Eradicating Untouchability – a practical solution

Do you dream of an India rid of caste and untouchability? Then this article is for you. Read on fully and carefully.

Dalit population in India is around 20 crores (200 million) and we have 10.4 crores (104 million) Adivasis. It’s been 75 years since we achieved freedom from the British. If we take a realistic look at the state of Dalits and Adivasis and the crimes related to them, it is very depressing.

Dalit Discrimination – a reality

Family fined 25,000 as 3-year-old Dalit boy entered the temple

Vinaya Samarasya Yojana anti-untouchability scheme was recently launched by Karnataka. The scheme is named after a three-year-old Dalit boy Vinay, whose family was asked to pay a fine of Rs 25000 after the boy tried to enter a temple in Karnataka’s Koppal district.

Nothing changed for the family

After the news grabbed the attention of the national media, upper-caste village leaders decided to socially boycott Vinay’s family. After being further marginalized, they had no choice but to leave the village. In November last year, they abandoned their house and land and moved out.
https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/bangalore/karnataka-names-anti-untouchability-scheme-after-dalit-boy-7843446/

‘Dalits Are Inferior’: Why Caste is not Past in Hathras Victim’s Village

Even Educated Dalits are Discriminated against

If you think that the ill-treatment of Dalits is restricted only to rural areas and discrimination is absent among the educated folks, the videos below will prove you wrong. 

India’s caste system: What it means to be a Dalit woman?

Dalit discrimination raises its ugly head in the US also

If you believe that Dalit discrimination is a phenomenon restricted only to India, you are completely wrong. Dalit students in the US also faced discrimination because of their Dalit identity.

https://thewire.in/caste/insults-isolation-broken-friendships-dalit-students-open-up-on-caste-discrimination-in-us

India and Untouchability – what do the stats say?

“1,38,825 cases of atrocities against Dalits reported over 3 years” says the Government.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/138825-cases-of-atrocities-against-dalits-reported-over-3-years-govt-101648003835349.html

Every day, on average, 10 cases of rape of Dalit women were reported.

https://www.news18.com/news/india/on-an-average-india-reported-10-cases-of-rape-of-dalit-women-daily-in-2019-ncrb-data-shows-2930179.html

Uttar Pradesh tops the list of states on crimes against Dalits. 

https://ncrb.gov.in/en/crime-in-india-table-addtional-table-and-chapter-contents?field_date_value%5Bvalue%5D%5Byear%5D=2020&field_select_table_title_of_crim_value=8&items_per_page=50

Government’s efforts to eradicate Untouchability

The Government of India has made several attempts and carried out measures to eradicate Untouchability. Some of them are:  

  • Reservations for members of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes in different spheres of public life. 
  • Article 17 of the Constitution abolished untouchability which means that no one can prevent Dalits from educating themselves, entering temples, using public facilities, etc.
  • Article 15 of the Constitution notes that no citizen of India shall be discriminated against on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth.
  • Untouchability Abolition Act – making Untouchability a punishable crime.
  • The 1989 Prevention of Atrocities Act revised and strengthened the legal provisions punishing acts of violence or humiliation against Dalits and Adivasis.
  • National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) and National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) were set up to investigate and monitor all matters related to safeguarding the provisions for SC/ST under the Constitution and evaluating the working of those safeguards.

Despite these efforts, the ground reality of how the Dalits are viewed and treated is extremely distressing. 

Leaders on eradication of Untouchability

Many from Jyotirao Phule, who in the 1800s worked tirelessly to eradicate untouchability, to EVR Periyar in Tamil Nadu, and Dr. Ambedkar have toiled for Dalit empowerment and for eradicating the menace of untouchability by spearheading Untouchability Prevention Movement. Despite the persistent efforts of such sincere and dedicated leaders, the ground reality has hardly changed.

Why are we failing in eradicating Untouchability?

