“Social progress can be measured by the social position of the female sex” - Karl Marx


A Mayawati Moment

The repression of the Dalits under the Modi regime has infused new energy into the Dalit political sphere. An able administrator like the BSP chief is the only way to contain the BJP and its fear-mongering 

The Dalit political consensus is derivative of cross-class aspirations. The Dalit polity is deeply tied to the humanitarian issues of justice, equality and freedom.  

Justice against inequalities heaped upon them for generations continues to haunt their existential reality. Generation after generation, the disenfranchised Dalit gentry tries to survive the mayhem caused by social, religious, economic, political and moral injustices.  

Equality is what the Dalit community demands. It is not seeking to snatch away the earned, meritorious income of other communities. But it is correctly angered and dismayed by the unpaid labour of their ancestors, and indeed of their contemporaries, and by the perpetuation of inequalities.  

Freedom from every possible oppression, by any means necessary, is tabled at various Dalit meetings, gatherings, public events and private group chats. A person looking at these issues objectively might say that every individual surely deserves such freedoms as a basic right. However, a person imbued in casteist history, a person perhaps unconscious to their deep-seated prejudice, will harp obliviously about Dalits daring to claim anything as a 'right'. For the privileged ruling elites of India, Dalits are serfs who do not deserve equal and just treatment. Or, indeed, that Dalits are becoming too brazen in their calls for justice.  

It is against this backdrop that we see the Dalit community being brought to exhaustion in its battle with the Modi government. The Modi government-which, let us remember, came to power with the lowest vote share (31 per cent) of any political party to win an outright majority-has been at the forefront of destroying Dalit aspirations and hopes. The evidence for this is in the repeated attacks, even lynching of Dalits, across India. Dalit students on Indian campuses find themselves frighteningly vulnerable. Social organisers in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh have been arbitrarily arrested, described as participating in 'anti-national' plots. In 2018, only 6.55 per cent of the Union budget was devoted to schemes for the welfare of SCs, when 16.6 per cent would have been the proportional allocation.  

This repression has produced a Newtonian reaction, bringing new energy to the Dalit political sphere. There is a pan-Indian acknowledgment of the Dalit community's rising activism. Anything positive done by Dalits in any corner of the country finds resonance with the community. So, a charismatic youth leader in Saharanpur, Chandrashekhar Azad Ravan finds enthusiastic support among Dalit youth across regional lines. Similarly, the Gujarat-based Left-leaning Dalit MLA Jignesh Mevani has become a familiar face across India, his fame arguably disproportionate to his political standing. Young Dalits are crying out for leadership, for a charismatic, radical figure who speaks truth to power, who can articulate Dalit grievance to the country at large. Inevitably, the grand old Dalit parties are wary of these developments, of young firebrands seeking to upset the applecart.  

Mayawati, of course, is the tote­mic Dalit leader, the tallest hope of the community. She was part of a movement, she helped form the Bahu­jan Samaj Party, is still the most credible Dalit leader on a national level. Calm and composed, with the courage and political confidence to resign from the Rajya Sabha to protest being denied sufficient opportunity to speak about atrocities against Dalits in Saharanpur, Mayawati is a formidable figure. One wonders what she might achieve were she more open to creating intimate connections with other regional Dalit parties.  

In Tamil Nadu, where the Scheduled Caste population is a whopping 19 per cent, Dalit political parties have preferred to remain in coalition, keeping abreast of the caste arithmetic that would play in their favour in assembly and local government elections. The VCK (Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi), for instance, has aligned itself with the Dravidian politics of the DMK and fielded only two candidates-firebrand party president Thirumavalavan, and the writer and editor Ravikumar, who is the party's general secretary.  

In Maharashtra, Prakash Ambedkar has allied with Asaduddin Owaisi to form the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi and contest all of Maharashtra's 48 seats. Maharashtrian Dalit politics is perhaps more complicated than elsewhere. There are several parties, each swearing by Ambedkarite and Buddhist ethics. The BSP has a history of playing spoiler. And now there is also the Bahujan Republican Socialist Party (BRSP), led by the expelled general secretary and former face of the BSP in southern India, Dr Suresh Mane.  

The BSP's strong regional presence is visible from the total vote it amasses from various states-most recently seen in Chhattisgarh (3.9 per cent of the 19.5 per cent Dalit population), Madhya Pradesh (5 per cent of the 15 per cent Dalit population) and Rajas­than (4 per cent of the 17 per cent Dalits). In Telangana, where 16 per cent of the population is Dalit, the BSP won 2.1 per cent of the vote.  

