Despite tall talk of progress and development, the practice of untouchability is still prevalent in rural areas of Gujarat.
This was found in a survey by the Navsarjan Trust and the Robert F. Kennedy Centre for Justice and Human Rights. It was carried out over three years in randomly selected 1,589 villages in the State. The compiled report of the findings was released here on Wednesday by University Grants Commission Chairman S.K. Thorat.
The report said that not only was untouchability practised against Dalits by caste Hindus, it was practised by the relatively ‘upper’ sub-caste Dalits against the ‘lower’ sub-caste Dalits. It said while 98 forms of untouchability was practised by caste Hindus against the Dalits, 99 forms of caste discrimination was found within the Dalit sub-castes.
Giving a few examples, the report said a Dalit woman was “assaulted” for trying to take part in a village “garba” dance organised by caste Hindus. Even the sarpanch, if he happened to be a Dalit, was expected to sit on the ground while caste Hindu panchayat members sat on a pedestal. The Dalit passengers were required to vacate the seats in government-owned State transport buses for non-Dalit passengers.
It said inter-caste marriage was strictly prohibited in 98.4 per cent of the villages and such marriages within the Dalit sub-castes was found banned in 99.1 per cent of the villages. Any violation of the “rule” would invariably attract a violent reprimand against the defying couple, who were often forced to leave the village. Even in tea kiosks, cups and saucers were kept separately for the Dalits and such customers were required to clean their own utensils before putting the same back in the rack meant for the Dalits.
In schools, separate sitting arrangements were made for caste Hindus and Dalits for mid-day meal schemes. Dalit students were not served water in schools. They were expected to go home or carry their own water with them.
“The report shows that the existing legal system has failed to address the problem of untouchability and it is time for human rights activists to act strongly,” Navsarjan Trust executive director Manjula Pradeep said.
98 forms of untouchability practised by caste Hindus while 99 forms of discrimination found within Dalits
Inter-caste marriage strictly prohibited in 98.4 %; similar prohibition among Dalits in 99.1 % villages