Why does India not care for a Dalit's life?

We remain a deeply casteist society which only thinks through the prism of a parochial mindset.

 |  5-minute read |   20-03-2016
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Another day. Another Dalit man getting lynched, this time in the prosperous, "progressive" state of Tamil Nadu. Local authorities take a superficial cognisance of the case. Visual media outlets turn a blind eye as always and the print media (only a few) will only accord a tiny space to the news, deep inside those endless pages, almost rendering it as a token gesture.

Then it will be the same old story in which everything comes back to normal in a jiffy. It seldom takes a few minutes for people to move on in life. In fact, it possibly doesn't make much of a difference to the majority of this country.

The event will soon get discarded to the dustbin of history as do most of such cases. This historically marginalised community - the Dalits - will continue to live on the margins of the state where they hope to avail of the leftovers of our burgeoning growth and development.

Also read: Dalit youth's murder a grim reminder of Tamil Nadu's brutal casteism

Do they really feature in our blueprint for a prosperous future? Or is our goal of inclusive growth a grand mirage that leaves the majority in a state of grave depredation and serves only a handful who are out to make our democracy into a plutocracy?

So do we, the proud citizens of this country, really care for the betterment of our Dalit brethren? At a time when an ocean of information is available to us through the internet and other means, the thing that should sadden us the most is our outright ignorance of their deprivation in general.

Also read: Rohith Vemula's mother paid the price for being Dalit

The statistics of two Dalits getting killed, three getting molested and five households getting torched everyday is a fact that has been with us for years as has been pointed to us by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).

It is not that we are oblivious of these developments. We are in a more perilous situation where the brutal lynching of one of our fellow citizens fails to generate any empathy.

Also read: How Rohith Vemula’s 'Dalit identity' has been milked by all

The brutality of the event gets easily transformed in a lifeless statistic, a figure that erases all the suffering in a flash. Have we reached a stage where we can pronounce the death of our moral conscience? Or is it that our collective conscience suddenly springs back to life only after witnessing a mass pogrom or a natural hazard or at best, only when a terrorist is exonerated from his charges?

If there is a spectacle of people dying in an unjust manner, why does it fail to connect us all with grief and resentment? Exactly how many people should die in order to say that too many people have died? The numbers for the Dalit community keep soaring at an alarming rate, with practically no signs of a southward dip.

A recent incident in which more than 100 Dalit houses were up in flames in Bihar also seems now to be a meticulously buried history. The houses were allegedly torched by a few upper caste men, but will we ever see an impartial and unbiased probe taking place to bring the case to a justified closure? And for the love of god, can the media once prove us wrong in actually managing to do a sustained follow up of dastardly incidents like these?

The sad story of our hyper individualised lives is that we no longer care about anyone apart from our immediate family members. The wide gulf between the incident and our own spatial positioning seem to deeply entrench this feeling of staying purposefully aloof from the entire episode.

Has the notion of citizenship completely failed in India? The state is the obvious culprit and we all then are free to do what we have always liked doing, cast aspersions on others and thereby see to it that you come out sans any blemish.

The fact is that for all our boisterous claims of being a progressive, forward-looking democracy, we remain a deeply casteist society which only thinks through the prism of a parochial mindset. A casteist society like ours can never be able to realise the dream of everyone being able to call themselves as Indian citizens in its truest sense.

The quotidian violence in the lives of Dalits, both physical as well as psychological, will constantly act as a hindrance to achieve the dream of living in a social democracy. Sadly, the routine violence in their already emasculated lives has got normalised. It almost makes one feel that this has happened to them for centuries and hence, the eerie silence is justified.

As the architect of our Constitution, BR Ambedkar had rightly pointed out that we had achieved political democracy but it would not matter much if we didn't manage to complete the christening of social and economic democracy.

This prescient remark still keeps haunting us even after nearly 70 years of independence. It should act as a template for what Akeel Bilgrami would call "a socially unalienable life" that works on the principle of "Nobody in society is well off if someone is badly off". The quest for justice might seem elusive but it is never too late for self introspection.

Writer

Suraj Kumar Thube Suraj Kumar Thube

The writer has done his MA in political science with a special interest in Indian democracy and Indian political thought. He also likes listening to Hindustani Classical music and watching football.

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