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PROFESSIONAL WORK & BATTLE AGAINST “UNTOUCHABILITY”

   Upon completing his education abroad, Ambedkar returned to Bombay as a barrister, established a successful legal practice and, in 1924, founded the Bahishkrit Hitkarini Sabha (Association for the Depressed Classes) to promote the spread of education among the socially and politically downtrodden, to improve their economic status, and to provide a voice for their grievances.  Between 1927 and 1932, Ambedkar led a series of nonviolent campaigns to assert the right of “Untouchables” to draw water from public tanks & wells and to enter Hindu places of worship.Ambedkar (painting)  Especially important was the satyagraha (nonviolent civil disobedience) he led in Mahad where tens of thousands of “Untouchables” protested successfully for their right to use water from the public Chowdar Tank, which had been traditionally prohibited to them (though animals were allowed to use the water!).  
   In a conference in late 1927, Ambedkar public condemned the classic Hindu text, the Manusmrti (Laws of Manu), for ideologically justifying the system of caste discrimination and “untouchability,” ceremonially burning copies of the ancient text.  Increasingly unpopular with dominant caste Hindus, Ambedkar became even more so due to his insistence on the need for separate electorates for the depressed classes.  When the British granted this demand, Gandhi, who felt strongly that this would divide society in future generations and prevent the political and social unity of Hindus, went on a fast until death in protest of the decision.  Under massive pressure, in 1932 Ambedkar joined with Gandhi in signing the Pune Pact, in which the demand for separate elections was dropped and replaced with special concessions like reserved seats for “Untouchables” in legislative assemblies.

VIEWS ON RELIGION & ROLE IN CONSTITUTION

   Over time, Ambedkar became increasingly critical of orthodox Hinduism, which he saw as inextricably linked to caste discrimination, and at the Yeola Conversion Conference in 1935, he stated famously, “I was born as a Hindu but will not die as a Hindu;” and exhorted his followers to leave Hinduism and join another religion.  Ambedkar was also fiercely critical of certain aspects and practices of Islam, especially child marriage, the mistreatment of women, and narrow literalist interpretations of Islamic doctrine which prevented positive social reform within Muslim society.
   In 1936, Ambedkar founded the Independent Labour Party and in 1942 he founded the Scheduled Caste Federation for the independent political assertion of Dalits.  Between 1941 and 1945 Ambedkar published a large number of controversial books and pamphlets which included criticisms of Hindu civilization, Gandhi and the Congress Party, and the Muslim League’s demand for a separate state of Pakistan.
   In 1947 India achieved independence and Prime Minister Nehru appointed Ambedkar the Minister of Law.  Despite his unpopularity and criticisms, Ambedkar was also appointed Chairman of the Drafting Committee for the Constitution of India and played the central role in its crafting.  In February 1948 he presented the Draft Constitution and it was adopted in November 1949 with all its 356 articles, including Article 11 which explicitly abolishes “untouchability” in all forms.
After resigning from the Cabinet in 1951, Ambedkar increasingly turned his attention towards Buddhism. He began writing a book, The Buddha and His Dhamma—published a year after his death and today often considered his magnum opus—which articulated his understanding of the Buddha’s message and its contemporary relevance.  On 14 October 1956, in a formal public ceremony (which explicitly rejected and condemned Hinduism), Ambedkar converted to Buddhism along with over 300,000 followers.  This action sparked an ongoing Buddhist revival in India and a number mass conversions of Dalits to Buddhism have occurred since then.

   Bhim Raj Ambedkar died on 6 December 1956.  In 1990, he was posthumously honored with India’s highest national award, “Bharat Ratna” and his portrait was adorned in the Central Hall of Parliament.  His birth date is now a public holiday in India known as Ambedkar Jayanti.

Land Rights

 

AgriculturalLaborers (ohanlon)

   Most Dalit victims of violence and discrimination are landless agricultural laborers.  In rural areas, where caste discrimination is most entrenched, land is the main asset determining an individual’s social status and standard of living.  Dalits’ lack of access to land makes them economically vulnerable and dependent upon their upper- and middle-caste landlords.  This economic dependency is often exploited by the landlords, allowing for many abuses against Dalits to go unpublished.  Furthermore, the effects of globalization—namely, the large tracts of land being provided to multi-national corporations and projects funded by the World Bank—have meant that millions of small and marginal farmers, most of whom are Dalits, are losing their land or having their land alienated each year. 

