Sunday, 13 May 2007

Upper caste MLAs touch the feet of 'untouchable'

Mayawati's coronation: Caste wheel turns full circle

On May 13 when the newly-elected upper caste MLAs of BSP touched her feet at the oath-taking faction in Raj Bhawan at Lucknow, it was the most watershed event in the history of this nation.

The Brahmins, Thakurs, Banias and Kayasthas, who for at least two millenniums treated the Dalits as un-touchables, were not only accepting a Dalit woman as their leader but seemed eager to give her the kind of reverence which the upper castes commanded from the Dalits for centuries.

The coronation of Mayawati as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh is one of the biggest political stories in independent India. She now heads the government which rules nearly 200 million people of UP.

It is the greatness of Indian democracy that a woman from Jatav caste of Dalits (un-touchables) has come to rule the land where flow the sacred Hindu rivers--Ganga, Jumna and Saraswati and has the holiest cities like Benares and Allahabad. It is the region where the kingdom of Lord Rama existed near Ayodhya on the bank of Saryu and it is the Doab where the interaction of Hindus and Muslims resulted in the birth of a common composite culture. The majestic Taj Mahal at Agra and the beautiful Urdu language are the most beautiful symbols of this interaction.

But the enormity of injustice meted out to the huge Dalit population remained a blot on India for centuries. With the acceptance of Mayawati as their leader by Brahmins, who rank highest in the caste hierarchy, and an overwhelming support of Muslims and other groups, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has got the opportunity to bring the social change.

Still, in thousands of Indian villages, a Dalit bridgeroom can't ride a horse, the Dalit women can't fetch water from the well meant for upper-castes and the lower castes have to put up with insults though the situation has changed in urban areas.

The Kashi Ram protege has come a long way. Her mentor had established the BSP in 1984. Once the strong rhetoric of 'Tilak Tarazu aur Talwar, Inko maaro joote chaar' evoked sharp response for India's elite but now an all-inclusive Mayawati talks about 'sarva-samaj' and the slogans in the recently held elections were: 'Brahmin shankh bajayega, Hathi Dilli jayega' & 'Hathi nahin Ganesh hai, Brahma Vishnu Mahesh hai'.

Hopefully, an experienced Mayavati, will avoid the politics of vendetta and ensure the rule of law. In her earlier stints, she succeeded in instilling pride amongst Dalits by installing statues of Lord Buddha, Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj, Dr BR Ambedkar, Bijli Pasi, Jhalkari Bai and other Dalit icons of the past. Now she must take upon the real tasks:

UP badly needs good governance. The law-and-order is crumbling. The mafia and abductions for ransom needs to be curbed. The state needs investment, infrastructure, electricity and good institutes of learning. With the people of Uttar Pradesh giving her an absolute majority, Mayawati must rise to the occasion and bring order to UP that has got the tag of 'ulta pradesh'. We Wish her success.

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