Prevalence of untouchability and caste discrimination in social and political arenas

“Caste based discrimination and untouchability practices against Dalits in varied forms”

tudy undertaken in 12 districts… 213 villages… Two Tumbler systems in 104 villages…
99 % of Dalits are denied entry into place of worship…
In 33 % of fair price shops dalits face discrimination…
98 % villages have separate burial grounds… In 142 villages the Dalits are not allowed to have hair cut in saloons… Existence of “Untouchability walls” in Namakkal and Salem _______________________________________ “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 demonstrate 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 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”. Districts taken for research Our EVIDENCE team during the months Jan & Feb 2011 has carried out the study in 213 villages at 12 districts including Madurai (13 villages), Dindigul (24 villages), Virudhunagar (17 villages), Sivagangai (15 villages), Thanjavur (17 villages), Nagapattinam (16 villages), Salem (21 villages), Namakkal (20 villages), Cuddalore (17 villages), Villupuram (20 villages), Coimbatore (22 villages), and Tirupur (11 villages). In each panchayat one village is taken for our study. Totally we covered 213 panchayat villages. It should be noted that 45 dalit panchayat presidents have registered and expressed in writing that they face caste based discrimination. Discrimination at Tea Shops Our study revealed that in 104 villages (49%) two tumbler systems are followed. Two tumbler is followed in 14 out of 22 villages in Coimbatore district, 14 out of 24 in Dindigul district, in 13 out of 21 villages in Salem, 13 villages out of 17 in Virudhunagar district, in 11 out of 17 in Thanjavur district, out of 13 in Madurai district, 7 out of 20 in Namakkal district and 7 out of 17 villages in Cuddalore district In some villages, tea is supplied in a glass tumbler for caste Hindus and in a stainless steel tumbler for dalits. In some other villages, tea is supplied in a glass tumbler for caste Hindus and in a plastic tumbler for dalits. Discrimination at Temples It is revealed that in 211 villages (91%) out of 213 villages, dalits are discriminated against in the place of worship. Out of 213 villages, in 200 villages (94%) dalits are denied right to enter the temple, in 195 villages (92%) dalits are denied from entering the Sanctum Sanctorum. In 181 villages (85%), dalits are denied from performing rituals and other religious practices. In 138 villages (65%), there is a separate worship time allotted for dalits. In 103 villages (48%), temple cars never go to dalit areas. Dalits are denied from participating in cultural programmes organized by churches and in temples in 181 villages (85%). In 44 villages (21%) dalits are not allowed to enter the shrine during a stipulated festival time in 153 villages (72%), dalits are denied allocation of seats in the Temple Religious Charitable Endowment board. Though many violations and atrocities are inflicted upon dalits in temple issues, only in 20 incidents have cases been registered. On 7.2.2011, dalit Palanibarathi was brutally assaulted after around 20 caste Hindu men tied him in to electric post for claiming rights to participate in the Koilpatty – sengamadayar temple festival. They also forced him to drink water in coconut shell and asked him to pay Rs.5001 as penalty. In Senthatti village in Sankaran koil at Tirunelveli district, dalits are denied the right to enter in to the Muppidathiamman temple. When dalits resisted, they were physically attacked and on 6.3.2009, two dalits, Eswaran and Paramasivam, were brutally murdered. Dalit Thandapani was brutally murdered by caste Hindu gang on 4.3.2007 because he had sat equally with caste Hindus during Samapandhi ceremony at the Srirenganathar temple festival held in Karamadai at There are many more atrocities and violent incidents around the issue of temple entry rights. We should accept that temples play a major role in establishing the caste dominance against dalits. During the temple festivals, many dalit women are sexually abused by caste Hindus. The use of these religious places by caste Hindus to assert their dominance is to be condemned. Discrimination at Public distribution Shop From our research study, we found that in 70 out of 213 villages, dalits are discriminated in fair price shops. In 23 villages (33%), dalits were denied the right to stand equally in queues with caste Hindus. If they are allowed to stand along with caste Hindus, in 31 villages (44%), dalits are threatened not to touch the caste Hindus while standing in the queues. In 29 villages (41%) ration provisions are issued at different times for caste Hindus and dalits from the same shop. In 19 villages (27%), ration provisions were denied to dalits. In 22 villages (31%) High quality items are issued to caste Hindus and low quality items to dalits. From our study, we found that though public distribution shops are run and owned by the government, discrimination is still practised. In Thatchur village near Kallakuruchi on 24.9.2009, dalit woman Kasiyammal stood in the queue in fair price shop. Accidentally, she touched a caste Hindu woman. In response to this, a caste Hindu gang brutally assaulted her in public and stripped off her sari, outraging her modesty. Though much discrimination and violation has occurred in public distribution shops, only 2 cases have been registered. From our EVIDENCE team research study, we found that among 213 panchayats there are about 256 public distribution shops. Among these shops, 104 (41%) are situated in a Caste Hindu residential area. 64 shops (25%) are present near a residence area of Caste Hindus. 