What a shame! Even after 58 years of independence, the attitude towards Dalits has not changed in some sections of our society. Moreover, atrocities committed against them have not decreased in various parts of the country. The brutal killing of four Dalits of a family in Khairlanji, Maharashtra , comes as a rude shock to the nation and an indelible blot to our democracy.
It is not an isolated incident that challenges our claim of being a knowledge-based progressive society. The incident is another addition to the list. The fact is that state remains a silent spectator to the atrocities committed against Dalits from time to time. In this case also, when the sole surviving member of the family, Bhaiyalal, reported the crime, the police showed an unserious and even contemptuous attitude to the investigation. The post-mortems were not done in accordance with law. Even, those who have spoken out against the atrocity are being targeted and harassed. Such a response by the state is not just grossly unjust; it is also counterproductive.
Every time some carnage occurs, there is a hue and cry. Politicians rush to the place to make the correct, placatory noises and get a few free photo opportunities. Then it all dies down. No one is ever punished. The culprits get off scot-free. So everyone knows you can kill Dalits and get away with it.
The Constitution that “We, the People of India” gave to ourselves over half-a-century ago abolished untouchability (Article 17) and its practice in any form was made punishable in accordance with law. In 1955, the Protection of Civil Rights Act was introduced in order to give life to the Constitutional mandate. Three decades later, a fresh and more stringent piece of legislation, the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, was brought into existence.
But increasing rate in levels of violence against Dalits signify that the law simply does not work for them. We pride ourselves that right to equality has been enshrined as a fundamental right in our Constitution. Despite this, there is a huge mismatch between what our Constitution says and how we conduct ourselves.
It is time such inhuman treatment of Dalits was brought to an end and people, especially those in rural areas, were made aware of the fact that caste distinctions do not matter. Education and employment are two wheels which can move our society forward and mitigate the effects of the caste system. Thus, the solution to caste conflicts lies not only in the plethora of laws but concerted efforts made by Government with a proactive role played by the judiciary to ensure a life of dignity and honour for Dalits.