In April 2017, a person named Shivam Vij, who is deputy editor on HuffPost India, wrote a post titled “When Will Indian Liberals Stop Falling Into The Right-Wing Trap?”. The former associate editor with the Left leaning website Scroll. in had repeated the casteist strategy here, by saying that left liberals should talk about caste atrocities. He had said (emphasis added):
Why do liberals see Hindu-Muslim as the only narrative worth fighting for? Hindu-Muslim polarisation seeks to unite Hindus against Muslims. The politics of Mandal served to fragment the Hindutva cause. We have known this since the ’90s, but our liberals never learn.
Great that liberals spoke up for Pehlu Khan, but if only they had raised their hashtags for Jaysukh Madhad, a Dalit who was recently killed in Gujarat for the crime of winning a panchayat election.
This, he argued, was the only way to halt BJP’s political domination.
Shockingly, this divisive thought was endorsed by people like senior journalist Shekhar Gupta, and Congress leader Shashi Tharoor. Incidentally, the Pakistani senate, in a policy paper drafted by a 13 men committee, advocated exactly this: India’s own fault-lines in their alienated groups such as Dalits, must be highlighted.
This tactic had in fact worked in India before. In the run up to the Bihar elections in 2015, we saw many such caste violence related storied being propped up by the media.
Media houses like The Hindu and DNA ran a story claiming that a Dalit family in Uttar Pradesh was stripped by police. Multiple sources later confirmed that the family had stripped on its own accord, as a sign of protest.
Amnesty International, the human rights group, hosted a petition to help 2 dalit sisters in UP, who were apparently ordered to be raped by a Khap Panchayat. But, when BBC visited the said village and the villagers said there was no such order passed. The local police also said that their investigations revealed that there was no such order passed. The village council also denied such allegations. The petition, by then, had gone viral.
Then, the news channels went into overdrive discussing an alleged revenge murder of Dalit children by upper caste Rajputs. But a few days later, as investigations went ahead, initial theories were trashed. Forensic experts who investigated the crime scene concluded that the “origin and source of fire was from inside the room and not from outside”. The report also apparently that there were “no traces of outside entry” into the premises.
Another story claimed that an old Dalit man was killed because he tried to enter a temple in Uttar Pradesh. This was subsequently picked up by various media outlets. But other media houses reported that the Dalit man was in fact killed by a drunkard.
In all the cases, a story of caste atrocity was created and given credence to by the media. TV debates were held. Outrage was fuelled. And in most of these cases, the original angle of caste friction eventually fizzled out.
Now, with the Gujarat elections coming up, the Left-liberal playbook is being revisited. We saw the first act of the drama last week. A shocking news was reported from a Limbodara village near Gandhinagar where a 17 year old Dalit boy named Digant Maheria was allegedly stabbed by upper caste men for sporting a moustache.
This resulted in outage on social media and also an attempted protest outside the state secretariat by Dalit leader Jignesh Mewani for demanding the resignation of the Gujarat Home Minister for reportedly having failed to protect the Dalits.
On Friday, 3 days after the incident, the Gujarat Police via its probe concluded that the whole incident was fake and the boy had made up the allegations to generate publicity after being convinced to do so by an influential NGO.
According to local news portal Desh Gujarat, the police probe revealed that:
- There were no signs of blood in the location where the attack was supposed to have taken place
- CCTV footage and clothes were checked and they did not support the version of events recounted by the boy
- A paan shop owner near the given location too claimed that no such incident had occurred there
- Even questioning and checks failed to corroborate the incident
Later as stated in the Desh Gujarat report, while interrogation the boy broke down and confessed to setting up the whole incident. He confessed that he and his two friends brought a sharp shaving blade and he in-turn asked them to attack him with it.
The two friends as well corroborated this version by stating that they caused the injury after being pressurised by the boy. The boy later also confessed that he escalated the issue by talking to the media persons for getting coverage. He claimed he was inspired to do so by some NGO people. According to him, he used to visit and speak with them which inspired him to carry out this stunt.
And just like that, the first story of caste atrocity in Gujarat fizzled out. Although, we have the truth now, the damage may have already been done. Social media was full of news about this incident. A social media campaign involving putting one’s own pictures with mustache was launched too. Freelance activists and protestors too chimed in with their protests, but was torn between supporting the Dalit discourse vs. calling out protests sporting moustache as patriarchal and show of masculinity.
Dalit assertion does not have to fit the checklist of political correctness prescribed by liberals who never acknowledge caste anyway.
— Shehla Rashid (@Shehla_Rashid) October 1, 2017
It remains to be seen whether Gujarat will see more such reports coming out. Gujarat elections are more of a prestige battle than anything else. PM Modi and Amit Shah, both hail from Gujarat, and even a decrease in vote share or margin of victory will be called a defeat of Modi and Shah. In such a situation, opposition can be expected to cook up all sorts of controversies, and when it comes to caste violence, we already have precedent.