Dalit legal activism in contemporary India. 

In ancient Indian society, a person’s status, occupation, and all aspects of life were closely related to his caste. Brahmins (priests) have the highest status, Kshatriya (princes) are second, Vaishya (merchants or peasants and herdsmen), and Sudras (servants) have the lowest status. In addition to these, there are untouchables who were living at the bottom of society, also known as “Dalit” or “untouchables,” who were engaged in demeaning works such as cleaning filth or dead bodies. Since Independence, many reforms were made, and laws were put into place to eliminate the caste system and the ill-treatments of Dalits in the society by those at the top of the hierarchy. Despite the fact that after India’s independence, the caste system had been abolished on paper, the discrimination leftover from this system is still quite serious in many areas of India, especially in rural areas and erasing it from the daily lives of the people is still a matter of concern. To this day, Indian society has not entirely shaken off the shackles of this system.

The reluctance of the people at the top end of the hierarchy and the judges who display tolerance towards this practice add to the difficulties in administering justice in case of untouchability. No severe punishment to the accused and dismissal on the grounds of religious and cultural customs are the norm. However, in recent times, due to increased awareness, these issues have been highly challenged and questioned on the basis of morality, the right to dignity, and human rights. New and reformative laws may have been created; however, the administration of justice has not been up to the mark. 

The Prevention of Atrocities (POA) aims at punishing biased people in authority who participate or neglect their duty to be fair individuals. The implementation of this act has not been successful though the rule if applied correctly, may be highly effective. 

Dalit activism and awareness are on the constant rise. This is not to say that the courts have become completely accepting and still not hesitant; however, due to this activism, there has been a rise in expectancy of the court and state representatives to act and propagate equality and forego caste expectations. The Dalit Panthers, which is a local Dalit organization, has become quite popular, which was formed to fight against caste violence. They help in activism and assist in court procedures for those Dalits who are not aware of the working of the court. 

There are several examples in the reading that point out how Dalits are taken advantage of and are falsely accused or made to commit crimes that they have not committed due to either their low economic status or power mounted on them by those who control it. Harassment that follows because of these reasons are quite common, and Dalits are the ones on the receiving end of grave injustice and prejudice. Despite preventive measures being taken, Dalits are still vulnerable to injustice, harassment, violence, underdevelopment, and economic instability. The only way out for them to live a dignified life is through education, activism, awareness, and self-reliance to fight for their rights and those of other Dalits in case it is trampled upon. There is a lack of trust in Dalit and Dalit lawyers in the judges and government officials due to the acceptance of bribery and the hostility towards these matters that are projected by officials. 

With increased awareness, organized Dalit activism is taking place, and even those who are not directly affected by untouchability are speaking up against it and providing assistance and a platform to those whom it is not available to. There is a constant effort to make more people aware of the ills of untouchability and the remedies that are made available by law. Promulgation of laws and regulations are not enough to eradicate the caste system, but other corresponding conditions such as rights to make policy decisions and ensuring that government officials are not biased is essential. The elimination of the caste system has proved to be a very slow process, and vigorous activism has helped in voicing the struggle of the Dalits. However, there is still a long way to go to achieve the goal of social equality. 

Aishwarya Says:

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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In the year 2021, we wrote about 1000 Inspirational Women In India, in the year 2022, we would be featuring 5000 Start Up Stories.

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