Dalit group, farm unions clash over Ambedkar event

Farmers are seen during the protest on new farm law issue in New Delhi on April12, 2021.   | Photo Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

Tensions are brewing between some Dalit groups and protesting farm unions. The latest trigger is the Samyukt Kisan Morcha’s plans to block Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar’s from unveiling a statue of B.R. Ambedkar on his birth anniversary on April 14. On Monday, the All India Ambedkar Mahasabha (AIAM) said that “no one will be allowed to prevent celebration of Ambedkar Jayanti”.

The AIAM is a platform of Dalit groups who agitated against the amendment to the SC/ST Atrocities Act in 2018.

“It has come to our knowledge that miscreant elements plan to stall Ambedkar Jayanti Program (like Republic Day), in the name of Kisan Andolan and thereby putting Kisan against the Dalits. We sincerely request the Kisan Leaders to keep an eye on such miscreants and urge them to join the Ambedkar Jayanti Celebrations across the country,” said AIAM chairman Ashok Bharti, in a statement on Monday.

He noted that farmers are only able to run a protest movement because of Dr. Ambedkar, and warned that if they do not “desist from such dastardly acts”, the Mahasabha would “deal with such miscreants with heavy hands.”

On its part, the SKM reiterated the solidarity of farmers and Dalits, and emphasised that they are “not opposing the unveiling of the statue of Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar. Except for the Chief Minister, if anyone else unveils this statue, the farmers have no objection.”

“Those who mocked the Constitution have no right to unveil the statue of Baba Saheb Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar,” said Rakesh Tikait, who heads a major faction of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU).

Some Dalit groups have been uncomfortable with the dominance of the Jat community among the protesting farmers from Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, which also feeds into political calculations in the region. The protest against Mr. Khattar’s event is being carried out in coordination with the Sarvjatiya Sarvakhap Panchayat, a group of village and community leaders mostly from Jat groups.

However, Kanta Allaria, a Haryana-based Dalit activist and politician pushed back against such perceptions.

“The farmers are with us. They are Ambedkar-wadis who have joined hands with us to protest the things that also affect Dalits such as rural distress, unemployment and the high price of diesel and petrol,” said Ms. Allaria who has shared the stage with Gurnam Singh Chaduni, an SKM leader who also heads his own faction of the BKU.

“What right does the BJP and RSS have to claim any connection with Ambedkar? We will oppose all those who try to break Dalit-Kisan unity,” she added.

The SKM noted that the farm reform laws it is protesting will be “even more dangerous for the sharecroppers as the companies will use machines on a large scale to make the farming profitable and the workspace of the sharecroppers will be completely lost,” noting that the majority of sharecroppers, tenants and agriculture workers come from Dalit or Bahujan society.

“It is a matter of great enthusiasm for the people of the country that the landless farmers and their organisations are also fighting for the repeal of these laws,” it added.

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Printable version | May 9, 2021 2:14:18 PM |

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