India is a country of diverse culture. It is known around the world as one of the most diverse countries as it has people from all different sects of society, each with their own customs and rituals and languages and traditions making up our country as a whole. To the outside world each sect lives in harmony with the other but it is evident within our country that in reality the sects do not live in harmony with each other. This research paper is going to cover one such specific issue between the sects of society i.e. Dalit Discrimination. Who are the Dalits? In our society we have a very well-defined separation of classes and in this division of classes the Dalits constitute the lowest class otherwise known as ‘the untouchables’.
The word Dalit is derived from a Sanskrit word which in classical Sanskrit translates to ‘divided, scattered or split”. But in the 19th century the meaning of the word was converted to a person who did not belong to one of the four Brahminic Castes and as mentioned before was used to constitute all communities subjected to untouchability. The official term for Dalits given by our government is ‘Scheduled Castes’. According to the last Census, Scheduled Caste communities comprise 16.6% of the country’s population. Over 200 million Dalits live in India. Their position as mentioned before is the lowest in the traditional Hindu social structure and this is based on their historic hereditary occupation that Hindus considered to be impure such as sanitation workers, dead animal disposal or working with leather.
As of recent this difference in class is leading to harsh discrimination against the Dalits. This came into light when an incident occurred that shook our foundations at its roots. The incident is widely known as the Hathras rape case. It occurred on 14th September, 2020. On the day of the incident the victim, a 19-year-old Dalit woman went to a farm to collect cattle fodder. She was attacked by four men who tried to strangle her with her dupatta and then proceeded to gang raping her. These men were from an upper caste and it was also found out that one of the rapists was known to harass Dalit inhabitants in their area and his grandfather has also been known for harassing the victim’s family in the past. In our country it is not uncommon for the upper caste members to take revenge against the lower caste Dalits by resorting to such atrocious methods such as rape. It is even more appalling that the investigation into this case was done in a very lax method until there was an uproar about it from the people in support of the victim. This leniency in the investigation into cases involving the lower-class Dalits is just another form of the discrimination against them. The article will go further into the depths of discrimination they face and the possible remedies for it.
Now comes the important part which involves analysing and justifying the points of view being held in this paper . As mentioned, Dalits in India face some of the harshest discrimination and oppression. The atrociousness of acts committed against them are not of a low intensity and are not to be ignored. Over and over it is seen in the news an incident where there has been some mistreatment that is directed against a Dalit. This kind of news has now become common. Their struggles however have been ongoing for years now. People are only becoming aware of it as of recent because the atrocities being committed are beyond a limit and cannot be ignored anymore. Not only is the act of mistreatment committed against them brutal, the actions taken against the act are so lax that it makes the Dalit lives seem insignificant.
In support of this argument different incidents can be cited. The first, which has already been mentioned is the Hathras rape case. A rape case which sent up a wave of rage among people due to brutal nature of the incident. 4 men collectively attacked a Dalit woman and raped her. They left her completely helpless and barely alive. She later passed away at a hospital while battling for her life. The way the police dealt with the Hathras rape case is extremely shocking. The innocent girl was battling for her life in a hospital while no one from the police or any other government agency bothered to help her and her family Once she died, her family was not even allowed to carry her last rites.
The police cremated her body was if they were getting rid of some garbage. This was also viewed as an attempt at hiding evidence. People took to social media to call out the absence of efforts from the government in taking action and forcing better investigation of the incident and the partiality being shown to the accused as they were from the upper-class sect. Under searing criticism over the incident and pulled up by the Allahabad High Court, the Yogi Adityanath government had recommended a probe by the CBI last week. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) took over the investigation in the Hathras case on October 10 and has registered a case in the same on the request of the UP government and government of India. People may say this is only one incident but on average 10 Dalit women were raped every day in India last year, according to official figures. The atrocities the Dalits face are on a daily basis and these figures itself are proof of that.
Another incident that was of importance was Karamchedu massacre incident in which six Dalits were killed. The incident unfolded like this. One day two Kamma(Upper Class) landlords were washing their dirty buckets used to wash cattle in the well which was designated for Dalits. A Dalit boy who saw this asked them to stop but, they decided to attack him and a Dalit who was passing by saw this and rushed to protect the boy and to scare off the attackers she raised the pot in her hand. The upper-class landlords saw this as an act of defiance and came back with a group of people and attacked the Karamchedu village killing six Dalits. This irrational reaction by the upper class Kamma landlords is another example to depict the abuse of status by them which is directed against the lower-class Dalits.
Another atrocity against the Dalits was the Laxmipet killing of Dalits. Laxmipet was a village in Vangara Mandal in Srikakulam. The incident involved the members of the Mala Dalits (Backward Caste) and members of the Kapu Agriculturists (Forward Caste). The issue between the two was 60 acres of land which were in the possession of the Malas. On the morning of 12th June members of the Kapus gathered including women and teenagers and attacked the unsuspecting Malas. The attacks were brutal and merciless and led to deaths and grievous injuries. During the incident the village sarpanch informed the police but the police took zero initiative to attempt to stop this incident and reached the scene only 4 hours later. Had they taken quicker action most of the casualties could have been avoided. Following the incident, the Mala Dalits were not provided any support from the local MLA’s to help restore their community. Even with the presence of a police camp in their village the Mala Dalits live gripped in fear of another attack.
All these incidents are just a very small fraction of the actual number of incidents of atrocities that occur against the Dalits who need to be provided with better protection either by introduction of new and improved laws or by better and more effective implementation of the current laws.
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- Arun Singh, In UP Gang Rape Tragedy 2:30 am Cremation by cops, NDTV (September 30, 2020 9:01 PM) https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/up-hathras-rape-victim-cremated-by-cops-family-begged-to-pay-last-respects-2303004
- Peerzada Aashiq, Hathras gang-rape: Opposition Parties demand resignation of U.P Chief, The Hindu (OCTOBER 01, 2020 12:17 AM) https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/hathras-gang-rape-opposition-parties-demand-resignation-of-up-chief-minister-yogi-adityanath/article32734523.ece#
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