This article has been written by Avinash Kumar, pursuing B.com LLB from School of law, UPES Dehradun. In this article he has discussed that how Dalit and lower caste people are discriminated in the society.
Baba Saheb Bhim Rao Ambedkar writes” you must make your efforts to uproot caste, if not in my way then do it in your way. I am sorry, I will not be with you. I have decided to change. But even when I am gone out of your fold, I will watch your movement with active sympathy”.
This year India has celebrated its 72nd Independence Day. Indian constitution came into the force on 26th January 1950 where Article 15 of the Indian Constitution says that the “State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.
The question arises here, have we got the freedom from casteism even after nearly seven decades of independence? The answer is no, we haven’t got the freedom from casteism even after the seven decades of independence. Rather day by day casteism is gaining its hold and strengthening its roots in society.
I remember when I passed the seventh standard and went to eight standard. In class seventh standard, my Civics teacher taught us a chapter on equality but they didn’t touch the portion of the Constitution. When I asked him to teach more related to the Constitutional topic, then he told me that keep patience and I will teach more topics when you go to class eight.
So in eight classes, I read many things related to the Constitution and came to know the importance of fundamental rights and how does Constitution matters in someone’s life?. I was surprised to know that we can also make the state a party when my fundamental rights infringed.
There is an incident that happened to me. The strength of my class was sixty and each belongs to a different caste and some belong to the different religions. So, one day I asked my friend for a water bottle and he passed it and drank water from his bottle. But after some time one of my friends whispered in my ear and told me that do you have any idea that which caste is the boy you drink water from? I said, no I don’t know. He told me that he belongs to the DUSADH caste (Paswan) and on our side, we do not touch anything touched by the DUSADH (PASWAN) caste and you drank the water from his bottle. Basically, in Bihar, DUSADH caste comes and Scheduled caste category. I didn’t say anything to him because at that time I did not have an answer for him.
How was the caste system born?
How was the caste system born? This is the debatable issue and each one has different theories regarding the establishment of the caste system in India. Manusmriti is one of the oldest legal books of Hindu law. As per the religious theory, the caste system originated from Brahma, and further, the caste system is divided into four categories that are Brahman, Kshatriya, Vaishya’s, and Sudras.
When we talk about the Brahman (Priest and Teacher) then he used to be superior to all three and in the categories of Brahman only the teacher and intellectual used to come. The Brahmans were created from his naval.
The second is Kshatriya (Rulers and soldiers) who are created from his hands and in the Kshatriya categories warriors and rulers people used to come.
The third is Vaishya’s (Merchant and traders) who were created from the thigh and in the Vaishya’s categories, the traders used to come.
The fourth is Sudras who were created from the Brahma feet and they used to do all types of menial work.
The fifth category of people who fall outside of the caste system is Dalit.
How does social class work?
In a rural area, society is divided based on their caste status. Like each society has a different colony and colony are named after based on their caste. Every locality is named after the particular caste based on the people living in it. Society is divided based on the upper caste and lower caste.
In a rural area particular place, where the people of the Bhumihar community, Brahman caste lives, it is called as Bhumihar tola, and where the people of the Yadav caste lives, it is called as Yadav tola. Just like that where the people of the Ravidas community, Dalit community lives it is called Chamar tola (Colony) (SC Categories) or Mushahar tola (Colony) (SC Categories) respectively. Resources of the rural area are also divided based on their caste. In a rural area, the temple is also divided based on their caste and each community has a separate temple where they worship.
In 2014, the former chief minister of Bihar, Jitan Ram Manjhi who belongs from the lower caste alleged that deities were washed after he visited a temple in north Bihar. Even today you will get such type of news in news headlines.
In primary school, History teachers used to teach that before independence or after independence, lower caste people were not allowed to use water wells or hand pumps of the upper caste people. So this practice hasn’t been abolished. In the current day also, we get to read this type of news which is illegal or morally wrong.
The society has divided the caste in such a way that even in a party function in the village area, the people of the lower caste are given food in a separate row.