 

Laws and regulations exist that prohibit the alienation of Dalit lands, set ceilings on a single landowner’s holdings, and allocate surplus government lands to be re-distributed to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes; however, most state governments have consistently failed to adequately implement this land reform legislation.  Statistics show that government land reform policies are increasing the land holdings of non-SC households at a rate considerably higher than SC households.  Perhaps most significantly, in cases where Dalits have been offered land under agrarian reform legislation, many have been forced to refuse it for fear of dominant-caste backlash.  Since the dominant castes depend on the economic subjugation and exploitation of Dalits, and since Dalit land acquisition and ownership threatens this arrangement, land disputes often result in violence and abuse against the Dalit community (especially the destruction of their homes and property) as a means to “keep them in their place.”    Typically, in such disputes Dalit women are made the targets of violence in order to silence their male counterparts.**  [**Some information above taken from: Smita Narula, Broken People: Caste Violence Against India’s Untouchables (Human Rights Watch, 1999), p. 27-28.]

 

 

 

CASE STUDIES IN VIOLATIONS OF DALIT LAND RIGHTS

Below are some case studies documenting the extent to which land rights and atrocities against Dalits are closely interwoven:

Harvest (vic)
Dalit’s Lands Illegally Taken; Assaulted on Seeking Justice.  Amargadh Village, Bhavnagar District, Gujarat.  A Dalit (Lakabhai Nathubhai) was given 17 acres of uncultivable land by the government.  After working for nearly 40 years to make the land cultivable, four dominant-caste members of the village forcibly seized 15 acres of his land.  After writing to the authorities on four separate occasions, local officials finally came, conducted a measurement of the land, and found a clear encroachment by the accused dominant-caste individuals.  However, despite receiving written notices from the Magistrate, D.S.P, Collector, the accused refused to remove themselves from the land and on March 5, 2005, attacked Lakabhai with pipes, sticks, and hockey sticks.  Lakabhai filed a complaint with the police immediately, but it was only after he was discharged from the hospital two weeks later that the accused were arrested.

Dalit’s House Destroyed, Wife Molested Due to Land-Ownership.  Bhaniyana Village, Pokhran District, Rajasthan.
A Dalit couple (Tajaram and Bhawari Devi) are the only Dalits who own land in the entire village.  Not respecting them and wanting to take the land to extend the campus of a nearby private school, several dominant caste villagers sought to intimidate the couple.  On the night of December 7, 2006, these dominant caste members forcibly entered their house, molested and injured Bhawari Devi (failing in an attempt to rape her) and ransacked and destroyed everything in her home.  The police registered a report, but have taken no measures to protect the family and have not apprehended the accused.  

 

Physical Torture of Dalit Man Leasing/Cultivating Land.  Chhanbilla Village, Sagar District, Madhya Pradesh.  
In 2004, a group of Dalits, led by Phoolchand Ahirwar, together leased a land area from the Madhya Pradesh Irrigation Department for cultivation.  All other Dalits in the village were landless and entirely dependent on the dominant caste (Yadavs) for their livelihood.  In response to the successful Dalit initiative to purchase and cultivate land, on the night of December 20, 2006, Phoolchand was lured behind a shop at a bus stop where three dominant-caste villagers held him down, brutally cut his ears off with a blade, beat him with a stick until they broke the femur of his left thigh, and finally knocked him unconscious with a blow to the head.  When he and his family members attempted to register a report at the Police Station, the police initially simply toDominant Caste Members Cut-Off Water Supply to Dalit Lands.ok a signature on a blank sheet of paper and sent them home without registering a report.  Subsequently, the police connived with the perpetrators and actually registered two cases (Rash Driving or Riding, and Endangering Life or Safety of Others) against Phoolchand!  According to the most recent status check, Phoolchand has not been granted any compensation or assistance in paying his medical expenses from the government and the accused dominant caste members continue to threaten him.

