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Is It A Crime To Be A Dalit?

Is It A Crime To Be A Dalit?

A pregnant woman was burnt to death in Maharashtra: because she belonged to a Dalit family; a bridegroom rode a horse on way to his marriage and he was beaten black and blue in Rajasthan: because he was a Dalit; a man decided to marry a woman of different caste, but was stabbed to death and his body thrown into a river in Kerala: because he belonged to a lower caste; people decided to have a DJ at a wedding party, but faced social boycott in Bihar: because they were Dalits; members of a community installed a statue of Ambedkar, but were ostracised in a village in Andhra Pradesh: because they were from an ‘underprivileged’ section; a young man died of injuries inflicted for sitting and eating in front of upper caste men in Uttarakhand: because he was from a ‘lower caste’ .… This narration can go endlessly as violence against Dalits seems to flare-up across the length and breadth of the country which boasts of entering an elite space club of just four nations. These barbaric incidents take place in a nation reportedly on the way to become the fourth largest economy in the world.

Why do have Dalits to undergo such insane inequity in a society which claims to establish Ram Rajya? One possible explanation could be that educational and social progress have led Dalits to claim a space which had been traditionally denied to them by privileged sections. The traits of Manusmriti are still prevalent. The ‘Manu mentality’ continues to keep the ego of certain sections inflated. Cheered by community leaders, they refuse to treat all people on equal terms. This denial of space and dignity have made the empowered sections of Dalits to assert themselves, leading to assaults by upper castes.

Dalits are at the receiving end because Indian society is yet to accept inclusiveness as an inevitable virtue of life. People believe in exclusiveness and ‘lower castes’ are the worst victims of this irrational thinking. When those ‘excluded’ try to find a place in the excluded areas, the proponents of exclusiveness go berserk, giving vent to their ire on the ‘violators’. Hence a solution to the increasing violence against Dalits is possible when inclusiveness becomes part and parcel of every society. This requires a change in the mindset.   

Higher literacy and better living standards make Dalits to appropriate their deserved space in the society. Unfortunately, even the literate among the ‘violators’ have no qualms about indulging in the most heinous crimes against Dalits. The continued saga of violence could be partially explained by the low conviction rate of the accused. Often, they go scot-free, sending out a wrong message to the public. It is equally important to take note of the allegation that the law-enforcing authorities look the other way when Dalits are lynched.

In a country where religions wield great influence, they can play an enormous role in negating the caste divide. Unfortunately, they do not seem to take even baby steps in this direction. On the contrary, they too, directly or indirectly, nurture caste conflicts due to various considerations. The outrageously growing number of attacks against Dalits forces one to pose the question: I s it a crime to be a Dalit?

(Published on 13th May 2019, Volume XXXI, Issue 20)