Friday, November 10, 2006

Our very own "indigenous apartheid"

This is a long overdue post... Ever since had I discovered this must-watch video "I am Dalit. How are You" on Shivam Vij's blog a month or two back.

("Right click/save" to download the .wmv file of this 11 minute 22mb clip)

Even though one was "aware"(?) of these 'facts', but its sheer rawness is numbing, and it is difficult not to choke... specially, the last two minutes...

Dalits - the Broken People - the Untouchables, the Outcastes, or the Harijans, as Gandhi called them. There are some 250mn of them in the world. Out of which 160mn live in India... Or one in every six Indian belongs to this "non-category"... "non-category" because they are not even part of the social classification...

According to an article in the National Geographic:

"Embedded in Indian culture for the past 1,500 years, the caste system follows a basic precept: All men are created unequal. The ranks in Hindu society come from a legend in which the main groupings, or varnas, emerge from a primordial being. From the mouth come the Brahmans — the priests and teachers. From the arms come the Kshatriyas — the rulers and soldiers. From the thighs come the Vaisyas — merchants and traders. From the feet come the Sudras — laborers. Each varna in turn contains hundreds of hereditary castes and subcastes with their own pecking orders.

A fifth group describes the people who are achuta, or untouchable. The primordial being does not claim them. Untouchables are outcasts—people considered too impure, too polluted, to rank as worthy beings... Untouchables are shunned, insulted, banned from temples and higher caste homes, made to eat and drink from separate utensils in public places, and, in extreme but not uncommon cases, are raped, burned, lynched, and gunned down."

And though the MSM did pick up the "Kherlanji Massacre" - though about a month after it had happened - the discrimination, violence, and exclusion has remained a part of the Indian society.

Incidences of killing, rape and violence, of course, stand out as isolated happenings. In some ways - or at least technically - they can be checked by the legal system.... The more frightening aspect of this phenomenon are its invisible and subliminal manifestations.

Here are some examples:

  • 6 weeks after the 2001 Gujarat earthquake that killed about 30,000 people, the Human Rights Watch team visited the some of the most devastated areas. In all places it found that Dalits and upper-caste Hindus were living in separate relief camps.

  • After the Tsunami hit the Indian coast in December 2005, the Dalits and other lower class were shunted into their own camps, separated from the 'exclusive' camp of the more dominant community. Moreover, they even got discriminated in getting the relief aid, shelter, water, etc.

  • In the aftermath of a 2001 earthquake in Gujarat, relief agencies were forced to mark their supplies of blood with the caste of the person it came from, or else people would not use them.

  • A UN report reads: "Untouchability is still very alive, especially in the countryside and can be seen in the segregation of housing, the Dalits having to live at least 1/4 of a mile from the other inhabitants and are forbidden the access to the well which is the common source of water. Moreover, segregation also exists in schools, services and public places (hairdressers, shops, transports; in restaurants, the crockery is sometimes separated between that for Dalits and that for upper casts)."

    Sources & Other Readings:
  • India's Hidden Apartheid
  • Even Govt divides survivors on caste, says it’s practical
  • Tsunami Opens Fault Lines in Old Caste System
  • Broken People, Broken Promises
  • Situation of the Dalits in India
  • India's Shame (Frontline Magazine)


    Yzerfontein said...

    As a South African, it's heartening to see the fight against apartheidbeing fought wherever it manifests itself.

    herbal_care06 said...

    I Am also Dalit...While Seeing This Tears Came From My Eyes..Wow Good Job...