Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Untouchables.. Hopes of Change..

The Harijans of India are the most sever presentation of social ranking and abuse practices.. Yes, such atrocities are traceable everywhere, in different delusive names and various degrees brutalities..  The Indian Intelligentsia had scored by allowing for the adequate social debate and evolution to take place across the country.. This, despite the bitterness of stigmas and taboos, had enabled the election of an Harijan to be the Speaker of the 1.2 billion Parliament.. Equally, many had climbed the civic ladders in both education and employment.. The Untouchables' case is useful resource for any serious social reformation and development activities..
- More than 160 million people in India belong to this class. Nearly 90% of all the poor Indians and 95% of all the illiterate Indians are Dalits.

-In the year 2000, every hour two Dalits are assaulted, every day three Dalit women are raped, two Dalits are murdered, and two Dalit homes are torched.

-That same year, 68,160 complaints were filed against the police for activities against Dalits ranging from: murder, torture, and collusion in acts of atrocity, to refusal to file a complaint. Sadly, 62% of these cases were dismissed as unsubstantiated.

-40 million people in India, mostly Dalits, are bonded workers, many struggling to pay off debts that were incurred generations ago. Of these, 15 million are children working in slave-like conditions hauling rocks or working in fields and factories for less than $1 a day.

The following is an excerpt from a National Geographic article on the issue:

Human rights abuses against these people, known as Dalits, are legion. A random sampling of headlines in mainstream Indian newspapers tells their story: “Dalit boy beaten to death for plucking flowers”; “Dalit tortured by cops for three days”; “Dalit ‘witch’ paraded naked in Bihar”; “Dalit killed in lock-up at Kurnool”; “7 Dalits burnt alive in caste clash”; “5 Dalits lynched in Haryana”; “Dalit woman gang-raped, paraded naked”; “Police egged on mob to lynch Dalits”.

Despite the fact that untouchability was officially banned when India adopted its constitution in 1950, discrimination against Dalits remains pervading to this day with numbers of attacks actually on the rise. The strength of the caste system lies in its strict tradition, superstition, religious beliefs, and fear of punishment. It is passed on to the next generation as a birthright (or curse) and remains divisive in marriage. The caste system prohibits marriages outside one’s caste to avoid blurring the distinctive lines between the castes. The three upper castes also possess nearly all of the wealth in the country. They enjoy the advantages of their role in society and fight ruthlessly against change in the system. Police corruption due to payoffs by the upper classes also contributes to the continuation of this evil system.

This breaks my heart. An entire class of people, 160 million to be exact, has been defined as worthless from the moment they were born. I can’t even imagine how the Lord must weep over this daily. This system of evil must be crushed. These beloved children of God need to know their worth, their potential, their calling in their lives. Please join me in prayer against this system. We must combat hatred with love, exclusion with open arms, discrimination with equality, injustice with justice. Let’s pray that the Spirit of the Lord would pour down on India this very day, changing lives for eternity.

Harijan (Hindustani: हरिजन (Devanagari), ہریجن (Nastaleeq); translation: "child of God") was a term used by Gandhi for Dalits. Gandhi said it was wrong to call people 'untouchable', and called them Harijans, which means children of God. It is still in wide use especially in Gandhi's home state of Gujarat.
The term can also be attributed to Dalits of Pakistan called the haris, who are a group of mud-hut builders.

Although Gandhi popularized the term, he was not the first person to use it. The female Bhakti writer Gangasati used the term to refer to herself during the Bhakti movement, a period in India that gave greater status and voice to women while challenging the legitimacy of caste. This period started in the 4th century BC but is a living force in India today, flourishing particularly during India's Middle Ages. Gangasati lived around the 12th-14th century and wrote in the Gujurati language.

Dalit is a designation for a group of people traditionally regarded as "untouchable". Dalits are a mixed population, consisting of numerous castes from all over South Asia; they speak a variety of languages and practice a multitude of religions.
While the discrimination based on caste system (not the caste system itself) has been abolished under the Indian constitution, a New York University School of Law based group claimed in a 2007 shadow report to the United Nations that there still is discrimination and prejudice against Dalits in South Asia. Since India's independence, significant steps have been taken to provide opportunities in jobs and education. Many social organisations too have proactively promoted better conditions for Dalits through improved education, health and employment.

There are many different names proposed for defining this group of people including Panchamas ("fifth" varna), and Asprushya ("untouchables").
In 2001, the proportion of Dalit population was 16.2 percent of India's total population. The Dalit population is broadly distributed across Indian states and districts. In 2001, the state of Punjab had the highest proportion of its population as Dalit, at about 29 percent, and the state of Mizoram had the lowest at nearly zero. The government of India recognises and protects them as Scheduled Castes. The term Dalit has been interchangeably used with term Scheduled Castes, and these terms include all historically discriminated lowest castes of India such as Shudras and Untouchables.
Although identified with Hinduism in the past (1883 year data), Dalits and similar groups are also found in Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh. In addition, the Burakumin in Japan, Cagots and Roma in Europe, Al-Akhdam in Yemen, Baekjeong in Korea and Midgan in Somalia are excluded from the surrounding community in much the same manner as the Dalit.

Untouchability is the social practice of ostracizing a minority group by segregating them from the mainstream by social custom or legal mandate. The excluded group could be one that did not accept the norms of the excluding group and historically included foreigners, nomadic tribes, law-breakers and criminals and those suffering from a contagious disease such as Leprosy. This exclusion was a method of punishing law-breakers and also protected traditional societies against contagion from strangers and the infected:Leviticus xiii, 45-46: "And the leper in whom the plague is, his clothes shall be rent, and the hair of his head shall go loose, and he shall cover his upper lip, and shall cry, Unclean, unclean. All the days wherein the plague is in him he shall be unclean; he is unclean: he shall dwell alone; without the camp shall his dwelling be". A member of the excluded group is known as an untouchable.

The term is commonly associated with treatment of the Dalit communities, who are considered "polluting" among the people of South Asia, but the term has been used for other groups as well, such as the Burakumin of Japan, Cagots in Europe, or the Al-Akhdam in Yemen. Untouchability has been made illegal in post-independence India, and Dalits substantially empowered, although some prejudice against them continues, especially in rural pockets dominated by certain other backward caste (OBC) groups.

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