It is beyond question that the Indian Society has its roots set deep into the Caste System. To define caste; it is a form of social stratification characterized by endogamy, hereditary transmission of a style of life which often includes an occupation, ritual status in a hierarchy, customary social interaction and exclusion based on cultural notions of purity and pollution.
This very system establishes the existence of a social hierarchy resulting in the ill treatment of persons belonging to the lower strata. However, the system may not be as rigid as it was back in the day. Some argue that caste system does not exist anymore but, discrimination and social justice is still far-fetched. Despite laws and schemes formulated for the scheduled castes and tribes, social exclusivity seems negligible. Some studies explicitly seek to show that the lower castes routinely face violence, which includes physical assault, rape, arson, abduction and other such criminal acts, at the hands of the upper castes. These studies document cases and analyse police statistics in order to make their case. It is a sad state that even in 2020, there is loss of life due to a stringent age old system.
Discrimination begins at home, college or workspace; the differential treatment or even special treatment is a sign of discrimination. The reservation policy is a way to facilitate security of education and jobs for the ones who need it the most. 16.6% of the population in India comprise of Dalits (the fifth varna, the caste subjected to untouchability). This particular section of society is subjected to atrocities, negligence and discrimination.
The violence against Dalits seems to be on a rise in this specific year or perhaps, social media is more vocal in highlighting this issue and bringing it to the forefront. We don’t see major prime time reports on major news networks or police investigations. Upper caste COVID-19 patients from Uttar Pradesh and Nainital refused to eat the food in isolation centres because it was prepared by a Dalit cook. Such incidences of refusal to eat food have been reported in several other states. M. Sudhakar, who returned to his village from Chennai due to the lockdown, was killed by his father-in-law when he tried to meet his wife of six months who belonged to an upper caste. Last year, Dr. Payal Tadvi died by suicide as she was harassed and tortured in her medical institution on the basis of her caste. Something as small as ‘touching’ an upper caste man’s motorcycle resulted in the assault of a Dalit man in Karnataka. A Dalit woman’s body was taken off the pyre in Agra; even in death, her identity led to discrimination.
Why do these atrocities take place? Are we so insensitive towards people just because of their identity that we violently attack them? This happens to preserve the superiority and so called ‘purity’ handed down by our ancestors. The so-called ‘upper-castes’ are drunk with the hierarchical order that leads them to attack the ‘lower-castes’ to ‘clean’ their society. It is important to amplify this issue to curtail further attacks. The police are also to be blamed. They are primarily who show open discrimination by not registering FIRs, ill-treatment and extra-judicial ruling.
The gravity of this issue lies in the basis that this particular prejudiced practice sets us back as a country. This attitude of discrimination on the basis of caste especially needs to be ‘cleansed’ from our society.