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Scavenging, a spiritual experience for Dalits: Modi

Nov 26, 2007 08:35 AM IST Politics Politics

Ahmedabad: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has found a new way to woo a section of Gujarat’s harijan community by legitimising the illegal act of scavenging and incorporating it into his concept of Gujarati asmita (pride).

In a recent book written by him and published by the state information department Modi says, “Scavenging must have been a spiritual experience for the Valmiki caste”.

The book titled Karmayog is yet to hit the stands.

In the book, he goes on to say, “At some point in time somebody must have got enlightenment in scavenging. They must have thought that it is their duty to work for the happiness of the entire society and the Gods.”

Not surprisingly, the Dalits are not impressed. Modi’s remarks have not gone down well with the Dalit vote bank and have the makings of yet another controversy.

A scavenger, Bhanubhai, says, “That is not true. Who says that we enjoy cleaning work? We do it because we don't have a choice. If our boys were educated and intelligent and if they were given other opportunities, they would not do this work.”

This issue is likely to be brought up in the Parliament on Monday.

Gujarat’s eight per cent Dalit population has traditionally voted for the Congress, with a section of them having drifted to the BJP only in the last decade. Modi's detractors are hoping that his remarks, inspired by manuwadi wisdom, will once again trigger a shift in the Dalit voting pattern.

Sociologist Gaurang Jani says, “They (Dalits) want to enhance their status. To enhance their status, they are changing their names, their rituals and even their customs. In this direction, even in Gujarat, there are some castes that are changing their names, particularly the Bhangis.”