29 May 2020 07:16 PM

Search

GAYETI SINGH | 27 NOVEMBER, 2014

India’s Silent Apartheid: Where Is The Anger?

Violence against Dalits has been on the rise in India


NEW DELHI: News headlines are dominated by the grand jury verdict that did not indict a white police officer in the fatal shooting of African-American teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, St. Louis. The verdict itself sparked off protests across the United States, with the incident refocusing attention to issues of race, marginalisation and justice.

In India, observers are equally appalled. “How can they excuse such a blatantly racist crime?” a New Delhi-based PR executive questioned. “Black people are the victims of police shootings far, far more often than white people,” said an acquaintance who works with an advisory firm.

The anger is justified. Michael Brown’s death was no anomaly. Brown is one of at least four unarmed black men who died at the hands of police in the last month alone. While data is incomplete because no agency, as yet, tracks the number of police shootings or killings of unarmed victims in a systematic manner, it is clear that there are disproportionately high numbers of African Americans among police shooting victims in the US.

The problem with the anger, as expressed by the PR executive and the advisory firm acquaintance, is that it is selective.

Last month, a mahadalit boy was burnt alive by four upper caste men because the boy’s goat had strayed into one of their fields. The four men -- having previously thrashed the boy, who had then managed to escape -- stormed the boy’s home and set him alight after pouring kerosene on him. The boy succumbed to his injuries.

Where was the anger?

In the same month, three upper-caste men gang raped six dalit women, including four teenage girls.

Where was the anger?

A few months ago, two Dalit children were brutally beaten and rusticated from a primary school in Rajasthan for drinking water from a matka (earthen pot) used by an upper caste teacher. The incident went unreported for over two weeks.

Where was the anger?

In September, a dalit woman was brutally beaten and her house torched in Memdarganj in Nawada district, Bihar. She was accused of practising witchcraft.

Where was the anger?

Earlier this year, following tensions over the issue of the entry of Dalits into a temple, a dalit woman was beaten and stripped by higher caste assailants in Gangooru village in Belur taluk.

Where was the anger?

In June, in Gugal Kota village in Alwar, Rajasthan, a young Dalit bridegroom was attacked because he was riding a horse to his wedding. The Rajputs in the village allegedly did not like the celebrations as these were seen as being beyond the Dalits “status”, and the boy was pulled down from the horse and the guests attacked and beaten.

Where was the anger?

A few months ago, in Koliwad village in the Hubli district of Karnataka haircutting salons shut down because a few Dalit youths wanted to have a haircut but fearing reprisal from the upper caste communities, the barbers refused to do so and shut down their shops.

Where was the anger?

In July this year, a village headman ordered a retaliatory rape of Dalit girl, whilst the village stood back and watched. The girl’s brother had allegedly raped the wife of the girl’s rapist.

Where, again, was the anger?

In New Delhi, about 90 Dalit families from Haryana have been camping for extended periods to demand justice for four gangrape victims. Their demand is to bring the culprits to justice and compensation to the victims -- a demand that has thus far fell on deaf years.

In fact, violence against Dalits has been on the rise. According to data released by the National Confederation of Dalit Organisations (NACDOR), a total of 3,198 cases related to atrocities on dalits have been registered between 2004 and 2013 as against 1,305 from 1994 to 2003.

Most cases still go unreported, with Dalits -- who continue to live in the outskirts of villages, drawing water from different wells and praying in separate temples -- fearing reprisal attacks.

The National Human Rights Commission Report on the Prevention of Atrocities against Scheduled Castes says that, “every 18 minutes a crime is committed against a Dalit. Every day 3 Dalit women are raped, 2 Dalits are murdered and 2 Dalits Houses are burnt in India, 11 Dalits are beaten. Every week: 13 Dalits are murdered, 5 Dalits home or possessions are burnt, 6 Dalits are kidnapped or abducted.”

In terms of their social and economic status, “37 percent of Dalits are living below poverty in India. More than half (54%) of their children are undernourished in India. 83 per 1000 children born in Dalit community are probability of dying before the first birthday. 45 percent of Dalits do not know read and write in India. Dalits women burden double discrimination (gender and caste) in India. Only 27 percent of Dalits women give institutional deliveries in India. About one third of Dalit households do not have basic facilities. Public health workers refuse to visit Dalit homes in 33% of villages. Dalits are prevented from entering police station in 27.6% of villages. Dalit children had to sit separately while eating in 37.8% of Govt. schools. Dalits do not get mail delivered to their homes in 23.5% of villages. Dalits are denied access to water sources in 48.4% of villages because of segregation & untouchability practices. Half of India’s Dalit children are undernourished, 21% are severely underweight & 12% die before their 5th birthday. Literacy rates for Dalit women are as low as 37.8% In Rural India.”

Where, I ask, is the anger?

STREAM


RELATED


CITIZENS KEEP THE CITIZEN INDEPENDENT. DONATE.