Put Dalits on Equal Pedestal

Dr Suresh Mathew Dr Suresh Mathew
17 Oct 2022
A government which proclaims ‘sabka saath’ cannot wash its hands off the present situation as attacks on Dalits have sky-rocketed during its period.

“All beings experience pain and misery during their lifetime,” says the first of the Four Noble Truths of Lord Buddha. What he said is about the normal life of every human being. But the pain and misery inflicted on the Dalits in this country are atrociously man-made; they are the callous creation of fellow human beings; they are the consequences of the crude social hierarchy to keep certain castes subjugated for ever so that some others can reap the benefits of it. But times have changed. The suppressed classes are no more willing to lie down and be subjected to humiliation and torture. The conversion of a few thousand Dalits to Buddhism in Delhi recently is an open declaration that they cannot be taken for granted anymore. It is an expression of their resoluteness not to put up with unspeakable cruelty perpetrated on them. 

The caste system is not intrinsic to Hinduism, though in course of time it has become part and parcel of the religion. Experts opine that it was borne out of the overbearing nature of Aryans to keep their identity intact. Its vice-like grip became stronger and stronger to the extend that caste got embedded by birth, with no way to come out of it. This also became a tool to deny certain sections their human rights and fundamental rights. Caste-related outrageous practices got religious sanction with Manusmriti prescribing gruesome punishments to Dalits who even dare to place themselves on the same seat with a man of high caste. This is just one of several retributions prescribed to Dalits. The attacks on them in various parts of the country are the result of fundamentalism eating into the soul of Hinduism.

It seems the recent conversion of Dalits to Buddhism has opened the eyes of right-wing Hindu leaders. They have realized that things are going out of hand. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s plea to strive for a casteless society is a clear indication that ground is slipping beneath their feet; there is a realization among Hindu leaders that it may not be possible to keep intact the vicious-grip of caste hierarchy; they also fear that more desertions could happen if attacks on Dalits are not reined in. Moreover, Bhagwat’s assertion that certain orthodox practices are inimical to the society and untouchability should be removed seems to be a confession that the brutal attacks on Dalits and the rise in honour killings are an affront to civilized society. But the moot point is ‘who will bell the cat?’ Who will stop those who indulge in caste-related violence in their tracks. 

A government which proclaims ‘sabka saath’ cannot wash its hands off the present situation as attacks on Dalits have sky-rocketed during its period. The attackers have been emboldened as the accused in brutalizing Dalits have not got the punishment they deserve. Dalits get further disillusioned and their anger boils over as they are subjected to ‘street justice’ with the law-enforcing authorities looking the other way. Pious talks and hollow assurances are not enough to douse the embers of anger burning in the hearts of Dalits. They look forward to a level-playing field on the ground. They need to be equally treated. They need action on the ground. 

Lord Buddha Dalits Buddhism Delhi caste system human rights Hinduism Issue 43 2022 Online news Indian Currents

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