Thursday, June 8

Dalit Consciousness: A Jatt Perspective

Dalit consciousness can ensure socio-economic development, social justice and democratization, creating new Punjab stunted by Jatt-Sikh dominated politics, asserts Amarjit Grewal
Usually a Jatt would be expected to look at the question of Dalit consciousness from the point of view of welfare of Punjab and not Dalit welfare. It would be interesting to try to find out how would Dalit consciousness affect the whole of Punjab?s economy, politics and culture including that of the Jatt community. How can this Dalit consciousness help in getting Punjab out of the present problem it is in. What is its importance for the Jatt Sikh community committing suicides?
It needs not any reiteration that the Jatt community controls the Punjabi culture and politics. The Punjabi identity and power is seen in terms of Jatt identity and power only. Nothing can happen in Punjab that defies their interests. Although due to the present agricultural crisis in Punjab this community is in an unfortunate and painful condition, but still if anybody asks who is most powerful in Punjab, we would have to acknowledge that these directionless Jatt Sikh families of Punjab that is committing suicide are the ruling class here.
Now this ruling section does not have any solution to the problem of Punjab. That is why they have abdicated the path of thinking and struggle to commit suicides. The question is there any section in Punjab which has its solution? Which is this section?
The Jatt Sikh community of Punjab has not only the scheduled and backwards castes but the upper castes like Brahmins and Khatris too in its servitude. So there are only sections in Punjab now. One is the Jatt Sikh section which has all round dominance here and the second is the non-Jatt Sikh section that has been literally pushed to corner here and that has no role in determining the future of Punjab. Not only the scheduled castes but whole of this non-Jatt section is Dalit for Jatt Sikh section.
By subverting all economic means and political institutions to agricultural development, this ruling class not only give birth to and indifference in the non-Jatt class but also sounded death-knell of other occupations and businesses by not leaving any means for them. The lack of development of modern sector in Punjab was not only because the requisite economic and political means were not mustered. The modern sector of industry and services was not allowed to be developed in Punjab because it would have made a vast part of the rural populace migrate to cities changing the demographic profile of electoral segments in Majha and Malwa. In such a situation the hegemony of Jatt Sikhs community in Punjab is certain to be over. So the hegemony of Jatt Sikh community in Punjab can be maintained only by putting a stop to the process of modernization and urbanization and by not letting the services and industrial sector develop. This ensures that land prices are escalated so much that nobody can think of establishing industry here.
So this Jatt Sikh dominated politics of political parties of Punjab not only marginalizes the non-Jatt communities and deprive them of participation in the creation of the future of Punjab but also thwarts the modernization, industrialization and urbanization because of its politics with agricultural and rural bias. The only one way left to save the deteriorating economy and worsening situation of the farmer is to lessen dependence on land for agriculture. This is possible only if the children of families dependent on agriculture could be provided with alternate employment. Bu as we have seen the Jatt Sikh dominated political parties won?t let this happen.
The modernization, industrialization and urbanization of Punjab will not only ensure increase in income of farmers by reducing the pressure on land, but also provide the youth set idle by agriculture with employment. At the same time by including the marginalized castes in the mainstream of economic and political process, it has the capacity to break the stagnation in the development of Punjab. But all this is not possible as long as these marginalized castes get together to inculcate in themselves a new consciousness for the renewal of Punjab. So the future of Punjab depends solely on the political consciousness of non-Jatt Sikh castes and communities.
For the future of Punjab what is needed is not any ideology or economic policy but political consciousness. This political consciousness means consolidation for modernization and industrialization through awareness of their economic, political and cultural interests of these castes and communities, who have been marginalized so far by the Jatt Sikh politics.
So, Dalit identity and power in Punjab means political consciousness of non-Jatt Sikh castes and communities. By ensuring equal and parallel participation of these castes and communities in the creation of the future of Punjab, this consciousness will not only encourage social justice, but by ensuring the participation of the minorities and through building up of new democratic institutions and the process of decentralization, this will also lend power to the democratization. So the political consciousness and power of the marginalized castes and communities will speed up the socio-economic development, social justice and democratization, thus creating new Punjab.
(The article appears in the Print issue of Punjab Panorama)

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