The Dalits still experience prejudice based on castes
Kapil, a 58-year-old Dalit daily wage worker, has lived in Limboda since he was a child, where he lives with his five-member family in a small, decaying house. As he explained in Limboda village, he works hard every day for his family. In Madhya Pradesh, public service delivery is a source of prejudice, with Dalit children facing untouchability, which is distressing. He added that when he first learnt about caste prejudice, kids bullied him at school and used insulting language against him, which can be painful for anyone. Even though Dalit women and men perceive rural life to be less marked by exclusion and deprivation of honour, caste is becoming increasingly important. influencing access to higher education, employment, and economic opportunities. Even after 25 years of work on construction sites, stone quarries, and brickfields, a Dalit (or Adivasi) labourer has little prospect of getting a skilled or better-paid job.
Atrocities against scheduled castes and tribes have continued in many parts of the State.
According to the National Crime Record Bureau’s (NCRB) “Crime in India” 2019 report, crimes against members of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes increased by 7.3 per cent and 26.5 per cent, respectively. In the previous year, there were 45,935 incidences of crimes and atrocities committed against Dalits, and 8,257 cases of crime committed against tribal people.
Kapil said – Three scheduled caste families were forced to leave their village, Limboda, Madhya Pradesh, after members of the upper castes, harassed them by boycotting their shops, denying them jobs, and restricting their ability to travel across the district of Dewas. This followed several members of the Dalit community being lynched for visiting a religion in the area. The victims filed an FIR under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, against upper-caste men, they alleged lynched them, but no action was taken.
In Limboda, in the middle of a village, a handful of other street vendors, Phoolbai who belongs to the Dalit community, used to run a tiny business. Among other tobacco goods, she sells cigarettes, chewing tobacco, tea. Nevertheless, because she doesn’t have other ways of supporting her family she needs to work. “She was a courageous mother, running a little store all day long. Every day, she makes little profit from Rs 150, but she has nothing else. She used to say I must be able to feed my kids, and I have no other support means or money.”
Several Dalit households I spoke with claimed they were in the same boat. Shubham, a Limboda seller, said he has been suffering since the beginning of the pandemic. Every day, he erects a makeshift structure in which he sells a variety of products ranging from cutlery and household items to electronics. His firm has suffered a serious setback since the outbreak began, and he has had to rely on loans to stay afloat, he claims.
Indian laws and regulations prohibiting the alienation of Dalit lands, setting limits on a single landowner’s holdings, and the allocation of surplus government lands to scheduled castes and planned tribes have been largely ignored or manipulated by the district administrations. According to the report, between 2009 and 2018, the number of cases of atrocities against Dalits and Adivasis registered under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (PoA Act) grew by 281.75% and 575.33 per cent, respectively.
On 26th November 2020, 74- year-old Phoolbai died, the family of Phoolbai attempted to administer her last rites but were denied access to the cremation grounds by upper-caste administrators who controlled the grounds.
Because of this, the Dalits from Limboda, are forced to openly cremate their dead due to a lack of proper crematory arrangement for them. In the region of Malwa, Dalits prefer to perform their last cremation rites in their community, In the past, conflicts between Dalits and upper castes have been limited to struggles over many resources. Now they have no power, no dignity, even in death. Dalits are forced to cremate their dead along roadsides or on public land without land of their own.
It is an incident that illustrates the prevalence of caste-based discrimination in the country. Upper caste communities allegedly ‘forced’ the removal of the Dalit woman’s body from the funeral pyre.
Sunny, Phoolbai’s nephew, said, “we were not allowed to cremate the dead on upper caste land in Dewas, the family is forced to go far away to cremate the body. We have protested because we are not allowed to cremate on land the government has designated for this purpose. We have to go to grounds far away or cremate in an open place close by, as most of us cannot afford to travel. Not only in this matter, but we also face problems just in our daily lives, they still don’t let us eat with them at social events”
Alpesh Malviya, a member of the local Dalit community said, “More than half of the lower-caste population of the country is landless, according to census reports. Although several states have laws aimed at providing Dalits with land, nothing ever seems to happen, or help us. We have been suffering this way our whole lives. Hindus always make us feel different.”
Vivek Parmar, a member of the Bhim Sena said, “Dalit villagers said that separate crematoria are not an uncommon practice because they have long been unable to use designated grounds in the remote areas, as the upper castes would deny them access. We were protesting outside the Limboda police station following the incident with Pholbhai, but the police chased us away.”
