Vikas Parasram Meshram
Even after 75 years of independence, Dalits are being subjected to horrific atrocities in the country. Such incidents happen every day. According to the information provided by the government in Parliament, 1,29,000 cases of atrocities against Dalits were reported in the country during the years 2018-2020, with Uttar Pradesh having the highest number of cases. This is followed by Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. In the rest of the country this number is relatively less. But the reality is that instead of atrocities on Dalits or lower castes decreasing, the number is increasing. Our leaders, our governments are making promises about this, but this is part of a tradition of empty promises. It is important to keep in mind the fact that only 20 percent of such registered cases reach a decision. More than half of the cases disappear or go unsolved due to social pressure.
Nine-year-old Indra, a fifth grader, was born into a marginalized Dalit community and was punished for this ‘crime’ on July 20 this year. Being born in a lower caste, he was not allowed to drink water from the water pot set by the school’s feudal teacher. Unknowingly he tried to gain this right and the teacher who punished Indra beat him so much that despite all the efforts of the doctors, Indra died on August 13, two days before Amrit Mahotsav. Although the police say that they have not yet found any concrete evidence that he was beaten for this reason, some villagers and children who study with Indra say that the police are lying and are being pressured.
It is hoped that the case of the ‘murder’ of the child Indra, who lived in a village in Jalore district of Rajasthan, will reach a logical conclusion. But the incident of the death of nine-year-old Indra, which happened just two days before the Independence Day, also raises questions in the head. All this is disgraceful, and it is hypocritical to say that democracy is getting stronger. It seemed that the Prime Minister would mention this topic, but his address was all talk and no show.
This event is a poignant example of the issues facing the country and society – and also reminds us that the issue of social inequality is very important and needs to be included in the definition of development. Unfortunately, whenever development is discussed, it is limited to bread, clothing and shelter. Otherwise, our leaders talk about streets, crying out for toilets and tap water in every house. Yes, all these things are necessary for our development, but this is not development. Somewhere social considerations should also become part of our understanding of development. The curse of social inequality must be removed from our lives, which is an essential condition of human development. The roads that we have to pass to get to the highway of development are being neglected. Dr. Ambedkar who gave the constitution based on freedom, equality and fraternity warned that if we do not pay attention to social freedom, our political freedom will also be in danger. He said that we have already lost our freedom once due to betrayal by our own people and betrayal is not only political. The truth is that those who oppose or ignore social equality are also traitors. Today, those who deceive us include those who continue to widen the gap of social disparity on the basis of caste-religion and caste-class.
It is true that from time to time our mentors have called for reducing social inequality, but how much have we heard and understood what they are saying? This is the question, and it is necessary to hold the hands of the socially backward to stand behind them in the race of development. But more than this, it is important to awaken the awareness that those whom we or the leading elements of society consider backward or untouchable or inferior to us, are human beings like us. To think of them as inferior to us in any way is to deceive ourselves and to commit crimes against humanity
Indra, from Surna village in Jalore, was punished for a crime he never committed because he belonged to a lower caste. The criminals who killed Indra are believers in social inequality. Indra’s father Devram Meghwal says that even in the 21st century, he has to travel miles from home to get his hair cut, as the village ‘barbers’ consider him inferior. This punishment of traveling miles away for a haircut may not compare to the ‘punishment’ Indra faced, but the concept of high-low is dividing our society. So, our society is getting weaker, or it has not become strong. When will our leadership understand this truth?
Not mentioning ‘Indra’ in the Independence Day speech is not just a mistake. The truth is that our social consciousness is corroding. It is true that a tribal woman is our President today. We can be proud of that. It will be a symbol of Dalit or tribal development, but it is only a symbol. What it signifies must be true. This will happen when Devram does not have to travel miles to get his hair cut, and drinking water from the bowl of his allegedly high-caste teacher will not be considered a crime for Indra.
Vikas Parasram Meshram is a journalist and regularly writes on social issues.