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Dalits: Social Exclusion and inclusion

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The dalits

There are contradictions and debates on coining and using the word dalit, the word dalit was popularised in the 1972s by the dalit panther’s movement in Maharashtra. Some says the dalit panther’s movement itself coined the word dalit but Dr Jamuna doss says that jagajeevan ram used it earlier in 1950s Jamunadass is a historian from Chandrapur, Maharashtra

The usage of the word dalit rejected by some scheduled castes, in Maharashtra, mahars who converted to Buddhism wants to identify themselves as Buddhists not dalits. Kanshiram also rejected the word dalit, and used the word Bahujan

The constitutional term of dalits is scheduled castes, earlier they were called and known with different names as Panchama, asprushya, Anthyaja, Avarnas chandala etc.

In colonial period, the erstwhile untouchables were organised as adi Dravida in Tamilnad, adi Andhra in coastal Andhra region, adi Hindus in Hyderabad Deccan, the present Telangana region and adi Karnatakas in Karnataka state

Gandhi called them by the name harijan, at the time he was working for eradication of untouchability and temple entry to the untouchables

Introduction to Social Exclusion: The development of the concept of ‘social exclusion’ or vis-a-vis ‘social inclusion’ traced back soon after the American and French revolution, The ideology of freedom, justice, equality and fraternity became the dominant ideology after the revolution and that lead to development of the concept of ‘social exclusion’[1].

However, it became the proper shape in the later part of 20th century only. Rene Lenoir of France coined the term in the 70s. He published his famous book “Les Exclus” which means ‘excluded”. René Lenoir is a politician. He played an important role in educating politicians on the problems of socially excluded. It is the origin of the framework of law for people with disabilities in 1975. He was also the director of the National School of Administration between 1988 and 1992 and later became special adviser to President Chirac on social issues.

He passed law for the persons with disability, when he was Deputy Minister in the government of Jacques Chirac. Lenoir has identified the marginalized groups like poor, handicapped, suicidal people, elderly people, abused children; drug addicted etc and he included them as socially excluded groups. The concept of ‘social exclusion’ received good popularity in France.

A D Haan in his essay “Social Exclusion: Towards a holistic Understanding of Deprivation” wrote that the term ‘social exclusion’ gained popularity in France due to two reasons. First, the concept of poverty developed in Britain was never been popular or acceptable in France. The Christian charity approach of poverty alleviation and the political theorem like utilitarian liberalism were not popular in France.

At the same time, idea of welfare state was more acceptable. They thought the social exclusion breaks the social fabric. Secondly, during the economic crisis of 80s, they used the term ‘social exclusion’ to refer the social disadvantages. However, the term ‘social exclusion’ did not remain same as it was in France. It has different connotation in different countries. As in case of France, it is used as a rupture for the social fabric, at the same time in United States of America it does not sound as a social issue. In the market driven economy of USA threw the burden of ‘social exclusion’ is to the individual only. If a person is socially excluded, this is his/her fault. The state has very little to bother about the consequences. The individual should look after his inclusion or exclusion in the society.

Social exclusion in india- Reality is that this caste system declared some people as untouchables and some as divines on this earth. The caste s within the Brahmanical paradigm conferred respect, wealth and power whereas the dalit caste awarded grief, injustice, atrocities and killings. This is the current situation of India. In India caste is main factor that producing social exclusion through its unequal and undemocratic values, majority population in India, and the SC ST BC and minorities feels that they were not represented in the Indian mainstream

The social exclusion of dalits 

According to historical sources, Dr. Ambedkar was possibly the first one to have used the term ‘exclusion’ in India while defining the wretched condition of the marginalized section of Indian society. He was the first to use the term ‘Bahiskrit’, a Sanskrit / Hindi word, meaning excluded. He used this term for the first time in 1924, when he established the organization ‘Bahiskrit Hitkarini Sabha’ (Society for Serving the Interests of the Excluded). Dr. Ambedkar launched the fortnightly ‘Bahiskrit Bharat’ (Excluded India) in 1927. In this context, Ambedkar used the term Bahiskrit for ex-untouchables known as Dalits now. Later Ambedkar used the exact term ‘Exclusion’ in 1930s while highlighting the exclusion of Dalits and Other Backward castes from Government Services in India.[2]

The Hindu religion and the Caste system is an ideology of hierarchy, with its Chaturvarnya system of social classification has made dalits as untouchables and denied all rights including the recognition as human beings. The process of exclusion of Dalits prescribed in the Brahmanical Hindu religious texts was implemented in letter and spirit in this country from the time of fall of Buddhism and more aggressively from colonial rule in Indian society.

