Activists in India call for end to caste-based discrimination

On eve of 24th anniversary of killing of 58 lower caste people, activists urge awareness through educational system to end caste discrimination.

NEW DELHI (AA) – Activists in India have asked for increasing awareness through the educational system to end caste-based discrimination in the country.

They said that in the caste-ridden society, Dalits, who are at the bottom of the Hindu caste system are still subjected to untouchability and other forms of segregation.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency coinciding the 24th anniversary of the killing of 58 Dalits by an armed group in Laxmanpur Bathe village in the eastern province of Bihar allegedly by high-caste landlords, Ruth Manorama – an Indian Dalit activist – said her community was still facing discrimination and injustice.

On Dec. 1, 1997, the village witnessed the killings which included children, the youngest being a one-year-old, and pregnant women.

In 2010, the trial court sentenced 16 men to death and 10 to life imprisonment for the massacre. While pronouncing the verdict, Vijai Prakash Mishra of the Patna Civil Court judge described the killings as a “stigma” on civil society and “rarest of rare cases of brutality”. But in 2013 the High Court acquitted all 26 accused persons, citing “lack of evidence.”

The caste system divides Hindus into four main categories – Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and the Shudras. Outside this, are the Dalits or the untouchables. The India Home Ministry gave a written reply recently in the parliament stating that 50291 cases were registered in 2020 under crime against scheduled castes (mostly the former untouchables of Hindu society and tribal groups).

According to local media reports, four members of a Dalit family were found murdered at their home in northern Uttar Pradesh state last month. Relatives had pointed fingers at upper-caste family with whom they had a land dispute. The incident triggered protests in the region.

“Each citizen in India should raise voices against the violence on Dalits in the country and the government should ensure the implementation of laws on the ground,” said Manorama.

According to the 2011 census conducted in India, Dalits number 200 million that makes around 16.6% of the total 1.3 billion population of the country.

Manorama, who is also a founding member of the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, said the violence against the Dalits has been “normalized” throughout the country.

“We know every minute something is happening to Dalits in India, so it is so normalized violence and therefore they are struggling and they keep on struggling. All organizations are fighting and we know that the cases have been taken to the court and it takes a long time to get justice and the situation is not a happy one,” she said.

She blames indifferences and “cattiest minds in the ruling class” who let these things go on.

“The Indian society is very unequal…There is a kind of people who benefits from it. People who practice cast, have opportunities, they have status, privileges, they would like to continue to that,” said Manorama.

Seeking implementation of already existing laws to abolish untouchability and discrimination against Dalits, she also urged for a proper education system in the schools.

“It has to be part of all our curriculums. All comprehensive levels of stopping the violence, stopping discrimination, respecting another human being should be built into the role system,” she said.

Noted Dalit activists also asked educated people and thinking citizens to come forward to put a stop to the discrimination.

She, however, noted with satisfaction that awareness is increasing among the Dalit community and cases of discrimination are being reported unlike in the past.

“People are fighting, especially the Dalit community is rising, taking the cases, organizations are doing the work. I would say the reporting is very stronger, people’s resistance is becoming stronger and government must respond to it,” she said.


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