New book on Dalits set to spark debate

By Times of India,

NEW DELHI: The controversy over dividing Dalits into subgroups may see a fresh debate with a first-of-its-kind book on the issue dubbing it a political conspiracy to pit SCs against each other.

This comes at a time when the political atmosphere is charged in Bihar where the Khagaria massacre is being blamed on “mahadalit politics” of the ruling JD(U) and a rejuvenated Ram Vilas Paswan is accusing chief minister Nitish Kumar of dividing dalits through “mahadalit”.

‘Dividing Dalits’ — edited by Y Chinna Rao, a JNU professor — which explores sub-categorisation of SCs with writings from experts, is hitting the stands this week. Observers say it would add to the fiery debate on the issue.

Even writers agreeing to equitable distribution of benefits among subgroups, the philosophy behind categorisation, have referred to ‘divide and rule’ theme. It could turn policymakers in the capital cagey as strong voices for categorisation — K Balagopal, Avinash Kumar, S S Jodhka — have focused more on its merit but steered clear of political impact.

It may be the first book of note on the polarising subject. While top academics like Jodhka, Balagopal and experts like Chinna Rao, UPSC member K S Chalam among others have dealt with the issue from social and development viewpoints, there is also scepticism over the keenness shown in its favour by political outfits.

Chalam has called it a “counter revolution”. In keeping with the subtext, the introduction dwells on categorisation spreading across ideological divisions, with Haryana, UP, Karnataka, Bihar and TN dabbling in it.


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