So long as you do not achieve social liberty, whatever freedom is provided by the law is of no avail to you.
~ Dr. B. R. Ambedkar
I was truly humbled by the response my last RTI article elicited. I will not be lying if I say that I had written many articles over the last two odd years – which could have been part 2, 3 … after my first article, but after writing articles I used to delete them as the feeling of helplessness about things I wrote in the article were too strong to digest.
However, if I stay mum and be a witness to what is happening around me and do not express it – for others (Dalit or non-Dalit) to read I will be doing a great disservice to being an educated Dalit, it will be akin to failing to live up to what Ambedkar wanted educated Dalits to be. Hence, I will write; albeit with a pen name to pre-empt the discrimination I will face for the rest of my life, especially in the professional world. I am well aware the way I was targeted by a few on social media and in general discourse and during one company interview; I might be targeted again.
Like in my last article, I will try to write on my personal experiences of living and working among the upper castes, as the education – I have received, and profession I am into – makes me rub shoulders with mostly upper castes. For they have a disproportionate representation in the Indian corporate sector.
Right after I completed my MBA from IIM Ahmedabad I joined a private company as a management trainee. As part of our induction, we had to stay together in a town in South India and that is the time when much of the bonding happens as you get to know people who joined with you. Out of the 32 people, who joined with me, from top business schools of India, around 15 are Brahmins, 15 were Banias and two guys have Kumar as the surname; so it is hard to guess who they are. There was this girl discussing about marriage and how her parents are searching for a good brahmin guy for her. She was someone who reads a lot and keeps talking about women being oppressed etc., but their understanding of oppression appeared myopic. Finally, she married a brahmin guy from my batch of trainees only.
Once I had applied to another organisation for a job posting. I cleared all the interview rounds but the HR didn’t give me the offer letter. When I again saw the same advertisement for the same role in the same company on my college Gmail group, I asked a senior working in that company about my last job offer, he, later on, told me, after two days that HR had rejected me. It was shocking as the business vertical wanted to hire me, I wondered if maybe the google search for my name led them to my RTI article, during hiring it is common practice for HRs to do Google search. Many of my friends have found out about my identity after googling my name with my college name and coming across the article which I wrote earlier.
After the Bhima-Koregaon incident there were protests happening around Mumbai. People in my office were making insensitive and very insulting comments about the protesters, in particular, and Dalits, in general. Many of the people who were talking are barely smart enough but spoke as if they have command over history.
One thing which took me aback was that the brokers, who I was in contact when I was searching for a house to stay, they are not well educated, put up the same statuses and photos on WhatsApp which a few of my MBA connections shared as Facebook posts. It was apparent that a few MBA chaps from elite colleges are members of hardline political parties and organisations like RSS. But to see them share the same posts is alarming. In one day someone creates and comes up with morphed photos which paint Dalits or protestors in a poor light and the same day people, from illiterates to elite and educated, spread it on Facebook via posts and on WhatsApp, via pictures and statuses. It is like some propaganda machine is at work and all are doing marketing campaigns for it. They get orders like military commands to perform such acts on social media to sway the public opinion and influence the masses to paint one community as villains and anti-Indians or ignorant troublemakers.
It is disturbing to see how very well-planned this machinery is becoming where an entire community can be painted what the hardline organisations want them to be in one day with videos posts and news. It gets circulated and all make fun of protestors and keep cursing them with choicest of words. They share videos which poke fun at protesters they choose to see only that part of the narrative which is untrue and is part of a propaganda to sway public opinion. Non-Dalits (OBCs and Upper castes) speak openly “what is the need to celebrate some small battle victory which happened long back. Our ancestors have fought many great battles, we don’t celebrate it. The people celebrating the battle are stupid.” I feel like telling them, why are you celebrating your festivals like Diwali, Durga Puja & Dussehra. Are those not celebrating murders/genocides? Are they not stupid to celebrate something which might not have happened the way they think it happened? Doesn’t that make them anti-national or anti-human?
Many foolish Dalits from these colleges also re-share it. In case I want to ask them about it, they say people like me are radicals and are spoiling Ambedkar’s name. Ambedkar wanted all to stay together and people like me are trying to break the social fabric by supporting the protestors. Dalits from premier colleges just want to know when is the next movie getting released and where are parties happening. If you share one message wishing them on Ambedkar Jayanti or constitution day they stop talking to you. Afraid that their identity would be revealed which they want to hide at all costs. This trend is deeply saddening.
Coming back to people in the corporate sector; for everything happening around they have to target reservations and say that this is the cause of all evil. If you don’t have reservations there will not be any protests. Everything will be hunky-dory without reservations. One will make this argument in a group, all will concur with it, nod heads and give so-called expert opinions. Cursing that these Dalits don’t have jobs and don’t want us to do our work.
This is the mentality of people who are in the private sector. Many of them are not even smart enough for their jobs. With such venom and vitriol against Dalits that they harbour, I am afraid of what they teach their children when they ask them what is Dalit and who is Dalit, they will fill their minds with opinions debasing Dalits and they, in turn, will gang up in schools and colleges to bully any assertive Dalit who they come across. And the cycle will go on forever.
Please read ‘Bloody untouchable: Stories of an assertive Ambedkarite Dalit – Part 1’ here.
Sanjay Patil is a management graduate from IIM Ahmedabad, who did his M.Tech from IIT B