While the world is aghast and vocal about the inhuman attack on internationally renowned writer Salman Rushdie, few people will ever hear of the nine-year-old boy Indra Meghwal. Meghwal lost his life because he drank water from an earthen pot reserved for students of 'upper castes'.

Of course, the attack on Salman Rushdie is to be condemned in no uncertain terms. It points to the tremendous hatred borne by one class of people against another, along casteist and/or communal/racist lines. Equally important is the totally brutal, unjust and cruel death of Indra Meghwal who was beaten to death by Chaly Singh, one of the teachers of his school in Surana Village within Jalore District in Rajasthan.

Indra Meghwal was killed just before India's 75th year of Independence. How can a school in "Independent" India which prides itself on being a "Sovereign, Democratic Republic" have a pot of drinking water from which Dalits cannot drink or even touch?

According to the Indian Constitution, this violates an individual's right to equality. But did poor Meghwal or his parents or even people in the locality in which he lived, know anything about their Constitutional rights? Did the teacher who beat him so badly that it led to his death know? Did the school authorities who implemented this "casteist water pot" rule know? Are they not punishable under any ordinary court of law for this segregation of drinking water leave alone beating up a small child that culminated in his death?

Meghwal's family got no support, moral or otherwise, from any quarter. The village Panchayat which was supposed to come to its help did not, though this concerns the murder of a small child, never mind his caste. No community representative came to the family's help either in terms of financial, legal or even medical support.

It is said that the 'upper caste' leaders of the neighbourhood are pressuring the family to accept monetary compensation, and suppress the tragedy. When the family approached the local police, it not only did not take a single step to confront the accused parties, but also claimed that the facility of an earthen pot for drinking water did not exist in the school at all.

If it did not, then why was the boy thrashed so severely? For 24 days, Indra Meghwal's family wandered across many hospitals without help. Finally, he was admitted to Ahmedabad Civil Hospital where he died before treatment could begin.

Why did other hospitals not admit him? Was it because he was Dalit? Or, was it because of some pressure from the top? Or both? No one knows. Why did the administrators at the district and village level, or medical workers, not arrange for the boy's immediate medical attention? No one knows.

And this is not the beginning, nor does it mark the end of ruthless and meaningless killings of Dalit men, women and children just because they are "Dalit." When asked, 'Who are the Dalits in India?' Bama Faustina Soosairaj, one of the pioneers of Dalit feminist literature from Tamil Nadu, said, "People who are discriminated against and socially excluded on account of their caste and who militantly oppose such a system of discrimination and dehumanization are Dalits. It also includes people who are marginalised based on class and gender".

Kumari Bhagwanti (Neetu) a 16-year-old Dalit girl was abducted, raped and sexually exploited over a period of two years in Ganganagar, Hanuman Garh District. She was abducted from her hometown when she was 14, by Rohitash and Krishan Godara and was allegedly raped by these two men.

Following this she was sexually exploited against her will by nearly 70 men over a period of two years. Her escape attempts were repeatedly foiled by one Vimala who was known for supplying girls to influential rich people in this area.

On October 18 2001, the incident was reported to the local police by social worker Jasvidher. Though Bhagwanti identified the 70 men, the police identified only 22 as the main suspects, and arrested only 15 of them.

The seven who were excluded belong to powerful 'upper castes'. It has been reported that there was significant pressure on the local authorities not to arrest the remaining seven accused.

In June 2015, two brothers from Pratapgarh, UP, Brijesh (19) and Raju Saroj (19) cracked the IIT Entrance exams. The boys ranked among the top 500 but when they came home from the felicitation function presided by the Chief Minister, they found that their house had been pelted with stones. Their only fault is that they were Dalits. The Saroj brothers are sons of a Pratapgarh-based Dalit daily wage labourer.

The same month, in a shocking incident, a minor Dalit girl was allegedly beaten up by 'higher caste' women in Ganeshpura village in Chattarpur, Madhya Prashes, reportedly after the victim's "shadow fell on a muscleman belonging to their family," police said.

In May 2015, hundreds of Dalits from Nagaur district's Dangawas in Ajmer near Jaipur and surrounding villages fled for their lives after the region's dominant caste, the Jats, mowed down three Dalits under tractors. The Jats had also grievously wounded a dozen others following the flaring up of a decades' old land dispute. The Jat violence was followed by firing by Dalits in which one dominant caste member was killed.

For over ten years, 87 Dalit families in Deura Panchayat, Uttar Pradesh have been waiting for the government allocated land to be given to them. They even received official documents but remain landless. In 1996 nine Dalit families received land papers, in 1997 41 families, in 1998 12 families and in 1999 25 families. In total 87 families received land ownership papers but they remain without any land.

These landless Dalit families often starve for days, but have not even received the government ration cards they are entitled to. Most of these families are entitled to the Red Card but they cannot afford the ration as local distributors place an additional 'cost' which they pocket. This Rs 100, is a significant amount of money for these poor consumers.

The families have at best an insufficient and irregular income, or maybe none at all. They try and survive on a livelihood of selling leaves that are used for eating food from. As many as 75% of the 87 families are victims of malnutrition .

The village council, the Panchayat, responsible for conducting surveys in their villages to identify those in need of a ration card do not conduct surveys. The administrative officials are the onex decide who will receive a Red Card but have to be allegedly bribed as much as Rs 500.

As poor, landless Dalits these families cannot borrow money from a bank. They are forced to borrow from a neighbour who may charge as much as 10% interest a month. This drives the already poor into deep poverty from which they cannot escape.

They remain at the mercy of the money-lender, the shopkeeper distributing rations, Panchayat officials and members of the 'upper-caste'. These Dalit families trapped in its cycle have no rights and few means to obtain them.

The gang rape and murder on September 14, 2020 of 19-year-old Asha, a Dalit girl followed by the burning of her body by the police to wipe out any evidence remains fresh in our memory. "Our ancestors were ill-treated by their ancestors and we are still discriminated against," said the victim's elder brother. "No-one from the village came to ask us about our sister after she was attacked, or while she fought for her life in hospital or even after she died. But the entire village turns up in court to support the accused."

Their lawyer, Seema Kushwaha, complains of threats and intimidation, claims rejected by defence lawyer Munna Singh Pundhir. This trial, on the gangrape and murder of Asha, has been going on at a special fast track court in Hathras district for close to two years now. But we still cannot see any concrete solution.

Though the State government insists that it has paid a compensation of Rs.25 lakh to Asha's family which is "more than enough," senior advocate SV Raju who has been representing the state government in court, said relief will be given after the trial is completed and atrocities have been proved.

In 2020 alone, more than 50,000 cases of violence and torture against Dalits were filed. Of these 3,372 charges were of rape and gang-rape, 1,119 were of attempt to murder, and 855 were of murder. What lies behind these dry statistics are quite scary.

These lives were devastated by the tragedy, their houses and huts and shanties burnt down, families deprived of their sole breadwinner and so on. According to one estimate, one Dalit is attacked in India every ten minutes for reasons as random and as meaningless for riding on a horse to one's own wedding, stepping into a temple, drinking water from the "wrong" well and even more flimsy reasons that can never be explained through any logic in the world.

All this in our 75 years of Independence .