×

Caste based violence in India

What is the Issue?

  • The anti-Dalit violence in Saharanpur district of Uttar Pradesh started with the dominant Thakur community. They prevented the Dalits in Shabbirpur village from installing a statue of B.R Ambedkar at the Saint Ravidas temple on the occasion of Ambedkar’s birth anniversary, though they had got the necessary permission from the authorities.
  • The Dalits could not reconcile with this outrage.
  • The Thakur community treated this act of resistance as a challenge and took to violence.

Anti-Dalit violence in India: Causes

  • From increasing economic independence of the Dalit community to a re-assertion of caste identity, several reasons have contributed to the cycle of violence.
  • The Dalits are no longer dependent on upper castes for a livelihood; in fact, they often compete with them, and even do better.
  • Dalits have been the fastest to change and adapt in our society, but the others have found traditional roles hard to let go of.
  • While modern Indian lawhas officially abolished the caste hierarchy, untouchability is in many ways still a practice.
  • In public schools, Dalits are not allowed to serve meals to superior castes; they often have to sit outside the classroom; and are made to clean the toilets.
  • Many atrocities committed against Dalits are related to land disputes.
  • The overall number of anti-Dalit incidents is rising because Dalits have increasingly started claiming their rights. On the one hand, cases are more likely to be reported now. On the other hand, the fact that Dalits tend to speak out more results in more violent confrontations.
  • Our feudal history, high poverty rate, and the important role religion has in society, are some of the reasons as well.

Statistics or Facts on caste based violence

  • When one examines the anti-Dalit violence in India over a period of time, the four northern states of UP, Bihar, MP and Rajasthan, popularly known as the “cow-belt” states, top the list.
  • As per the National Crime Records Bureau statistics, the total number of crimes against SCs in the country in 2010 was 32,643, of which UP accounted for 7,522 (23 per cent).
  • The number of crimes increased to 47,064 in 2014, in which UP’s share was 8,075. Though  its share in the national tally fell by four percentage points to 17 per cent, it continued to top the list.
  • UP’s share declined because crimes against SCs increased in MP and Rajasthan.

Implications of the Saharanpur violence

  • This reaffirms that caste constitutes the “basic structure” of Indian society.
  • The “cow-belt” states have not experienced any radical progressive social movement in this period.
  • Caste-based hierarchy, to use Ambedkar’s words, created “graded inequality” that gave a sense of caste superiority not only to the intermediate castes such as Thakurs, but also to many OBCs.
  • Caste remains the most influential factor in India’s electoral politics, particularly in rural areas, more pronounced in the “cow-belt” states’ rural locales.
  • The anti-Dalit violence in Saharanpur reveals that despite the lip-service paid to Ambedkar’s legacy by the upper and intermediate castes and the OBCs, he remains for many just a Dalit leader.

Some recent dalit movements

Bhim Sena

  • Bhim Sena was born in Gulbarga, Karnataka, created by an Ambedkarite Dalit leader in the Nizam’s Hyderabad, B. Shyam Sunder.
  • Bhim Sena was a volunteers corps, seeking equality and self-defence.
  • Bhim Sena had two lakh members and spread to UP, Haryana and Punjab, in addition to Maharashtra, Telangana and Karnataka.
  • It demanded 25 per cent of  villages in every taluq be given to Dalits; sought separate electorates, separate universities and aimed at creating a separate political organisation for Dalits.
  • Dalit youth rallied with the Bhim Sena and addressed atrocities, providing a self-defence force as well.
  • It inspired the creation of another organisation, the Dalit Panthers, in 1972.

 

Dalit Panthers

  • The Dalit Panthers is the most romanticised and famous of the Ambedkarite youth movements.
  • It fashioned itself after the Black Panther Party in the US and drew members mostly from the urban, educated working and middle-class, spreading like wildfire into rural areas.
  • Mounting atrocities against Dalits in the 1970s fuelled the Panther movement.
  • The Panthers were also part of a strong literary movement, Dalit sahitya, which set minds churning with some of the best post-1947 Indian poetry and literature.
  • Like the Bhim Sena, the Dalit Panthers also responded to atrocities as a self-defence force.
  • By the late 1980s, the Dalit Panther movement became disunited but remained active.
  • The Panthers spread to Gujarat, influencing the Gujarati Dalit literary movement, and organised youth during the state’s anti-Dalit reservation movement in 1981 and 1985.

 

Samata Sainik Dal

  • The necessity of a volunteer corps was felt by B.R. Ambedkar in 1927 when he launched the movement for Dalits to access to water in Mahad.
  • The corps — Samata Sainik Dal (Social Equality Corps) — was formalised in 1927 itself.
  • The SSD shot to fame with the guard of honour it gave Ambedkar in Bombay when he returned from the Round Table Conference in 1932.
  • It worked like a typical defence force, with its own flag, dress code and discipline. Its influence reduced after Ambedkar’s death, giving rise to organisations like the Bhim Sena and Dalit Panthers.
  • The SSD was assisted by retired Dalit Mahar soldiers, who were part of the British army.

 

Anti-Dalit violence in India: Causes

  • From increasing economic independence of the Dalit community to a re-assertion of caste identity, several reasons have contributed to the cycle of violence.
  • The Dalits are no longer dependent on upper castes for a livelihood; in fact, they often compete with them, and even do better.
  • Dalits have been the fastest to change and adapt in our society, but the others have found traditional roles hard to let go of.
  • While modern Indianlaw has officially abolished the caste hierarchy, untouchability is in many ways still a practice.
  • In public schools, Dalits are not allowed to serve meals to superior castes; they often have to sit outside the classroom; and are made to clean the toilets.
  • Many atrocities committed against Dalits are related to land disputes.
  • The overall number of anti-Dalit incidents are rising because Dalits have increasingly started claiming their rights. On the one hand, cases are more likely to be reported now. On the other hand, the fact that Dalits tend to speak out more results in more violent confrontations.
  • Our feudal history, high poverty rate, and the important role religion has in society, are some of the reasons as well.

Challenges offered by the new Dalit Movements

  • This Dalit assertion has started posing a challenge to the age-old hierarchy-based supremacy of the upper and intermediate castes and even the OBCs.
  • The latter are finding it increasingly difficult to accept this new Dalit assertion as it threatens their various interests.

Conclusion

This period has been the rise and spread of intolerance across the country on one excuse or another. Self-appointed vigilantes in social and cultural fields are destabilizing a fragile social equilibrium. The sense of insecurity in society calls for government’s intervention.

 

Print Friendly and PDF