Identify the root cause of Untouchability

To find the best solution to eradicate untouchability, one must take an honest and unbiased approach. We cannot arrive at a solution unless we tackle the root cause of the evil. The root cause of untouchability is the mindset of the people. People are taught to believe that some are superior to others just by virtue of their birth.  Focusing on the phrase “by virtue of their birth” is very important. Let’s understand this through a simple example.

Real-life Example

Mr. A is a rich and well-educated Dalit. Mr. B is uneducated, unemployed, and very poor but he believes he is born in an “upper caste”. Even though Mr. A is better than Mr. B in education, financial status, and employment, Mr. B thinks he is better than Mr. A just by virtue of his birth. He thinks, that just because he was born in an “upper caste” family, it makes him better than Mr. A.

Even if a Dalit becomes the President of the country, a security guard who belongs to an “upper caste” will consider the Dalit President inferior to him because of this mindset. Now, it must be clear to you that it is the mindset of the people that is the issue. 

Current solutions do not change the mindset of the people

The current solutions like a reservation for Dalits, legal protection against untouchability, etc. definitely make a difference in the lives of Dalits but they only address the economic and social empowerment. This economic and social empowerment of Dalits does nothing to change the mindset of the people who believe they are superior to others just by virtue of their birth. This is exactly why we could not eradicate the evil of Untouchability. This is exactly why, even in the US, Dalits are treated inferior to others.

Untouchability and Dr. Ambedkar

Without a doubt, Dr. Ambedkar was a champion who fought tirelessly for the emancipation of the Dalits and the oppressed classes. He proclaimed:

“So long as you do not achieve social liberty, whatever freedom is provided by the law is of no avail to you”.

As we had pointed out above, the current measures to address untouchability do not help the Dalits achieve true social liberty. So, according to the very words of Dr. Ambedkar, the current measures are not of great use to Dalits in giving them social liberty.

What was Dr. Ambedkar’s solution to Untouchability?

Dr. Ambedkar correctly identified that the mindset of the people is the real issue and unless a Dalit comes out of the spectrum of that mindset, he cannot achieve true liberty.

Dr. Ambedkar therefore said:

“I like the religion that teaches liberty, equality and fraternity”.

He opted to leave Hinduism and converted to Buddhism in 1956. Fast forward 66 years later, the question we must ask is: are the Dalits treated better after they converted to Buddhism? The answer is sadly no. The main reason for that could be conversion to Buddhism does not really help Dalits shed their Dalit identity.

In Boycotting Hinduism, Dalits Keep Pride But See No Equality

Follow the footsteps of Dr. Ambedkar and think for yourself 

Dr. Ambedkar is a legend in the sense that he taught people to think and strive for progress. Truly following Dr. Ambedkar is in following his footsteps in pursuit of the truth that can help you break the shackles of discrimination and give you the dignity that you truly deserve as a human being. We earnestly request you to keep this in mind while you read further.

Can Islam be a solution to end the discrimination against you? Find out for yourself.

Islam on equality of humans

Equality of humans is an important tenet of Islam. God says in the Quran:

"O Mankind! Surely, We (God) created you from a male and a female, and made you into peoples and tribes so that you may know each other. Surely the most superior of you in the sight of God is the most righteous among you." 49:13

Prophet Muhammad said:

“O people, verily your God is One and your father is one. Verily there is no superiority of an Arab over a non-Arab or of a non-Arab over an Arab, or of a red man over a black man, or of a black man over a red man, except in terms of righteousness. Have I conveyed the message?” 

The people said: You have conveyed the message.

Ideals need a system or a process for implementation

We have two things – 1) Ideals and 2) A System or a process to implement those ideals. 

Without a robust system or process, the ideals will remain on paper as a theory with no practical implementation.

Islam teaches a mechanism to implement Equality

Apart from preaching “Equality of humans”, Islam also prescribes a system or a process to implement the concept of equality in our daily lives. 

