The term “dalit” in the traditional Indian caste system is a member of the lowest caste. The very word ‘dalit’ in Sanskrit means the opressed. The term was perhaps first used by Jyotirao Phule in the nineteenth century, in the context of the oppression faced by “untouchables”.
The father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi however adopted the term “Harijan”, which means “Children of God”, to identify these untouchables who lead a miserable life which was due to the prevalent caste system and untouchability. Gandhi said “God never made man that he may consider another man as an untouchable”.He in his lifetime did his best to fight the evils of the caste system. He said “My fight against untouchability is a fight against the impure in humanity.” In 1932, Gandhi founded the All India Harijan Sevak Sangh for the welfare of dalits.
In the year 1997, India elected Dalit K. R. Narayanan as the nation’s President. While caste-based discrimination was prohibited and untouchability abolished by the Constitution of India,such practices continue even today.
The 1989 Prevention of Atrocities Act (POA) is an acknowledgement by the Indian government that caste relations are defined by violence.The Act denoted specific crimes against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes as “atrocities” and created corresponding punishments. Its purpose was to curb and punish violence against Dalits.
The Indian National Congress has always been against the evils of the caste system and untouchability. It propagated against caste privileges and belived that people of all castes and classes must have equal opportunity to make progress. Dr.BR Ambedkar founded the Schedule Castes Federation to protest against the atrocities on the lower caste people. He also started two weekly journals namely ‘Janta’ and ‘Samant’.
Babasaheb almost made a prophetic statement when he said “There could not be a body more unsuited to take up the work of the uplift of the untouchables than the Hindu Mahasabha. It is a militant Hindu organization”. This statement proved to be right when the RSS activists attacked the rally for Rohit Vemula in Mumbai. The RSS and Bjp as self-proclaimed protectors of Hinduism, have made up an anti-dalit resolve to eliminate the dalits using their power.
In the case of Rohith Vemula,the anti-dalit attitude has clearly come up.When five Dalit activists in Hyderabad Central University (HCU) faced an upper caste Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) leader in August, they were first warned.No significant action was taken against the ABVP, in the first proctorial inquiry. Then a BJP MP from Hyderabad intervened asking for some action to be taken against the Dalit students in a letter to the HRD minister Smriti Irani.A series of emails were sent to the acting vice-chancellor urging action from the MHRD. A second, much harsher proctorial report emerged incorporating stringent action against Rohith and his fellow Dalits, recommending ban from the hostel and expulsion of Rohith.This was what led to Rohith Vemula’s suicide.
Smriti Irani claimed that she had intervened in HCU under the powers she had under the Central Universities Act of 2009. But there is no such Act. The draft Act of 2009 was never passed by the Parliament. Smriti Irani even went to the extent of claiming that Rohit was not a dalit as his father was a OBC. But a Supreme Court judgement of 2012 clearly states that it if the father does not look after the mother and the children, the children would automatically inherit the caste of the mother which hereby leaves us in no doubt that Rohit Vemula was a Dalit.
Two children of a Dalit family were burnt alive and their parents suffered serious injuries after their house was set on fire in Sunped village of Faridabad. Manohar Khattar did a massive job in fuelling intolerance. The Bjp and the RSS believe in practising politics of crushing those who are weak which results in such incidents.
The most recent incident to prove the anti-dalit attitude of the Bjp and RSS is the rape and murder of dalit girl Delta Meghwal from Barmer, Rajasthan.She was the first dalit girl from the village to have pursued higher education.She was found dead in a water tank of the Jain Adarsh Teachers’ Training Institute for Girls in Nokha, Bikaner. Dalit people in the villages are now using her as an example to stop girls from going to schools.
The atrocities on dalits has increased manifolds under Bjp rule. The Vice President of the Indian National Congress, Rahul Gandhi following the footsteps of colossus of the party like Gandhi and Ambedkar, condemned these horrific acts and raised a voice for all those who fail to find a voice,for all those who are being opreseed. The Indian National Congress firmly believes that no religion is bigger than “humanity”. It will continue protesting and speaking against all sorts of atrocities on the poor,weak and opressed.