Dalit Issues; Encounter with Reality
Caste system is both a historical truth and a modern reality no matter how much we defend our position that ‘India has changed for the better’. Dalits have always been at the bottom of the Hindu caste system and despite laws to protect them; they still face widespread discrimination in India. The basic tenets promised in the preamble of our constitution are not available to all despite the fact that we are a democratic republic. The instances of oppression of Dalits can be witnessed in every sphere of life, be it in social circumference, in educational institutions, in the jobs, or even on the political front.
According to a report by Human Rights Watch, Dalits and indigenous people (known as Scheduled Tribes or Adivasis) continue to face discrimination, exclusion, and acts of communal violence. Laws and policies adopted by the Indian government provide a strong basis for protection but are not being faithfully implemented by local authorities. Another report by National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on the Prevention of Atrocities against Scheduled Castes, a crime is committed against a Dalit every 18 minutes. Every day, on an average, three Dalit women are raped, two Dalits murdered, and two Dalit houses burnt. When coming to the NHRC statistics, 37 per cent Dalits live below the poverty line, 54 per cent are undernourished, 83 per 1,000 children born in Dalit households die before their first birthday, 12 per cent before their fifth birthday, and 45 per cent remain illiterate.
We live in a country where untouchability remains bona fide even though it was abolished in 1955. The statistics of various surveys held in India show, Dalit children have been made to sit separately while eating in 39 per cent government schools, Dalits do not get mail delivered to their homes in 24 per cent of villages, they are barred from entering the police station in 28 per cent of Indian villages and they are denied access to water sources in 48 per cent of our villages.
Now, there is a paradigm shift which is evidently seen in the Dalit politics as they have started to raise their voice against the atrocities and violence they have been facing for years. Those silenced voices and suppressions have got the courage and power as they’ve started to shout at the society about their needs which invoked actions to a certain point.
Though Jignesh Mevani and other Dalit leaders seem to have given a new life to the Dalit movement, it is yet to be seen that how far these promises and hopes are taken from here. In Jignesh, Dalits have got an icon and leader and they hope to take their battle of equality of opportunities further via him but in a political scenario as volatile as ours, we hope that these leaders don't end up into another Kejriwals of Indian politics.
By: Thamanna Abdul Latheef C