74 shops (29%) are present in public places. only 5 shops (2%), are situated in a dalit residential area. Discrimination at Cremation and Burial ground From our research study, we found that in 208 villages (98%), dalits were discriminated against in issues related to burial grounds. In these 208 villages, there are separate burial grounds for caste Hindus and for dalits. In 97 villages (47%) out of 208 villages, dalits are denied the ability to carry the dead bodies on general pathways. In 153 villages (74%), dalits are denied the ability to carry dead bodies through caste Hindu residential areas. In 132 villages, Caste Hindus graveyards and cremation grounds have been constructed with basic facilities– such as water, electricity, or a shed– which dalit facilities lack. In Kottaikulam village at Thanjavur district the burial ground was named “Agamudaiyar’s Burial ground”. Last year in Duraisamypuram at Virudhunagar, two burial ground name boards, saying “Parayar grave yard”, and “General Graveyard” were present. These name boards prove that caste discrimination is followed even after the death. Dalit Raju died in Koolayanur village at Theni district on 2.1.2011. The caste Hindus quarreled with the dalits, restricting the dalits from cremating Raju’s body on general burial ground. In continuation of this issue, on 27.1.2011 the caste Hindus attacked the dalits, throwing a petrol bomb at Dalit Chinnayi. She succumbed to burn injuries. In Koolayanur village, in a meeting called by government officials, the dalits were made to sign an agreement that they would never cremate their dead bodies at general burial ground. Many violations have occurred based on burial ground issues. About 20 dalit houses have been destroyed in Dindigul area in the year 2008. From our research study we found that though many violations have occurred based on burial ground issues, only 8 cases have been registered. Discriminations at community center, common market place and public auditorium From our research study we found that in 111 villages (52%) among 213 villages, discrimination is practiced in community centers, common markets and public auditoriums. Though many violations have occurred relating to community centres and public auditoriums, not even a single case has been registered. Dalits from 109 villages (51%) report that they could not freely go near the Mandhai (common place). In Keeripatti and in Pappapatti, dalits are not even allowed on the path orto sit near Mandhai. We find these discriminations particularly in southern districts. About 90 dalits (42%) have registered that they cannot walk freely on the general paths or in caste Hindu residential areas. In January 2010 in Dindigul district, dalit youth Sadayandi walked through the caste Hindu residential area wearing footwear. Following this action, a caste Hindu gang brutally assaulted him and forced human excreta into his mouth. In 2009, during Deepavali celebrations three dalits were brutally assaulted by caste Hindu gangs in Theni Vadukapatty village because they had walked through caste Hindus residential area. Discrimination at Hair saloons and in Laundry Services From our research study, we found that in 142 villages (67%) out of 213 villages, dalits are denied from hair saloons. In 133 villages (94%) out of 142 villages, caste Hindus imposed restrictions against dalits from patronizing hair saloons. In 13 villages (9%), separate equipment is used for dalits and for caste Hindus. In 25 villages (18%), dalits were denied from sitting on chairs in saloon shops. Around 42 cases have been registered involving discrimination in saloon shops. In 157 villages (74%) out of 213 villages, dalits were denied from recieving laundry service. On 12.1.2008 in Markayankottai village at Uthamapalayam, dalit Periyasamy went to a saloon shop to get haircuts for his daughter Sneha and son Sivasakthi. The Saloon shop owner refused to give the children haircuts. Noticing this, caste Hindu men abused Periyasamy, saying “how dare came to hair dress equally with us,” and brutally assaulting Periyasamy in front of his Many such incidents are still occurring in Tamilnadu. In many villages, dalits have to travel 20 to 30 Km for hair dressing. Discrimination at Common water source In 145 villages (68%) out of 213 villages, discrimination is practiced at a common water source. Dalits are not allowed to fetch water from a public tap in 59 Villages. In 20 villages, Dalits were denied the right to use a general pond. In 131 villages, separate water sources were used designated for dalits and caste Hindus. In 2009 in Periyasevalai village at Villupuram district, dalit youth Santhosh Kumar was brutally assaulted by around 30 caste Hindu men because he had taken a bath in the general pond. Discrimination at Primary Health centre and in Government hospitals Dalits from 33 villages registered that they were discriminated against in PHCs and in government hospitals. From our research it was found that around 7 Government doctors practice caste discrimination. We found in our study that some doctors don’t even touch dalits during medical examination. Nurses from 4 hospitals, 24 village assistance and 3 compounders practice discrimination against dalits. Ms.Vasantha Maligai, a dalit woman hailing from Keerpatti Madurai, had been admitted to the Primary Health centre for her birth delivery. During the hospitalization, a non-dalit hospital staff member, under irritable condition, poked her uterus with a needle and damaged her uterus. Due to this injury, her uterus had to be removed. A hole has formed in her kidney. Now she lives after undergoing surgery. From our research, we found that dalit doctors have been discriminated against by caste Hindu doctors. A retired dalit doctor shared with our team that hospital staff members abusively refer him as “garbage doctor”. 