The Constitution of India says that the right to marry a person of one’s choice is integral to Article 21 which talks about the protection of life and life and personal liberty. But it is unfortunate that if a boy belonging to a small caste marries a girl above his own, then the society does not accept him and boycott their family from society. The practice of boycotting is not only limited to the caste rather this boycotting practice is also done according to religion when a boy from another religion marries a girl from another religion. Such type of illegal and moral activity will also come under the ambit of caste discrimination; the only difference is that society is discriminating based on religion. These all practices are the bitter truth of the society which is all being followed in the twentieth century.
The constitutional framework and Law related to Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Caste, people
Article 17 of the Indian Constitution says that “Untouchability” is abolished and its practice in any form is forbidden. The enforcement of any disability arising out of ‘Untouchability’ shall be an offence punishable by the law. When any person discriminates based on untouchability then an Indian citizen has a fundamental right to file a suit against him. The constitution of India protects the fundamental right of every Indian citizen.
Further Article 46 of the Indian Constitution says that the promotion of the educational and economic interest of scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, and other weaker sections. It is the responsibility of the state to promote with special care the educational and economic interest of the weaker section of the people, and in particular, of the scheduled castes and the scheduled tribes. Further Article 46 of the Indian Constitution says that the state has a responsibility to protect the scheduled caste and scheduled tribes, peoples from social injustice, and all forms of exploitation in the society.
To protect the social, economic, cultural interest of the scheduled caste people, the Indian Constitution has set up a constitutional body with a view to providing a safeguard against the exploitation of scheduled caste and Anglo Indian Communities. Article 338 of the Indian Constitution deals with the National Commission for Scheduled Castes. It is a duty of the commission to investigate all types of atrocities, to inquire into specific complaints concerning the deprivation of rights, and to safeguard the scheduled caste people.
The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes has been established by the 89th Constitutional Amendment in 2003. The Scheduled Tribes Commission has a responsibility to investigate all matters related to the Scheduled tribes and inquire into specific complaints concerning the deprivation of rights and safeguard of the Scheduled Tribes.
However, many acts have been passed by the parliament to prevent the atrocities against the scheduled caste and scheduled tribes people. The Protection of Civil Rights, 1955, and the Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989 prescribe punishment for a crime against the Dalit. There are many special courts and fast track courts have been established for speedy trial of cases.
Has caste discrimination taken the shape of religious discrimination?
India is a secular country. In the 42nd amendment, Secular word has been inserted in the Indian Constitution which means equal treatment to all religions by the State.
Day by day the ambit of caste discrimination is taking the shape of religious discrimination which means People of one society have started discriminating and hating people of another society based on religion. In the coming few years India has seen rigorous hate crime towards the minority communities. There is no proper definition of a minority in the Indian Constitution. A minority of some places can also be Muslim or a minority of some places can also be Dalit. In the last few years, the number of hatred in Dalit society has increased as much as hatred in Muslim society. In the last few years, the number of hatred in the Muslim community and the Dalit community has constituted equally.
In current times many people are lynched by the mob just because of not chanting the Jay Shree ram or in the name of eating the beef. Leaders, political parties, and affiliated organizations are responsible for increasing hate and violence in society. You cannot ignore the role of the TV debate for promoting hate and violence in society. Political parties and news channels played a crucial role in polarising the country and to transform the good society into a bad society in the name of nationalism.
Recent Example of Incidents that transform Caste discrimination into Religious hate
Rohit Vemula Incident
Everyone is aware of the Rohit Vemula incident. Rohit Vemula, a Ph.D. student, was a student at the University of Hyderabad. Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), a student being of the Bhartiya Janta Party filed a complaint against the Rohit Vemula. University has suspended Rohit Vemula along with four other students. University also suspended the scholarship of Rohit Vemula and another four students. Rohit Vemula and four students were unable to bear the expense and they set up a tent inside the campus and started a hunger strike.
On 17th January 2016, Rohit Vemula committed suicide, and left behind the letter in which he wrote that “Birth was his fatal accident”.