‘CASTE’ is one-entity cuts across all the issues pertaining to marginalized communities in the country. Throughout the country the villages are constructed in caste line, resources are accessed and owned in caste line, still the society carry and safeguard it through the institutions of marriage, family, religion, education etc. In modern days, caste has become nuanced and perverted, caste embedded into all modern spaces with modern faces; it is operative in all lifestyles in the life of dalits, in accessing the government schemes, education, employment, health facilities etc

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar wrote, “Under the rule of the Peshwas in the untouchable was not allowed to use the public streets if a Hindu was coming along lest he should pollute the Hindu by his shadow. The untouchable was required to have a black thread either on his wrist or on his neck as a sign or a mark to prevent the Hindus from getting them polluted by his touch through mistake. In Poona, the capital of the Peshwas, the untouchable was required to carry, strung from his waist, a broom to sweep away from behind the dust he treaded on lest a Hindu walking on the same should be polluted. In Poona, the untouchable was required to carry an earthen pot, hung in his neck whenever he went, for holding his spit lest his spit falling on earth should pollute a Hindu”

Apart from community as a whole, the exclusion and exploitation of the Dalit women in the name of Hindu religion is still in practice in many parts of the country, Dalits have become conscious of their persona and are rejecting advances of the upper castes that humiliate them. In many places, rejection of such advances results in violence against the Dalits. However, Dalits have come of the view that it is better to object, reject and fight than continue to tolerate humiliation and indignity. This confident assertion of dignified living and equal dignity of all give hopes that finally the Dalits would have autonomy over their body, decision and whatever meagre assets they might have.

Due to the caste discrimination on dalit Adivasi students in educations institutions, 23 dalit Adivasi students have committed suicide from 2008 to 2012 within a period of 5 years in this country, In the article “Dalit exclusion: The empirical evidence”, Sukhadeo thorat writes “In 60% of Rajasthani villages surveyed, dalits are not hired to cook midday meals. In 25% of 555 villages surveyed nation-wide, dalits were paid less wages; in 35%, they were not allowed to sell goods at village markets; and in 47% of villages, they were not allowed to sell milk to cooperatives. No wonder dalits have lower human development and higher poverty levels”[3]

Micro-level studies such as those from Andhra Pradesh (Venkateswarlu, 1990) and Karnataka (Khan, 1995) provide some evidence on economic discrimination in occupation,  employment, wages, and the credit market as well as in other economic spheres. The Andhra Pradesh study observed that SCs faced restrictions in efforts to change their occupation. Similarly, the Karnataka study revealed that nearly 85% of SC respondents continue to be engaged in their traditional occupations, with only 15% able to make a switch-over. The Orissa study (Tripathy, 1994) observed discrimination in land lease, credit and labour markets in rural areas. Nearly 96% of untouchable respondents in one village and all untouchable respondents in the second village were discriminated against in wage payment, with 28% in 1 village and 20% in another facing discrimination in payment of rent.

Efforts for inclusion

The movement against the wicked caste system and inequalities originated with the caste system itself. This movement started it voyage by questioning the validity of divinity that was bestowed to caste system and rejecting all those misbelieves. This movement was started with Charvakas, who are materialists, retaining different forms at different stages is alive at present by confronting for equality. However, the cunning Hindu Brahmanical culture either put an end this movement drastically or merged with itself in every occasion

The movement for social inclusion, which was started with Charvakas, changed its shape during Buddha period. Charvakas made materialism as their base for their fight, Buddha chosen middle path as a base to fight against these inequalities. The struggle of Buddha for the betterment of human life with human centric attitude is like a serious setback to caste and untouchability, repression on women and slavery. In the aftermath of that, the Brahman culture succeeded in driving Buddhism out of India by means of physical and cultural attacks.

This social justice/Social Inclusion movement continued its presence in devotional movement after Buddha.  The devotional movement activists like Narayana Guru from Kerala, Basaveswara from Karnataka, Pothuluri Veera Brahmam from Andhra Pradesh and Kabir preached the truth of equality of human beings and popularized it. Narayana Guru of Kerala constructed special temples for untouchables who were denied entry into the temples.

Pothuluri Veera Brahmam of Andhra Pradesh roamed villages to spread his message accompanied by Kakkanna of Madiga community and Siddappa of Dudekula community. However, this devotional movement failed in reaching its goals. The priests of Brahmans  exploiting the common people by attaching supernatural powers to Narayana Guru and Pothuluru Veera Brahmam, popularizing them as  incarnations of Gods, constructing temples to them and neglecting the main theme of “equality of all people”.

Vemana of Andhra Pradesh who is well known as people’s poet exposed the inequality culture of Brahmanical religion through his poems. By this, the Brahmins burned all the poems of Vemana and made false allegations. Vemana might not be introduced to this generation if C. P Brown, a British national did not bring his writings into light.

The social inclusion movement in Tamilnadu took atheism as its base in par with Charvakas materialism, Periyar E. V. Ramaswamy Nayakar build Dravida movement against unequal Arya Brahmanical culture. With this movement, which made atheism as its base, paraded Lord Sri Rama with a garland of footwear in the streets of Madras, Rama is the protector of unequal Brahmanical culture who split Shambuka’s head only because of studying Vedas.

