More than 240 million people live a miserable life in South Asia, shunned by a large part of society because of their ranks as untouchables or Dalits at the bottom of a hierarchical caste system. Dalits are discriminated against, denied the right of entry to land, forced to work under slave-like conditions, and routinely abused, even killed, by police and higher-caste groups enjoying protection from the State.
At the point of losing original identity, the word Dalit means ‘oppressed,’ ‘broken,’ or ‘crushed.’ This name, however, has been embraced by people otherwise referred to as Harijans, or ‘Untouchables,’ and has come to symbolize a movement for reform and the eradication of centuries-old injustice under the caste system for them.
In India, Dalits are officially termed as scheduled castes. They make up a significant percentage of the Indian population. The Constitution calls for that the government defines a list or agenda of the bottom castes that want compensatory programs. Scheduled castes include converts to Sikhism however exclude converts to Christianity and Islam; the businesses which can be excluded and continue to be treated as ‘untouchables’ likely constitute some other 2 percent of the population.
The History of Dalits
The oppression faced by Dalits has been around ever since the caste system was introduced in Hinduism. The philosophy of caste is contained inside the Manusmriti, a sacred Hindu textual content dated from the second one century BCE. The creation of Islam in India from approximately the 13th century CE led to widespread conversions of a significant percentage of the low castes into Islam by the nineteenth century.
During the conflict for Indian independence, two different groups emerged for the development of the scenario of the Dalits. The first group was led by Mahatma Gandhi, who believed in elevating the repute of Dalit human beings (or, as he preferred to name them, Harijans) at the same time as retaining factors of the conventional caste system. The other method was led via Dr. Ambedkar, an attorney, and himself as ‘untouchable’, who believed that the best method was abolishing the caste system to do away with ‘untouchability’.
The Indian Constitution had prohibited ‘untouchability’ in law since independence. Today Dalit politics revolves largely around dispensation of the advantages of affirmative action (in jobs, education, and electoral representation) provided under the Constitution.
The problems faced by Dalits
However, the Protection of Civil Rights Act 1955/1976 and the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989, both derived from the Constitution, remain in large part useless of their implementation.
- In many communities members of the upper caste still expect Dalits to perform the typical workers are on-demand and without pay.
- Dalit children are also subject to human rights violations. Even though bonded labor is illegal in India, many Dalit children fall prey to it.
- Dalits are also the targets of hate crimes and abuse. There have been many reports of the basic human rights of Dalits being denied with them being beaten, raped, and have had their homes burned in caste terror, while government officials have refused to bring the perpetrators to justice.
- Dalit women have been almost entirely excluded from development policies and programs, in areas such as health, employment, legal rights, education, etc.
Causes of the oppression
Many motives lie behind this, which include:
- A lack of political will on the part of each significant and state governments,
- A lack of dedication of upper-caste and sophistication bureaucrats to social justice,
- The absence of broad-based rights organizations to reveal the implementation process,
- A lack of statutory strength on the part of the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe Commission (Mandal Commission) to without delay punishes the perpetrators of crimes in opposition to Dalits.
Improvements in the conditions
However, there are growing numbers of people working in fairly stable employment in fields such as public service, banking and railways, and even in the private sector. Those residing in the cities have some access to secondary and higher education and an increasing middle class within the Dalit community has grown.
With the right help in the field of educational opportunities, Dalits could become a force to be reckoned with and could contribute a lot to the development of India as a nation.
Ways to uplift the Dalits
- Enact a law allowing for private-sector reservations for Dalits. Print out all reports on the backlog. Reservation needs to be provided to all the people belonging to scheduled castes irrespective of their religion.
- Enact legislation providing legislative protection for the successful implementation of the SC / ST Special Component Program.
- Formulate a special mission to eradicate untouchability because a nationwide special campaign of propaganda against social discrimination and ‘untouchability’ is needed.
- Improvement in tribal areas and Dalit-oriented areas and villages of basic commodities. The key reason Naxalism will flourish in the country is without basic facilities. Therefore they are not building trust in a government.
- Improvement of the state of education and educational opportunities for Dalits.