Dalits in India are most commonly referred to as the ethnic groups that are being kept depressed by subjecting them to untouchability. They are the members of the lowest social group in the Hindu caste system. Even today, after 68 years of independence Dalits still face with the untouchability issue and caste oppression and it is widely practiced throughout the country. Article 46 of the Indian constitution states that “The State shall promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker section of the people, and in particular, of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation”.
The laws in India against caste system are not being implemented. The government has failed to address the issues of caste discrimination. India got independence but Dalits still remains deprived of true independence. Today, covering the major part of the country Dalits face with the problem of economic distribution as they had no rights over the property. They were even restricted to live in the main village where the upper caste varnas resided. They were forced to do the unskilled work for the upper castes. Also, they were not allowed to enter temples and draw water from the common well. It indicates their subjection to social exclusion. Untouchability is the most brutal form of exploitation that takes place on this Earth. India is growing socially, economically and culturally but it has no place for Dalits.
The Dalit people in India have faced injustices of misrecognition, where the society failed to recognize their identities and neither were the rights to their resources were recognized. All of this led to their economic and cultural marginalization which further led to infringement of their rights, also due to which the Dalit communities couldn’t develop and still have to resort to their primitive and inefficient ways in their day to day lives. “In the year 2000, Statistics compiled by India’s National Crime Records Bureau indicate that every hour two Dalits are assaulted; every day three Dalit women are raped, two Dalits are murdered, and two Dalit homes are torched”. The Dalits working class people while travelling used to sit on the top of trains because they were not permitted to sit with the upper caste people.
Dalits also face all the five forms of oppression stated by Iris Young in his essay “Five faces of oppression” that is exploitation, marginalisation, cultural imperialism, powerlessness and violence.
- Exploitation is the act of appropriating someone” else’s labour and benefitting unfairly from that labour. Dalits face this form of oppression due to their low economic status and lack of access to resources which therefore results in their dependence on wage labour. “Extreme poverty forces Dalits to take up loans and they hold no other assets to level their debt other than their labour”.
- Marginalisation is the exclusion from the system of labour. Dalits were not allowed to work at some places because they were regarded as untouchables and were mostly allowed to do the unskilled work as that of labour.
- Cultural imperialism is the kind of oppression where a group is marked as inferior or deviant. Oppression to an individual takes place due to the social group they’re a part of. Dalits by the age-old traditional caste system are marked as an inferior group by stereotypes and are made to feel invisible by the society.
- Powerlessness basically refers to the distinction between have and have-not. The powerless are dominated by the ruling class and are made to obey the orders. Dalits are exposed to such disrespectful treatment by the upper castes because of their low status. They are also not allowed to have decision making powers.
- The last form of oppression is the violence in which members of a group intent to damage, humiliate or destroy the person because of the racial identity they carry. Dalits are often faced with such hostile and brutal conditions where they risk random, unprovoked attacks on themselves as well as their property.
The 19th and 20th century saw extraordinary social reformers like Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, Sri Narayan Guru, Jyothiba Phule etc. The social reforms led numerous battles against the caste oppression and to eradicate the caste system in India.
The members of the Dalit community are also humans and deserve to be treated equally as other human beings. It’s high time that we start implementing the existing laws against cast oppression and provide them with their basic rights.
Talking about the solution-
- The society needs to change their attitude towards the Dalit community, it requires the will and initiative of all the sections of the society. Instead of criticising and treating them unequally our approach should be towards their skill development so that they are prevented from doing harsh jobs and their dignity and self-respect is restored which in turn will lead to their acceptance in the society. Even Gandhiji once said that caste has nothing to do with religion.
- Awareness campaigns should be organised for amending the laws. Posters, booklets, PPT’s may also be used for the same.
- Printing and electronic media are the main components for reaching the masses. Regular incidents must be published, articles must be written to create pressure on government officials towards the functioning and amendment of existing laws.
- Also there should be redistribution of land and resources. The old customs and scriptures must be abolished and the new ideas must be introduced.
- After taking into consideration all the above parameters the international community should take an onus to work for the Dalit community, so as to provide them some recognition in the modern world and develop their community.
I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.
If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.
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