The story about Dalits in Karnataka pouring cow-dung over their bodies to protest against the encroachment of their land by upper castes. Or the story about Dalit panchayat presidents not being able to sit on a chair in the panchayat office, and not having access to records even though they know of ongoing financial irregularities. Or, indeed, about the four members of a Dalit family, including two children, who were hacked to pieces in Rajasthan.
Or you might have to take an interest in Bihar, and the wars between Dalits, certain backward castes, and the Bhumihars, who were fighting tooth and nail to retain their social and economic hegemony. Take an interest in 1996, Bathani Tola, when 21 Dalits were massacred, including babies, but all 23 accused who had been convicted by a lower court, were acquitted by the Patna High Court recently. Think of how the Dalits of Bihar feel after waiting 16 years for justice.
These are all items I’ve read about in the mainstream press. But what newspaper or television headlines don’t always say is where that negative incident — violent or not — comes from. It comes from a society where random acts of oppression and discrimination go unpunished. It comes from the flesh and bone of the body of caste.
That, sadly, is the body in which most Indians remain trapped. Go look at some videos made by community members at the Video Volunteers website. In one, you see school-kids being segregated at meal-time. In another, you see a young Gujarati talking of having to go to the next town for a haircut because he isn’t allowed to enter local barber-shops. A tap is washed by a little girl because a Dalit woman has just used it. A Sikh father talks of how his son and pregnant daughter-in-law were killed because it was an inter-caste wedding. A farm worker is left handicapped after being attacked with a sickle for drinking water from a pot.
This series of video clips, less than a minute each, is part of a campaign called Article 17. You can view them here.
Perhaps you’ve had your fill of bad news. But if you don’t look, you deny yourself a full portrait of India. And you fail to understand that the consequences of Dalit assertion are usually the same in every context. A stabbing could be about beef. It could also be about a pot of water.
Read full piece here.