(Vaidehi Taman) Within India, ordinary efforts to change are evolving, despite reprisal and bullying by local officials and upper-caste people. In some states, caste conflict has escalated to caste warfare. We may say India is changing and social structure is not same as it was ages ago but the fact remains unchanged. We may boast about giving reservations and facilities to Dalits, but ask yourselves is this enough to get the social justice and dignity, for those down trodden fellow Indians?
In the Uttar Pradesh,Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Bihar, perhaps you can say all over India, Dalits are retaliating, committing atrocities also. Non-aligned Dalits are frequently caught in the middle, victims of both groups. There are crusade of activists, trade unions, and other NGOs that are organizing to democratically and peacefully demand their rights, higher wages, and more equitable land distribution. There has been progress in terms of building a human rights movement within India, and in drawing international attention to the issue, but the larger section is victimized and subjected to brutality.
Two days back, a Dalit youth Kamal Valmiki was beaten to death for 5 long hours with rods, abused, kicks, humiliation at police outpost in Kanpur, he was brought in for questioning robbery. His death body was looking horrible, all blue and black. He was used like football by the team of policemen.
Don’t give me this nonsense about not believing in caste, almost every upper caste person in urban India say that, it’s too easy. Dalits are treated the way they are in India BECAUSE they are Dalits – it is much less likely that a Rajput Brahmins or Thakur will be treated this way, every person knows it. Casteist mindset pervades Indian police and criminal justice system. It’s a fact that the middle class and the poor never get any help from the police. And the treatment meted out to the poor us pathetic. They are easy targets for being framed even though innocent. And in most cases they end up being the punching bag for the frustrated police. Such incidents are not worth reporting because TV reporting would enhance awareness and that may lead to erosion of the privileges of the upper caste exploiters.
There have been large-scale abuses by the police, acting in collusion with upper castes, including raids, beatings in custody; failure to charge offenders or investigate reported crimes. Statistics compiled by India’s National Crime Records Bureau indicate that there are hundreds of crimes were committed against Dalits. Every hour two Dalits are assaulted; every day three Dalit women are raped, two Dalits are murdered, and two Dalit homes are torched. No one believes these numbers are anywhere close to the reality of crimes committed against Dalits. Because the police, village councils, and government officials often support the caste system, which is based on the religious teachings of Hinduism, many crimes go unreported due to fear of reprisal, intimidation by police, inability to pay bribes demanded by police, or simply the knowledge that the police will do nothing.
I remember in year 2000, 68,160 complaints were filed against the police for activities ranging from murder, torture, and collusion in acts of atrocity, to refusal to file a complaint. Sixty two percent of the cases were dismissed as unconfirmed; 26 police officers were convicted in court. By now in 2016, the numbers have excelled, and some incidences took political shape but beyond politics, these human creatures have no value. The act specifically made it illegal to parade people naked through the streets, force them to eat feces, take away their land, foul their water, interfere with their right to vote, and burn down their homes. Despite the fact that untouchability was officially banned when India adopted its constitution in 1950, discrimination against Dalits remained so pervasive that in 1989 the government passed legislation known as The Prevention of Atrocities Act. But these are laws are made for poor and middle class citizens of this county but not for the power goons.
More than 65 years after gaining Independence, India is still very much stricken by the evil of the caste system. Dalits remain the most vulnerable, marginalized and brutalized community in the country…Can we still see Modi’s changing India??
(Vaidehi Taman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)