‘Hindutva incomplete without Dalits’ – Dr. Guru Prakash Paswan
First edition of ‘Indic Dialogue’ was conducted in Woodbridge, NJ on Sep 15, 2022, at Woodbridge Public Library, Iselin in New Jersey.
Dr Guru Prakash Paswan engaged the audience on the topic of ‘Social Justice – an Indian Approach’. His thesis of the talk centered around how Dalits are central to the Sanatan Dharma (popularly known as Hinduism). Though discrimination is talked more in relation to dalits, it is important to know how empowerment of Dalits is at core of Hindutva thought and Indian constitution. Indic dialogue was attended by residents of Woodbridge, Edison, Metuchen, and towns around.
Mr Santhanam Rajan started the session with an introduction to Indic Dialogue . He said, “the goal of Indic Dialogue is where we explore ideas, issues, and challenges of today’s concern with learnings from Indic thought and wisdom. We have chosen the format of dialogue because today narratives are shrill in their voice and tend to become one sided. We want to engage people from various backgrounds and have meaningful conversations in an environment of mutual respect.”
Dr Guru Prasad Paswan – Assistant Professor of teaching law at the University of Patna and person with lived experience of Dalit background said, “Ramayana, Mahabharata and Constitution of India are the three documents that define Hindus and India. All three are authored by Dalits (Ramayana authored by sage Valmiki, Mahabharata by Ved Vyaas and Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar was chairman of drafting committee of Constitution of India). So, where there is the question that arises that Dalit not being part of India?”
He emphasized that atrocities on Dalits happening in India and history of oppression cannot be denied nor minimized. However, it is important to know what is India doing since 1950 (Jan 26, 1950 is when Republic of India gave herself the written Constitution) by enshrining Dalit empowerment and also look at what are the results. He talked through reservations (affirmative action by state), Dalit chamber of commerce, impact of iconic Dalit leaders like Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, Babu Jagjivan Ram (‘most hawkish defense minister’ as per Henry Kissinger) to Dr Ramnath Kovind (last President of India) to today’s Indian President Draupadi Murmu (first tribal woman to be Indian President). He also talked about how various initiative of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration like ‘PM Mudra’ (finance for underfunded), Swachh Bharat Mission (clean India mission), governor appointees, recognition of Dalits for national civilian awards has continued to strengthen the agenda of Dalit empowerment. During his talk he drew parallels to struggles of African-Americans in the USA and how some of the learnings from India can be applied to US polity and governance.
Indic Dialogue was attended by Woodbridge Human Rights Commission (HRC) chair Glenn Morgan, Woodbridge HRC Commissioner Rayshma Ali, Akshar Sidana member of Woodbridge Township School District Board of Education (WTSD BoE) and Woodbridge Public Library (WPL) Director Monica Eppinger. Commissioners Mr Glen Morgan and Ms Rayshma Ali felt that they learnt about India, Hindutva and Dalit issues while more engagement is needed.
Guruprakash Paswan is on a US tour and has addressed audience at Siliconvalley California and Los Angeles on a Dalit Bahujan Solidarity Network. He addressed Indian diaspora at Dalit Bahujan Solidarity Network on “Dalit, Bahujan and Hindutva” at Los Angeles, CA and San Jose, CA events and “Policies of inclusivity and diversity of Government of India” were covered at Foundation for India and Indian Diasporic Studies (FIIDS) at Fremont, CA.
Guruprakash Paswan comes from a lived Dalit background and is the Assistant Professor of Law in University of Bihar (India).