The Untouchables

Posted on November 30, 2011 by

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By: KayImagine living your life with the title “untouchable”. Imagine being considered less of a human being than the person sitting next to you. And imagine at your birth, you are condemned to a life of crippling poverty and abuse. This is the life for nearly 160 million people in India and is referred to as the Dalits. These Dalits are so invisible in Indian society that they are not even considered part of the caste system and are simply cast off to the side as being “untouchable”. These untouchables are bound to this lifestyle by society and live the life of poverty, cruelty, and severe harassment by upper classes.

The violence against the Dalits is inapprehensible and yet all too frequent. According to the National Geographic article, “India’s ‘Untouchables’ Face Violence, Discrimination”: every hour two Dalits are assaulted, every day three Dalit women are raped, two Dalits are murdered, and two Dalit homes are torched. This is just an everyday lifestyle these people are faced with. Indian newspapers talk daily of Dalit children being murdered, women raped, and being paraded through the streets naked.

How can a society push a class of people so far down? The Indian’s believe the caste system is made by the karma and reincarnation from past lives, therefore the Untouchables are believed to have done horrendous things in their past lives and the punishment is to be a Dalit. Many Dalits spend their lives in fear of abuse and attacks. Their jobs are the poorest of the poor, often for low wages in horrible conditions. Child labor is a massive problem and many children are forced to move rocks for a dollar pay. The Dalits are pushed into jobs such as: cleaning sewers with their bare hands, and clearing away dead animals. These working jobs, along with poor housing conditions, lack of clean water and food, and constant abuse make the Dalits live an unimaginable lifestyle.

The first step in changing this massive problem is awareness. Bringing awareness to such a dark issue is difficult since the Indian system does not see this as a problem, but the rest of the world is stepping up and making a difference. To learn more about the Dalits check out the Dalit Freedom Network.  The organization gives many resources where you can learn further about the issue and help make a difference in this massive problem. The Dalit Freedom Network also features a petition to end manual scavenging which is the process of removing human excrement with the bare hands of Dalits.

When I stumbled upon the topic of the Dalits it made a huge impact on me. I was going through a difficult time and decided to see my family in Yorba Linda and after spending the weekend with them I was heading out on Sunday morning when my uncle literally picked me up and put me in the car and said “You need to go to church.” Shocked I went to church and listened to a speaker on the Dalits movement, because of this stroke of fate meeting, I am signed up for the village/school team to visit India next summer and work with a community of Dalits.

A movie that does a great job at defining the Dalit lifestyle is called “Not Today” and was put on by the Church that my uncle had me attend. It is a great way to understand the lifestyle the Dalits are faced with and shows real life scenes that are currently going on in India today.  I understand not everyone can disappear to another country, but everyone can make a difference by signing these petitions and joining the fight to free the Dalits.

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Posted in: Global Justice