21 Dalits Shot in Land Dispute.  Chamalpur Village, Allahabad District, Uttar Pradesh.
A disputed and unused piece of land was under consideration to be allotted to 7 Dalit families.  On the afternoon of 10 November, 2006, a dominant-caste member of the village along with his family began to erect a house on the land.  When the Dalits learned of this, they rushed to the police station to lodge a report.  The police officials discouraged and demoralized the Dalits and did not lodge the complaint.  The Dalits then returned to the land where they requested that the perpetrators stop working and showed them the stay order of the court.  In response, members of the dominant-caste Yadavs began to curse the Dalits and fired gunshots at them, injuring 21, six of whom were seriously injured.  No arrests have been made and no protection has been provided to the Dalits though they continue to receive threats from the perpetrators.

  
Dominant Caste Members Cut Off Water Supply to Dalit Lands.  Medjil Mandal Village, Mahaboob Nagar District, Andhra Pradesh.  
When two Dalit brothers (Korrala and Kesavulu Chennayya) began successfully (i.e. profitably) cultivating cotton on their two acres of government-given land in 2001, three members of the village’s dominant Reddy caste responded by forcibly building a bore-well on the Dalits’ land (a mere 15 feet away from the Dalits’ own well) and laying a 3km pipeline to their lands, thereby depriving the Chennayyas’ farm of a water supply and causing their crops to dry up from which they incurred major financial losses.  When Korrala Chennayya questioned these actions, he was beaten up.  Furthermore, he was denied access to the panchayat bore-well and forced to migrate in search of daily labor.  When he later attempted to cultivate his field again in 2005, he was attacked by the same three dominant-caste individuals and warned of dire consequences if he were to persist.  Despite filing an official complaint with the police, the accused have yet to be arrested and the Dalit victims are yet to receive any compensation for their losses.

a scene from a rehabilitation camp , Tsunami 

 

India is prone to natural disasters because of its peculiar geo-climatic conditions. Floods, landslides, droughts, cyclones, earthquakes are recurring phenomena. Dalits are invariably the most vulnerable   section during any natural disaster and least likely to be able t o access to aid when it become available.
 Any disaster affects all sections of people across religions or castes. But the relief and rehabilitation programs during any major disaster in India are beset with the evils of caste-based discrimination. The authority and agencies involved in relief and rehabilitation program fail to provide relief with neutrality and impartially. 
The Gujarat Earth Quake in 2001 brought to the fore how caste based discrimination in relief and rehabilitation programs works. Against this experience NCDHR and other Dalit rights’ organizations started to monitor closely relief and rehabilitation programs during the wake of disasters.

Rights to Criminal Justice
 

 

KhairlanjiAtrocity(bodies)

khairlanji (Maharashtra) one of the  latest incidents of gruesome violence against Dalits where all in  a family except one  was brutally killed by uppercastes

 

 

undertakes daily monitoring of secondary media sources (newspapers, internet, etc.) in order to find all reported Dalit Human Rights violations that have taken place in the 14 states in which we operate.  These findings are compiled on the basis of district and type of violence.  After compiling the cases, necessary actions like fact-finding missions, contact with concerned authority, advocacy, and court follow-up are taken up depending upon the gravity of the issue. 
NCHDR conducts its fact finding by visiting the places where the violation/atrocity has taken place and collecting first hand information regarding the incident.  The fact finding team is formed of trained staff members and other human right defenders, lawyers, and members of local organizations.  After collecting first hand information, the members of our Monitoring desk and legal team prepare the fact-finding report. This fact-finding report gives feedback to the government, duty bearer, NGOs, movements, and national and international human rights bodies regarding the incident, indicating steps taken by the duty bearer, and recommendations for bringing justice to the Dalit victims.
Our Legal desk assists in cases of Dalit atrocities and human rights violations, carrying out legal empowerment through legal aid and interventions in formal courts and criminal administration mechanisms, as well as meetings with various mandals, lawyers, activists, and members of commissions and NGOs who can help bring justice.
RESEVATION  AND  DALITS

