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Why we forget our 'non-high caste' heroes

By Tarun Vijay
July 06, 2016 10:37 IST

'Should a leader with such an impeccable record of public life, struggles, meritorious performance and heroism in politics like Babu Jagjivan Ram be weighed on caste and not reviewed for his real worth?' asks Tarun Vijay.

Babu Jagjivan Ram, second from left, with then prime minister Morarji Desai, right, at at an event to mark Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel's birth anniversary, October 31, 1977.

IMAGE: Babu Jagjivan Ram, second from left, with then prime minister Morarji Desai, right, at at an event to mark Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel's birth anniversary, October 31, 1977.

 

'Who Jagjivan Ram? The scheduled caste leader? Oh yes, these days you are hurt because you got stones from high caste people in Uttarakhand, hence your love for the Dalits.' That was what a close friend and political activist told me after reading my piece on Babu Jagjivan Ram.

It is not surprising. The other leaders are the real leaders. The scheduled caste leaders are just dummies or projected to woo and win Dalit votes. They don't have any value more than that.

My question is: Should a leader with such an impeccable record of public life, struggles, meritorious performance and heroism in politics like Babu Jagjivan Ram be weighed on caste and not reviewed for his real worth?

Should a scheduled caste person be always -- all his life -- be termed as a 'oh yeah, a scheduled caste, hence needed an extra push, an extra cautious word of homage'?

It only shows the deep rooted hate for the so-called 'low castes' in our psyche.

We don't like them, we don't love them, but the sheer numerical strength they have forces us to accept them and give a seat, a berth here and there. It doesn't happen with the 'others.'

Arjun Ram Meghwal, the dynamic leader from Rajasthan, now the Union minister of state for finance and corporate affairs -- an ex-IAS officer -- narrated horrifying stories when he met me to share my hurt after being attacked by high caste educated people in Jaunsar Bawar (justified by many high caste columnists who blamed the Dalits for provoking the stone pelters).

Can you believe an entire village in Rajasthan boycotting a scheduled caste merchant's shop on all Tuesdays, fearing buying anything from a Dalit may annoy Hanumanji? And a scheduled caste IAS officer being marked on a Holi Milan for being 'different', an SC officer with a big 'ohh...'?

Forgetting Jagjivan Ram also falls in the same category of a yawned emphasis on his caste and ignoring his merit.

It is a common belief that an intelligent and brilliant scheduled caste officer has to work ten times more to earn the same amount of respect and credibility that a Brahmin officer who gets accolades in a natural way.

Any recognition of merit and excellent workmanship for a scheduled caste is attributed to his 'caste' factor, and not to his real performance.

Hence, it is necessary that at least -- yes, at least -- scheduled caste politicians, members and chairmen of various committees and ministers and leaders who belong to the scheduled castes must attend the birth and death anniversaries of such a leader.

Those who belong to their families and the same caste leaders find it difficult to champion the cause of their family persons and speak out against the unfair treatment given to them even after death.

I think it is time when those who believe in equality must stop laying emphasis on the 'SC' factor when remembering the contributions of a leader like Babu Jagjivan Ram.

He was the defence minister when India won the 1971 War and saw Pakistani soldiers surrendering before us. But his contribution to lead India to victory as defence minister was never projected for obvious reasons. If Indira Gandhi could be credited -- and rightly so -- for leading India to a great victory so should recognition have been bestowed upon Babu Jagjivan Ram. He deserved it.

And for many other shining achievements too. Like India attaining self reliance in grain production and witnessing the Green Revolution when he was agriculture minister.

It is still not too late to honour his many contributions to India with a Bharat Ratna.

Tarun Vijay, the former Rajya Sabha BJP MP from Uttarakhand, was grievously injured last month after he was assaulted by a mob for entering a temple in the state with Dalits.

Tarun Vijay
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