Two thousand years of oppression cannot a Constitution undo. Seventy years after Independence, under a Constitution that was designed to wipe away caste and other privileges, much of it still remains. Historical entitlement and impunity of the upper castes, their traditional hold over state institutions and resources have ensured that the rights of Dalits are observed more in breach than otherwise.
This seems especially true in Ambedkar’s state, Maharashtra. Across villages Dalits continue to face the wrath of the upper castes for just existing and asserting their rights. Our cover story this month (“In the land of Bhim”) is a photographic documentation of atrocities against Dalits in Maharashtra. It is the work of photographers Sudharak Olwe and Helena Schätzle, and reporter Shraddha Ghatge. The project took them deep inside Maharashtra and they found chilling stories of everyday abuse that Dalits endure. The trigger for upper caste violence could be anything: buying land, sinking a well, a ringtone, refusing sexual advances, or just saying no to the powerful. Recourse in law remains a challenge, with police often siding with the perpetrators. Even registering an FIR is a battle. The pursuit of justice, a mythical, elusive beast for most victims, comes at great personal and financial cost.
The UP election results spell doom for the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). The Bahujan vote is split, a section of Dalits now vote for Modi, and the courting of Muslims hasn’t proved to be successful. In Mayawati it has a leader who is increasingly insular and stubbornly distant from the people and the party. Under her BSP has lost three major elections in UP. The road ahead is dark and narrow. The latest defeat has sent the party into shock, and they haven’t even got down to analysis, writes Arpit Parashar in his story, “BSP’s road to wilderness”.
Nandini Krishnan profiles the writer and politician Salma (“The chronicler of sleepless nights”), and traces her extraordinary journey from a village in southern Tamil Nadu where even to go out of the house was an act of defiance.
Suresh P. Thomas interviews Malyalam writer Manoj Kuroor, whose novel Nilam Poothu Malarnna Naal (The day the land bloomed), is already considered a landmark. Kuroor, a true man of parts, tells how he set about writing a novel set in the Sangam Age in a style that is completely devoid of Malayalam’s Sanskrit sounds. It is an audacious undertaking, resurrecting a version of the language that has long been erased from the memory of its speakers.