Do Dalit Lives Matter Less Than Muslims’?

Contemplating Casteism and the Growing Voices Against Dalit Oppression

In today’s society, the influence of casteism runs deep, and its most significant impact is felt by the Dalit community. There was a time when, in a village in Ahmednagar, Maharashtra, four Dalits were stripped to their waists, tied to a tree with their hands and feet bound, and mercilessly beaten on suspicion of stealing domesticated pigeons and goats. Their story only made it to the inside pages of national newspapers for a brief moment.

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Imagine if these four Dalits were Muslims and subjected to the same treatment. It’s likely that their plight would have dominated media headlines for days. Does it seem like Dalit lives matter less than Muslims’?

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar’s Complaint

In 1951, when Dr. B.R. Ambedkar resigned from Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s Union Cabinet, he voiced a grievance. He accused Nehru of dedicating all his efforts to protect Muslims while neglecting the concerns of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Christians. Ambedkar argued that even these marginalized communities needed security. “What concern has he [Nehru] shown for these communities? So far as I know, none…” he proclaimed.

Nehru’s preoccupation with safeguarding Muslims stemmed from the backdrop of the Partition bloodshed, which threatened the idea conceived during the freedom movement that all religious communities would be equal citizens in independent India. This idea of India remains a core belief for millions, even amidst the growing wave of Hindutva. However, seven decades after Ambedkar’s resignation letter, many progressive voices are complicit in downplaying violence against Dalits. One explanation for this complicity is the deep-rooted nature of the caste system within us.

The Religious Roots of Casteism

The caste system’s religious origins legitimize and justify an unequal social order that can only be maintained by suppressing aspirations for equality. Violence is at the heart of the caste system, a story that spans centuries. We have been conditioned to accept the inevitability of daily violence against Dalits, despite numerous laws meant to protect them. This normalization of violence against Dalits has desensitized society. What is normalized doesn’t shock, and what doesn’t shock doesn’t receive extensive media coverage, as there’s nothing new to report. Only a massacre of Dalits is considered newsworthy, as it signifies mass resistance against an unequal social order.

In contrast, violence against Muslims has its roots, at best, in the last 150 years. Violence against them lacked a philosophical or religious justification until Hindutva began constructing a new moral universe. Hindutva posited that India could only be the homeland of those whose religion originated here. Since the holy lands of Muslims and Christians are elsewhere, their loyalty to India would always be suspect. This theory implicitly justifies the killing of “internal enemies” – Muslims and Christians.

This unsettling vision moved from the fringe to center stage in the last three decades, particularly after 2014. Yet, for those who haven’t embraced Hindutva’s moral universe, the killing of Muslims lacks a moral basis and is thus perceived as senseless and shocking. These are the individuals who bring violence against Muslims to the forefront of public attention.

The Surprising Lack of Unity Among Scheduled Caste MPs

It might seem surprising that the 84 Scheduled Caste MPs in the Lok Sabha rarely unite across party lines to protest against the killing of Dalits. The structure of political representation silences them, as they are fielded in elections from reserved constituencies where every candidate must be a Dalit. This often leads to the fragmentation of the community’s votes. The winner among them is the one who rallies the support of other communities, which, in most constituencies, predominantly comprise Hindus.

However, most of these Hindus are averse to voting for assertive Dalit candidates. Why? Because a Dalit cannot assert themselves without challenging the caste system, which bestows symbolic and material power upon social groups arranged in a hierarchy. An assertive Dalit risks alienating the upper castes, the dominant Shudra groups, and even their own party. Consequently, most elected Dalit leaders mute themselves in pursuit of power. Moreover, the Dalit community consists of various subcastes that often pull in different directions. Attempts to consolidate them behind a Dalit party have repeatedly failed, from the Republican Party of India to the Bahujan Samaj Party.

The Geographical Divide in Violence

Incidents of violence against Dalits predominantly occur in rural India, far removed from media hubs, which invisibilizes the suffering of Dalits. On the other hand, until 2014, the primary form of violence against Muslims was communal riots in urban India. These riots often disrupt economic activities and never guarantee that only Muslims will be affected. Urban-based media has an interest in highlighting violence against Muslims.

No wonder, the Hindutva brigade increasingly prefers everyday communalism over organizing mass violence against Muslims. They are now tormented or killed for reasons such as allegedly consuming beef, praying in public spaces, dating or marrying Hindu women, and more. With Hindutva’s moral universe gaining ascendancy, Muslims are now India’s new Dalits. The everyday violence against them will soon become too stale to be considered newsworthy. All the perfumes in the world cannot mask the stench of the blood spilled in India, and this issue cannot be overshadowed by manufacturing outrage over the Sanatan Dharma debate.


Dalit lives and Muslim lives are both valuable and should be treated as such. It is crucial for us to acknowledge and combat the deeply entrenched issues of casteism and religious discrimination that persist in our society. As responsible members of society, it is our collective duty to advocate for social justice and equality for all. Let’s work together to eradicate the injustices that continue to plague our society and strive for a more inclusive and equitable India.

Note: This blog post is a summary of the provided news content and is intended to raise awareness about the issue of casteism and violence against Dalits and Muslims.

Do Dalit Lives Matter Less Than Muslims’?

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