“Eradicate untouchability and put an end to caste based oppression” echo the voices raised and recorded in the Social justice struggles for years. We educate our children that untouchability is a sin. We take an oath in government offices not to practice untouchability. We participate in protests against untouchability. We register cases in court against the individuals or groups who practice untouchability. In spite of all of these efforts, untouchability still exists.
On one side, democratic measures are taken to end the practice of untouchability. On the other side, untouchability is practiced unabated and Dalits are denied right to quality and dignity.
Article 17 of the Indian constitution abolishes the practice of untouchability. Even 62 years after the enacting of the Indian constitution, untouchability is not eradicated socially. Our politicians and the state machinery, rather than taking severe measures against the practice, try their best to deny or hide it. It is also painful to state that the government’s measures are found to be more ritual that real.
Government’s gross negligence in abolishing the social menace and the continuing practices with impunity in the forms of two tumbler systems, discrimination in schools, restrictions on movement in and entry to places of worship, denial of the right to contest in Panchayat elections, physical attacks and murders of dalits who try to assert themselves, damaging the houses and properties of Dalits, sexual assault, and slow dilution of democratic protests and assertions. In some cases it is disheartening see that dalits are forced to be tolerant of their submissive status and to several inhuman practices. Untouchability is narrowly looked upon as an issue for dalits alone. Though the dalits suffer most due to untouchability, it is an inhuman practice which destroys equality, dignity and the entire humanity.
Many research studies have been conducted at the state and national level on caste based discriminations. In 2007-2008 our EVIDENCE team has conducted research on caste discrimination in around 600 reserve panchayats. We have brought out the reality of this discrimination before the public and the government. Both Tamil and English Media published our study findings which forced the government machinery to make a visit to the Panchayats. Some steps have been taken but did not bring any change.
Government should first put an end to its own biased and uncommitted attitude towards the issue. Otherwise it can never put an end to the issue itself. In order to bring about changes, EVIDENCE has made another attempt through its recently concluded study on “Discrimination and Untouchability against Dalits”