The sad demise of Rohith Vemula on Sunday in the Hyderabad University is yet another incident of shame against Dalits. The incident is not merely an incident of atrocity but a counter reaction of the pressure built up by dominant forces. Often the actions taken up by political parties are post incident of a murder, rape or assault against Dalits. Why is that suddenly the political actors of left, right and center become proactive and sensitive to the Dalit issues. We must understand the politicization of the Dalit issues are often restricted to the whole ‘idea of problems they face’ which overshadows the steps to be taken to annihilate caste. Dismally, when the victims of caste marginalization and their sympathizers try to just talk about the wrong the caste have done in the public sphere it is unfortunate to receive repulsive reactions from the dominant forces. We must look beyond the idea of ‘reservation’ and ‘affirmative action’ which merely appears as a ‘charity’ of the state to the Dalits. The reservation policy have faced huge criticism since its inception, but we must understand the loopholes in the reservation policy which have not led to the ground development of Dalits is due to the lack of will of the state to annihilate caste. The caste is so deeply penetrated in each and every system of government and society that annihilating caste can shake the existence of Hindutva forces which continues to be built on the hindu social order. Therefore, the will of the government, society and India as a whole is unable to combat the most vicious form inequality existing in Indian society which is ‘Caste’.
We must understand that where Dalits are situated in modern India, if we ask a layman he will deny the existence of caste based discrimination and will be a critique of reservation measures. This has created a friction between the Dalits who form 16.6 per cent of the population and the others. How easy it is for us to criticize the positive measures which are trying to benefit the most marginalized sections of society notably Dalits. In today’s urban world when the new generation is taking up steps to sensitize their children towards gender, abuse, disability – do we find parents teaching their children about why reservation is important for the marginalized and how they have been discriminated from centuries? Why can’t we integrate programmes of caste sensitization in schools, why don’t we see advertisements on television to eradicate caste when simultaneously we are creating awareness on building toilets? I would like to quote Dr. B R Ambedkar who said “Until and unless the administration and the executive becomes more sympathetic to the Scheduled Castes, none of the laws and none of the administrative policies will bear any fruit” He said this while delivering a speech in the parliament”
The scanty numbers of Dalits in the positions of strategic importance in sectors such as governance, administration, trade, commerce, education and various other sectors clearly reflect the lacunas of the system. I am happy to see the solidarity for Rohith, but what saddens me the most is why do we rise after we have lost so much? I think it is high time we rise to change the ‘mindset of the irrational caste minds’.
Some Facts and Figures
37 percent of Dalits live below poverty in India, more than half (54%) of their children are undernourished in India, 83 per 1000 live birth children born in Dalit community are probability of dying before the first birthday, 45 percent of Dalits do not know read and write in India, Dalits women burden double discrimination (gender and caste) in India, only 27 percent of Dalits women give institutional deliveries in India, About one third of Dalit households do not have basic facilities, Public health workers refused to visit Dalit homes in 33% of villages, Dalits were prevented from entering police station in 27.6% of villages, Dalit children had to sit separately while eating in 37.8% of Govt. schools, Dalits didn’t get mail delivered to their homes in 23.5% of villages, Dalits were denied access to water sources in 48.4% of villages because of segregation & untouchabilty practices, half of India’s Dalit children are undernourished, 21% are severely underweight & 12% die before their 5th birthday and literacy rates for Dalit women are as low as 37.8%
In 2014, Andhra Pradesh election 20 Dalit families in Ramayapalem, Andhra Pradesh faced social ostracism by the upper castes for voting independently. Dalit families were boycotted from withdrawing drinking water and even the supply of milk was stopped to this families by the upper castes. (Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, 2014)
The humiliation faced by Dalits on identity lines hampers their dignity and snatches a basic necessity of life – ‘to live with dignity’. Over the period of time Dalits have become economically independent but this has further led to the unleashing of atrocities on them. The re-assertion of caste identity by the dominant forces of society have tried to suppress their growth, this is a major reason behind the atrocities against the Dalits. Rohith’s demise is yet another suppression of the dominant forces to not let the Dalit Rise.
National Confederation of Dalit Organisations is one such national platform working for the rights and development of Dalits across India. Our aim is to eradicate caste and enable every Dalit to live with dignity. We are beyond the idea of pity and mercy for the Dalits, We believe it is our right and share to be equally present in the system at all levels. We believe until we engage with the feudal system and show them the reality and power of Dalits we will not be able to bring change. It is time to sensitize the system and each and every individual of the nation to consider caste exploitation as an attack on the ‘Dignity of Dalits’. We stand against the wrong done to Dalits but we work on ground to empower and capacitate the most marginalized community. We build Dalit leaders to take the voice forward and empower the community. It is time to give Dalits their true space, they should not be used any more as vote banks and not given the leadership.