Low castes in India suffer in silence

Khurram Minhas

AS many as thirty-four US lawmakers have expressed their concerns and reservations over increasing intolerance and violence against members of minority communities in India. The letter sent by Tom Lantos, Human Rights Commission, a bipartisan caucus of the House of Representatives, was signed by eight senators and 26 members of the House, from both parties. “A nearly country-wide beef ban is increasing tensions and encouraging vigilante violence against the Indian Muslim community,” the letter noted, while mentioning killings in Manipur and Uttar Pradesh areas in this regard.
However, it is not only religion, which becomes source of discrimination in India. Since 2014, caste system in India has been highlighted by international media persistently. However, this is not a new issue as India has remained subjugated under colonial powers due to cast system for more than 2000 years. Scheduled Caste (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST) and Other Backward Classes (OBCs) never resisted against any colonial power. The Communal Award was announced by the British on 16 August 1932 granting separate electorates in British India to the Forward Caste, Lower Caste, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, Indian Christians, Anglo-Indians, Europeans and Untouchables. Gandhi and Nehru strongly opposed the Communal Award on the grounds that it would disintegrate Hindu society.Gandhi began an indefinite hunger strike against the award. Later, the ‘Poona Pact’ was inked on September 24, 1932 between Dr. BabasahebAmbedkar and Mahatma Gandhi. Poona Pact nullified the Communal Award, which was considered a great success of Gandhi and Congress.
After 32 years of independence, the Mandal Commission was established in India in 1979 under the supervision of BashuriNaathMandal with a mandate to identify the socially or educationally backward classes and to allocate appropriate quota in the government jobs. The commission allocated 22.5 percent quota to OBCs. In 1989, the then Prime Minister of India VishwanathPratap Singh increased the quota for OBCs up to 27 percent. Currently, these SC/ST/OBCs have been granted 49.5 percent quota, i.e. SC 15 percent, ST 7.5 percent and OBCs 27 percent. However, the ratio of quota for SC/ST/OBCs varies from state to state in Indian Union. For instance, the quota for SC is 80 percent in Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Meghalaya, while in Tamil Nadu SC have been allocated only 18 percent quota.
Constitutionally, Indian National Congress (INC) had divided Indian society into four categories: Scheduled Caste (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST), Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and oupper caste Hindus.Indian Constitution offers quota system in electoral process and it has allocated 131 seats to SC/ST/OBCs in LokSabha. SC has been allocated 84 seats while 47 seats of LokSabha have been allocated to ST. Moreover, Indian Constitution gives proper share to SC/ST/OBCs by allocating percentage in the government jobs and admission in the government educational institutions. Since 1931, caste column in national census was abolished. Indian leadership followed the pattern of British same practice continued till 2011.
Renowned Indian scholar, ParvezDewan had done extensive research on Indian Caste system. In his book ‘Caste, Hindu Heroes and All others are Villains’, he opines that upper Hindu caste has misused print and electronic media against SC/ST/OBCs. He had taken 300 Hindi films and 600 Indian commercials as a case study and concluded that electronic media had deliberately depicted upper Hindu caste as ‘Hero’ while SC/ST/OBCs was depicted as ‘Villain’.
Indian criminal justice system does not provide adequate security to SC/ST/OBCs. More than 89 percent perpetrators against SC/ST/OBCs get acquitted from courts. Indian Army and Indian Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC) severely discriminate against SC/ST/OBCs in recruitment process. Hindu Brahmans and Rajputs have established their monopoly in these two institutions. Mr. Shad informed: “Muslims are less than 2 percent in Indian Army. It is widely believed that there are only 29000 Muslims in 1.3 Million Indian Army. SC/ST/OBCs are likely to be less than this ratio. Indian Army has named its various units on upper Hindu castes. However, it has rejected the demand for establishment of a new unit named ‘Dalit’.” Almost 47 percent SC/ST/OBCs are living below the poverty line.
More than 54 percent SC/ST/OBCs children are suffering from malnutrition.Infant mortality rate among SC/ST/OBCs is 83 per 1000 live births. More than 48 percent people are illiterate. Almost 37 percent SC/ST/OBCs are banned from entering into police stations.More than 28.5 percent SC/ST/OBCs are deprived of home delivery of postal mail. In health sector, upper caste Hindus always refuse to vaccinate SC/ST/OBCs children. More than 70 percent SC/ST/OBCs are not allowed to draw well water. SC/ST/OBCs cannot cremate their dead at the same place where Hindu Brahmans are cremated. These SC/ST/OBCs cannot worship in the same temples with upper caste Hindus. There are separate temples in rural areas for SC/ST/OBCs. Upper caste Hindus practice severe social discrimination against SC/ST/OBCs. Almost 57.8 percent SC/ST/OBCs children are forced to sit on back benches during lectures in the class. These kinds of social practices show the Indian society is far more intolerant as shown on international media.
— The writer works at Islamabad Policy Research Institute.

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