Five times congregational prayer

As you might already know, Islam prescribes five times prayers in a day. Muslims pray these prayers as a group. During this prayer, a Muslim stands shoulder to shoulder, foot to foot with other Muslims. There is absolutely NO preference shown for anyone in this prayer. The people who come first occupy the first row. 

When a Muslim stands in prayer, the person standing next to him might be poor, uneducated, or extremely rich and educated. The person standing next to him might be from a different state, speaking a different language, and might have a different skin colour. Sometimes, the person might be from a different country altogether. None is treated differently. Throughout the world, whichever mosque you go to, you will see this practice of everyone standing next to each other, equal in the sight of God. Anyone who knows the Quran well can lead the prayer for all the people. There are NO other criteria to lead the prayer. 

Muslims undergo this practice of equality, five times every day. In a month alone, a Muslim undergoes this practice 150 times. This means, 150 times, he stands foot to foot, shoulder to shoulder with different people. In a year, it is 1800 times. When a person goes through this practice on a regular and consistent basis, he becomes fully sensitized to the concept of equality. This makes practicing equality outside prayer easier.

Hajj  – an annual assembly that demonstrates universal brotherhood

One of the pillars of Islam is Hajj, where Muslims from all around the world gather. The Muslims are commanded to wear two pieces of unsworn white clothes. 

All Muslims rich and poor, the white and the black, educated and uneducated, are dressed exactly in the same colour, in the same manner. No preference is given to anyone and all Muslims are treated the same way. This is one of the greatest demonstrations of the Universal Brotherhood.

Did Islam eradicate Untouchability?

Now comes the big question. Was Islam able to eradicate Untouchability in India? The answer is a strong “Yes” for the most part. The Muslims in India are people of this land. Their ancestors were Hindus from different castes who embraced Islam. If you ask a Muslim what was the caste of their ancestors, a vast majority of them would not be able to give a definite answer. Not just that, with so many marriages between Muslims, there is absolutely no practical way to trace back to find the caste their ancestors belonged to. 

Hindus who were Dalits, Jats, Thakurs, Brahmins, Reddys, Raos, etc. embraced Islam and the Muslims of today’s generation have no idea of what their caste was. See how Islam erases the caste identity. When you practically do not know what caste you belong to, it goes without saying that there cannot be any claim of superiority by virtue of birth.

Conversion and Reservation

Indian law grants reservation to a Dalit when he converts to Buddhism or Sikhism BUT not when he converts to Islam or Christianity. Let’s think about this. While it might look like a good idea to convert to Buddhism and enjoy the reservation benefits, please remember that enjoying this benefit comes at a cost. Throughout your life and the life of your kids and their kids, you are made to declare that you are a Dalit without which you cannot enjoy the benefits of reservation. As you can see, you can never shed your Dalit identity. What difference did the conversion make if you are still made to carry your Dalit identity?

Islam is not an Arab religion

Many have a misconception that Islam is an Arab religion. It is true that Prophet Muhammad was born in Arabia but that does not make the ideology “Arab”. If you think about this, every ideology originates from one or the other geographical location. Communism propounded by Karl Marx originated in Russia. Do we call Communism a Russian ideology? 

What about Buddhism? Buddha was born in India and Buddhism originated in India but the country that has the largest number of Buddhists in the world is China. Many countries like Cambodia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Burma, South Korea, Japan, and Singapore are Buddhist countries. If they see Buddhism as an Indian ideology, can they practice Buddhism?

We must look at the truth and rationale behind the ideology and not where it started from. 

Did you know that ONLY 20% of the Muslim population is Arab? 80% of Muslims are non-Arabs. This stat must tell you something!

Note: Islam was not started by Prophet Muhammad. “Islam” is a way of life that involves “Complete submission and obedience to God”. We believe all the Prophets of God right from the first human being Adam, taught the same way of life which is “Complete submission and obedience to God”. The last Prophet in the long line of Prophets is Prophet Muhammad. 

You can read more about Islam here, here, and here.