Not as bad to be Muslim than to be Dalit, says Christophe Jaffrelot

JAIPUR: Eminent French political scientist Christophe Jaffrelot on Friday said that in the absence of reservation, Dalits would not have reached anywhere, and it was “not as bad to be a Muslim than to be a Dalit”.

The author of ‘Dr Ambedkar and Untouchability’ said that the BJP and RSS were now focusing on Dalits because they have realised that the community couldn’t be ignored anymore as a “vote bank”.

“When there is no reservation… where will be the Dalits? So if you remove reservation, where are they? There will be no Dalits anywhere. Because the stigma is still there. It is not as bad as to be a Muslim than to be a Dalit,” he said, citing the example of media.

Speaking at a session titled “Dr Ambedkar and His Legacy” at the 11th Jaipur Literature Festival here, Jaffrelot also spoke about the RSS and BJP focusing on Ambedkar.

“They have started paying attention to them not because of goodwill, but because Dalits couldn’t be ignored anymore.

“In 1989, when JD (Janata Dal) did better than BJP in Uttar Pradesh elections, they had to realise, and look at these emerging ‘vote banks’, and use divide and rule kind of policies,” he said.

Despite having the “best laws” in the world, India, according to Jaffrelot, needed to implement them better to see that it becomes the country of Ambedkar’s dreams.

“At a time when the issues we are fighting for, freedom of expression, equal rights, where are the NGOs, the universities, the media who do not self censor themselves.

“This is an India he would not recognise, and he would say this Constitution would not do. India has the best laws in the world, right to education, right to information, (but) what about the implementation?” the scholar said.

The session was also attended by economist Sukhdeo Thorat, author Chintan Chandrachud and Bengali author Manoranjan Byapari who argued the need for reservation and spoke at length about Ambedkar’s legacy and the road the Constitution of India has taken since it was adopted.