A young man named Rohit Vemula, a Dalit, brilliant enough to be doing his PhD in a university in Hyderabad in India, recently committed Suicide. In this post I would like to raise, but Just Touch upon, (very small paragraphs, and very few, in every case!), very many aspects of Rohit’s suicide, under:
- My Experience with them
- What has been done for their Plight
- What Is being done
- The Need for Justice
An Important Note:
Though this post is on Untouchability, particularly in India, this is Not against the Hindus. Very Sadly and Shamefully, Christians, particularly Catholics, practice this evil too, at least in some places, in Ostracising those who had joined from Dalit backgrounds, to the extent of keeping Separate Burial Grounds for them!
…Why don’t the so called higher castes want these Dalits to come up in life? Because, then, they fear, they would not have the Labour Force to work in their fields!
All these are Dalit Students. That is Rohit’s picture in the banner. His suicide has turned into a Protest against the Way the so called Untouchables (cleverly called Dalits now) are Treated, even in Educational Institutions.
It is not just the Students who are treated that way. Even those who get to become Professors and reach Administrative posts are Still treated as Untouchables!
The word literally means Oppressed, A Suffering People. The original term had been Shoodra, the so called fourth, last and lowest catagory of the Indian Caste System. Gandhi tried to bring in some changes by calling them ‘Hari-jan,’ the People of god. Dalit is the latest by way of terminology. There is another term in official circles for them, as the Scheduled Caste, or simply SC.
It is argued that there is No Caste (Jaati in Hindi) system, but only one of Class (Varna in Hindi), something according to the work one does. But whatever the Rigmaroles, they are in the final word, treated as Untouchables.
An Untouchable ‘offered’ water in India. It is not that he should not come in contact with the woman, in this case of a supposed ‘higher caste;’ he should not even touch the vessel. Image from Internet.
The STs, (Scheduled Tribes) of India
Just the Shortest word on them here. We can call them the Original settlers of the Land. I have worked for these People for more than Six Years.
A picture of the Santals, one of the sheduled tribes. Picture from bbc.com
4. My Experience with them
I can recount four noteworthy details in this regard.
The first is that during my Youth I had a Friend called Bal Karan Das, a Dalit. Though knowing less than nothing about these things in those days, I had found No difference in him or his family which would have made him Untouchable.
As for the second, when I joined the Indian Railways in 1968/69, One of my companions, in a batch of about 25, was an SC. He had even been given the job on the basis of being so! This is known as ‘Quota.’ The idea was that if a certain number could be brought up in Education, Jobs and thus Experience, the level of life of their community on the whole would rise. Actually, without the quota, it was almost impossible for them to get decent Jobs. This man was a Washerman by trade. He kept to himself, as approaching others too closely would have invited Snubs. But, there had been No difference in his life or behaviour that could have justified the word Untouchable in his case.
Now for the third. While I was in Daltonganj diocese, an area near Hazaribagh was populated by Harijans. A man named Kali, (though a Christian) was my mason for my first buildings. Another was my Gardener. Again, No difference… etc.
The fourth is that of a Young Woman from my Village here, now.
This Sweet Child, who is Not an SC, had gone and Fallen in Love with a boy of the SC community! Her Parents advised her that they would not be able to Visit her, nor she them, after marriage, if she continued on her course. They had brought her to me for her to Accept the fact that she was in love with that young man, (because they knew she would listen to me, which she did indeed), and then they had proceeded with the Advising! That is How I Know. …Reluctantly she agreed to another marriage and is settled in Karnataka now. This had happened a scant 8 years ago.
And that means that Even Today the SCs are Non Members of the larger part of society, which will not Eat with them or Mingle with them in Marriage, etc.
As a Priest, I am Welcome in the houses even of the Very Rich, an instance being the late Adailkkala Raj, Member of Parliament from Trichy. The Very Poor and the Dalits would like to have Visitors and to Offer Hospitality. I have happily Eaten with them and Stayed with them, many a time. All this experience gives me an Insight into their Plight, as well as their Pain.
Human Scavenger. Photo from the Internet.
This just Might have stopped, but the photo I offer is not too old. Members of the SC community are Still cleaning up Sewers In Our Village.
5. What has been done for their Plight
One of the Oldest instances of Partiality towards the Dalits is a rather famous story in the Mahabharata. Eklavya, a Prince of the outcasts in the Kingdom of Magadha of old, wanted to learn Archery from the famed Guru Drona. As that was not feasible, he fashioned a statue of the guru, paid his respects to it, and came to excel in that Art.
Drona came to know, and asked for Eklavya’s Right Thumb as his Guru Dakshina (the offering to the guru, or in more simple if cruder terms, the fee). Imagine an Archer without a thumb! It is clear that the purpose was to put an end to his Archery. Though it is said that the young man excelled in it in spite of it, I take that with a lot of salt.
Has the situation and the treatment of the SCs and STs become any Better?
The SCs and the STs together form 25% of population, says Census 2011 data. 16% plus of SCs, and 8% plus of ST makes it around 25%.
Thus, One in Every Fourth Indian is an SC or an ST.
Then, logically, Every Fourth Officer, Official, Office Worker, those in Banks, the Medical Profession, the Judiciary and What not should have hailed from these groups. What is the Reality? Not even One Tenth can be found there after Decades of Independence, and lip service from the various governments.
Just about 10% of them reside in Urban areas; (Source: the government census mentioned above). Even if We say that these ones are Well Employed there, that makes it 2.5% of the Indian Population. So, More than 95% of the good jobs are in the hands of the so called upper castes.
They work mostly as farm labourers or in menial jobs, which is Why even Indians with an Open Mind do not know about them.
Rohit’s sad end, the experiences I have presented from my life, and the various photographs, all Prove that Little has been done to Lift Up their Life.
By the way, the Dalit Women are Very Much the Prey of the so called higher castes. In the Notorious Hanging of the Minors after having been Raped, the Girls belonged to the Dalit community. And that was not an Isolated happening.
Dalits, apparently, are not good enough for Marriage, but can be used for Sex.
6. What Is being done
What follows is a mini report on what is happening post Rohit’s death. 5 days After Rohit’s Death, prime minister of India modi offered his condolences to the family. As the tweets on 24.01.16 show, modi’s show of condolence was not appreciated.
Don’t want your money, tell us why it took you 5 days to respond to Rohith’s death: Rohith’s family to Modi, Irani http://www.jantakareporter.com/india/deceased-dalit-scholars-family-rejects-ex-gratia-money-slams-modi-and-irani/36198 …
But in the Real World of AYN RAND, politicos ‘Plant’ words, very much so through the offices of their pet medias, which Unthinking people are ready to follow. …That is why I had written my post on Democracy and Intelligence and Courage.
7. The Need for Justice
Today, by the Clever use of words, the fact that the Dalits are denied higher education, that all sorts of blocks are put in that, is Cleverly Hidden, and even Supposedly Educated folk fall for it, and get side tracked by blah blah.
The Question of Dalits can be Understood Only by those who have their feet on the ground.
Only Unified, Un-Selfish Love on Our part can bring Dignity and Justice to the Dalits, and a Balance to the World.