know Research Methodology, and we have Scholars, who could research our own community. So, this first hand data and Anti-Caste Perspective is more interesting, valuable and beautiful. Do support our intellectuals or at least appreciate them. We get very few resources but I promise we will produce our own capital. You just follow Dalit voices. We are really looking for more genuine empathy rather than sympathy.
7. Please sit, and watch while we Educate, Agitate and Organise!
Do embrace the traditionally subaltern, outcast and yet rising narrative of marginalised individuals and communities. Please sit and watch while we Educate, Agitate and Organise.
8. Read Dr. Ambedkar and Dalit literature as well.
Read Dr. B. R. Ambedkar and all the pioneers of the Anti-Caste movements who challenged the Indian Social structure and dismantled all the social odds. Have a look into it. Read Dalit literature out loud inside your households and communities and make your people insecure or ashamed for the actions of your forefathers and many people from your community still walking the same path. Maybe this will hurt you but it will also give you a real touch of Humanity. It will enlighten you, as Baburao Bagul said ‘Dalit Literature Is But a Human Literature.’
Since centuries we can’t breathe
But still we’re alive on our own feet
You can’t even imagine
The intolerance which we have seen
You can’t deny your privilege and impunity
Through which we are still suffering,
You want to be an ally?
Go back to your families
Expose your own epistemologies
Find the truth of your existence
Question on your ancestors cruelty
Wherever is unfair
Ask for Change
Ask for Justice
We are fighting with our own battles since centuries
Our battles are different
You start your own
Will meet with our one commonality
Brahminism is a culture which is based on graded inequality with which they want to preserve their caste superiority. They cornered all resources and they owned 90% of national income. They present stolen stories back to us. They are the Criminal Castes who have Economic, Social and Cultural privileges. Brahmins are used to the act of Victim Blaming. Actually, They don’t want to liberate Dalits. Why? Because if Dalits are liberated then the whole hierarchy will fall down. So they feel insecure about Dalit consiousness.
They really need to know others. Their grief, their sorrow, their pain. Right now they’re in the position of hating Dalits without knowing them. They really need to take inspiration from Dalits. As we know they’re brutally killing my community people and yet Dalits did not take weapons into our hands because Dalits only know the constitutional values, Love and Humanity. Hence, Dalits are against violence. Still Dalits even don’t get the real human treatment.
A Dalit challenging–it’s not acceptable for society
A Dalit replying back–it’s not acceptable for society.
A Dalit claiming, it’s not acceptable for society.
A Dalit wearing designer suits, it’s not acceptable for society.
A Dalit looking beautiful it’s not acceptable for society.
A Dalit speaking good English it’s not acceptable for society.
A Dalit riding horse it’s not acceptable for society
A Dalit dreaming high it’s not acceptable for society
A Dalit educating, agitating and organising their mass it’s not acceptable for this Casteist (Brahmin) society.
In the world of Casteist, Brahmin Culture where I’m surviving, here my existence isn’t acceptable.
Brahminism is patriarchal and the patriarchy we have is Brahmin. They really need to work hard to remove this stigma. They need to get involved with their own caste men-women. Reject your parents thoughts if they are inclining you towards Casteism and Communalism. Change them. Make them accountable for Brahmin supremacy. Caste is not a Dalit problem, it’s a problem of dominant castes. If you have a problem with Dalit politics or if you are assuming Dalits playing the caste card, then mindfully Annihilate Caste.
As long as caste exists, Dalits are telling the truth about how caste is brutally imposed on them and how it matters. Due to this if you feel uncomfortable or unsecure then annihilate caste and that is the only and ultimate aim of Dalits. Refuse caste and create more spaces for Dalits. Hire Dalits in all spaces and places as equal Humans. This is how you can engage with the Anti-caste Movement.
Shivani Waldekar is pursuing her Masters in Social Work in Livelihood and Social Entrepreneurship at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.