I salute the spirit of Chandra Bhan Prasad and Milind Kamble (“The chimera of Dalit capitalism,” July 18). In an era when many want a shortcut to success, even demand reservation in the private sector, the duo have done exceptionally well to prove that Dalits are not only takers, but also givers.
The writer must understand that as a community oppressed for centuries, Dalits can change the way capitalism is perceived. They can eradicate exploitation.
I see this as the second stage of Dalit emancipation. After years of oppression, political and social justice was guaranteed to Dalits by the Constitution which gave them, among other things, decent jobs mostly in the government sector. This marked the first stage. But the absence of Dalits in industry kept them below the rest in terms of economic power and perpetuated a kind of dependence. The second stage, which is unfolding now, is marked by Dalit entrepreneurship that will go a long way in bringing Dalits on a par with the rest.
Market overcomes obstacles created by status relationships. As Samuelson stated in a different context, when money talked, all other forms of conversation were silenced. Extreme forms of oppression against Dalits are not practised in cities where commerce dominates.
It is only since the 1990s that Dalits have consciously made an effort to gain entry in the trade and manufacturing spheres. This effort must be given full encouragement irrespective of whether the ultimate aim of complete equality is attainable or not. Dalits have achieved only marginal improvement in their living conditions. If Dalit capitalism could add even a little to that improvement, it must be encouraged. Denouncing it as a chimera does not help since the practices of those professing other ideologies have not achieved anything substantial for them either.
When India is increasingly embracing the capitalist model, what is wrong in Dalits pursuing it? Caste and class are closely intertwined in the country just as religion and class are. Does any khap panchayat pass a verdict on the well-off? Does anyone bother about the caste or religion of cricketers, film stars or business tycoons?
There is something called the notion of collective community prestige. When a few individuals from a community strike it rich or occupy influential posts, the stock of that community rises and it climbs up the caste ladder.
Capitalism doesn’t always thrive at the expense of others. It creates opportunities and increases competition. It ensures that people are recognised for their talent, not surnames. However small the number of Dalits getting empowered, they will definitely be a role model for the younger generation of Dalits.
R. Amit Bidari,