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Right & Dignity of Dalit

The term ‘Dalit’ is a Marathi word and literally means ‘ground’ or ‘broken to pieces.’ The term ‘dalit’ is to be understood as a synonym to “Scheduled Caste”. They were considered as low caste among the Hindu society. Dalits existed from the time of Rig Vedas. Purusa hymn mentioned the existence of four castes. The Brahmin was his mouth, of both his arms was the Kshatriya, his thighs become the Vaisya, from his feet the Shudra was produced. The Hindu Scriptures identified the Dalits as Chandalas, untouchables, Ati-Shudras and Panchanamas. Dr.B.R.Ambedkar identified them as Protestant Hindus and Broken Men, M.K.Gandhi identified as Harijans, and the British as Depressed Classes and untouchables. Though there were number of people considered as depressed class, but they all were not considered by Constitution of India as Scheduled caste. Thus it is also said that all SCs are Dalits but all Dalits are not SCs. The Constitution of India recognize only those Dalits as SCs who were originally from Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist background. Hindu Dalits were recognized as SCs as early as 1950, Sikh Dalits were from 1956 and Buddhist Dalits got recognition only from 1990. Though the Constitution of India recognized only Hindu ,Sikh and Buddhist Dalits as SCs ,yet the term ‘Dalit’ is wider in concept and inclusive of not only SCs but also STs, other backward classes, working classes and in certain cases women as a whole. Dalit women , they faced triple burden, i.e. caste ,class and women.

As the Dalit problems were identified by Britishers also, they in order to remove this disability enacted the Caste Disability Removal Act XXI of 1850. During British period number of movements took place showing concern for Dalits. Dalits faced lot of disabilities .They have always been the marginalized, oppressed and exploited category. They had no social respect. They were not permitted to use public road in day time. Their touching even considered as social disapproval .They were not permitted to enter into any religious institution, not even permitted to read religious books. Economically they were also very weak. As they were for bided to use public road at day time, they were permitted to work only at night, they were forced to do labour in a very low price. They could not enter into any educational institutions, and even if they got permission, they were allowed to sit only in the last bench and due to this restrictions the untouchables remained educationally backward .They were social cut-off and thus considered as out caste, as they could not own property also. They were not permitted to purchase a piece of land either in the rural or urban areas. The untouchables had political disabilities also. They could not be a candidate in election, could not cast vote, did not participate in any assembly or meeting. Thus they were totally deprived and depressed class in society. Thus during British period ,another Act came out i.e, Govt. of India Act 1935 which extended special protections to the SCs. During 1943 and 1950, various Indian States Laws also enacted to remove caste disability. After that Untouchability (Offences’) Act ,1955 enacted, which was amended in 1976 to make the provisions of this Act more stringent. Though this Act is now a days not known by this name , but known as Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 (PCA Act). In order to meted out this untochability another Act enacted i.e, -The Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (POA Act) which came into effect in January 1990. Despite these laws certain special Commissions were established which took responsibilities of drawing the attention of society toward the evils of the system. Various governmental and non-govenmental organizations took effective steps for eradication of this evil such as Brahmo-Samaj, Ramakrishna Mission and Arya Samaj. In the non governmental organizations Horijons Sevak Sangh has done a lot for the eradication of untouchability.

If we say traditional violence against Dalits, that was also very inhuman treatment which they faced. They were considered as embodiment of evil spirit and thus they had power over the spirit that is responsible for most of the diseases. And any kind of violence for e.g., rape against dalit women seemed to be justified. After the Independence of India so far as Constitutional provisions concerned, Article 17 says prohibition of Untouchability. Article 46 deals with promotion of economic and educational interest of SCs and STs. Article 25 provides that Hindu religious institutions will be thrown open to them. Article 15 deals with removal of any disability, liability, restriction or conditions with regard to access to shops, public restaurants, hotels or places of public entertainment, the use of wells, tanks ,bathing Ghats ,roads and places of public resort, maintained wholly or partly out of State funds dedicated to the use of general public. Article 19 (5), says that the SC shall have every right to purchase property anywhere and also to settle down and carry out any trade or business in the way they like and there shall be no restrictions to their legal occupation and movement. Article 29 provides protection of interest of minorities . Article 23 forbids forced labour. Article 243 D and Article 243 T provides reservation of seats of SC and ST in Panchayats and Municipalities. Article 244, 5th and 6th Schedule, provides special provisions for administration of Scheduled and tribal areas. Article 16 provides them equal opportunities for getting employment under the Government.

Thus we have seen that lot of laws enacted for giving equal treatment to them and the Dalits can seek protection under PCA and POA Acts .But inspite of all these efforts, the discrimination still prevail, still continues. So the question arises what are the difficulties or loopholes which help to forbid this implementation .The main difficulty is that today also people of High caste do not mentally prepare to mix-up with dalits. Lack of knowledge of their rights i.e, illiteracy of dalits may also be the cause. And most important is lack of effective administration .Most of the police is reluctant to register the cases against Dalits, Victim also has the duty to co-operate with police. And lastely Media also can perform a good role in this respect to draw attention to common people.

By Shrutimala Goswami

Asst.Prof at NERIM Law College.

Beltola, Jayanagar ,Guwahati -22

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