What is the choice that faces Dalits in these elections? On the one hand, there are parties with a chequered history who are claiming to have formed a secular, progressive alliance. On the other, there are parties which spew communal hatred, and hope to convince Dalits to join their historical oppressors in sowing further division. Today, while all parties mouth platitudes about an Ambedkarite agenda, social and economic justice, their commitment to Dalit liberation has been non-existent.  

Dalits want jobs, land, equal opportunity, healthcare and access to high-quality education, including foreign study opportunities. But alongside material advancement, Dalits also long to annihilate caste, an anathema to India's powerful Brahminical parties. These parties have no interest in the welfare of Dalits, but are only too happy to help create a greedy subset of Dalits whose job it is to tell the rest of us that the best we can hope for is a modicum of liberation under the current oppressive framework. To seek minor changes within the system rather than upend it.  

These trained Dalit cadres are sent out to contest elections, tied to furthering a Brahminical agenda. Due to the money they have access to, they can buy support in the Dalit community and receive wider, non-Dalit (anti-Dalit?) support. Such political opportunism undermines the autonomous Dalit project of revolution, of radical reform. The current government's Hindutva bandwagon has left Dalits by the wayside. It has no Dalit leaders who command a substantial following within the community. By using Dalits as tokens, the Brahminical parties-the BJP, Congress, other dominant caste Hindu parties and partly the Communist Party of India-seek only to perpetuate a 'master-slave' relationship.  

You can see why a leader like Mayawati means so much to so many Dalits. Here is a leader who employs the likes of Satish Mishra as a token Brahmin, redeploying the principles of the Brahmi­nical parties. She wants to expand her 'footprint', taking the BSP into uncharted territories. She has obvious appeal to both OBCs and Muslims. But her struggles with forming alliances, at one low point even allying with the NDA before withdrawing, illuminates the struggle at the heart of Dalit politics. How to be part of a wide, visionary coalition while retaining a catalysing fervour for radical social and economic justice.  

Despite all the casteist mockery, elevating an able administrator such as Mayawati to the top office would be an effective way to keep the BJP in check, to counter its fear-mongering. After all, if those who profess to be progressive flinch at the prospect of a strong Dalit woman's voice at the front, whom would they choose instead? There is no alternative, it is Mayawati's moment!  

Suraj Yengde is an inaugural post-doctoral fellow at the Initiative for Institutional Anti-Racism and Accountability at the Shorenstein Center, Harvard Kennedy School.  


