This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Mahitha Kasireddi. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Reality Of A “Developing” Nation: Suppression And Marginalization Of Dalits In India

More from Mahitha Kasireddi

By Mahitha Kasireddi:

21st century India is proud of its industrial, economic and educational progress. We enjoy enormous attention today and are regarded as a target area for global investors. We are proud of our large youth population which can turn to be a major working force to supply for outsourcing in developed nations. We stand as an epitome of largest successful democracy in the world. Albeit the tremendous transformation, 60 years after independence we continues to combat one of the oldest social evils, “Untouchability”.


A lot has been said and written about the history and origin of the persistent caste discrimination. The age old Varna system prescribed by the Brahamanical society had less of logic in justifying the suppression of an entire class and labelling them as ‘impure’ by attributing it as the result of their “past deeds”. It is absolutely in contradiction to the principles of religion. Which god/goddess would be happy with the inhumane treatment meted out to a section of people for involuntary factors like birth? The promise of social and economic equality made by the Constitution of India belies what lies in practice against 16% of her population. The lowest in the social hierarchy are today’s SC/STs, also called as ‘Dalits’ since the 1930s.

The sub castes within the Dalits are two kinds varying in degree of impoverishment. The first comprises leather workers, street sweepers, agricultural and non- agricultural labour. The second are the “lowest of low” who take up most demeaning jobs like digging graves, disposing of dead animals and cleaning human excreta or manual ‘scavenging’. What would become of environment, hygiene, cleanliness and sanitation if the subalterns abandon their job all of a sudden? This categorization of caste on basis of occupation is also a part of the old supreme declaration of Hindu aristocrats.

Though the government had passed the Prevention of Atrocities Act in 1989, but, has not been effective in practice. Major states in India where discrimination is high are Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, West Bengal, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Gujarat. A landlord in Punjab imposed fine for talking to Dalits. In another incident a Dalit was tied up to a tree and beaten up. They are denied entry into temples and abandoned from all religious and social activities. They live in the out skirts of the village and forced to travelled long distances to fetch drinking water as they are not allowed to use the common resource of the village. The upper caste takes every precaution to avoid physical contact with the Dalits and if they happen to come into contact they immediately sprinkle water as an ablutionary practice.

Children of the Dalits undergo a great ordeal in school. They are asked to sit separately in the lunch hour, made to sit in the last benches, have to fetch water for the teachers, sweep the school ground etc. The result is that they drop out even without completing primary education. They face difficulty in pursuing education and employment. These children suffer malnourishment and under weight problems.

Life of Dalit women is a challenging one. They walk long distances to fetch water and are subjected to sexual violence and abuse when they go for work in fields. Most of such cases go unreported as the police refuse to file an FIR and instead violate the women for the second time on approaching them. These women are kind of alienated from the mainstream women’s movement. The urban feminists are to be questioned if they would encourage leadership and intellectuals from among women from the Dalit groups.

The reason we have a poor rating in the Human Development Index (HDI) is the persistent problem of inequality across various social groups. There is a high level of disparity in HDI and HPI (Human Poverty Index) across states in India. 40% are landless agricultural labourers, 45 % are marginal farmers (60% own less than an acre of land). 7.5 % are rural artisans and those labourers in non-agricultural sector. A major percentage of the population living below poverty line are Dalits. Inequality only reduces when Dalits have a share of prosperity, GDP and per capita income growth and become equal with the “general” category.

Providing Human Rights to Dalits has been difficult. The courts have failed to uphold their right to live a dignified life, right to education, basic amenities and employment. National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, a non-party based secular platform lead a rally with three objectives- to hold the state accountable for Human Rights violation, to sensitize civil society by raising visibility of Dalit problem and to render justice to Dalit victims of discrimination and violence.

Prohibition of manual scavenging is another troubling impediment. Sometimes state agencies themselves employ them for cleaning toilets and in railways. Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993 was adopted only by 16 states but none have enforced it. Forum Against Manual Scavenging (FAMS) lead a 2- month campaign nationwide appealing to Dalits engaged in it to quit the degrading job.

If you wake up at a different time, in a different place, could you wake up as a different person? Nature is the only agency which advocates equality to everyone. It is time the ‘children of god’ demand their right to life, break themselves free from the social construction. An organisation called Video Volunteers runs a campaign called Article 17, a provision under constitution which prohibits untouchability. They are moving forward to initiate a legal fight through the videos as evidences collected by Dalits themselves. That day is not far away when the subalterns wake up to a new sunrise and realize their rightful access to education, natural resources, health facilities and an equal religious and social life.

You must be to comment.

More from Mahitha Kasireddi

Similar Posts

By Debarati Sen

By The Bleed Eco Project

By Youth Action Hub- India (Delhi)

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below