In search of freedom from caste – CASINOIN -Sports betting at the casinoin betting company,casinoin online betting, casinoin bookmaker line, casinoin bookmaker bonuses, casinoin bookmaker, casinoin bookmaker, casinoin sports betting, casinoin bookmaker, casinoin bookmaker,

By Dr Rehnamol P R 

Inder Meghwal, a 9-year-old Dalit boy from Jalore, Rajasthan, was allegedly beaten to death by his upper-caste teacher for drinking water from a pot that was exclusively kept for the upper castes on the school premises. The culprit belongs to the Rajput community.

The Dalit child was denied his constitutional right to life and personal liberty as enshrined in Article 21 when India was all set to celebrate her 75 years of independence. Not surprisingly, the celebration day of independence also became a day of contemplation for Dalits on their freedom and caged lives meshed with caste, like any other day of their daily battle with caste discrimination.

A few months ago, Jitendra Meghwal, another young Dalit boy from the Pali district of Rajasthan, was stabbed to death by upper caste men for sporting a moustache. What irked the assailants was that Jitendra Meghwal was leading a stylish and sumptuous life despite being a Dalit. At a time when India is celebrating her one-dimensional freedom from the colonial oppressors, it is significant to extrapolate the resistance of Dalits against multiple forms of oppression and their unabated struggle against the exploitation of their internal caste oppressors.

The fight for the basic right, ie, access to water, has been the core of the Dalit struggle. The Mahad satyagraha on 20 March 1927 led by Dr B R Ambedkar to allow Dalits to draw drinking water from the Cavdar tank at Mahad faced a violent reaction

Pre-Independent India

The fight for the basic right, ie, access to water, has been at the core of the Dalit struggle. The Mahad satyagraha on 20 March 1927 where Dr B R Ambedkar’s attempt to access water faced a violent reaction was an example of the psychological sickness pervading the upper castes’ mindset. Inder Meghwal‘s case is more gut-wrenching as we are rudely awakened to the reality that all the efforts of Dr Ambedkar and those who fought to abolish untouchability and bring in legal structures against the practice of untouchability have disappeared into thin air.

The idea of opposing untouchability came after the 1911 Census. The Census Commissioner in 1911 listed 10 tests for identifying untouchables. These were: those who are denied the supremacy of the Brahmins; did not receive the Mantra from a Brahmin or other recognised Hindu Guru; denied the authority of the Vedas; did not worship the Hindu gods; were not served by good Brahmins; have no Brahmin priests at all; are denied access to the interior of the Hindu temples; cause pollution (a) by touch, or (b) within a certain distance; bury their dead, and eat beef and do no reverence to the cow. This was the first ever method of identification of untouchables and resulted in a census figure which made Ambedkar and other Dalit leaders, who emerged in the 1920s, use the census data to highlight the inhuman treatment of a vast majority of people and the need for provisions for rights and representation.

In this process, an anti-untouchability struggle emerged under the leadership of Ambedkar in Bombay, MC Raja in Madras and other leaders in the larger presidencies such as Bengal. The political demands of the “untouchables” resulted in the famous Ambedkar and Gandhi contestation, which made Ambedkar repeatedly raise the problems faced by “untouchables” and the lack of basic human rights —  access to water, roads, temples (which was primarily Mahatma Gandhi’s concern), apart from guaranteed access to schooling and education. This jolted the movement of Gandhi and he was forced to start an anti-untouchability campaign after the Poona pact in 1932, and even named his magazine Harijan.

But that did not deter or pacify Dalits in their fight for their basic human rights. This led to the creation of a separate legislation that is famously known as the Temple Entry Acts around the 1940s, which primarily granted access to untouchables to water, roads, dharamshalas and of course, temples. Ambedkar criticised Gandhi’s idea of temple entry and sought civil rights similar to the African American struggle, and a universal adult franchise.

The Census Commissioner in 1911 listed 10 tests for identifying untouchables, the first ever, and this resulted in a census figure which made Ambedkar and other Dalit leaders use the census data to highlight the inhuman treatment meted out to the community  

The Congress-led nationalist struggle for political freedom believed that the issues of caste and gender could weaken a unified struggle against their external enemy, the British. While Gandhi and the Congress sought to build up a myth of unity to expel their prime rivalry, Ambedkar delineated the multiple layers of exploitation and the social realities of serfdom that divided the country into bits and pieces. Ambedkar knew that political democracy and freedom from the colonial power that the Congress was primarily aiming at would be insufficient for resolving the inequality ingrained in India’s socio-cultural-economic realm. He never considered Congress’ struggle against the British as a guarantee of freedom, dignity, and self-respect for the marginalised, including women. Eventually, the historically excluded groups remained on the margins of Congress’ India for several decades.

Abolition of Untouchability 

Untouchability was abolished on 26 January 1950 by the Constitution that was drafted by Ambedkar. But it took another five years to bring in a legislation for punishing those who practised untouchability and related offences. The 1955 Untouchability Offences Act had very little impact on ameliorating the human rights of Dalits. This Act though granted Dalits access to public wells, water, streams, temples and dharamshalas. It also criminalised any practice of physical untouchability.

