Observing untouchability

Results from a recent survey conducted by the National Law School, Bangalore on the impact of Protection of Civil Rights Act on the practice of untouchability, was published in the ToI today.

Let me summarize –

Sample size – Dalit/Scheduled Castes (648)

Questions as deduced from the news report –

1. Are you (Dalits) allowed to enter Temples? – 516 Dalits say No

2. Are you allowed to take out processions of your deities? – 151 Dalits say No

3. Are you allowed to beat drums during marriage processions? – 581 Dalits say Yes

4. Are you invited for social gatherings/Wedding feasts? – 591 Dalits say Yes

  • Are you expected to wait for “others” to finish before eating? – 20% Dalits say Yes
  • Are you barred from entering the main streets of your villages? – 7% Dalits say Yes
  • Are you allowed to wear sandals and walk in fron of a “dominant caste” member? – 7% Dalits say No
  • Are you expected to talk with folded hands? – 9% Dalits say Yes
  • Are you expected to stand up in respect? – 29% Dalits say Yes

5. Are you invited into “non-Dalit” houses? – 82% Dalits say Yes

6. Are you served food and water in “non Dalit” homes? – 20% Dalits say No

7. If yes, are you served in separate vessels? – 24% Dalits say Yes

Sample size – Non-Dalit (Unknown)

1. 16% of non-Dalits questioned conceded that SCs were barred from temple activities

2. 13% refused to comment, showing the bias continued to be strong

Survey deduction – “The non-SCs confirmed what 516 of a sample of 648 Dalits said ^they were denied entry to temples.”

3. 20% non-SCs said they expected SCs to wash their plates after eating.

4. “A big section” of non-SCs said they would not allow SCs into their houses while an equal number refused to comment, showing the sensitivity was not easy to overcome.

5. “Many” in Karnataka, MP and Rajasthan named Brahmins and Konkani castes as barring their entry while in Bengal, 34 different OBCs were identified.

Other observations –

Dalit children are still growing with the stigma of being from inferior class. While seating arrangements are common in schools, SC kids in “many” cases are asked to take the back benches. Also, “many” are served midday meals separately from other children.

The “bias showed” (??) when over 40% non-SC respondents agreed there were no SC teachers in their village schools.
Vestiges of medieval society became apparent when upper castes and OBCs, “if only a handful”, revealed they served SCs in towels or their upper garments; while some poured water directly into the cupped Dalit hands for drinking instead of giving a tumbler. “A few cases” showed that barbers used separate instruments for haircut of Dalits.

Observation on occupation –

154 of 553 Dalits performed drumbeating, 42 grave digging while 97 were into making chappals. As many as 78 said they were asked to carry out animal sacrifice and 57 said they were sweepers.

Comment by Surveyer –

The survey was carried out in six states and 24 villages, a mix of those with highest and lowest crimes under PCR Act. S Japhet, director, Centre of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy, said, “No study can claim to be totally representative because of social and regional diversity. But this is as comprehensive as it can be as an empirical study. The methodology is scientific.”

– Namaste


Palahalli S writes – I have a few questions and then some comments;

1. Why was the used (Dalit) “sample size” considered sufficient?

2. What were the villages and towns used in the survey?

3. What was the sample size (in numbers) of the non-Dalit respondents?

4. What were the castes of the Dalit and non-Dalit respondents? Their income groups?

5. Were the Dalit respondents Hindu? Or were there Christians and Muslims too? %ages?

6. Which castes named “Brahmins and Konkanis” as guilty of barring Dalits from Temples? What were their own position on Temple entry of Dalits?

While the questions posed to the surveyor are relevant, what must be the Hindu nationalist (both Dalit and non-Dalit) reaction to this exercise?

In my opinion, we should view it positively. This brings to light that there are Dalits still being discriminated against – In howsoever a manner. This type of discrimination is negative because there are no “negative behaviors” on the part of Dalits, that guide this discrimination.

A healthy skeptisicm as regards the survey itself will be in order only post the above questions being answered to reveal an agenda. (If there is one)

A very important lesson for Hindus who would discriminate against Dalits is the fact that Dalits still take pride in their traditions. In their Gods and Goddesses. No amount of anti-Hindu propaganda seems to have worked on their minds. Dalits reveal a positive frame of mind vis a vis their religion while Hindus who keep them out only because they are Dalit, do not deserve to call themselves Hindus of any caste, by any stretch of the imagination.

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