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Racism and fundamentalism have been making a resurgence in the international scene in the last couple of years. With racial chauvinism on the rise, prejudices are rejuvenated and a results in a backlash against democracy.  The Indian scenario provides a unique kind of ‘backlash’ as demonstrated by the recent SARI report taken in an EPW article, where reservation for the minorities received ample support although several prejudices were still held against these minorities (Coffey, et al. 2018). This result shows that while economic or political ‘empowerment’ is being supported to an extent, social reforms are looked at unfavourably. The victims of this kind of backlash are mostly women and Dalits.

Although the race theory has been debunked in the case of India’s caste system, the inherent superiority associated with being a member of the upper rungs of the ladder has resulted in violent crimes against the Dalits. The social boycott of Dalit families in Kurnool District by upper caste men over a dispute led to inhumane treatment being meted out to the former. The latter not only levied a ‘fine’ of Rs. 5,000 in villagers who interacted with any member of the boycotted community but also broke the water suppluy pipeline of the area where the members of Scheduled Caste community resided. While this case demonstrated the prevailing social prejudices against a section of the population, reservation has created a backlash of its own. The Kopardi case where a Maratha minor girl was raped and murdered by Dalit youths led to a wave of unity within the community and assertion of the Maratha identity. Morchas centered around slogans of Maratha pride and solidarity and silent protests saw immense participation. The perpetrators were convicted and sentenced to death. However, as reported by the Hindustan Times, led to a deep sense of injustice among the Dalits as alleged Maratha criminals were scot free even after committing heinous crimes of a similar nature against Dalits. The demand for reservation in educational institutions and workplaces for the Marathas in Maharashtra has been an ongoing issue for a long time. A sense of resentment against migrants from other states and against people belonging to the reserved categories are often noticed due to competition in economic and educational fields. However, economic opportunism perpetuated in the garb of any kind of identity will only cause further damage to the ideals of the Indian Constitution. Efforts to diminish inequality in growth and development in different parts of the country should be undertaken in order to check migration which results in a burden on the economies of certain states and creates an imbalance in the home state as well.

While it is true that reservations have benefitted the reserved categories, the benefit has only reached the creamy layer of the population. These provisions have also become a reason of conflict in the Indian society where several communities have demanded recognition and inclusion under these categories and some sections have critizied these ‘unfair’ provisions. Despite several years since gaining independence India has not been able to convert its population into human resource and the provision of reservation has been blamed as one of the reasons. However, the system of reservation has not been able to get rid of the ‘pollution’ prejudice that is held against certain castes. Although untouchablility has been abolished constitutionally, the practice still remains as shown by the survey. This again reinforces the fact that without ensuring social progress economic and political progress will not lead to a holistic development. Although these sections have been empowered legally, the social prejudices are still prevalent.

Moreover, the female section of the Indian society has been in a disadvantaged position and continues to be in such a position even in the 21st century. It has been noticed that the larger share of violence has to be borne by the women from the Dalit community. In twin cases of rape and murder of a fifteen year old Dalit girl whose mutilated body was found on the banks of a water channel in Jind district and an eleven year old Dalit girl whose body was discovered in the Panipat district. Both these cases again brought forth the henoius side of human beings as the former body bore signs of gang-rape, ruptured lungs, and foreign objects inserted into her private parts and the latter not only was gang-raped but also the victim of necrophilia.  These are not isolated incidents as several other cases of sexual abuse against Dalit women and girls have been raging rampant in the country. As patriarchal notions of tradition and honour are located in the female body, violation of the body leads to an automatic violation of the associated honour which in turn leads to loss of community pride. Since ancient times violating women’s honour was seen as a direct insult to the community as well as the pride of the male members of the community who are then effeminized.  However, in another case of gang-rape and murder of a teenage girl from Bulandshahr district whose body was found in a canal in Greater Noida shook the state as the three accused confessed their wish to “have fun” with the girl after being arrested, as reported by the Times of India. The projection of women as sexualized objects existing for male satisfaction and needs have been projected by the media time again. Patriarchal prejudices have ensured that the ‘other’ sex remains subjugated and by propagating the same several member of our society have provided the justification for acts of violence. Their identities as Dalit women have resulted in them being in a vulnerable position not only due to patriarchy but also due to the prevailing social prejudices against them. They are the victims of casteist patriarchy (Rege 1998).

A vehement struggle for power has been waged in the social, political, and economic spheres since the rise of pressure groups in the abovementioned domains. Hence oppositions and counter-demands have surged time and again from various quarters. While the political and economic spheres have seen activism, the social sphere has maintained its status quo to a large extent. This has further reduced the possibility of real empowerment and consequent development of the disadvantaged sections. The brunt of prejudices has always been directed towards these sections but an opportunity to redeem their position has always been denied to them.

Bibliography

Coffey, Diane, Payal Hathi, Nidhi Khurana, and Amit Thorat. "Explicit Prejudice: Evidence from a New Survey." Economic & Political Weekly, January 6, 2018: 46-53.

Rege, Sharmila. "Dalit Women Talk Differently- A Critique of Difference and Towards a Dalit Feminist Standpoint Position." Economic & Political Weekly, October 31, 1998: 39-46.

Image Credit: http://hdom.org

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Written By Suvasree Dutta

M.A. in Political Science (Pursuing)

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