Mahatma Jyothi Rao Phule who aspired for social inclusion He started special schools in 18th century for women and Dalits who were denied education by revolting against Brahmanical culture. He made his wife Savithri Bai as first women teacher in Indian history by educating her. He carried on his mission of spreading education among common people through his educational society called “Sathya Shodak Samaj.” He fought against the upper caste atrocities. Brahmanical culture depicts that Goddess Saraswati as mother of education. However, she is an illiterate. She even did not teach a single person. However, Savithri Bai is the first women teacher who educated thousands people. Hence, the mother of education should be Savithri Bai.

Social inclusion in India means fight against unequal caste system. Achieving social inclusion is nothing but uprooting the caste and the intervals developed in the name of caste. The actual inference of social inclusion is dividing all resources of the society in proportion with their population.  Distribution of the resources without discrimination is social inclusion. The inspiration and results of social inclusion movements in the history  resulted in providing 50% reservation to the back ward communities in 1902. In the Kolhapur province, the Chatrapathi Sahu Maharaja introduced reservations to backward communities in his state and implemented reservations in education employment fields; this incident remains the practical base for social inclusion in India.

Dr. BR Ambedkar is a great visionary who succeeded in moulding social inclusion movement to caste annihilation movement by crossing all hurdles and gave a shape of democratic movement to it in India. Therefore, Dr. BR Ambedkar used to say he is having three role models. They comprise Buddha, Kabir and Phule. The fighting spirit of these three great visionaries is nothing but the law of social inclusion given by Dr. BR Ambedkar by adopting the concept of reservations in our constitution, which is the brainchild of Chatrapathi Sahu Maharaja. He was resorted to fight relentlessly without compromising with upper caste leaders in this regard. Dr. BR Ambedkar failed in accomplishment of reservations in political field only because of the hindrance by M. K. Gandhi. However, Dr. BR Ambedkar succeeded in granting reservations in education and employment sectors as a constitutional right. Moreover, he warned that if the objectives of the constitution are not fulfilled, the people who are subjected to exploitation and atrocities never hesitate to set fire for this constitution.

In this way, we can witness thousand years history for this social inclusion in this country. Still, social inclusion yet to be realised and is not achieved. The wealth and land of this country is centred in the hands of big industrialists, proprietors and political leaders belong to very few dominant castes.

The dominant castes hid all wealth of this nation foreign Swiss banks and opposing reservation system, which will pave the way for social inclusion. The upper caste sections and big industrialists who reserved wealth and power of this nation are “posing” as private though they get many benefits and subsidies from the government. The industrialists who established industries by getting current, land, high ways and raw material with cheaper prices are wording “merit” when they were asked to provide reservations to Dalits by saying that the production may decline.

The government privatized 90% of industrial and employment fields as part of economic liberalization policies, which are being implemented after 1990’s. Privatization in the fields of education, medical and employment is a big conspiracy. The fraud involved in privatization is to keep away dalits from all opportunities. This is because; there is no question of following reservations in private organizations.

Hence, implementing reservations in private organizations is the present day social inclusion. The upper caste industrialists are not coming forward to implement constitution, though they established industries by using all resources of this nation. According to Andhra Pradesh state Gazette, there are around 60 sub castes in Scheduled caste category. However, there were only 40 communities in reality. That means nearly 20 communities faced disappeared. It is not at all justifiable; some communities are facing extinction because of starvation from a civilized society.

Social boycott, Killings and rapes on dalit women is everyday phenomena in this country,  the caste based discrimination is prevails in all departments of government including the judiciary, in no case of mass murders of dalits, the criminals were punished but acquitted and  freed on the benefit of doubt or showing legal technicalities and lack of evidence. It is simply because of the caste attitude of judges; the recent laxmipur bathe case is one good example of this. In which 58 dalit women and children butchered and Patna high court released all the criminals on the benefit of doubt

A number of anti-discrimination statutes and other legal provisions exist as legal safeguards against caste and untouchability-based discrimination. The primary piece of legislation designed to provide a measure of protection to people from scheduled castes and scheduled tribes and to enforce their rights are the Anti-Untouchability Act, 1955 (in 1979 it was re-named the Civil Rights Act) and the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989.

There are limited studies that examine the effectiveness of these legislations and access to institutions of justice. However, available evidence indicates that these legislative provisions are highly underutilised. SC/STs also suffer from discriminatory access to institutions of justice such as the police and the judiciary. Studies indicate that the scheduled castes/tribes face insurmountable obstacles at various levels from village-level functionaries like Sarpanches to the police, public prosecutors and other functionaries who are extremely non-cooperative and discriminatory. This is essentially reflected in denial of justice to SC/STs.

Official data on civil rights cases shows that of the total number of cases registered in 1991, only 1.56% was convicted the conviction rate came down to .60% in 1999 and .85% in 2000. This shows that the conviction rate in cases relating to civil rights violations and atrocities was less than 1% and close to 0%.

[1] http://abdulkazad.wordpress.com/2013/09/28/concept-of-social-exclusion-and-the-dalit-questions-in-india/

[2] http://nacdor.org/?page_id=193

[3] http://infochangeindia.org/agenda/social-exclusion/dalit-exclusion-the-empirical-evidence.html

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