40 forms of Discriminations From our research study of 213 villages, in 29 villages dalit children are discriminated against in school campuses and in classrooms. In 14 villages, dalits registered that dalit students are discriminated against by their teachers. Quoting incidents In a school at Coimbatore, a teacher referred to dalit students as Minus and caste hindu students as Plus. In a school at Dindigul, students were made to sit on caste basis in A few years ago in Endapulli village at Theni district, dalit students were forced to occupy their classroom’s last bench. From this study, we found that many caste clashes and violations have occured among students in Theni and in the Periyakulam region. Similar caste clashes also occurred in schools at Ramanathapuram and Virudhunagar district. Dalits from 58 villages have expressed to our team that they were discriminated against in government and public toilets. Around 54 dalits expressed that they are restricted from wearing good clothes and jewels. Dalits from 185 villages (87%) registered that they were forced by caste Hindus to dispose of dead animals. Dalits from 183 villages (86%) reported that they were forced to carry death news and to take menial work in death houses. They were forced to play the drums. 114 dalit respondents reported that they are kept as bonded labour. Dalits from 54 villages expressed that dalit children have been kidnapped to other states or districts as bonded labour. Quoting incidents: A dalit youth Surlimuthu was taken to north India as bonded labor and worked there for about 17 years. Our EVIDENCE team has previously conducted a research study on bonded labour and from that study we found that many children have been kidnapped for this We found in our study that in all of the 213 villages studied, there is great objection towards inter-caste marriage. In 105 villages (49%), dalits have been subjected to severe punishment by the Dalits from 73 villages expressed that they were discriminated against during bus travel and in bus stops. In 196 villages (92%), caste Hindu children abuse and disrespect dalit elders. In 188 villages, dalit elders are forced to give respect to caste Hindu children. In 193 villages, dalits were abused by caste Hindus. Dalit women were subject to violations in 94 villages. In 104 villages, wastage and garbage was thrown on dalit residential areas. In 158 villages, dalits have been subject to brutal attacks. Dalits have been forced to perform menial jobs in 110 In 63 villages dalits face restrictions against owning or purchasing assets, articles, and vehicles. Discrimination walls are present in 3 places at Namakkal and Salem districts. Dalits from 47 villages reported that discrimination is practiced in Anganwadi. In 20 villages, dalits were restricted from making eye contact with caste Hindus. In 208 villages, dalits are forced to respectfully greet caste Hindus with the title of “sir,” “boss,” etc. In 28 villages, discrimination is practiced in the providing of wages. In 13 villages, dalits are discriminated against in hotels. In 33 villages, dalits were prevented from wearing slippers while walking through caste Hindu residential areas. In 22 villages, dalits were prevented from driving two wheelers. In 64 villages, dalits were denied from sitting in chairs at bus stops. Many dalits have registered complaints in 33 villages where they were denied from entering post offices. In 29 villages, postal workers never enter dalit residential areas to supply them with mail. In 62 villages, discrimination is practiced at a VAO office. In 133 villages (62%), dalit children are forbidden from playing with caste Hindu children. Even cattle reared by dalits have been discriminated against in 33 villages. In 38 villages, dalit children were forced to clean in their schools. Complaints in 126 villages have been registered in which caste Hindu children have abused dalit children. In 9 villages, dalit children were discriminated against in a mid-day meal center. In 103 villages, dalit children are not allowed to participate in village festivals and school day functions. In 63 villages, caste Hindu children refuse to eat food cooked by dalit workers in a mid-day meal scheme. In 16 villages, dalits were discriminated against in grocery shops. Discrimination against Panchayat president: Around 45 Panchayat presidents have registered with our EVIDENCE team that they were subjected to discrimination and violations. Quoting incidents: Manapakkan panchayat is in Panruti at Cuddalore district. Dalit Sundaramoorthy presides as panchayat president of Manapakkam. For the past 4 years, the caste Hindu vice presidents Raghavan and Thennarasu have restricted Sundaramoorthy by not allowing him to discharge his duties practiced caste discrimination against him. They abused him by using his caste name, outraging his modesty. On last August 15, they both denied Sundarmoorthy from hoisting the flag. He was even prevented from sitting in the chair allotted for him. He expressed all the difficulties and gave a statement. Theivanai presides as Allivallam panchayat president at Thanjavur district. She expressed to our team that in her village dalits could not sit equally with caste Hindus at tea shops and that dalits are denied from entering Kaliyamman temple. She also registered in a statement that for years dalits were denied from burying