On 28th September 2015, a mob had gathered near the Akhlaq house. Akhlaq’s house was in Dadri tehsil of Uttar Pradesh State. The name of his village was Bisara. A rumour was made from the temple loudspeaker where an announcer requested the villagers to gather near the Bada transformer because someone has slaughtered a cow in the village. Just after some time, a mob entered the Akhlaq house and the mob forcefully dragged Akhlaq and his son whose name was Danish from the house and beaten. The mob killed Akhlaq at the same time while his younger son Danish who was 22 years old got several head injuries.
Tabrez Ansari Incident
Tabrej Ansari who belonged from Jharkhand. He was returning from Jamshedpur on 17th June with two other friends. On the suspicion of theft, a group of people caught him on 17th June 2019. His family members alleged that a mob thrashed him and forced him to chant Jay Shree ram and Jay Hanuman. Just after four days, on 22nd June, Tabrej Ansari died. Mob killed him just because he belonged from the Muslim community and didn’t chant Jay Shree Ram and Jay Hanuman.
Implementation issues of law and why are deprived sections of society afraid of administration?
The problem is not with the legislation but with the implementation of that particular law. No doubt, many laws in India deal with caste discrimination, violence, hate but there is an implementation issue on the ground level. Many Commission and Fast Track courts have been established so that victims can get justice quickly. Even there is a time limit to the FastTrack Court to deliver justice on time. But the court fails to deliver justice on time. But the commission and the FastTrack Court are taking more time in delivering justice to the victim. Sometimes politicians, people from the upper caste, or rich people made pressure on the victim to negotiate or to do the settlement with the case. Just because the victim is poor he is not able to bear the all-expense of the court or he is not as much as educated to approach the case to the right authority. Sometimes, we see that siscrimination and violence with someone happen two years ago, but they do not report to the police for fear of that person. The reason for that is he is one of the deprived sections of the society and the people of the higher caste have been suppressed and threatened since the beginning and they are unable to open their mouth due to their fear.
The only solution is to run away the fear from the hearts of the poor people or deprived section of the society is to raise awareness to them and the government needs to be told that this is your fundamental right or legal right or if anyone violates these right then you have the right the to file a case against him without any fear from them or without any fear from the administrative body. In the rural area, if something wrong goes with poor people or society discriminate him based on colour, caste, religion, or sex So he does not even know to whom he should take his complaint or suppose he supposes if he goes to the right place to complain then authority doesn’t treat well because the complainant belongs from the backward section of the society, he is not aware of their right and complaint is not registered. That’s why the administration should be more friendly with the last man of the society So that if any wrong happens with him then get his complaint registered without fear.
The reasons behind the backwardness of Dalit and untouchability in society
When Baba Saheb Ambedkar went to school then he was asked to sit outside the school and he studied but after the century the scenario has not changed much. Dalit is not a caste it is an identity. The person who exploits, tortures, cannot be a Dalit, rather he is exploited and discriminate against to others. The person who discriminates to lower caste people that shows his mentality.
In India, Caste discrimination and the caste system are one of the world’s longest social hierarchy and patriarchy things in the world. A man’s caste and caste discrimination begin with the birth of a person. If a person is born in a Dalit family, then it is a social assumption is he belongs from the Dalit community and the Dalit community is untouchable in society. No one thinks that before Dalit he is a human being and he has all the right to live life as upper caste people’s lives.
Here the question arises is that after the 72 years of independence why the condition of Dalit or discrimination in the society didn’t improve?
Lack of education
By the Eighty-sixth amendment act, Article 21A was inserted in the Indian Constitution which talks about Free and compulsory education to all the children in the age group of six to fourteen years as a Fundamental Right.
Education is the only means to improve society. Indian Constitution provides the reservation to the backward class people but the Reservation will go in vain when the beneficiary is not getting the benefit. A particular community is getting the benefit of the reservation because he belongs from the backward society and he is not in the position to bear the expense of the education as a well-settled family able to bear the education expense. But we see that after all, they are not growing in society as they should.
