Few cases have happened recently that reflect upper caste members’ atrocities on the Dalit community in India. It is estimated that a crime is committed against a Dalit person every 18 minutes. So, if Black Lives Matter in America, Dalit Lives matter in India.
In Hinduism there are four popular principal castes:
- Brahmins(priest people)
- Kshatriyas (rulers, administrator, and warriors)
- Vaishya (merchant and farmers)
- Shudras (laboring classes)
But one category of people who fall outside the caste system is known as Dalits. The word Dalit literally translates to oppressed or broken and a generally preferred word ‘untouchable’. Since Dalits are ranked at the lowest, they face discrimination at every level- from access to education to restrictions on where they live and what jobs they can have. Mostly Dalits can be seen doing jobs as street sweepers, agricultural workers, leather workers, and manual scavengers. There are 260 million Dalit people around the world, out of which 160 million Dalit are there in India. These millions of people are living at high risk in India; a crime is committed against a Dalit person every 18 minutes.
These Dalits in India are raped, lynched, murdered, and forced to commit suicide due to caste-based discrimination and this is evident as per National Human Rights Commission India(NHRC), the period between 2016 and 2019, harassment cases among Dalits raise in India and Uttar Pradesh topped in this. While if we combined Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, Haryana, and Madhya Pradesh, these states account for 64% of cases of harassment of minorities and Dalits in the county. In fact, Dalit children face discrimination in schools and institutions. In school, Dalit children sit separately from other children. Almost 1 out of every 3 government schools in rural areas prohibits children from sitting together.
In institutions to they face discrimination. Well, no one can forget Rohit Vemula and Payal Tadvi. Recently on December 31, 2019, 19-year-old Dalit women went missing was then later on January 5, 2020, found hanging from a tree in Modasa, Gujarat. The victim’s family has accused four men of gang rape and murder. There are more rape cases of Dalit women who are even more horrendous. Dalit women face caste discrimination, violence, physical abuse, and harassment from upper-caste men. Dalit women are treated badly because of the lower literacy rate and they are also prevented from pursuing an education. This shameful reality is a hard slap to Indian society and its caste system.
It’s time for people to talk about this. Even during the lockdown period when thousands of stranded migrant workers were struggling hard to reach their homes, very few people came out in their support. Well most of them were focusing on ‘Black Lives Matter ‘. Article 17 specifically protects Dalits from being discriminated against and also forbids the practice of untouchability but lack of political will, at the state and national level, caste system, hypocrisy, superstition, and lack of awareness among Dalit, never gave them a chance to rise in society with dignity. It’s sad to see that even after years of independence; Dalits are still struggling hard to fit in society.
Kratika Rajawat | Amity Law School, Lucknow