The Big Story: Dalit anger

In Gujarat, the Dalits were stripped and beaten for skinning dead cows. In Uttar Pradesh, the country's foremost Dalit leader was called "worse than a prostitute". In Mumbai, Dalits are protesting their own upper class, which chose to demolish a part of their own history. The anger from Dalit protesters in all three places is palpable.

The immediate implication, considering Parliament is in session and there are elections in Gujarat, UP and Mumbai's municipality next year (no coincidence), will be political. All of these movement will be looked at through an electoral lens, particularly in light of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah's efforts to move their party closer to the Dalits.

The straightforward conclusion suggests that the BJP is in danger of losing any gains that Shah and Modi may have put together over the last couple of years. It's likely that images of the assault on the Gujarat tanners and the "prostitute" comment will be used as part of the Bahujan Samaj Party's campaign for the next seven months. The ruling party is scrambling to insist that it is fully behind the Dalits.

But the anger cannot be dissolved into politics. The story of Rohith Vemula, the Dalit student at Hyderabad University who committed suicide in January after a run-in with the authorities, was bigger and more tragic than its electoral implications. The sight of Dalits uniting in Gujarat after 30 years, leaving cow carcasses on the streets and attempting suicide tells a story that cannot be reduced to politics. Images of huge numbers of people coming out onto the roads in Mumbai and Lucknow to protest affronts against the lower castes can't be dismissed simply because elections are on the horizon.

Development in India has often meant a more unequal society, one that is deeply casteist and continues to institutionalise discrimination. Progress continues to ignore those at the bottom and if they are stripped, name-called and beaten often enough they will attempt to fight back. This is not politics. It's deeper. It's time we paid attention.

The Big Scroll
Ambedkar, Rohith Vemula and Whatsapp: Gau rakshaks have unwittingly spurred Dalit unity in Gujarat. Lesson from Gujarat: Cow protection vigilante groups need to be banned.

Political Pickings
1. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee insisted at a rally in Kolkata that she would not let anyone (read: the Centre) dictate what people eat or wear.
2. Despite a fiscal deficit that is getting close to the 3% limit, the Tamil Nadu government on Thursday presented a tax-free budget with up to Rs 15,000 crore estimated revenue deficit.
3. The Bharatiya Janata Party looks nervous. It has deployed its senior leaders to counter what seems like an erosion in a span of just a few days of two years of outreach to the Dalit community.
4. Parliament Watch: The Indian Express estimates that 55% of the Rajya Sabha now supports the Goods & Services Tax Bill. The government needs two-thirds of the House to push it through.
5. The Ministry of External Affairs called on Pakistan to stop inciting violence, stop misleading the international community and end "meaningless exercises" like elections in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

1. Anand Teltumbde in the Indian Express explains how the protests over the Ambedkar Bhavan demolition in Mumbai reveal a divided Dalit community.
2. Shubhashis Gangopadhyay in the Telegraph examines the issues with an LPG subsidy aimed at the poorest, who are least likely to be using that fuel for kitchen needs.
3. Vox's Ezra Klein tells it like it is: Donald Trump’s nomination is the first time American politics has left me truly afraid.


Don't Miss
Joydeep Gupta writes about Uttarakhand reeling under floods while ministers bicker over dams.

"Faced with this double whammy of climate change impacts and abandoned partially built dams that have channelled rivers in new directions, residents of many Uttarakhand villages are now stuck behind multiple landslides, with food running out and their homes in danger of being washed away or buried under yet another landslide."