In The Land of Mayawathi Dalits are Still Untouchables

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Times of India Made Startling Revelations on Untouchablity Still Practiced in Uttar Pradesh.

It was shocking, bizarre and unbelievable that it could happen in the very state where the champion of Dalits is the Chief Minister. Yes, it is real in Uttar Pradesh. The Times of India carried a full story under the caption “Untouchability still alive in India – Dalits have little access to Temples, kids made to sit separately in schools,” last week.

What was intriguing was despite Mahatma’s effort to remove untouchability, constitutional safeguards against untouchability and social awareness, these did not deter the upper caste people in Uttar Pradesh from doing away with the practice of untouchability. The news item carried a photograph in which an upper caste man pours water for a Dalit to drink in an Uttar Pradesh village. It was a disgusting sight and inhuman, unacceptable to any man of honour. What was his fault? He was Dalit, of course.

I really appreciate the effort taken by the Time research team to fan out in 8 states including Uttar Pradesh for a reality check and brought to notice of the authorities that after more than 60 years of independence, in the country of Mahatma, a Champion of Dalits, untouchability is still alive and thriving. This makes a mockery of the social change ushered into society not long ago.

The report says, “Dalits are still segregated with little access to temples, water sources and upper caste areas”. It was equally most unfortunate that in the birth place of social reformist Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Radhanagar in Hoogly, they still have a separate crematorium for Brahmins and non-Brahmins. The Times of India has also reported that in a bizarre case in Warangal district, the Dalits were forced to draw water from their well where a dog fell and died. There could be nothing more inhuman that shows excessive segregation in a society, than this. Politicians want Dalit votes but they care little about casteism and such inhuman practices that are happening in the 21st century.

Festivals are the time when people forget old rivalries and embrace each other to enjoy the occasion. But festivities also have their flip side. Dalits were served food separately in their own plates and tumblers, which they were asked to bring to participate in a mass feeding.

In Uttar Pradesh, where the champion of Dalits holds the highest office of Chief Minister, every village has a chammar toli, a place segregated for Dalits. Also, Dalit children are made to sit separately in schools. Even where the post of President of a Village has been reserved for a Dalit, no one had the guts to contest the elections. The Presidency is still lying vacant, for example, in Malasa village in Kanpur Dehat, fearing a backlash from Thakurs.

Even Rajasthan is not free from casteism. Even today, the newcomers to villages are screened for Dalits and they cannot pass through the Upper caste houses wearing chappels and headgear. It was also reported that segregation was at its bizarre best in Rajpur tehsil, 60 km from Kanpur, where Thakurs withdrew their children from a school after a Dalit cook was employed to prepare mid-day meals.

The above are some of the incidences of casteism and practices of discrimination against Dalits still in vogue in independent India.

It has another side too. In Tamilnadu and Punjab, the Dalits have asserted themselves, leaving uppercaste people gasping. Education among the Dalits and their position in government and politics would have brought the differences. Even among the uppercaste people, they began to feel the need to remove the age-old inhuman practices of untouchability and a law is in place to protect the rights of Dalits.

Despite individual assertions of rights, the society as a whole needs to be re-educated through concerted programmes. Government and NGOs have a role to play. In Uttar Pradesh where such incidences were reported, the Mayawathi government would have to take action to see that Dalits are treated with dignity, love and compassion like any other human being. They are equally part of humanity as they are not from alien lands. Jai Hind.