Reservation policy has been one of the corner stones of Dalit  empowerment. But it   has been implemented half heartedly from the beginning .The Dalit job force   in the country concentrated   largely either on the   traditionally assigned   degraded low paid jobs or to low class sweeper jobs in  govt and supported services.
 15% of the  jobs in   state  and  state  supported departments to be  reserved for  the Dalits  according to the  existing  rule considering the population strength 16.5%  (Census report   , 2001). But  the vast private  sector  is  excluded despite  repeated  and long  demands from the  Dalit organization  to include it also  within the purview of  reservation .
Privatization of  public  sector units   have  already  pushed  majority of  the  Urban   Dalits  to  casual  labor  with the decline  of  salaried jobs
 By sticking  on    formal methods of recruitments, the   large  private sector  which opts for  higher education and  technical skills excludes the  majority of  the deprived sections.
This reinforcement of  past job  discrimination resulted in the over  representation of  Dalits   in the poorly paid dead end  jobs.
Whenever they tried to  shift  to  some  better  occupation    were  abused  or  beaten up by the  uppercastes. The prescribed   15% of  jobs  in all classes of jobs falls short  particularly in  higher class jobs.
 Dalits  are over represented in low class jobs like sweepers in public sector indicating  the caste based occupational  allocation  
The  back log of  SC/ST  appointment in  states  service is 25,000 and  10,00,000 in central govt Some vacancies under   reservation is not  filled  since  1978.About  54.30%in central govt departments,45.10% in public sector banks  and 88.18%  in public sector  enterprises.(National   Commission  for  Scheduled  Castes  and  Scheduled  Tribes Report  1996-97 &97 –98 , quoted in  A  Irudayam,Balck Paper1999.)

 
CASE STUDIES

1 Sexual  assault  and  forced labour

Sundarmmal,Muthunagar village,Coimbatore  district,Tamilnade

 Dalit cultivators in the village   were forced to become bonded laborers by the upper castes in the village. They were made to work for long hours on poor wages. Sundarammal and her husband thus became bonded laborers in the   godown owned by  upper caste  Varada Raj. He  never  paid them decently and the family  was in debt  .So they decided  to seek work under other  persons. But  Varadaraj  along with his community people  attacked the couple  and tried to  rape her on  January  27,2007.When  she  filed  complaint  she   was  again tortured to with draw the  case.

2 A Dalit employee in a public  School has  been  underpaid  since  he was hired in  1974.
Kedar  Ram .Senior Basic  School ,Ghazipur  ,Uttar Pradesh

 Kedar  Ram  was appointed as  safai worker in  govt aided  Senior Basic  School  in  Ghazipur in 1974.He  was drawing only  7 rupees  for  the first three years and then  13  rupees per month. In October 1991 it  was increased to Rs. 30/ . In  1998 it  was  increased  to Rs. 150/.The minimum wages  fixed  for an  unskilled  employee  is Rs.2600 / month

Overview of Dalit Human Rights Situation
 

The Dalit Human Rights Situation: A Brief Overview

   Over one-sixth of India’s population, some 170 million people, live a precarious existence, shunned by much of Indian society because of their rank as “untouchables” or Dalits—literally meaning “broken” people—at the bottom of India’s caste system.  Dalits are discriminated against, denied access to land and basic resources, forced to work in degrading conditions, and routinely abused at the hands of police and dominant-caste groups that enjoy the state’s protection.

DalitMother&Children (vic)   Historically, the caste system has formed the social and economic framework for the life of the people of India.  In its essential form, this caste system involves the division of people into a hierarchy of unequal social groups where basicrights and duties are assigned based on birth and are not subject to change. Dalits are ‘outcastes’ falling outside the traditional four classes of Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya, & Shudra. Dalits are typically considered low, impure & polluting based on their birth and traditional occupation, thus they face multiple forms of discrimination, violence, and exclusion from the rest of society.

   Beginning in the 1920s, various social, religious and political movements rose up in India against the caste system and in support of the human rights of the Dalit community.  In 1950, the Constitution of India was adopted, and largely due to the influence of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar (chairman of the constitutional drafting committee), it departed from the norms and traditions of the caste system in favor of Justice, Equality, Liberty, and Fraternity, guaranteeing all citizens basic human rightsregardless of caste, creed, gender, or ethnicity.  The implementation and enforcement of these principles has, unfortunately, been an abysmal failure. 
    
   Despite the fact that “untouchability” was abolished under India’s constitution in 1950, the practice of “untouchability”—the imposition of social disabilities on persons by reason of their birth in certain castes— remains very much a part of rural India. “Untouchables” may not use the same wells, visit the same temples, drink from the same cups in tea stalls, or lay claim to land that is legally theirs. Dalit children are frequently made to sit in the back of classrooms, and communities as a whole are made to perform degrading rituals in the name of caste. Most Dalitscontinue to live in extreme poverty, without land or opportunities for better employment or education. With the exception of a small minority who have benefited from India’s policy of quotas in education and government jobs, Dalits are relegated to the most menial of tasks, as manual scavengers, removers of humanwaste and dead animals, leather workers, street sweepers, and cobblers. Dalit children make up the majority of those sold into bondage to pay off debts to dominant-caste creditors.

