‘We Are All Untouchables’ formed to oppose injustice of caste-based discrimination

Published: January 31, 2013

GURPREET SINGH
RADIO INDIA

Dalits

A supporter of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) waits during a political rally in Palwal, India in this file photo. The BSP was founded in 1984 to represent the Dalits, also regarded as ‘untouchables’ or of low caste. Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

As social justice activists gear up for the Community March Against Racism on March 23, 2013, I have launched a group on Facebook called “We Are All Untouchables!!!” in solidarity with Dalits, or the oppressed classes of India who continue to be treated as “untouchables” by the so-called upper caste peoples in the world’s largest secular democracy.

Despite all the progress and development in India, Dalits not only continue to face social boycott but are also forced to indulge in manual scavenging for living. It is shocking that Dalits still face segregation at public places, especially in rural India, in accordance with the age old caste structure that bars Dalits from visiting temples or even take food or water from community kitchens or public wells. In many parts of India, Dalits are not served at barber shops or allowed to ride motorbikes or walk in shoes in the presence of the upper caste people.

In spite of a ban on untouchability and manual scavenging by Indian laws, these practices go on due to lack of political will to end this menace for caste considerations. Thousands of Dalits who are forced to indulge in manual scavenging are currently marching in India seeking an end to this inhuman trade. It’s difficult for them to get out of it due to lack of work opportunities for those considered untouchables by potential employers offering other dignified jobs.

This all reflects very badly on a state that is supposed to be secular. It is pertinent to mention that this caste-based oppression is rooted in Hindu religion. Yet it is accepted in a secular society. Even other modern religious groups have accepted it as a social reality.

The hypocrisy of this principle is also reflected by the fact that sexual violence against Dalit women by rich and influential upper caste men is very common. In a nutshell, the attitude of treating Dalits as pests or those born to serve those who consider themselves as culturally superior is at the root of this problem.

“We Are All Untouchables” was formed with the consensus of Dalit activist friends on the 64th Republic Day of India. It was felt that the Indian establishment, too, has been indifferent towards caste-based oppression, which is as brutal as racism. To break this silence it is important for everyone to speak up against this injustice. The members of the group have resolved to join the march and take placards and signs bearing the slogan “We Are All Untouchables.”

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