About Dalits

Sudras had the lowest position in the caste system of the society. The majority among them were the agricultural laborers or bonded labor. Included among the Sudras were also artisans, craftsmen, artists, dancers and musicians.

Sudras have been subjected to extreme forms of exploitation, degradation and debasement by upper castes. The barbaric and slavish treatment has perpetuated the mindset of the Sudras’ untouchability, as they were constantly engaged in menial jobs.

This practice of untouchability ultimately created another section within the Sudras called Panchamas (Dalit). The Panchamas have been further subjected to oppression and were kept in abject misery and poverty by ‘twice-born’ castes.

The untouchables have been kept at the bottom of the caste hierarchy. They had the lowest socio-economic and ritual position in the society. Traditionally, they were subjected to all kinds of social and civic discriminations. They earned their livelihood by doing such menial jobs as execution of condemned criminals, cleaning of villages, removal of dead animals, tanning and leather work and so on.

While they were subjected to all forms of discrimination, they hardly enjoyed any privileges. The nature, content and incidence of maltreatment of untouchables might have varied in time and space; however, some of the most pronounced and common features of this barbaric practice have been as follows:

  • Residential segregation by keeping them outside the village
  • Denial of entry into temples, shrines or other places of worship. They were forbidden to learn the Vedas
  • Restrictions on the use of public facilities such as wells, schools, roads, courts and so on
  • Denial of services as provided by barbers, washer men, shopkeepers, etc.
  • Restrictions on style of life (use of separate utensils)
  • Exhibitions of slavish respect towards higher castes
  • Subjugation to unpaid labor and so on

In the past, untouchables have faced severe forms of exploitation and maltreatment. They were systematically degraded and subjected to ruthless victimization. Thus, for centuries they have experienced perpetual slavery without any hope of salvation.

After Independence, the practice of untouchability was constitutionally abolished. In order to stop this barbaric practice, the Untouchability (offenses) Act of 1955 came into being. This Act was amended in 1976 to make the practice of untouchability a cognisable offence. The amended act also provided for stricter penal provisions. This amended Act is known as the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955.

After five decades of independence, however, the practice of untouchability still persists in overt or covert forms. Granted, it’s occurrence and intensity vary from state to state. It is not very pronounced in Assam and Kerala, while in Punjab and Bengal it is more prevelant. In the rest of the country, particularly in rural areas, lower castes still face various discriminations.

Oppressed Dalit classes were identified on the basis of the following criteria: Denial of services by the Brahmin barbers, water-carriers, tailors and so on; denial of useage of Hindu temples and public amenities such as roads, ferries, wells or schools. In addition to these, the criterion of ‘pollution by contact,’ by virtue of which, these castes or races were labelled as ‘untouchable.’

The high caste and clever people also exploit the Adivasis(Tribals) who live in forests. The Adivasis(Tribals) mainly live on forest produce and shifting cultivation. They are not considered to be ‘untouchable,’ but are still exploited. The upper castes and politically backed people will migrate to agency areas, occupy their land and exploit them in all respects.

Some backward castes like the Dobies, Barbers and Snakers are among many that are suffering under the influence of caste evil as well.

Why NASA prefers to work with Dalits, Adivasis(Tribals) and other deprived sections:

Indian society is in an imbroglio with many social evils created by the caste system. The caste evil degrades a section of people. There are about 240 million Dalits (Untouchables) living in India with social tribulations imposed on them.

The people of concern for NASA are Dalits. They suffer discrimination solely on the basis of their caste. Growing up, Premdas faced many acts of discrimination. For instance, he was not permitted to sit on the bench in the school he attended. He was also forced to drink water out of his hands instead of using a glass because the upper caste used glasses. The choice of Dalits as the people of concern is a conscious decision for NASA since Dalits constitute a separate and distinct class in sharp contrast to all other oppressed people because of the practice of untouchability – a practice peculiar to India by which a large chunk of population are kept outside human interaction. The Dalits have suffered through this oppression and humiliation for centuries. Those who are not familiar with Indian social practices will be shocked to know that the Dalits were forced to hang a mud pot around their neck and a broom behind their back. They would have to spit in the pot as it was believed that the surroundings would become polluted if they spit on the ground. Similarly, the broom was used to clean the path on which the untouchable walked. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the champion of Dalits, aptly described the despicable state of affairs of a Dalit.