   Dalit women face the triple burden of caste, class, and gender.  Dalit girls have been forced to become prostitutes for dominant-caste patrons and village priests. Sexual abuse and other forms of violence against women are used by landlords and the police to inflict political “lessons” and crush dissent within the community.  Less than 1% of the perpetrators of crimes against Dalit women are ever convicted.CastOutCaste

   The plight of India’s “untouchables” elicits only sporadic attention within the country. Public outrage over large-scale incidents of violence or particularly egregious examples of discrimination fades quickly, and the state is under little pressure to undertake more meaningful reforms. Laws grantingDalits special consideration for government jobs and education reach only a small percentage of those they are meant to benefit. Laws designed to ensure that Dalits enjoy equal rightsand protections have seldom been enforced. Instead, police refuse to register complaints about violations of the law and rarely prosecute those responsible for abuses that range from murder and rape to exploitative labor practices and forced displacement from Dalit lands and homes.  Laws and government policies on land reform and budget allocations for the economic empowerment of the Dalit community remain largely unimplemented.

Dalits who dare to challenge the social order have often been subject to abuses by their dominant-caste neighbors. Dalit villages are collectively penalized for individual “transgressions” through social boycotts, including loss of employment and access to water, grazing lands, and ration shops. For most Dalits in rural India who earn less than a subsistence living as agricultural laborers, a social boycott may mean destitution and starvation.

   The present time is an historic moment, not only for Dalits, but for all those committed to basic human rights and principles of justice, equality, liberty, fraternity.  India, a rising star and increasingly important player on the world stage, must not be allowed to ignore the injustice and oppression within its own borders any longer.  Together, we must unite, nationally and internationally, to force the Indian government to rise above an entrenched caste-mentality and to properly enforce its laws, implement its policies, and fulfill its responsibility to protect the basic human rights of ALL of its citizens.

Among the Dalit community and its supporters & sympathizers, Dr. Ambedkar’s statement resounds louder today than ever: 

“My final words of advice to you are educate, agitate and organize; have faith in yourself. With justice on our side I do not see how we can lose our battle. The battle to me is a matter of joy. The battle is in the fullest sense spiritual. There is nothing material or social in it. For ours is a battle not for wealth or for power. It is battle for freedom. It is the battle of reclamation of humanpersonality.  It is in the fullest sense spiritual. There is nothing material or social in it. For ours is a battle not for wealth or for power. It is a battle for freedom. It is a battle for the reclamation of human personality.” 

Dalits & Human Rights

Dalits & Human Rights : The Battles Ahead — I

 

There are more dalits in India than there are people in Pakistan. The Scheduled Castes account for nearly 16.48 per cent of India’s people. That is, over 160 million human beings. Their contribution to society in terms of labour, art and culture is enormous. Their share of the country’s resources and riches is, however, disproportionately lower.

 

They account for a sixth of India’s population, but not of its land. At best, they hold a tiny fraction of a sixth of land owned by Indians. Indeed, most states in this country cannot provide minimally reliable date on lands owned by or distributed to dalits. What is not disputed by anyone, is that they are mainly landless and where they own land at all, it is marginal and usually of low quality. Secondly, irrigation of India has a clear caste geography. Upper castes cultivate at the headwaters; intermediate castes at the middle and dalits cultivate near the tail waters.

 

The importance of their position in relation to is enormous. As much as 77 per cent of the dalit workforce is in the primary or agricultural sector of the economy. But very, very few of them own land. They form, instead, the bulk of agricultural labourers in this country. (Historically, they’ve been major victims of land grab).

 

Land has a great deal to do with both economic and social status. Let’s look at who are the poor in India. Of the Indian poor, 40 per cent are landless agricultural labourers; 45 per cent are small or marginal farmers. (60 per cent of Indian farmers own less than an acre of land). This means that 85 per cent of the poor are either landless or marginal farmers. It’s in the first category that you will find dalits in large numbers.