  • River in a 'Court of Law' - Legal issues pertaining to its personality
  • Syria: A Testament To International Moral Bankruptcy
  • When the State Sought to Muzzle Privacy, U-Turn Now Only to Accommodate SC Verdict
  • The Bull in A China Shop Wrecks Indian Economy
  • When Buddha Looks The Other Way: The Plight Of The Rohingya
  • A Fatal Blow to The Judiciary
  • The Dramatic Rise in Wealth Inequality
  • Wild And Baseless Speculations of Crisis in the CPI(M)
  • Budget 2018: Fantabulous Schemes With Not A Paisa Earmarked
  • Kasganj: Sankalp Foundation and the Politics of Hate
  • PM Modi Sounds the Election Bugle: Congress and Hindutva the Agenda for 2019 Polls
  • The US Game Plan in Syria
  • Both Nehru and Patel Were the Need of the Hour in 1947-48
  • The Battle of the Two Begums of Bangladesh
  • Why Bangladesh Matters
  • Kejriwal's Apology is Not What the Media Claims
  • Arrest of a '5-minute Dalits' Proves Why SC/ST Act Dilution Will Grossly Impact Real Dalits
  • The Dalits and the Law
  • Winners May Be Losers In Karnataka's Catch 22 Endgame
  • Jinnah and the BJP
  • Jawaharlal Nehru (Nov 14 1889- May 27, 1964): We Still Live In A House That Nehru Built
  • Implications of Trump-Kim Summit: Nuclear Pays!
  • Thomas Reuters Foundation Survey: Measuring Safety, Generating Outrage
  • What Are People Voting for?
  • Foreign Policy: A Double Whammy Awaits India
  • Changing Discourse
  • Assam: The Mythology of "Immigrants"
  • Imran Time is Here
  • 71 Years on, Forsty Relations Countinue
  • To Stop Climate Change, We Need to Open Bordera
  • Make Use of Bid to Postpone Provincial Elections
  • Cringing and Fuddled at 71
  • Ensuring Strident Voice Will Not Become Majority Voice
  • Nehru, Vajpayee and Modi
  • Religious Bias Okayed
  • The Oslo Accords: A Bloody Legacy of Betrayal
  • Crushing the Campus
  • Three Stories And Task of The Office Of Missing Person
  • Drama Over Indo-Pak Meeting
  • An ill Wind
  • Symbolic Actions Alone Are Insufficient For Long Term Change To Occur
  • If Democracy Subverts Itself
  • Returning Land to Civilians is a Promise That Needs Follow Up
  • Democracy In Crisis: What we Know and What we Don't
  • Reparations Office Can Bind The Nations Together
  • Implementation Challenges Facing The Ayushman Bharat Program
  • Subverting the Central Bank
  • Under the Yoke of New-Imperialism: A Fake War of Patriotism and Treason
  • India Joins the Club
  • The Third Phase
  • President is Best Situated to Resolve Political Crisis
  • No Country for Adventure: Challenges Extreme Sports Athletes Face in India
  • Setting A Perilous Political Precedent
  • What Rahul and Modi can do in the Next Four Months
  • Finding a Win-Win Solution to Break the Deadlock
  • Temple in the Age of Colliders
  • Four Parameters of a Political Solution at This Time
  • Resolve National Question With President's Support
  • Decapitating the Leadership
  • Four Takeaways From the 2018 Election
  • Science of Words
  • The Ace up Modi's Sleeve
  • The Government Must Not Deny The TNA
  • The Prolonged Wait For Justice And For Political Leadership
  • Endgame in Afghanistan
  • Pluralist Ethos is More Relevant to National Identity
  • A Concerned Citizen's Points For Inclusion in The Manifesto of Political Parties
  • In My Own Voice: Circle of Unreason
  • RBI To The Rescue of Modi Government - It's Election Time!
  • Say No to War
  • A terrifying Fallout
  • The Type of Leadership The Country Needs
  • Death Wish as Nationalism
  • Politics on Kashmir Need Not be About Optics Alone
  • Why an Urban Job Guarantee Scheme is Not a Bad Idea
  • National Security: The New in 'New Normal'
  • Re-Promulgating an Ordinance is a Fraud on the Constitution
  • Elections 2019: India at a Crossroads
  • Peace and Inclusive Development
  • NYAY Providing Basic Income Fulfills the Vision of Mahatma Gandhi and Changed Election Narrative Based on Basic Issues
  • Advani Should Blame Himself For Promoting Modi
  • Kashmir: Tracing the Degeneration of Mainstream Politics
  • Elections and the Issue of Civil Liberties
  • Jumlanomics:Chronicles of a Post-Truth Bharat
  • BJP: Hiding Failures, Targeting Nehru
  • A Mayawati Moment
  • Godse is a Synonym of Hindu Nationalism, Agenda of the RSS Combine!
  • Development Beyond Numbers
  • A Rational Approach to Countering Extremist Violence is Needed
  • In My Own Voice: Is This the Sprit of Democracy?
  • Prevention is The Best Migration Cure
  • The Rise of Hate
  • The Right Mantras for India's Change
  • Coming Home - Where Family Overpowers All
  • Easter Sunday Bombing Used to Create a Major Rift in Sri Lankan Society
