In May this year, a complaint was filed against Karnataka BJP chief BS Yeddyurappa, accusing him of practising untouchability. He visited a Dalit family in Kelakote area and had breakfast there in the presence of the media, except instead of eating the food prepared by the family, ordered idlis from a nearby hotel. He insisted that this was done because the family had not prepared enough food to feed all the leaders present on that day. A few days later, he ate a “hearty breakfast” in Bagalkot in a Dalit home. On the subject of the controversy, he also said, “The reason for having breakfast at a Dalit’s home was to send out a message that BJP and I are for a socially equitable [sic].”
Well, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah clearly finds this blatant tokenism annoying. At a rally in Athani on Friday, the CM said that BS Yeddyurappa is enacting a drama by sharing food with members of Dalit families, and accused BJP leaders of playing the Dalit card in preparation for next year’s elections to the Legislative Assembly. He went on to say that if BJP leaders like Yeddyurappa were really concerned about the problems faced by Dalits, they should follow the teachings of saint-reformer Basavanna, and marry their children into Dalit families.
It’s interesting, because Siddaramaiah’s words follow the writings of BR Ambedkar. Ambedkar has, of course, written and supported the idea that “the real remedy for breaking Caste is inter-marriage”, which is truth now widely known and believed. Breaking caste endogamy through marriage is a much more meaningful way of breaking caste prejudices than eating prepared by Dalits in the presence of the media.
Ambedkar has also written that “criticising and ridiculing people for not inter-dining or inter-marrying or occasionally holding inter-caste dinners and celebrating inter-caste marriages, is a futile method of achieving the desired end”, which I guess might be something to remember when dealing with the statements political leaders make and understanding why they make them.