their dead bodies in Allivallam village leaving them the only option of cremation in the nearby panchayat Kodikulam. Dalit Poomayil presides as Kallankudi panchayat president at Sivagangai district. On 3.11.2010, she was brutally assaulted by caste Hindus in a public place. The caste Hindu gang had assaulted her with slippers and outraged her modesty. Our EVIDENCE would like to express that though FIR has been registered, the police have yet arrest the accused. Our EVIDENCE organization carried out this untouchability study in only 213 villages. Still there are more villages where studies have yet to be undertaken. The Tamilnadu Government pointed out in 2009 that only 384 villages have been identified as untouchability and atrocity prone Is the statistical data released by Tamilnadu government accurate? No proper explanation has been given. There are thousands of villages in Tamilnadu and yet statistical data states that discrimination is practiced in only 384 villages. The above statement reveals that Tamilnadu government report found to be obscuring the truth. When a human rights activists or social movements carry out research or identify the untouchability prone villages, they won’t look into the matter whether it is true or not, allowing government to deny such research findings. Our EVIDENCE organization wish to express that our Tamilnadu Government should first of all accept that untouchability and atrocities still prevail in Tamilnadu– only then can we take necessary steps to eradicate untouchability. During 2009-2010, Tamilnadu Government allotted Rs.49.80 lakhs for campaigning to eradicating untouchability. In the present context we can just build 5 houses with all facilities in this amount. With this financial assistance how can we sufficiently campaign to eradicate untouchability? From this budget, we can understand how much importance the ruling party places on eradicating untouchabilty. Tamilnadu government has announced that Rs.1 lakh will be sanctioned to panchayats where there is no untouchability, and Rs.31 lakhs had been sanctioned. During 2010- 2011 Rs.31 lakhs has been allotted. But all these schemes remain as is. In attempting to eradicate untouchability, campaigning at a societal level is also not performed properly. No proper legal action as been taken against caste Hindus who follow untouchability. Hence on a social basis and on a legal basis no proper steps have been taken to eradicate untouchability. Government officials have not properly utilized the Prevention of Atrocity Act of 1989 which was framed to eradicate atrocities. Though 1050 SC/ST cases has been registered during January – September 2010, in less than 5% cases will the accused be punished. Hence our EVIDENCE organization would like to express to our government that a highly active campaign should be carried out with the participation of people to eradicate the dreadful practice of untouchability– only then we can bring equality. • The government should undertake a district wide extensive study through a team comprising of professors, advocates, and social volunteers in Tamilnadu on untouchability. This study should be a qualitative one with standards based on social justice rather than a study based on ritual. The findings should be brought out as a white report. • As a follow up, the government should initiate campaigns to sensitize the public in all the villages which are identified as “caste prone and untouchability prevalent villages.” Subsequently, in these identified villages a social dialogue process should be initiated with varied groups of people. An exclusive plan should be created in this regard. • The government should advocate sensitization with stern word of warning through printed and electronic media against those people who practice untouchability. In each village, wall posters should be displayed to sensitize the people. • The state and central government should make a joint effort to bring out a special Five year plan to eradicate untouchability and enact a wider campaign among the people. • The government should undertake severe action against the erring police officials who are negligent in implementing the SC and ST (Prevention of atrocity) Act 1989. • Special police stations should be established solely to look into the cases registered under SC and ST Prevention of Atrocity Act with an officer not less than DSP rank in each taluk. Moreover, the police officer should be given training on international human rights standards and scientific investigations. • A special court should be established solely to look into the atrocity cases in each district. The Tamilnadu government should issue a special order to take action under Goondas preventive act against those who obstruct the judicial/legal proceedings in the atrocity cases. • Caste based Discrimination and right to equality should be made as one of the compulsory subjects in the primary and college syllabus. • There should be an amendment to raise the relief amount under SC and ST Prevention of Atrocity Act 1989 – If a Dalit is murdered or a Dalit is sexually assaulted, the minimum relief should be raised to 10 lakhs. Moreover, for other atrocity cases the compensation should be a minimum of 2 lakhs. • The government should take the necessary effort to establish a vigilance committee with social activists monitoring untouchability eradication. • The current budget allocation meant for Adi Dravidars is found to be insufficient. The government should allocate budget three times higher than the current budget in future, for promoting their rights in a comprehensive manner. (A.Kathir @ Vincent raj) Executive Director