  • Hacking Humanity
  • Environmental Rule of Law in India
  • Peace is a Word That West Has Taken From Afghans
  • Trump's War Games
  • Modi & States
  • Who is an 'Outsider' in West Bengal?
  • China on Maps
  • 19th Amendment Will Correct Itself at End of President's Current Term
  • Authoritarianism and the Crisis of Public Ethics in India
  • Presidential Candidate The People Want
  • Has India's Kashmir Cape Given Pakistan Reason for War?
  • Icons and Ideology of Religious Nationalism
  • Why NRC in Assam May Create Another Kashmir
  • Campaign to Abolish the Executive Presidency in Sri Lanka is a Red Herring
  • As US Tries to Isolate Iran, China Steps In
  • Of Hindi and Hierarchy
  • Why Sri Lankan Elections May Bring Far Reaching Change
  • What US Policy Tells Us About India's Growing 'Friendship' With It
  • Gandhian Philosophy is a Critique of Modernity and Power
  • Inner Party Democracy is Just as Important as Funding
  • India's Foreign Policy Has Dug Itself a Deep Hole
  • 'Broken Promises' and Politics of Hate': Is Political Autonomy The Way Forward For J&K?
  • The Ninth Betrayal: America Has Let Down Khurd, Yet Again
  • Who Benefits From The WhatsApp Hacking Case?: Pertinent Question Left Unanswered
  • State Elections Results Expose "Limits" of BJP's Nationalist Agenda
  • "Religious Belief" vs. "Rule of Law": Did SC's Ayodhya Verdict Legalise Building of a Theocratic State?
  • What Does Trump's "New Refugee Ban" Mean for America's Immigrants?
  • India Must Change Course as Rajapaksas Return on Sinhala Buddhist Wave
  • The Supreme Court's First Judgment Without an Author
  • Geopolitics in South Asia Renders Millions Stateless
  • "Shakespeare's Vision of the Improbale" Unfolds: Is Modi Today's Macbeth?
  • Sri Lanka Under Rajapaksa: Finding Areas of Mutual Agreement
  • "The Game of Religion is Played by Men": Women Speak From the Margins of Ayodhya Dispute
  • Telangana Ecounter- Failure of Local Police Poses Grave Danger to Democracy
  • The Changing Nature of War and Diplomacy
  • Sri Lanka: Government's Cooperation A "Temporary Phenomenon"?
  • The Role of Corruption in This Season of Revolts
  • New Citizenship Law to a "Brazenly Divisive Agenda"
  • Youth Agitation Against CAA Brings a Historic Generational Shift
  • "Digital Authoritarianism": With Internet Shutdowns Normalised, the Digital Space is Democracy's New Battleground
  • Sri Lanka: The Challenge of Development Amidst Devolution of Power
  • The Political Divides that Split India
  • 'Never Again': Echoes of Nazi Crimes Remain Alive 75 Years After Auschwitz
  • "Legacy of Mutual Suspicion" Plagues Opponents of the Modi Regime
  • "Toxic" India Sliding into an Environmental Abyss
  • Manufacturing Hate: From Anurag Thakur's 'Shoot the Traitors' to Pistol-Bearing Youth's 'Yeh lo Azaadi!'
  • Kejriwal Isn't Communal, But His Desire Not to be Seen Anti-Hindu May Prove Self-Defeating
  • Religion States Won't Oppose US-Taliban Deal
  • Lessons From Pathogens: Coronavirus, A wake Up Call?
  • The Geopolitics of the Covid 19 Pandemic
  • Cold War Begins As Nations Fued Over Coronavirus
  • India Fights Coronavirus...With Scriptures, Morals and Police
  • The Burden of COVID 19
  • Do Israeli Settelemnts in Occupies West Bank Constitute a War Crime ?
  • The Global Debate on COVID-19 Lockdown: Listen to Divergent Scientific Voices or Risk Manipulation by Big Businesses?
  • Sri Lanka's Easter Bombings And The Demand For Justice
  • How India Can Solve the "Catch-22 Situation" of Allowing Migrant Workers to Return Home
  • The Time for Universal Basic Income Has Arrived
  • COVID-19 Crisis Exposes Fatal Weaknesses of 'Strong' Leaders
  • The Pandemic Has Taught Us the Importance of Maintaining an Ecological Balance, Will we Remember IT?
  • The Muslim Elite Has Let Down the Muslim Poor
  • "There is Nothing Nationalist or Non-Nationalist in Reporting"
  • Why WHO Took 3 Months to Declare a Global Pandemic
  • A Political Lockdown That Silences Voices
  • The 'Relief Package' of Online Education May End up "Institutionalising Drop Outs"
  • Can Democracy Survive the Coronavirus?
  • As China Ups the Ante, This is What India Must do...
  • Tackling Racism With Compassionate Reporting-CNN Leads The Way
  • Sri Lanka: Pluralism In Governance Required In The Absence of Parliament
  • Idia's Tactical Non-Solutions To China's Incursions in Ladakh
  • "At The Brink of A New Cold War": Sino-US Ties at a Crossroads
  • In Light of Rising Conservatism, Can The Personal be Political Again?
  • India-China: The Complete Breakdown of Trust, How and Why
  • Rethinking Development After Covid-19