Discrimination against Dalits in India- Can Social Movement Provides Solution?
|By Amit Singh|
Aug.15, New Delhi: Enough water has been flowed in sacred river Ganga since India got its independence in 1947. However, millions of Indian Dalits, also known as Untouchables, still awaits their independence from the shackles of slavery and discrimination. Their sacredness as human being is still a distant dream in India. They are victim of socio-cultural products of India’s Caste system. In October 2015, Upper caste Rajputs allegedly set fire to the home of a Dalit family in Sunpedh, a village in Faridabad near Delhi, killing both the sleeping children inside aged 2 years and 9 months while their parents have suffered severe burn injuries. On July 2016, seven members of a Dalit family were allegedly beaten up by a group of cow protector for skinning a dead cow in Una town of Gir Somnath district in Gujarat. After beating them up, the attackers reportedly took Vashram, Ramesh, Ashok and Bechar to Una town. There, they paraded the four victims, and flogged them publicly all the way to the police station.
According to 2010 report by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on the prevention of Atrocities against Schedule Castes, a crime is committed against Dalits every 18 minutes. Every day, on average, three Dalit women are raped, two Dalits murdered, and two Dalits house burnet. NHRC data shows Dalits are prevented from entering the police station in 28 per cent of Indian villages. Dalits children have made to sit separately while eating in 29 per cent of government school.
Although stringent Constitutional safeguard exist to protect life and dignity of a Dalit Indian citizen. However, social and religious norms stresses on inferior position of Dalits perpetuating and justifying Caste violence, discrimination and maltreatment against them.
The Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955, and the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, prescribe hard punishments from crimes against Dalits. Special courts have been established in major states for speedy trial of cases registered exclusively under these Acts.
Though, Dalits has achieved political justice in some respects over time by means of affirmative action, but failed to overcome overall social injustice. There is still lack of their high degree of participation in government and education sector. As India Today reports, ‘Dalits continue to be oppressed and discriminated against in villages, in educational institutions, in the job market, and on the political battlefront, leaving them with little respite in any sphere or at any juncture of their lives’.
What is the Solution?
B.R. Ambedkar, a Dalit leader and chair of the drafting committee of the Indian Constitution, once warned Dalit community, "We are entering an era of political equality. But economically and socially we remain a deeply unequal society. Unless we resolve this contradiction, inequality will destroy our democracy." Ambedakr was right. Even 68 years after, the India Constitution came into the force; incidences of discrimination and inhumane treatment against Dailit are still widespread. Atrocities against Dalits in villages even are more troublesome.
Neither the political regime, nor the ideology of the ruling political party, nor the presence of major Dalit parties within the states has made a much difference to improve their situation. Cast discrimination is embedded in Indian culture. Thus, it is not just a law and order problem rather is a socio-cultural problem. Therefore, seeking only legal solution would not be suffice, rather to eradicate Caste discrimination requires attitudinal adjustment of upper caste people and social movement involving all caste and classes of person- also known as Neo-Dalit Movement.
In this context, the Hindu wrote in its editorial, ‘without progressive social consciousness permeating society at large, constitutionalism, state actions and political equations simply do not suffice’. Accommodating Dalits in political party and in governance structures would facilitate social transformation and participation in politics. P.S. Krishnan a former welfare secretary, stressed on the dire need for a social reform movement-particularly in north India where majority of Caste atrocities takes place.
Eminent Dalit rights activist Lenin Reghuvanshi has called for a neo-Dalit movement to overthrow feudalism, neo-fascism, neo-liberalism to establish a society based on equal dignity for human kind. To eliminate Caste system, Lenin has suggested the creation of a ‘Neo-Dalit’ movement– combining Shudras and ati-Shudras (untouchables of all kinds) from all regions, which would formulate popular movement against the ‘culture of impunity’ through mobilisation of opinion among leaders from all communities. Interestingly Neo-Dalit movement involves all progressive people from all sectors of life-who believe in social CHANGE. Lenin, argue that that social movements are the only solution, and stress the need for the change in attitude among the ruling classes. In his words, “Neo-Dalit movement will improve their (Dalits) political, economic and social conditions. First, we may fight against political repression and impunity by legal process. Secondly, the social impunity should be challenged by changing cognitive weakness (inferiority complex of Dalits), We need to create commons forums for Neo-Dalit, in order to break the wall of silence”.
Incessant Caste violence and discrimination against Dalits require immediate attention from civil society. There is dire necessity of a social movement and social reconciliation to eradicate the stigma of Caste discrimination and to bring social equality and justice to millions of Dalits in India. The process of social transformation has started long ago but not strong enough to bring all stakeholders together and initiate a social dialogue to bring social change in Indian society. Absolute and equal integration of Dalits in Indian society is possible only if social reconciliation is done through big social movements, unfortunately, measures of legal protection and affirmative action to protect interest of Dalit has not achieved desired result.
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