 

Of the remaining 15 per cent, 7.5 per cent are rural artisans and those who labour in other non-farm occupations. Again you will find dalits in this group, particularly those who work on leather. Lastly, all remaining categories of poor, including diverse segments of urban poor, constitute “Others” who live in poverty. Here, too, you will find dalits; in construction labour, in road laying crews and very prominently in scavenging and other sanitation work. All dalits in these 15 per cent are again, landless people.

 

The importance of land to the problems we’re talking about was recognised right at the time of drawing up the Constitution. A significant point of view was expressed in those discussions but S. Nagappa. He said: “I am prepared for the abolition of reservations, provided very Harijan (dalit) family get ten acres of wet land, twenty acres of dry land and all the children of Harijans are educated, free of cost, up to the university course, and give one-fifth of the key posts either in civilian or in military departments”.

 

The demand for so many acres of land was not excessive. Families had as many as ten to twelve members at the time, sometimes more. So that actual holding per family, if this had been implemented, would still have been very modest.

 

While poverty affects many communities across the spectrum, it would be correct to say that the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes are amongst its worst victims.

 

Those millions and millions of dalits working as agricultural labourers earn between Rs.12 to Rs.30 in many parts of the country. This is usually in violation of laws relating to minimum wages for agricultural labourers. In the period of liberalisation, the pressure on these groups has become unbearable.

 

Remember, while prices are revised every now and then, sometimes rising every few weeks, agricultural wages are revised once every so many years. The last minimum wage in a rich state like Maharashtra (before the present wage) stayed put for around eight years. In the first four years of Mr. Narasimha Rao’s government controlled prices on the Public Distribution System went up 85 per cent and subsequently the rise has crossed well over 100 per cent if we take 1991 as the base.

 

In the same period, the per capita availability of foodgrain has actually fallen: from 510 grams in 1991 to 461 in 1996. Imagine the pressure on the millions of landless families, who produce this country’s food but have an ever-declining share in it. A very significant proportion of these people are dalits.

 

For the last 25 years, we’ve been pleased to congratulate ourselves on being a “self sufficient nation” in food production. We’ve even had food surpluses. This self-sufficiency, however, is very fragile. It is based on the reality that 400 million people go to bed hungry every night. If they got their minimum calorie requirements, our great surpluses would vanish and our level of production seem very inadequate. I’m not even looking here at unequal distribution.

 

Only 16 per cent of dalits live in urban areas. The remaining 84 per cent, in rural India. The over 450 SC groups in the country represent an important and incredibility complex phenomenon. A people confronted by seemingly intractable problems brought on by millennia of exploitation, enforced poverty and deprivation. Decades after the abolition of untouchability, the actual extent of its prevalence would surprise many Indians who believe it belongs to the past.

 

Whether it is in private employment, school dropout rates, literacy and health indicators, access to higher education, or even government jobs, they are at the wrong end of the spectrum. The actual gap between dalit literacy levels and those of the non-dalit population grew worse between 1961 and 1981. In Rajasthan, literacy rates for SC women are about one-fifth the national literacy rate for women. Indeed, one third the national SC female rate!

 

Half a century after independence, dalits still live in segregated section of the overwhelming majority of Indian villages. To this day, in several parts of the country, it is risky for them to even walk through the upper caste bastis. They have no access to the burial grounds/burning ghats in many villages in this country. The official programmes of the government of India practise their own forms of exclusion. The Indira Awas Yojana, for instance, reinforces the pattern of building homes for dalits away from the rest of the village.

WHO ARE THE DALIT?

 

In South Asia’s caste system, a Dalit (Hindi: ????) — formerly known as untouchable or achuta — is a person outside of the four Varnas, and considered below of all and polluting. Dalits include people as leather-workers, scavengers, tanners, flayers, cobblers, agricultural labourers, municipal cleaners, gymnasts, drum beaters, folk musicians and street handicraft persons. Like upper castes, Dalit are also divided into various sub-castes or jatis.

NON-DALIT MEANING OF WORD DALIT

Word Dalit has been defined differently by different people. Normally non-Dalit writers and intellectuals have invented its root in Sanskrit and considered its meaning as broken, crack, split and as adjective they have given this word the meanings of burst, split, broken or torn asunder, downtrodden, scattered, crushed, destroyed etc.

