Caste Discrimination & Prejudice in Tamil Nadu
Updated: Nov 6, 2020
Author: K PRAWIN SUBASH
Caste discrimination is not a modern idea, it has been in this society for ages. Although there are legal provisions that criminalize Untouchability, and discrimination such immoral practices have not yet been exterminated. In recent days, in Tamil Nadu, I observed some elected representatives in local bodies face prejudice and discrimination based on their birth.
The incident took place in the Cuddalore district in Tamil Nadu, where a Panchayat president S. Rajeshwari, was compelled to sit on the floor during the meetings because she was a Dalit. This matter spread virally on social media following a picture of her sitting on the floor while the vice president and other secretaries sitting on their chairs got leaked(1). She also claimed that on Independence day, she was not permitted to hoist the National Flag by the Vice president.
Another episode took place in Athupakkam, Thiruvallur district, Tamil Nadu, where a Dalit Panchayat president V. Amurtham was not allowed to hoist the national flag on Independence day and was subjected to harassment by caste by the former President. She lastly hoisted the flag, after four days, after the intervention of the District Collector and Superintendent of Police (2). A similar incident happened in Paraipatti near Usilampatti, Madurai, where a Dalit Panchayat President P. Chitra was not allowed to hoist the national flag on the event of Republic day (3). These kinds of discrimination and harassment are uncivilized and outrageous.
Article 15, of the Indian Constitution, forbids any kind of discrimination based on caste. Article 17 made caste discrimination and untouchability are abolished in India and made such acts punishable. For the offenses mentioned under Article 17, Article 35(A)ii (4)gave authority to Parliament to form penal laws. Thus came, The Protection of Civil Rights (PCR)Act, 1955 (5), which provided punishment for the practice of untouchability and caste discrimination. Later, The Scheduled castes and The Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (6), The Scheduled castes, The Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities), Amendment Act, 2015 (7), and The Scheduled castes and The Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act 2018 (8), were formulated centering on the SC/ST people. Although these many provisions are available to punish people who indulge in such evil practices, this practice of inhumane and irrational act is still prevailing in our country. According to the annual crime report in India 2019 (9), crimes against SC and ST have increased by 7% and 26% compared to the statistics of last year, 2018.
Fundamental rights such as the right to equality, the right to access water, food, education, land rights, and participation in social, cultural, and religious activities are directly connected, with these acts of violence indulged on the Dalit people. The condition of Dalit women is the most critical, they face discrimination for being a woman and a Dalit. There are many crimes reported towards the Dalit women, particularly the rape in Hathras. Caste separates people, where democracy unites people, letting caste take a greater picture in a democracy is very disproportionate. As Dr. B. R. Ambedkar said "The outcaste is the by-product of the caste system. Nothing can emancipate the outcaste except the destruction of The caste system " in his letter to Gandhi in 1933 published in Harijan (10), we should get rid of this caste system and treat everyone with respect and dignity and ensure social justice, making India a better place for all its citizens.
(1) https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/dalit-panchayat-president-force-to-sit-on-floor-in-tamil-nadu-panchayat-secretary-ward-member-arrested/article32824244.ece (2) https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/tamil-nadu-dalit-panchayat-president-finally-hoists-national-flag/article32401468.ece (3) https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Madurai/panchayat-president-not-allowed-to-hoist-national-flag-at-school-near-usilampatti/article30657208.ece (4) https://indiankanoon.org/doc/976848/ [Article 35(A)ii] (5) http://socialjustice.nic.in/writereaddata/UploadFile/The%20Protection%20of%20Civil %20Rights635748995396817343.pdf [PCR act, 1955] (6) https://tribal.nic.in/actRules/SCSTpoaact1989.pdf [SC ST (POA) act, 1989] (7) https://ncsk.nic.in/sites/default/files/POA_ACT_2016.01.pdf [SC ST (POA) Amendment Act, 2015] (8) http://socialjustice.nic.in/writereaddata/UploadFile/PoA_Act_2018636706385256863314.pdf SC ST [POA) Amendment act, 2018]