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Posted at: Mar 20, 2017, 12:42 AM; last updated: Mar 20, 2017, 12:42 AM (IST)

Research on Dalits

A Right turn that is wrong
THE BJP government had worked hard to build a pro-Dalit image and it paid dividends in the UP Assembly elections. Now, the Central government has decided to stop funding research on social discrimination at centres run by 35 Union and state government universities. These centres were set up under the 11th Five Year Plan (2007-2012) to study social exclusion and inclusive policy. Post 2004 general election, it became clear the welfare schemes introduced for the marginalised communities paid dividends. The centres were set up to conduct research and collect data on schemes meant for marginalised communities as also to train scholars from the communities to participate in research work.

The narrative on the Dalits was dominated by scholars who came from such segments of society as were not at the receiving end of discrimination. In this respect, these centres played a very significant role — the concerns of the marginalised groups were flagged in their own dialects. But the centres were not given enough time to be developed into full-fledged departments to attract scholars of repute. Most functioned on an ad-hoc basis. Nor is the decision of their closure based on the auditing of their output. The performance of the centres depended largely on the academic structure and performance of the university concerned.

While Dalit scholars view the proposed closure of the research centres as consolidation of the “hierarchical Brahminical social order”, the move is in tune with the pro-market education policy of the present government which treats education as part of the service sector. The move also reflects the right-wing ideology that doesn’t want the Hindu community to be divided into Dalits and non-Dalits. Even if the government finds justification for closing down these centres, it should make amends by strengthening the departments of humanities to promote quality research in the field. The spectrum of research work at these centres includes the tribal and minorities. Ignoring the aspirations and concerns of the marginalised communities can ignite a new angst, with unpredictable consequences. 

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