“Democracy and caste system can’t go hand in hand”: Paying attention to the enforcement of India’s 1989 act to prevent the commission of offences of atrocities against members of SCs and STs (Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes)

Hardly anyone seems to have paid attention to India’s dismal showing at the UN Human Rights Council’s universal periodical review when the latter alleged that India is “all words, no action” on working against caste and related discrimination. The allegations are built around, among other things, data from the National Crime Records Bureau, which says, “Atrocities against Dalit women include: Verbal abuse and sexual epithets, naked parading, pulling out of teeth, tongue and nails, and violence, including murder. Dalit women are also threatened by rape as part of collective violence by higher castes.” The review is startling also because it alleges that over 160 million Indians continue to endure caste-based persecution. […]

Caste is alive in Indian cities. Discrimination, though subtle, exists. However, things are changing. Says André Béteille, professor emeritus of sociology, Delhi University: “The growth and expansion of a new middle class, attendant on demographic, technological and economic changes is altering the operation of caste.” […]

Notions of pollution, however, prevail. Mari Marcel Thekaekara, a human rights activist and writer based in Gudalur, Tamil Nadu, says “in an upper middle-class Maharashtrian (mixed-caste) building in Worli, a bai told my daughter hers is the only family that doesn’t keep a separate glass for the bai.”

Where caste has inadvertently become prominent in urban environs is in the form of relative deprivation — a feeling of being deprived of what one believes oneself to be entitled to — arising from the reservation policies of the Indian government (even though they have done a lot of good — for example, 13% of IAS officers now are from lower castes, as opposed to being negligible at the time of Independence). A feeling of resentment seems to be simmering among people of the general category. […]

So, while urbanisation is undermining the dehumanising phenomena of caste, social notions are being chipped away far more slowly.  […]

1) Law & enforcement

* The Protection of Civil Rights (PCR) Act 1955 — An act to prescribe punishment for the 1 [preaching and practice of ‘Untouchability’] for the enforcement of any disability arising therefrom for matters connected therewith.

* The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities): POA Act, 1989 — An act to prevent the commission of offences of atrocities against members of Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, to provide for special courts for the trial of such offences […]

* National Commissions
— The first commission for SCs & STs was set up in August 1978.
— In 1987, the Commission for SCs & STs was renamed as the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. It was set up as a National Level Advisory Body to advise the government on policy issues and development of SCs & STs.
— The statutory National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes came into being after the passing of the Constitution (Sixty Fifth Amendment) Bill, 1990
— Constitution (89th Amendment) 2003 came into force in 2004 — the erstwhile National Commission for Scheduled Castes & Scheduled Tribes was replaced by (1) National Commission for Scheduled Castes and (2) National Commission for Scheduled Tribes.
— May 16, 2012: Parliament passed a Bill that sought to exempt some central institutions from implementing the other backward castes quota where it exceeds the 50% reservation limit set by the SC. The Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Amendment Bill, 2012, was passed by a voice vote in the Lok Sabha on May 16.
— May 14, 2012: LS Speaker Meira Kumar said, “It’s an irrefutable truth that democracy and caste system can’t go hand in hand.”
— June 6, 2012, Jaipur: Alleging that the Rajasthan govt was ‘ignoring’ Gujjars and other castes’ reservation issue, Gujjar leader KS Bainsla began a ‘sit-in’ in Sawaimadhopur.

Compiled By: Samar Khurshid

2) Education

Reservation Caste in central government funded higher education institutions, 22.5% of available seats are reserved for Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST). This percentage has been raised to 49.5% by including an additional 27% reservation for OBCs. This ratio is followed even in Parliament and all elections where a few constituencies are earmarked for those from certain communities (which keeps rotating as per the Delimitation Commission). […]

4)  Employment

The percentage of reservation in direct recruitment on all India basis by open competition for SCs and STs is 15% and 7.5% respectively. Direct recruitment on all India basis otherwise than by open competition reservation for SCs and STs is 16.66% and 7.5% respectively. 3rd October 2000 — relaxations and concessions in the matter of promotion were restored to SCs and STs. […]

Source: “Caste & the city” by Pankaj Mullick, Hindustan Times, New Delhi , June 09, 2012
Address : http://www.hindustantimes.com/News-Feed/News/Caste-amp-the-city/Article1-868659.aspx
Date Visited: Sun Jun 10 2012 11:22:24 GMT+0200 (CEST)

The history of violence is as old as civilisation. Settled, as opposed to nomadic, societies were mostly hierarchical, and no one got to be at the top — or wield power as a king — without violence being involved. Not surprisingly, history-writing for a long time was synonymous with the biographies of kings and chronicles of war. Liberal democracy, with its promise of equality, was supposed to resolve the problem of violence. While this promise has somewhat held in the mature democracies of the West, it hasn’t in the post-colonial world where India belongs.

Violence has dogged Indian democracy right from its birth. How do we explain the continued co-existence of violence and democracy despite the fact that the two are antithetical to each other? Neera Chandhoke, a political science scholar, attempts to answer this question in The Violence in Our Bones: Mapping The Deadly Fault Lines Within Indian Society.

In a slave society, the master isn’t required to unleash violence every single day. Just because the slave seems happy to serve his master doesn’t make the latter non-violent. The structural violence of slavery or untouchability doesn’t need intentionality precisely because the intent is encoded in the collective memory of the tremendous violence that, in the distant past, accomplished the subjugation of a community. It is this memory, passed on through generations, that enforces a violent act of ritual humiliation so very ‘non-violently’.

Source: “The Violence in Our Bones: Mapping the Deadly Fault Lines Within Indian Society’ review: An ideology of hatred” by G. Sampath (The Hindu, 6 November 2021)
URL: https://www.thehindu.com/books/books-reviews/the-violence-in-our-bones-mapping-the-deadly-fault-lines-within-indian-society-review-an-ideology-of-hatred/article37337087.ece
Date Visited: 10 November 2021

Tip: for publications on this subject, type “caste violence” or similar keywords in the search field seen below.

“Education has to liberate a person from narrow world view and the boundaries of caste, community, race and gender. Teachers have been entrusted with the responsibility of moulding the young minds to understand the world and make it better.” – Shri Pranab Mukherjee, President of India (National Award 2014 to Teachers)

Jawaharlal Nehru >>
Photo © Indian Express

Nehru was fascinated by the spontaneity of tribal culture and their capacity of joy and heroism in spite of their appalling poverty, destitution, and ignorance. […] In Nehru’s view, the process of modernization must not be taken as forcing a sudden break with the tribals past but help them build upon it and grow by a natural process of evolution.” – Dr. Chittaranjan Mishra in “Tribal Philosophy and Pandit Nehru” (Odisha Review, November 2017) | Learn more >>

See also

Learn more: Bondage | Bonded labour | Human trafficking | SlaveryZamindari >>
Human trafficking is a crime. To report in India, call Shakti Vahini
+91-11-42244224, +91-9582909025 or the national helpline Childline on 1098.

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Tip: Bhimayana: Experiences of Untouchability. Graphic novelon Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar with art by award winning Gond artists Durgabai Vyam and Subhas Vyam; story by Srividya Natarajan and S. Anand. Navayana Publishing. Critically acclaimed as “a magnificent work of breathtaking art that symbolises the soul-stirring biography of an exceptional leader” and “a must-read for every child and adult in the nation and a must-include in every school’s curriculum”. (Sowmya Sivakumar in The Hindu Literary Review) | Find a library copy on WorldCat.org | Learn more >>

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