A sensational upheaval is happening right now. Few days back on August 15th, around five thousand Dalits from various nearby villages marched from Una to Ahmedabad and declared their freedom and right for life. The citizens who participated in the march were attacked on the way back to their homes from police and commoners. It has been 70 years since India was declared Independent and all the citizens had the right to human dignity. But this march makes us wonder how much have we changed.
THE PLIGHT OF DALITS WHICH HAVE NOT CHANGED MUCH
This march was not just an outburst of one day. On July 20th, 2016 seven Dalit men were beaten in the broad daylight in front of the eyes of a whole village. Why? Because they dared to skin a dead cow. Yes, India has learnt how sacred a cow is from the infamous Dadri massacre which is not likely to be forgotten this soon. But this time, the goons have posted their ‘great a teach adventure’ online to warn and teach a lesson that a cow will be protected at all costs and they would not let go of anybody who dares to challenge these rules.
Let us check the statistics – The National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) reported a total of 1,349 rape cases of Dalit women for 2010, with the state of Madhya Pradesh reporting 316 cases, followed by Uttar Pradesh with 311 cases. There are cases of kidnapping and abduction of women, with Uttar Pradesh alone accounting nearly 48.5% of the 511 cases for 2010. Notably, there is no disaggregated data collected on atrocities against Dalit women. According to Couterview.Org, 47 Dalits were killed every year in Gujarat between 2010 and 2014. 9588 cases based on caste based atrocities were reported in the state during this time. There are the cases where the cases are reported while majority of the issues are reported as accidents or suicides by the police.
Even the government does its fair share when it comes to oppression and exploitation of Dalits especially when they are uneducated. When it comes to land acquisition for ‘development’, Dalits lose their land and those who protest are removed from the scenario. Be it Wayanad in Kerala, Nandigram in West Bengal, forest invasions for dams in Madhya Pradesha or Chattisgarh, it is often the Dalits who lose their share first. Every year over two hundred slums in Delhi are liquidated. Not to forget the Modani model of land acquisition about which Yogendra Yadav observed that land at pea nuts were grabbed from farmers in the name of development and given away to land hawks.
Does The Legal Protection Suffice?
Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, a Dalit, and a person who coined the term ‘Dalit’ wrote the Indian Constitution and did everything he could to uplift a great part of the population who was suppressed and exploited. Seventy years after all the declarations and dreams, the plight of the Dalits remain almost the same. Autobiographies of Baby Kamble, Laxman Mane and Sharankumar Limbale show how a whole community and their culture is degraded and ostracized from the mainstream. Dr. Ambedkar embraced Buddhism when he felt it was impossible to make the social consciousness to understand Dalits too were humans. Today when dignity and livelihood of a Dalit is shred in public and the issue is demarcated as a divisional agenda, it is time to accept the shame that we still stand at square one.
Is it so difficult to forget one’s caste? When your daughter is hospitalized in critical condition and requires blood and a Dalit offers to help, will you hesitate because he/she is supposed to be untouchable? I wonder if someone is starved for 10 days and offered meat, will he hesitate to eat it because it because it belongs to some banned or sacred animal?
If we can accept Dalits as human when we need it, why not accept them into our society?
Note: The image used in this post is only for representational purposes.