This post is a part of #JaatiNahiAdhikaar, a campaign by Youth Ki Awaaz with National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights & Safai Karamchari Andolan, to demand implementation of scholarships in higher education for SC/ST students, and to end the practice of manual scavenging. Click here to find out more.
This post is a part of JaatiNahiAdhikaar, a campaign by Youth Ki Awaaz with National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights & Safai Karamchari Andolan, to demand implementation of scholarships in higher education for SC/ST students, and to end the practice of manual scavenging. Click here to find out more.
The year was 1950. On the 26th day of January, a newly independent India adopted its Constitution. A constitution that was put together through more than 2 years of arduous labour. And thus, India became a “republic”.
The constitution entitles each citizen of this country to justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity. It provides aspiration to become a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic, republic nation.
Today after seven decades of becoming a republic, we must evaluate ourselves on these aspirations. And ask these very important questions.
Have we succeeded and to what extent in securing the ideals of our Constitution? Are we on the path of becoming a nation-state as envisioned by our founding fathers? And have we shed the rudimentary, backward notions that held the citizens of our country hostage for centuries?
Well, you may say we are on our way. We are an emerging India today and we shall become a New India tomorrow. And that we are economically the 5th largest country. And with an extremely charismatic leader, we stand tall among the world political leadership as well. Let me add in the large and influential diaspora, and we have the perfect recipe to become world leaders.
All this is jolly good. But our social indicators tell a completely different story. We do not feature very well on reports such as the Global Hunger Index, World Happiness Report, Human Development Report, and the likes. Recently, we were donning the badge of the most unsafe country for women. Not long ago, the US International Religious Freedom report flagged the widespread harassment and violence against religious minorities. The latest National Crime Records Bureau report indicates an increase in the crimes against Dalits and tribal communities and Dalit-Adivasi women in particular.
If even after 71 years the minorities in our country are being subjected to brutalities and atrocities, then can we call ourselves “democratic” or a “republic” in the true sense.
After all these years we still conduct ourselves under the stronghold of structures of oppression such as caste, how then can we claim to be truly liberated?
Dr Ambedkar in one of his speeches said: “Indian democracy is only a top-dressing on an Indian soil that is essentially undemocratic”. He says this based on the understanding of how deeply entrenched our caste biases are. Something we can all agree on is true even in today’s day and time. Babasaheb was surely an advocate of democracy for India. He strived to engender a political democracy at the root of which lies social and economic democracy. However, he was very well aware that democracy is bound to fail if we do not shed our caste prejudices.
And today after 71 years of our constitution, we still fail to bring in a social structure that is based not on caste but equality, liberty, and fraternity.
It is because we uphold this oppressive system of caste that practices such as manual scavenging continue to exist. People coming from Dalit communities are forced to dive deep into the city sewers, their women threatened to pick dirt or face violence. Their lives are lost cleaning this so-called progressive society’s gutters.
We call ourselves sovereign even when a large population still remains enslaved to vices such as poverty, illiteracy, and more importantly caste. Ensnared in disparaging practices of manual scavenging and tacit forms of untouchability.
Sovereignty, today, has become the hegemony of the brahmins and the so-called upper-castes.
How do we claim to be secular when temples are being built where mosques were destroyed? When our choices of food and dress and even partners are being throttled? The scholarship funds meant for minority students are trapped in scams but big money goes into building temples. And all this to pacify the intolerant majority populace. So then have we become a majoritarian democracy rather than a constitutional democracy?
What freedom and democracy are we so proud of? The freedom that impunity of caste allows the savarnas to infringe the liberties and dignities of the Dalits-Bahujan-Adivasi and Muslim communities.
The democracy in which Muslims and Dalits are being flogged and lynched. Their lands grabbed. Their women considered easy pickings to be raped and murdered. Their sons and daughters pushed to end their lives due to caste-based oppression.
It is time to face the realities of caste-oppressed people in our country. The so-called upper castes and brahmins must acknowledge their privilege and participate in changing the conversations around caste. Unlearn your privilege and relearn the principles of equity and social justice. And pledge to discard the undemocratic premise of caste.
We, Dalits-Bahujans-Adivasis must stand up, speak up and raise our voices against caste and all caste-based systems. We must demand that the othering, gaslighting be stopped. We must put an end to the derogatory processes which make us feel invisible, small, and undignified. Let us break the shackles that bind our minds to centuries-old, unjustified, and appalling frameworks of stratification. Let us annihilate caste. For without annihilating caste, we can never become a truly sovereign, democratic, republic nation.
I would like to end this article with Babasaheb’s thoughts on caste as he mentioned in his book ‘Annihilation of Caste’.
Caste has killed the public spirit. Caste has destroyed the sense of public charity. Caste has made public opinion impossible. A Hindu’s public is his caste. His responsibility is only to his caste. His loyalty is restricted only to his caste. Virtue has become caste-ridden, and morality has become, caste-bound. There is no sympathy to the deserving. There is no appreciation of the meritorious. There is no charity to the needy.