Maya’s mayajaal

In UP, neither the dalits nor the thakurs are fully happy or satisfied with the BSP. What Mayawati needs to do is to focus more on UP to fulfill her dream of coming to power at the Centre

Samarth Pathak Nagalia

Mayawati led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has emerged as the dark horse in the political 'battle royale' of India. After clinching Uttar Pradesh-the nation's most populous state-many opine that the party could emerge as a major political wing in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. Mayawati's magic lies in the fact that she has championed the cause of dalits, while appealing to the upper castes too. Yet, it turns out that things are not as smooth for the BSP as they appear to be.

In the village of Nagalia that falls under the Gabhana tehsil of Aligarh in western UP, the thakurs openly voice their resentments against the Mayawati regime. In heated debates, they unanimously believe that empowerment of dalits has weakened their standing in the village affairs. Durga Singh, a local farmer, says, "The BSP has not really helped the upper castes. We made a mistake by voting for Mayawati. The dalits are more united than ever, and often speak against us. We no longer enjoy the power at the village level as we did earlier." Naurangi Lal, the village priest chips in, "I am not against the dalit community. But empowering them by weakening the other communities is unfair. This is what Mayawati has done. The thakurs and brahmins supported her since we felt that it would lead to large scale development, by uniting all communities. But we feel cheated as the dalits are now questioning our opinions and views." These thoughts are backed by many in the upper castes. A few villagers said that Mayawati is a sword which has cut the throats of the thakurs and brahmins. 

The setting up of special committees to provide aid to the harijans is also seen as a threat by the thakurs. They claim that if a dalit lodges a complaint, the committee and the police threaten to take action against the upper castes immediately. Bribing babus and police is the only way to escape their wrath. Brows furrow as they watch a dalit unloading a heavy sack of hay from a bullock cart. "Now, we are at the mercy of these harijans as the police only listens to them. Things were better under the Congress and the BJP. Atleast we had our say in day to day governance", says Kishan Lal with scathing sarcasm.

But the dalit community maintains that development for them remains a far cry. Though the prospect of Mayawati as the chief minister clearly gives them a sense of pride, however, there is no visible improvement in their standard of living as yet. They still live in small, dark kuchha huts, made of mud and hay and are still considered impure by the upper castes. They are still forced to migrate to nearby towns to support their large families. The dalit children still do not go to school, for ‘the teacher does not pay attention to them'. And they still go hungry, often for days.

"Do we look like we are living an easy life? We are as we have always been--poor. The committees do lodge our complaints, but for bribes. The police does not make things easy either. We cannot afford to spend our hard-earned money this way. Things are slightly better than before in the sense that now we have a sense of security. We can voice our grievances and opinions. But the attitude of the upper castes remains the same. Till attitudes remain such, there can be no development," says Bidharam.

Deeply etched in the wrinkled faces of most elderly harijans are the lines of hopelessness. Speaking to them of politicians and parties, the hustle bustle of towns, or even of development seems to be pointless. They lead a life of utter misery in abject poverty. Watching children, engaged in a game of marbles, Bidharam continues, "There is no future for these kids in the village. It is better to work in Gabhana or Aligarh, rather than under a thakur here. There is no open hostility between us, but the ideologies and traditional values are sacrosanct. Violating these can lead to trouble. Just last month, a young boy was beaten up by thakurs in a village nearby for drinking from their tap. This discrimination is still present. And no matter who is in power, our troubles would remain far from over."

In this tussle of opinions, one thing is clear: neither the dalits nor the thakurs are fully happy or satisfied with the BSP. What Mayawati needs to do is to focus more on UP to fulfill her aim of coming to power at the Centre.