Most often the Dalits are victimized, killed, gang raped, or their houses are burnt to the ground during times of political unrest. Every day different atrocities, arson, mass attacks, and gang rapes fill the pages of Dalit newspapers.

Most of the menial jobs are even being delegated to the Dalits; such as removing dead animals, sweeping streets, removing human waste with their bare hands, practicing Jogini, Dasi, Mathangi, Bonded labor, Paleru and many others.

Even today in many villages tea is served in separate glasses, water is poured into the hands of Dalits while the upper castes enjoy a glass to drink with. Temple entry is also denied to Dalits. They are not allowed to drink the water from public wells. Barbers deny to shave them and the washer men deny to wash their clothes. Many Children are subject to child labor, masny times receiving meager payments and leftover foods. Many Dalit women are sexually exploited also. Dalits are mostly idol worshipers, believers of witchcraft, necromancy and sorcery.

Priyanka: Innocent Girl – Victim of Caste Evil:
Priyanka’s parents fell in love at college. She was a Dalit, he was upper caste. He asked his parents permission to marry her. but they refused. The couple eloped, married and had Priyanka..After several years Priyanka’s father’s parents invited the young family for the summer holidays and a supposed reconciliation.One day Priyanks’s father was away to attend his friend’s marriage . His mother took Priyanka and her mother to the Godavari river on site seeing. As per plan Priyanka’s grand mother and her relatives pushed Priyanka’s mother into the river where she drowned and didnot see her agin. Small Priyanka saw this brutal killing but left with cry and cry.The family passed off the murder as an accident but Priyanka’s father saw the truth. He went insane, wandering aimlessly with Priyanka. One day he left her in Tuni streets, wandered off, and never came back.Someone picked up the distraught child and took her to the Light of Love Children’s Home. That was five years ago, when she was just six/seven years old.Priyanka was a victim of the man made caste system at its most vicious; prejudice that devastated an innocent girl’s life.

Forms of oppression on Dalits:
Gang rapes, killings, torturing, social boycotts, humiliation, arson, and slavery are some of the many things the Dalit people have had to endure. Also, Dalits are often denied basic things like temple entry, property ownership, shaving, washing clothes, and taking water from public wells. Serfdom on religion and political freedom keep them away from the main stream of life.

“Whenever Dalits have tried to organize themselves to assert their rights, there have been backlashes from the feudal lords resulting in mass killings of Dalits, gang rapes, looting and arsoning etc of Dalit basthis (villages).” — National commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled tribes 1995-96

Because of economic vulnerability and dependency, social boycotts function as a devastatingly effective means for the dominant caste to starve the Dalits into submission. The purpose of social boycotts then is to use coersion and force to ensure that the Dalits accept their degraded position without protest and question.

Dalit Graph

Jogini and Mathangi:
A Jogini, or a “sacred sex worker,” is a Dalit girl who gets offered as a sacrifice to the village goddess. The purpose of this evil offering is ultimately to satisfy the sexual desires of the upper caste members. Despite Dalits being denied temple entry, the Dalit JOGINI is considered to be a local goddess because she satisfies their sensual desires. (Mathangi is also a goddess created by the caste system similar to Jogini)

Dasi is a woman-bonded laborer who works in the rich upper caste homes round the clock. She is forced to obey the caste lord’s every command, including when he or his guests need her to fulfil their sexual pleasures. Many women were crushed and buried in the hands of the brutal lords created by the caste system. There are thousands of ‘Kalavanthulu’ (sex workers) being kept in separate colonies to satisfy the sexual desires of the rich. Even today we see such colonies in our districts and in many parts of India. A film entitled “Dasi” sheds light on this perverse form of oppression.

Lakshmi-Victim of caste oppression

Lakshmi, a tribal lady aged 20 years was raped in the month of Feb.. 2007. When she was returning from outside toilet a man pressurized her to accept his sexual desire and Lakshmi denied. He forcibly took her to the near by bushes wounded her severely and caused for two fractures. The women federation took her to the police station and demanded the arrest of the culprit. He was arrested and NASA has provided medical aid and a small amount for food. Many Dalits, Tribals and poorer sections are exploited and raped or abused by the dominating communities. NASA motivate the rural mass to fight for their rights for justice and equality.

Why NASA prefers to work with Dalits, Adivasis(Tribals) and other deprived sections? Indian society is in an imbroglio with many social evils created by the caste system. The caste evil degrades a section of people. There are about 240 million Dalits (Untouchables) living in India with social tribulations imposed on them.

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