When any child grows in a Dalit family then his father’s financial condition is not so good or he does not understand the value of education due to which he is unable to send to school. And when the child’s age is studying, then his father takes him to work with him and the root problem arises here, and just because of the father’s fault or his illiteracy the coming generations also spend their lives under the guise of illiteracy. Sometimes If a family dares to teach its child in the school, then its poverty does not allow it to teach that why the only option left to him is to take his children to work together.
So the illiteracy in society is one of the root causes of the backwardness and discrimination of the deprived people.
Lack of Agricultural land
India is an agricultural country wherein the rural area most of the population is dependent on agriculture. In rural areas, the source of income is farming. But most of the land belongs to the upper caste people. Dalit does not have its land but those who own land often own very little Where he cannot grow the crop or sell it in the market and get a reasonable price.
Because he does not have the land the only option left to him to earn money by the daily wages or work in someone’s agricultural land.
Lack of access to the land makes Dalit economically weak and that’s why one has to work in another field. Exploitation arises here when he starts working in another field because poor people have to work according to their boss. When poor people work on the daily wages then he earns three hundred rupees in a day where he has to buy his ration for the same three hundred rupees and run the whole family. Therefore, instead of sending children to school, poor people think that it is appropriate to take them to work together so that two people can earn six hundred in a day. Here the society fails.
So lack of land plays an important role in the exploitation, discrimination of the poor people in society.
Fear from high society classes
There is fear in the eye of poor people that have been going on for years and that fear remains as it is today. We used to see in the movie or teacher used to teach that when any lower caste people were crossing from the upper caste people’s house then he had to remove his sleeper and put it on his head and pass-through front of that house. Today these all practice rarely happen but cannot deny that these all practice has been abolished. The people of the upper caste used to keep the poor as bonded labour and they used to get some agricultural land from the boss for farming. And these bonded labour used to run as hierarchy like if that bonded labourer dies then his son will work in his father’s place. That is why the poor people in the society are still afraid of the people of high caste. That’s hierarchy should be change and poor people need to be treated with love rather than fear so that the gap between a lower caste and upper caste can be ended and also eliminate discrimination from society.
The low number of Inter Caste Marriage Ratio
Nowadays we read the news in the newspaper that a lower caste boy runs away with an upper-caste boy and the family of the boy killed the girl. We don’t get to hear or read the news that Upper caste boy has been murdered for marrying a Dalit woman or lower caste girl. If an Upper cate men marriage a Dalit or lower caste girl, then the family of the Upper caste wants to murder the Dalit girl while the family of the Dalit girl or lower caste family does not complain about that marriage.
That means society accepts the inter-caste marriage but not all inter-caste marriage. They accept the inter-caste marriage where the boy should be from the upper caste while girls should be from the lower caste or if the opposite happens then society will murder you.
A way to remove the caste discrimination from society is inter-caste marriage. The more inter-caste marriages in the society, the sooner the discrimination in people will end.
Lack of political representation and command while taking any decision
You can estimate the country’s development by looking at the development of the village. Because most of the population lives in rural areas. In an urban area, everyone is aware of their right while in rural areas they are aware of their right.
The Panchayat election is held every five years and the Indian Constitution gives the reservation to contest the panchayat election. So, if someone comes from the lower caste and he can make their own decision without any interference of upper caste people or pressure from someone strong people of the society so they can eliminate the caste discrimination and atrocities from the society. Sometimes we see that because of the reservation lower caste candidate win the election but the key to power is in someone’s else hand and all the decision are taken by other people and he remains just dummy.
So more and more participants in the Panchayat election or State Assemble Election and to work for the marginalized sections of the society can eradicate the caste discrimination and atrocities from society.
India is a diverse country and it is the world’s largest democratic country. Here, when we retrospect then India is in question that after more than the seven decades of independence, people are discriminating one another based on their caste. It is not as same as poverty that western country will allocate some funds to eradicate it. It is totally the perception and mindset of the common people of the society where they can finish it themselves.
Caste discrimination is not something that has emerged post colonially. Caste discrimination is a type of poison and it has become the one of the social tradition and social culture which is increasing day by day in the society.
- Constitution of India.