INDIA’S NOT-SO-SILENT APARTHEID: TWO DALIT BOYS ATTACKED FOR ADMISSION IN IIT

NEW DELHI: Two brothers in a village in the Pratapgarh district of Uttar Pradesh were stoned, just one incident in a series of attacks on them. Their crime? They are Dalits, and had passed the examinations for the Indian Institute of Technology. This was not acceptable to the upper-caste villagers. The brothers, Raju and Brijesh Saroj, are sons of a daily wage labourer living in Rehua Lalganj village. Intelligent and committed, the boys —18 and 19 years respectively—spent their years studying hard, topping school examinations and getting scholarships. They have faced harassment, violence, abuse for this with Brajesh at the age of 10 being thrashed by a school teacher for daring to question his Sanskrit translation. Despite this both boys have dreams. Brijesh wants to join the civil services, his brother the MBA. The family lives in two tiny rooms. They do not have the money to pay for the IIT education, but various politicians including the state Chief Minister have come forward to meet this expenditure. At least so they say at the moment. India continues to maltreat and discriminate against Dalits, atrocities against whom have again risen over the past few years according to reports. Incidents take up about a paragraph in the newspapers, and very occasionally are highlighted. Even so little has been done to alleviate the apartheid like conditions in which Dalits are compelled to live with untouchability still rampant. In October last, a mahadalit boy was burnt alive by four upper caste men in a Bihar village because the boy’s goat had strayed into one of their fields. The four men — having previously thrashed the boy, who had then managed to escape — stormed the boy’s home and set him alight after pouring kerosene on him. The boy succumbed to his injuries. In the same month, three upper-caste men gang raped six dalit women, including four teenage girls again in Bihar. A few months ago, two Dalit children were brutally beaten and rusticated from a primary school in Rajasthan for drinking water from a matka (earthen pot) used by an upper caste teacher. The incident went unreported for over two weeks. In September, a dalit woman was brutally beaten and her house torched in Memdarganj in Nawada district, Bihar. She was accused of practising witchcraft. Earlier this year, following tensions over the issue of the entry of Dalits into a temple, a dalit woman was beaten and stripped by higher caste assailants in Gangooru village in Belur taluk. In June, in Gugal Kota village in Alwar, Rajasthan, a young Dalit bridegroom was attacked because he was riding a horse to his wedding. The Rajputs in the village allegedly did not like the celebrations as these were seen as being beyond the Dalits “status”, and the boy was pulled down from the horse and the guests attacked and beaten. A few months ago, in Koliwad village in the Hubli district of Karnataka haircutting salons shut down because a few Dalit youths wanted to have a haircut but fearing reprisal from the upper caste communities, the barbers refused to do so and shut down their shops. In July this year, a village headman ordered a retaliatory rape of Dalit girl, whilst the village stood back and watched. The girl’s brother had allegedly raped the wife of the girl’s rapist. In New Delhi, about 90 Dalit families from Haryana have been camping for extended periods to demand justice for four gangrape victims. Their demand is to bring the culprits to justice and compensation to the victims — a demand that has thus far fell on deaf years. In fact, violence against Dalits has been on the rise. According to data released by the National Confederation of Dalit Organisations (NACDOR), a total of 3,198 cases related to atrocities on dalits have been registered between 2004 and 2013 as against 1,305 from 1994 to 2003. Most cases still go unreported, with Dalits — who continue to live in the outskirts of villages, drawing water from different wells and praying in separate temples — fearing reprisal attacks. The National Human Rights Commission Report on the Prevention of Atrocities against Scheduled Castes says that, “every 18 minutes a crime is committed against a Dalit. Every day 3 Dalit women are raped, 2 Dalits are murdered and 2 Dalits Houses are burnt in India, 11 Dalits are beaten. Every week: 13 Dalits are murdered, 5 Dalits home or possessions are burnt, 6 Dalits are kidnapped or abducted.” In terms of their social and economic status, “37 percent of Dalits are living below poverty in India. More than half (54%) of their children are undernourished in India. 83 per 1000 children born in Dalit community are probability of dying before the first birthday. 45 percent of Dalits do not know read and write in India. Dalits women burden double discrimination (gender and caste) in India. Only 27 percent of Dalits women give institutional deliveries in India. About one third of Dalit households do not have basic facilities. Public health workers refuse to visit Dalit homes in 33% of villages. Dalits are prevented from entering police station in 27.6% of villages. Dalit children had to sit separately while eating in 37.8% of Govt. schools. Dalits do not get mail delivered to their homes in 23.5% of villages. Dalits are denied access to water sources in 48.4% of villages because of segregation & untouchability practices. Half of India’s Dalit children are undernourished, 21% are severely underweight & 12% die before their 5th birthday. Literacy rates for Dalit women are as low as 37.8% In Rural India.”
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