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Dalit lives don’t matter in India

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News Analysis |

Nine people were killed across three Indian states, on the 2nd of April, during a protest  by Dalits against Indian Supreme Court’s order of dilution of a law that ensured the safety of Dalits. Dalit, meaning “broken/scattered” in Sanskrit and Hindi, is a term mostly used for the castes in India that have been subjected to “untouchability”. They are deemed as a low caste community in India.  

The protests spread across the states of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. India’s law minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad, told reporters that the federal government would petition the court seeking a review of the Court’s ruling.

Dalit school children, also, routinely complain of being mistreated in schools and colleges. Independent India’s constitution, which came into effect in 1950, outlawed the practice of discriminating on the basis of caste.

Caste discrimination, in India, is outlawed but it remains widespread. The genesis of the Supreme Court ruling lay in a case filed by Bhaskar Karbhari Gaikwad, the storekeeper at the Government College of Pharmacy, Karad in Satara district of Maharashtra. The case related to remarks made in the annual confidential report of Gaikwad by his superiors Satish Bhise and Kishor Burade. Bhise and Burade wrote that Gaikwad was inefficient in work and his conduct was not proper. While Gaikwad belongs to one of the Scheduled Castes, his supervisors, who made the comments, were not from the same category. Gaikwad lodged a case in 2006 against Bhise and Burade under the SC/ST Act charging them of making the comments because of his caste and not performance at work. 

Ten years later, Gaikwad lodged another FIR naming some other officials who apparently did not take action on his first complaint. The second FIR was against Subhash Kashinath Mahajan, the Maharashtra director of technical education. Responding to the complaint, Mahajan approached the Bombay High Court in order to crush FIR against him. The Bombay High Court suppressed the appeal following which Mahajan approached the Supreme Court, which gave its ruling on March 20 this year.

Read more: BJP’s politics of hatred rears its head again: Dalit student murdered

In the backdrop of these incidents, SC has issued a ruling consisting of 10 points related to the arrest of the accused persons. One of them is, “if the accused is a government servant, it is mandatory for the police, the Supreme Court said, to seek permission from higher authorities/recruiting authority for the arrest of the person in cases filed under the SC/ST Act. If the accused is not a government official, the Supreme Court ruled, permission from SSP is mandatory for making arrest in the case registered under the SC/ST Act.”

Thousands of Dalits came out against SC ruling claiming that that the top court’s order dilutes the law further. Dalits are considered as un-touchable community and assigned with certain jobs including cleaning the toilets.  They are not allowed to go to temples and access religious text. The grievances and demands should be addressed by the Indian government. India, by exerting brutality on its own people, people, is challenging India’s secularism.  

Dalit, meaning “broken/scattered” in Sanskrit and Hindi, is a term mostly used for the castes in India that have been subjected to “untouchability”. They are deemed as a low caste community in India.  

Likewise, India has continued brutality in Indian occupied Kashmir and violating human rights.. The plight of innocent Kashmiris may not be silenced through Indian suppression. The recent killing of 9 Dalits will encourage them to raise their voices for their rights even more. Though Modi’s government is considering revising the SC ruling, the final decision is yet to be implemented.   

Read more: Indian caste war continues as Dalits are illegally detained

Caste system is bone of contention in Indian society. The dalits are at the lowest in Hinduism’s caste hierarchy and for a long time they have been marginalized and forced to perform only certain jobs, considered menial by other castes. These include skinning dead animal carcasses and cleaning toilets.  Last week, a dalit man was killed by upper caste villagers because he owned and rode a horse, long considered a status symbol in rural India.

Dalit school children, also, routinely complain of being mistreated in schools and colleges. India’s constitution, which came into effect in 1950, outlawed the practice of discriminating on the basis of caste. Over the years, stringent laws were put into place to deter the practice. Yet caste-based and religious discrimination continues to haunt India’s rhetoric of secularism.


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