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These Incidents Show How Caste-Based Violence Is Still Alive Today

The caste system, a deep-rooted part of India’s culture, still exists in the nation. It has been 69 years since the caste system has been outlawed in India. But even today, discrimination based on caste is rampant, in both rural and urban areas.

How Did Caste Appear? 

Marking its origin more than two thousand years ago, the caste system divides Hindus into four main categories: Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and the Shudras. Under this system, people were categorised by their line of work, the literacy, the opportunities they receive, and their dietary requirements.

Under this system, Brahmins were considered to be at the top of the hierarchy, followed by the Kshatriyas (warriors and nobility) and the Vaishyas (farmers, traders, and artisans). According to the system, Brahmins were believed to have come from Brahma’s head, the Kshatriyas from his arms, the Vaishyas from the thighs, and the Shudras from the feet. According to the Varna system, communities falling outside this classification came to be called as Dalit communities.

Practices Associated With Caste 

The key areas of life that exercised control over caste were marriage, religious worship, and meals. Marrying someone out of one’s caste was strictly ruled out according to the system. Same-caste marriages persisted for thousands of years, and are still rife.

The system ruled that, in terms of food, a Brahmin was supposedly ‘polluted’ if they took food from certain marginalised caste groups. Moreover, an individual from a marginalised community could not use water from a public well. However, anyone could accept food from the hands of a Brahmin.

In terms of religious worship, Brahmins took charge of performing rituals, services, marriages, and funerals, as well as preparing for festivals and holidays. While Vaishya and Kshatriya castes had complete rights to worship in temples. People from marginalised communities were not even allowed to enter temples or offer sacrifice to the gods in some places.

According to the rigid system, people from the Dalit community were barred from Hindu places of worship with not even allowed to set foot on temple grounds. It was said that an individual from a Dalit community could not cross the same path as a Brahmin.

Attacks On Dalit Communities In Recent Years 

The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data revealed that the rate of crimes against people from Dalit communities have increased abruptly over the last few years. It also noted that the conviction rate for such crimes declined substantially. People from Dalit communities have been physically assaulted for seemingly trivial reasons.

Dalit Groom Threatened For Riding Horse

On 17 June 2018, in Gujarat, a groom from a Dalit community, in his late 20s, was threatened by a group of upper-caste villagers for riding an adorned horse to his wedding ceremony. The villagers insisted that riding a horse was an upper-caste privilege and threatened to attack and his family should they continue.

Stripped, Beaten, Paraded Naked 

In Maharashtra, three young boys were stripped and physically assaulted by upper-caste villagers for swimming in a well that supposedly belonged to an upper-caste menage.

Killed For Sitting Cross-Legged 

In Tamil Nadu, two men from a Dalit community were killed by upper-caste Hindus for sitting cross-legged in front of them during a temple ritual. The upper-caste Hindus called it a “dishonorable and insulting” gesture.

In the year 2017 in Uttar Pradesh, three men from a Dalit community were assaulted up by an upper-caste Hindu man for not greeting him with ‘Ram Ram.’

Pregnant Woman Killed For Touching Bucket Of Upper-Caste Man 

In 2017, an eight-months pregnant woman, as part of her regular duty was amassing garbage from homes in a village in Uttar Pradesh. A rickshaw caused her to lose balance and ‘touch’ a bucket belonging to a person from the caste-privileged Thakur community. Subsequently, the pregnant woman was repeatedly punched. A few days later, the pregnant woman and the fetus were dead.

Beaten For Wearing Royal Shoes 

A 13-year-old boy, from a Dalit community in Gujarat, was beaten for wearing a pair of leather shoes, traditionally known as ‘royal’ footwear, and supposedly worn by members of caste-privileged members in some parts of India.

The data by NCRB reveals how, even in this era, belonging to a Dalit community in India isn’t facile.

Featured Image Credit: Ravi Chaudhary/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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 Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’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.

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