DO DALIT LIVES MATTER?
AUTHOR: ARIBBA SIDDIQUE
We witnessed the slogan ‘Black lives matter’ when it went viral all over social media in May 2020. The movement was in response to the death of an African-American citizen, America has been always known as the country which promotes ‘White supremacy’. Every Indian condemned the murder of George Floyd who lost his life because he was a black person not fit for America.
The hashtag ‘black lives matter’ has been used my many of us on our social media accounts. However, when this kind of discrimination happens in our own country, what do we do? We mute ourselves, politicize the issue and we condemn the government. This article analyses the hardships that the Dalit community in India has faced in recent times.
Recent cases regarding the discrimination with Dalits:
Privileged Indians often ignores the Dalits, their hardships, the atrocities that they face. Recently, on 6th June 2020, a Seventeen -year-old Dalit boy named Vikas Kumar Jadav was shot dead by 4 upper caste men for visiting a temple in Amroha in U.
In June 2020, a Dalit activist, Arvind Bansod from Nagpur, was found dead. He was publicly assaulted with casteist slurs by a mob. The police refused to file an FIR & declared the death as a suicide.
No FIR. No Justice. No hashtag on social media. No protest. Why? The reason is that a Dalit is not considered as equal despite being a citizen of the same country and having the same rights.
Historical texts and legislations of India and the US:
The situation of Dalits in India is similar to that of African-Americans in the United States. Both are historically suppressed and treated as second class citizens in their own countries. Racial segregation is encouraged by legislations like “Black Codes” and[L5] “untouchability’’ made segregation in housing, education, public places; transport; parks, theatres, cemeteries, jails, and other public spaces legal in the US until only a few decades ago. This resulted in divided and hierarchical citizenship[L6] .
The Manusmriti in India, though not legally enforceable, has been the moral code that guides the upper caste community in their treatment and behaviour towards the Dalits in daily life[L7] . The Dalits were not allowed and are still not allowed in many areas to use public wells and enter temples. The Dalit children are boycotted, made to sit separately in many schools and drink water from separate utensils. Inter-caste marriages between a Dalit, and an upper caste are still leading to the honour killing of the Dalit person. The Dalits have been oppressed for cheap labour, forced to take up vigorous menial work with less than subsistence wages.
A report by Human Rights Watch states that:
“Discriminatory and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of over 165 million people in India has been justified on the basis of caste… (caste divisions in India) are reinforced through the practice and threat of social ostracism, economic boycotts, and physical violence.”
Dalits, the literal Sanskrit meaning “broken/scattered”. According to NCDHR, every fifteen minutes, a crime is committed against a Dalit, six Dalit women are raped every day and Fifty-six thousand children living in slums die due to malnutrition every year in India. Dalits, mostly landless, are forced to work on the fields of the upper caste Hindus at very low wages[L8] . The democratic polity and the Constitution of India, which assures equality and abolishes untouchability, have failed in achieving social and economic equality. Violence against the Dalits is in everyday news. The upper castes seek to control the person (through unpaid or lowly paid physical labour and sexual assaults on Dalit women), mind (through forceful cultural traditions and customs and denial of educational opportunities) and soul (through religious beliefs and Manusmriti) of the Dalits[L9] .
The NCDHR, along with NDMJ, analysed data from the past 10 years and released a status report on the implementation of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989 (SC/ST Act) and Rules 1995. The report, called “Quest for Justice”, noted that during the years 2009-18, more than 3,91,952 cases of atrocities were reported against SCs and 72,367 against STs. As many as 12,750 incidents of rape were registered between 2014 and 2018. Attempt to rape increased to 677 in 2018 from 87 in 2014. There were 5 cases of acid attack against SC women in 2018. From 2014 to 2018 cases against SC women rose sharply by 42.63 per cent to 41,867 from 5,154.
Dalits are murdered, beaten and shunned, but the stories aren’t covered by mainstream media. Minimal reportage leads to privileged and ignorant people into believing that casteism doesn’t exist in India anymore. We need to say their names and know their stories[L10] .
Aathira Konikkara, Dalit activist Arvind Bansod was murdered, not a suicide: Lawyer, Caravan Magazine, (October 03, 2020, 10:00 PM) https://caravanmagazine.in/author/1118
Human Rights watch ‘Hidden Apartheid Caste Discrimination against India’s Untouchables(October 03, 2020, 10:04 PM) https://www.hrw.org/report/2007/02/12/hidden-apartheid/caste-discrimination-against-indias-untouchables
National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, (October 04, 2020, 02:00am) http://www.ncdhr.org.in
[L4]Describe the facts of the above two cases precisely or add such more cases to make it more informative.
[L5]Mention Voting right Act, 1965
[L6]Mention Art. 17 abolition of untouchability and yet the problems are faced by the Dalits.
[L7]Cite proper historical source.
[L8]Provide equivalent citation in the footnotes for the source.
[L9]Mention the Articles in the constitution regarding the protection of right, equality and life.
[L10]Make the conclusion more elaborate and remarkable.