To promote the social status of Dalits, Centre is encouraging inter-caste marriages. According to the rule, the Dalit brides or bridegrooms of an inter-caste marriage will be rewarded with Rs 2.5 lakh. This new scheme is entitled to all Dalits, as against the earlier system where only couples with an annual income of Rs 5 lakhs and below were applicable. As reported by Indian Express, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment suggests the linking of the ‘Dr Ambedkar Scheme for Social Integration’, to the couple’s Aadhaar numbers and bank account details. This scheme aims to target around 500 marriages a year, though it hasn’t reached even 100 in the past years.
Though the income limit has been scraped off, the scheme demands the marriage to be recorded under the Hindu Marriage Act apart from being the first marriage of both the spouses. The scheme draws inspiration from BR Ambedkar’s views on caste culture and union through exogamy.
As reported by Indian Express, the scheme has failed to perform satisfactorily since its inception. Only five couples were given the sum during 2014-15, and in 2015-16, only 72 couples among 522 applications were accepted. While in 2016 – 17, as low as 45 out of 736 couples were approved. And as of this year, the ministry has received the proposal of 409 couples, but only 74 have been cleared. The target for each state differs depending on their overall share of Scheduled Caste population. Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, and Rajasthan submit the maximum proposals.
The proverb, “Give a man a fish; he’ll eat for a day.Teach a man how to fish; he’ll eat for a lifetime,” is as apt for Dalits today as for any other community. The constitution which promises to provide equal status to all the people irrespective of their caste has pushed this community to oblivion.
India is a functional democracy. Democracy ensures equality among all. But does the country give equal rights to the Dalits as well? Looking at the recent incidents of mistreatment, the democratic status of India stands contradicted. The question that strikes is whether they are enabled to get what they are entitled to? For every political party, the Dalit community often turns out to be a prized pawn which can help them win more seats and get in power. Before the elections, Dalits are entitled by the political parties to important statuses in the society, but then comes the reality into the frame when after the elections, the situation for this community remains grim devoid of the enablement.
This explains how parties embark upon enabling the constitutional rights guaranteed by the government to the Dalits, as a scheme to garner marginalised support, which suffers a flipside when the reality strikes, amid the contours of dirty politics. Thus making no considerable positive change in their social status.
Gujarat’s recent case of vigilantism has shed substantial light on how Dalits are being discriminated. A Dalit family had been publicly beaten up for skinning a dead cow. The fact that the so called gau rakshaks had wrongly accused the family of slaughtering a cow, and taken law in their hands, is highly objectionable. Would this have been possible, if this family did not belong to the Dalit community?
While, this increasing involvement of Dalits in politics could be seen as a good development for the community, their usage as a mere political, is rather problematic. The seed of this problem is still untouched – the constrained mentality of the society.
Surrounded by political chaos in Gujarat, Chief Minister Anandiben Patel took everyone by surprise when she declared her resignation via a Facebook post on Monday. The internet was taken aback by her sudden decision to quit. However, the 74 year old Gujarat CM cited her age as the primary reason for this step. According to News 18, she has handed over her resignation to Vijay Rupani who is the state Bhartiya Janta Party President.
Soon after BJP came to power at the centre in May 2014, Anandiben Patel became the first woman Chief Minister of Gujarat. Patel expressed her gratitude to the party especially Narendra Modi for giving her this great opportunity to govern a state. However, her resignation comes one day after the Dalits of the state took to streets to protest for bashing up of a family by the cow vigilantes in Una for skinning the animal. Also, the Assembly Elections are just a year away. BJP President Amit Shah has confirmed the news and added that the resignation request will be forwarded to the party’s parliamentary board. The party is going to announce her replacement tomorrow. The current Health Minister of the state, Nitinbhai Patel is the probable choice.
Seven youngsters of the Dalit community attempted suicide in the state of Gujarat on Monday, to protest against the public thrashing and atrocities inflicted upon them for allegedly skinning a live cow in a village in the state on July 11.
Protest rallies were organised in major towns of the state on Monday, during which five members of the community consumed pesticide in Gondal and another two in Jamkandorana town.
Among those who attempted suicide includes a local Congress leader Anil Madhad.
The whole issue has escalated into a political crisis for the state government and Chief Minister Anandiben Patel has ordered a CID probe into the public thrashing and atrocities on the Dalit community. According to a report by The Hindu, she also stated that a “designated court will be set up to expedite the trial and chargesheet will be submitted within 60 days.”
The issue came to light when a video showing the victims getting assaulted with iron rods and sticks started going viral on social media platforms. Sources claim that the video was recorded by Pramod Giri, who is the president of Shiv Sena unit in Somnath district.
One would think that the age long discrimination on the basis of caste and religion is a long forgotten rite. But recent studies give overwhelming evidence that point to the contrary. What’s even more disturbing is that these studies were conducted in the United Kingdom. The silver lining in all this though, is that on June 25th, the British parliament , UK’s sovereign body, activated clause 9 (5) (a) of equality act 2010 to outlaw discrimination on the basis of caste. Yet, British government assented to the relevant measure only after the House of Lords had for a second time defeated the executive by insisting that the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform bill, included caste discrimination as a form of racial discrimination under the Equality Act.
Helen Grant, junior minister in the ministry of justice even wrote to the lobbying group, the alliance of Hindu organizations, expressing her sorrow for the passing of this bill, dismissing it on grounds of lack of evidence for the same.
Caste discrimination, studies found, has been a big part in the lives of British Asians and is a particularly strong factor when it comes to arranged marriages. Dalits are not even allowed into places of worship of the so called upper caste Hindus. The passing of the act is a ray of hope for the several dalits who have been mistreated by the law of the very country they live in.
“His mouth became the Priests; his arms were made into the Warrior, his thighs the People, and from his feet the Servants were born.” – Rig Veda 10.90
The Vedic tradition classifies Hindus into four Varnas or social groups each ascribed a different responsibility in the society. The Purusha Sukta of the Rig Veda illustrates the different body functions of the Purusha, or the cosmic man, which translates into the functioning of a society.
Philosophy professor Rajshree Vasudevan, Sastra University, Thanjavur says,
“It is common knowledge that the Varna system was initiated with the purpose of creating an order in the society. It was down the years that this scientific system got regressive and discriminatory.”
The Varna, which literally means colour, identifies four social groups – the Brahmins (priests and teachers), the Kshatriyas (warriors, rulers and administrators), the Vaishyas (traders and merchants) and the Shudras (serving the needs of the other three Varnas).
“The word caste strictly refers to the sub-divisions of the Varna and not the Varnas themselves,” says Vasudevan. The Dalits, who constitute 16.2% of the entire population, is the group which falls outside the Varna system. They are also referred to as Panchamas (the fifth Varna) and the Aspruhyas (the untouchables).
Assistant Professor Ruchi Jaggi, Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communication, Pune, points out: “Though the diversification of the Varnas was physical in nature, the concept of the “other” made it organic and overwhelming for those of the upper castes. This superiority leads to an upper caste looking down upon the work of those of the lower castes.” It is to ‘annihilate’ this concept of the ‘other’ that Bhimrao Ambedkar, a Dalit, dedicated his life. He rose to emerge as one of the brightest political thinkers of India and was instrumental in framing the Indian constitution.