‘All are not equal before the law’

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Educated youths must not head towards extreme movements, says political science professor

Three instances of atrocities against dalits were reported in recent weeks. On November 18, 2022, a water tank in Hegotara village of Chamarajnagar district was “purified” with gomutra (cow urine) after a dalit drank water from it. Human feces were found in a drinking water tank of dalits in Irayur village of Tamil Nadu on December 29. A woman was allegedly beaten up for entering a temple in Amruthalli in Bengaluru on December 31.To understand why such things happen, The Observer spoke with Yelamanchalli Vasundhara, a political science professor at Osmania University.

Excerpts from an interview:

For centuries, Dalits have faced discrimination, marginalization and violence which continues even today. What do you think is the main reason behind this?

The reason for these goes back hundreds of years to the emergence of the caste system. The caste system was started by Manu as a way to divide people based on their occupations. According to Hinduism, dalits are thought to have been born from the feet of Lord Brahma. They are treated as low-caste people because they were born from feet, known for doing labour, and treated as a minority by higher-caste people. That’s where all the caste differences began. It has worsened India’s division. People belonging to higher castes havebegun to dominate society, and to criticize, beat, humiliate, and treat dalits as slaves. Dalits were never given any rights before independence. High-caste people enjoy privileges….

There were many personalities like Ambedkar, Jyotirao Phule who fought for dalits’ rights and reservations to demolish the caste system. However, India has never forgotten the roots of caste. India still didn’t receive social justice. Higher-caste people will never accept lower-caste people in this country. It’s one of the fundamental reasons for all the attacks on dalits.

Recently, there have been cases where dalits have been beaten for different reasons, and the government filed lawsuits. Has justice been served? What do you think of the government’s approach to these situations? Do you think that the government has to bring some more rules and regulations?

No, justice was not served. Over the years, the government has enacted some of the most effective rules, Acts and rights to help these people obtain justice. (But) people working in the administration do not know any of these. There is a possibility that if any of these officials knew the crimes committed against dalits, the government’s response could give justice to the victims. As a result, people may be afraid to repeat the same crimes. It’s not about the laws; it’s about implementation. As a matter of fact, it takes time for Indian society to transform into a reaffirming one. Everyone pledges ‘all are equal before the law’, but in reality, it isn’t happening. Before independence there were many powerful social reformers who were willing to fight for these people and bring justice…. One of the things the government needs to do is include topics like ‘Laws for the protection of dalits’ in educational institutions. This will ensure that everyone can gain knowledge on this subject.  

People’s mindsets play an important role in these situations. Even after the outlawing of untouchability, there are individuals who still practise social evils. What do you think about it?

Yes, thoughts should be altered not only by higher castes, but also by lower castes. Literacy rates have increased greatly among all castes compared to the past. People should initiate a change in their mindset… to create social change. They have to know the difference between justice and injustice. Broad thinking should be developed with the help of education. Education is light. Only education has the power to mould a person into a good human being. In my view, people should undergo positive change in their social habits and perspectives through education.

How should dalits act in such situations? Do they need to make some changes within themselves?

Firstly, there is no unity among dalits. The Constitution provides them with laws and benefits that they should be aware of. Changes should be made among the dalits as well. They shouldn’t be dependent on reservations. It would be better for them to study hard, become stronger by themselves, and eventually get themselves involved with society. This way, they will understand what is happening around them. To earn social justice, they should take action and fight for themselves. Nothing is impossible if we try.

What will be the state of dalits in the future? What measures should today’s generation take to stop situations like these from recurring?

Education is a necessity for today’s generation, especially the upper class. From an early age, it is important to teach everyone about treating everyone equally. There is a need to raise awareness about the atrocities done to these minorities and their thoughts. The youth should no longer feel a sense of caste and their differences. Every person has the same blood and should remove the inferiority complexes between higher and lower castes. The educated youth should not walk in the direction of extreme religious movements. If they aim to create a nation where everyone treats each other equally, there is nothing impossible in the world.


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