Dewas police chief constable Chetan Rajguru said, “Only a few times does the local police administration have to deal with a situation like this, it is not common.”How the PoA Act is implemented has been a major source of concern among Adivasis and Dalits. According to a status report on the implementation of the PoA Act released by the National Dalit Movement for Justice (NDMJ), the average conviction rate for cases of atrocities against Dalits and Adivasis under the PoA Act remained at 25.2 per cent and 22.8 per cent, respectively, over the decade before 2018. Madhya Pradesh has the highest rate of crimes against STs, at 23.2 per cent in 2020
On 11 April 2020, a farm labourer Rakesh Bhabhore, a resident of Harsola village, and from the Scheduled Caste community- was Badly beaten by two upper caste men – Vimlesh Soni and Sanjay Rai – for touching a bucket to get water from a well to quench his thirst that hot summer day.
A Complaint has been filed against the high caste members in the village for refusing to let the lower caste have access to water. Lower caste Dalits of Harsol village reported that they had been without water for several days.
Both of the accused have been charged with assault and atrocities against Dalits by the Mhow police, but they walk free.
“We have filed an FIR, but no action has been taken,” said Gaurav Sonkar, the victim’s brother. “We felt prejudiced in the police station because of their high caste and political affiliations, and they were thrashed by those two for touching a bucket, and the police took no action against them. Dalits, including those arrested for minor offences, are often held in custody for long periods, occasionally at distant and isolated locations to avoid publicity, where they are frequently deprived of resources like food and water.”
Rocky Sonkar, another victim claimed, “We have been forced to sit outside the police station and only speak when the cops ask. We were forced by the cops into not bringing charges. It was not the first time that someone has attacked us because we are from a lower caste; they have previously beaten us up in front of the police, but none intervened.”
People rely on water every day, leaving people in rural India in a bind. However, the drought makes life difficult for residents in these areas, but it is also spotlighting many of the caste conflicts that still exist among many Indians known as ‘Dalits’. Despite the 1995 Rules under the Act were pulled up to avoid the commission of crimes against divisions of the Castes and Tribes Schedules, the Civil Rights Protection Act was never recognized by society as a whole.
Sarika Silawat Residence of Harsola,” It’s not only the water; we’ve faced a variety of obstacles in our daily lives, including discrimination. Our community’s problem is that not everyone in the lower caste is aware of their rights. They are ignorant of the laws that govern them. Police Brutality to the lower caste impacted on the community’s overall health.” “Bias against Dalits is in the subconscious of the society,” she noted. “Even in this case, the local police administration does not have to comment on the victim’s appearance, but they were once again biassed in favour of an upper caste.”
In 2020, Congress has said that the police’s activities in Madhya Pradesh reflect a “jungle raj.” “If there had been landed, water issue, it could have been resolved legitimately… Will the administration act with the same zeal in clearing encroachment on government land by so-called Jan Sevaks (people’s servants), as previous chief minister Kamal Nath predicted
“We have visited the victim’s home in Harsol, met him and his family. If the police had intervened sooner, they would have received assistance. Due to the administration’s and government’s indifference, a poor Dalit family has lost faith In Government “According to the BJP leader Rajesh Sonkar. “Caste discrimination isn’t simply a problem in rural India: Dalits make up around 16% of India’s 1.2 billion people, and many of them encounter hostility no matter where they go,” he continued.
Mehul Thakur, a Human Rights Lawyer, said, “Those of lower castes have been discriminated against by the upper castes for a very long time and they never had any sort of acknowledgement from most individuals who had a place with the upper standing. Though by the virtue of data itself it wouldn’t be untactful to mention that things improved after the revolution led by late Dr B. R. Ambedkar and other social rights fighters but at the same time, it is also quite evident that atrocities and hatred persist against them, mostly in rural areas, a solution to which could be educating the rural residents, especially the young generation about their human / fundamental rights and status as a citizen .”
Kunal Kulhare, Activists for Dalit Rights, “People always say that Dalits get greater benefits from the government and other institutions, such as reservations, scholarships, and so on. However, the terrible reality is that the vast majority of these people are unaware of the government’s services for these marginalised groups. Many of these benefits go unused simply because individuals are ignorant of them, and in some situations, people from all walks of life use forged certificates to gain access to these benefits. And those who do manage to obtain these services encounter significant delays; procedures that could be obtained in 15-20 days take more than three-four months.”