The Act was redrafted in 1976 and renamed the Protection of Civil Rights Act. It included a set of discriminatory practices like denial of access to education and employment. The new Act certainly had a strong point, where it placed the onus of proof on the accused. But again it did not help in ameliorating the condition of Dalits and ensuring equality. Subsequently, there was an emergence of a militant anti-caste struggle.

Untouchability was abolished on 26 January 1950 by the Constitution drafted by Ambedkar. But it took another five years to bring in a legislation for punishing those who practised untouchability  

Militant Resistance  

It was in the 1960s that Shyam Sundar of the Hyderabad area (which included today’s Nizams Maharashtra and Nizams Karnataka), launched a Bheem Sena movement in which the youth asserted against the discrimination and physical acts of untouchability against the Dalits. After his death on 19 May 1975, the movement was split and many of its leaders were absorbed into the political stream. In the early 1970s, young Ambedkarites in Maharashtra took a cue from the Bheem Sena movement and launched a militant Dalit youth movement called the Dalit Panthers. A similar movement was launched by Ayyankali in Kerala in the 1920s known as Ayyankali Pada.

The Dalit Panther movement was also accompanied by great literary activity, which included the Asmita magazine and several poets who ignited the minds of Dalits to embrace a militant method of seeking equality. When India celebrated its silver jubilee, the Dalit Panthers came out on the streets of Bombay with black flags as a symbol of resentment against the fact that untouchables were yet to  gain freedom from an oppressive society. This annoyed the political establishment and they crushed the movement.

The rise of internal dissensions was also a major reason for the collapse of the Dalit Panther movement. In late the 1980s and 1990s, the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (Liberation Panther Party) in Tamil Nadu emerged in opposition to caste oppression. The incidents of caste brutality in Tsundur and Karamchedu in Andhra Pradesh in the 1980s too spurned a great movement among Dalits and there was a massive Dalit mobilisation in the northern part of India as well. This led to the revision of legislation of the Protection of Civil Rights Act after which a new legislation, the Prevention of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, came into force.

Atrocities Unabated

Despite militant resistance and legal provisions, atrocities against Dalits did not decline. The 1989 Act provides a vivid description of the various ways and methods by which untouchability is practised. Some of the crimes against Dalits included: putting any inedible or obnoxious substance into their mouth; dumping excreta, sewage, and carcass on their premises; garlanding Dalits with footwear and parading them naked on streets; forcing them to remove their moustache; occupying and forcibly cultivating the land of Dalits and destroying their crops, irrigation facilities, etc; forcing Dalits to do free labour or bonded labour; forcing them to dispose of dead animals or dig graves; employing them for manual scavenging; forcing Dalit women into devadasi system; preventing Dalits from voting; forcing them to withdraw their candidature in elections; intimidating them during elections; causing grievous hurt, assault or economic boycott to Dalits during elections; instituting false, malicious or vexatious suit or criminal or legal proceedings against them.

Dalits are still killed for riding a horse or motorcycles. Many are still not allowed to wear footwear or good clothes. The number of rapes and sexual assault cases against Dalit women is also on the rise. The 1989 Act was later revisited in 2016.

The 2016 Act revision by Parliament and the 2017 judgment of the Supreme Court bench headed by Justice UU Lalit and Adarsh Goyal hit at the basic human rights of Dalits. As per this judgement, there was no need for an FIR when Dalits complained against any of the above-mentioned crimes, and an FIR would be registered only after an inquiry. This infuriated Dalits and there was a huge agitation on 2 April 2018 in which 26 Dalits lost their lives. The government of the day was forced to amend the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act to nullify the judgement.

Social Transformation  

Though legal intervention brought in a few changes in terms of empowering Dalits to exercise their legal rights against atrocities, the feudal casteist nature of society largely remained unchanged. Though the political mobilisation of Dalits in some States provided them with an independent political assertion and identity, it seemed inadequate for a radical transformation of a feudal society conditioned by caste.

Ambedkar also reiterated the importance to have democratic ethos not only in the political sphere but also in the social realm. He stated that “on the 26th of January 1950, we are going to enter into a life of contradictions. In politics, we will have equality and in social and economic life, we will have inequality”. Following the idea of Ambedkar, it is important to balance the ‘social’ and ‘political’ not only to bring in an egalitarian order but also to end the life of contradictions.

The administrative system that is supposed to implement the law is majorly represented by the privileged sections of society. It is significant to note that the political and administrative systems are not isolated units, but rather a reflection of the societal setup. Politicians, administrators and the judicial system by imbibing social morality 1over constitutional morality have stymied the effective application of the legal provisions that are meant to protect Dalits from atrocities.

Ambedkar stated that “on the 26th of January 1950, we are going to enter into a life of contradictions. In politics, we will have equality and in social and economic life, we will have inequality”

The antidote to discrimination is the annihilation of caste structures. It is important to develop a roadmap that can bind all of us as citizens of this country and as human beings. The upper castes must initiate a courageous conversation about their culture of oppression and caste privileges. They must be taught that the onus of responsibility for caste annihilation lies on their shoulders too to attain the normative value of the common good. Political will of parties, initiation of conversations and discussions about caste in public spaces, state intervention to nurture constitutional morality over social morality, social churning through reforms, and more representation of marginalised caste in judiciary, media, police and administration can help attain the goal of egalitarianism as envisioned by the country’s great anti-caste leaders.

(The author teaches Political Science at University of Delhi)



Author: Howard Caldwell