DALIT MEANING OF THE WORD DALIT

But for Dalits meaning of this word is qualitatively different. The word was popularised by the Dalit Panther Movement, when they adopted this term as an act of confident assertion, rejecting Mahatama Gandhi’s nomenclature of Harijan, children of God.  Dalit Panthers defined this word in their 1972 manifesto as: “A member of Scheduled Castes and Tribes, neo-Buddhist, the working-people, the land-less and poor peasants, women, and all those who are being exploited politically, economically, and in the name of religion.” Noted Dalit Laureate Gangadhar Pantawane wrote: “Dalit is not a caste, Dalit is a symbol of change and revolution. The Dalit believes in humanism. He rejects existence of god, rebirth, soul, sacred books that teach discrimination, fate, and heaven because these make him a slave.” While the informed Dalit tend to agree that the ancient beliefs of Hinduism (Brahmanism) are the root cause of their sufferings, most accept a narrower view of membership than the above definitions suggest. Both Dalit and non-Dalit Indians see the term relating only to the Scheduled Castes (the untouchables of the past) and the Scheduled Tribes (the adivasis or the indigenous people of India).

SCHEDULED CASTES

According to the 2001 Census, the Scheduled Castes population in India is 166,635,700 persons, constituting 16.2 per cent of the country’s total population. Being rural people, four fifth (79.8 per cent) of them live in rural areas and rest one-fifth (20.2 per cent) live in urban areas. The sex ratio of 936 females per thousand males is slightly higher than national average of 933 sex ratios.

The highest percentage of Scheduled Castes population to the total Scheduled Castes population of the country live in Uttar Pradesh (21.1 per cent) followed by West Bengal (11.1 per cent) and Bihar (7.8 per cent), Andhra Pradesh (7.4 percent) and Tamil Nadu (7.1.percent). In fact, more than 57 per cent of total Scheduled Castes population inhabit in these five States. Proportionately, the largest proportion of population of the Scheduled Castes to total population of the State is in Punjab (28.9 per cent), followed by Himachal Pradesh (24.7 per cent) and West Bengal (23 percent). In Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Pondicherry proportion of SCs population is exactly equal to the National average of 16.2 per cent. The smallest concentration of the Scheduled Castes population is in the North-Eastern tribal States such as Mizoram (with negligible or only 272 persons) followed by Meghalaya (0.5 per cent) and Arunachal Pradesh (0.6 per cent).

As per the 2001 Census, there are 22 districts where the Scheduled Castes population is 30 per cent or more. In majority of the districts (i.e., 273 districts) the concentration of SCs population to the total population is between 10 to 20 per cent. In Nagaland, Lakshadweep and Andaman & Nicobar Islands, no Scheduled Caste is notified.

SCHEDULED TRIBES

According to the 2001 Census, the total population of the Scheduled Tribes in India is 84,326,240 persons, constituting 8.2 per cent of the total population of the country. 91.7 per cent of them lives in rural areas, whereas, only 8.3 per cent inhabit in urban areas. The sex ratio of Scheduled Tribes population at 978 females per thousand males is higher than that of the total population of the country as well as that of Scheduled Castes.

Madhya Pradesh accounts for the highest percentage of Scheduled Tribes population to total STs population of the country (14.5 percent) followed by Maharashtra (10.2 per cent), Orissa (9.7 per cent), Gujarat (8.9 per cent), Rajasthan (8.4 per cent), Jharkhand (8.4 per cent) and Chhattisgarh (7.8 per cent). In fact, 68 per cent of the country’s Scheduled Tribes population lives in these seven States only. The proportion of the Scheduled Tribes to the total population of the States/Union territories is highest in Mizoram (94.5 %) and Lakshadweep (94.5 %) followed by Nagaland (89.1 %), Meghalaya (85.9 %). Within the major states Chhattisgarh (31.8%) has the highest percentage of Scheduled Tribes population followed by Jharkhand (26.3%) and Orissa(22.1%). These proportions are in the lowest in Uttar Pradesh (0.1 %), Bihar (0.9 %), Tamil Nadu (1.0 %) and Kerala (1.1%).

As per the 2001 Census, there are 75 districts where Scheduled Tribes population is 50 per cent or more as per the 2001 Census. In majority of the districts (i.e., 403 districts), the concentration of Scheduled Tribes population to its total population is less than 20 percent.

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