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Are Laws Enough To Drive Out Caste-Based Discrimination?

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Trigger Warning: Caste-based atrocities, Violence 

“That wretch has shut her mouth,” said her aunt. “Then pour it down her ears and nose. Do whatever it takes to kill her. Her actions led to this. She deserves to die,” said her father.

This is not an excerpt from a story. In 2003, a couple, a Dalit youth named S.Murugesan and a Vanniyar girl named D. Kannagi was forcefully fed poison because of inter-caste marriage. When the girl refused to open her mouth, the poison was poured down her ears and nose.

You might have believed that, by now, discrimination based on caste should have been erased from human minds. But that’s just a belief after all. The perceived lower castes – Dalits, Atishudras and OBCs consisting of 70% of the total population in India are still the puppets of powerful positions. They are not just socially, economically, educationally backwards but also in aspects of receiving respect and values from the oppressive society.

They face social isolation, ostracism, oppression, untouchability, vituperative behaviour, daily, by the upper castes, often denied rights, lampooned, suffer because of sordid actions of various politicians, leaders, lawmakers and keepers. Honour killing has been prevalent since a very long time, and almost 75% of these never-ending heinous crimes against the apparent lower castes go unreported. Honour killing is a collective decision taken by the family and community.

There are ‘Caste Camps’ in Tamil Nadu to curb a woman’s activities into respecting the principles of ‘purity and honour’, persuading and dissuading girls of a particular backward community from inter-caste marriages, especially with Dalits. The funds of these camps are dependent on community and family patronage.

The case of Maruthi Rao, who killed his pregnant daughter’s husband on the way to the hospital by hiring thugs reminds us of the mentality which still exists. He explained to the police that he loved his daughter, but his status in the society mattered more.

We live in a country where it is considered to degrade your value and position as a person in society if there is a relation between two different castes in the family. Not just caste but the economic difference, religious belief, colour of skin, social status, the background of the family, and the list is endless!

The constitution consists of several laws protecting these oppressed communities. Still, none of them is implemented or administered properly; there is a lack of judiciary initiatives which mars the effectiveness of even a strong act like the Scheduled Castes and Tribes ( Prevention of Atrocities ) Act, 1989. Article 15 and 16 states that there should be no discrimination based on caste, religion, race or place of birth on any grounds.

Article 46 shall promote the education and economic interest of weaker sections, namely SC and ST. Article 243D, 243T, 330, 335 ensures and reserves seats for higher posts like panchayats, municipalities, Lok Sabha, services in connection with the state. Article 338 establishes the national commission for scheduled caste which monitors and safeguards these laws provided in the constitution.

But are these laws enough to drive out discrimination and the atrocities hurled upon them? According to BR Ambedkar,

Caste is a notion, a state of mind. Destruction of caste does not therefore mean the destruction of a physical barrier. It means a notional change.

He believed that the destruction of the belief in the sanctity of shastras could bring a change in the betterment of their condition.

caste politics
The community itself is incorporated with the idea of illogical marginalisation of Dalits and OBCs labelling as lower statuses.

Fear of power and fear of losing one’s life is greater than saving another life. It’s human nature. Hence, even the most honest and honourable police officers or activists, found one in a crowd of thousands are forced to switch sides because of threats from the higher authorities. And if they don’t, they are burdened with the fate of death by murder with no justice.

The struggles of the Dalit activists are highlighted by the recent incident of Arvind Bansod in Nagpur. The voices of the oppressed are suppressed, and no one, out of fear, can fight for them.

The community itself is incorporated with the idea of illogical marginalisation of Dalits and OBCs labelling as lower statuses (from the shastras) and a prevalent patriarchal society ruling over women in the community is what leads India to be the only country with caste discrimination.

The service offered by Dalits and OBCs is such an integral part of our daily life that a day without them will turn our world upside down, and we will be absolutely helpless. It is our duty as a human being to treat another human being with utmost respect and honour regardless of their profession, economic status in society or caste.


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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.

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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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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.

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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.

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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.

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