Small-scale Industries Minister Narasimha Naik — who is himself a Dalit — on Sunday said some “upper caste” people were still discriminating against the Dalits. “If you, who eat grain like rice, jowar and ragi that have been dehusked by the feet of Dalit farmers and labourers, have so much ego, then what should be the level of ego that these Dalit farmers/labourers themselves should be having?” he said.

Addressing a programme related to Dalits’ business ventures organised at a star hotel in Bangalore, the Minister said: “You may be eating food items prepared from these grain with the help of a fork, sitting at a star hotel. But have you ever given a thought towards how these grains come to your dining table. Farmers, including Dalit farmers grow them. After harvesting, it is farm labourers (who are mostly Dalits) who dehusk them with their feet. Once a person understands this, he will never look down upon Dalits.”

At the same time, he called upon Dalits to desist from hating or having ill will towards other communities for being oppressed historically. “All that you should be bothering about is your development, without any ill will towards others,” he said.

He expressed concern that though Karnataka has a sizeable number of Dalit MLAs, most of them feared they would not get re-elected if they aggressively raise their voices against Dalit oppression. “Though we have got constituencies reserved for Dalits, it is unfortunate that those who act like rubber stamps, without aggressively opposing any oppression, are being preferred by caste forces,” he said.

‘Keep priorities’

Mr. Naik also asked Dalits to give importance to education, organising themselves and struggle for their rights. “But the sequence of these three processes is very important. Unfortunately, a lot of Dalits give first priority for organising and hence jump into the process of organising themselves at the cost of their education. This will impact the growth of the community,” he cautioned and suggested that education should be the top priority for them.