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Reply To: The Ripening Outcast, with Mythologist Norland Tellez

#73888

Nandu,

With India’s eco-socio-political machinery operating in a rigid caste structure, what sort of operation, do you propose?

Consider the ’Dalits ’of India’

Excerpted from “The Ministry of Utmost Happiness”:  “Saddam Hussain was his chosen name, not his real name. His real name was Dayachand. He was born into a family of Chamars— skinners— in a village called Badshahpur ……One day, in answer to a phone call, he and his father, along with three other men, hired a Tempo to drive out to a nearby village to collect the carcass of a cow that had died on someone’s farm….…We found the dead cow easily.  It’s always easy, you just have to know the art of walking straight into the stink.” [2]  They loaded the carcass on to the Tempo and set off for home. On the way they stopped at the Dulina police station to pay the Station House Officer his cut, a previously-agreed-upon sum, a per-cow rate. But that day the officer wanted more not just more but three times the amount.

And this inability to pay ended three lives. What is bone-chilling is the manner of ending these lives. The Station House Officer arrested them on a charge of ‘cow-slaughter’ and placed them in the police lock-up. Two hours went by — A few men went into the police station and brought out Saddam’s father and his three friends.  Then began the beatings, at first just with fists, and then with shoes. But then someone brought a crowbar, another a car jack and with the first blow, Saddam heard their cries. He had never heard such a sound before. It was a strange, high sound, it wasn’t human. [3] This is not one isolated or fictional event. Human Rights Watch reports that these incidents happen every day, of every year, to countless ‘Dalits’.

The daily beatings, beltings, floggings and final disposition of the ’Dalits’ are generally not covered by regular news channels, but propelled by the coverage on social media,  stories of Dalit-atrocities are pouring fuel on dying ambers.  On July 21, 2016, “The Hindu” a very respected Indian newspaper,  reported: “For the last three days, Gujarat’s Dalit community has been seething with anger over the public flogging of a group of ‘Dalits’ who were skinning a dead cow in Mota Samadhiyala, a village near Una town in Saurashtra region.

“The four men were brutally beaten with steel pipes and iron-rods, they were later stripped, tied to a SUV and dragged through the main market near the local police station in Una.  The flogging was filmed, posted on Facebook as a warning to other Dalits.” [4]

While ‘Dalits’, together with other tribes, make up nearly 25 percent of the country’s population, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) found that the media “provides negligible space to their plight/problems.” Instead, these communities mostly receive attention when the discussion is focused on backwardness, population growth, lack of entrepreneurship and productivity. [5]

Could Rawls’ “democratic equality” – the combination of fair equality opportunity principle with the difference principle be a good first step for the Dalits?

[2] Roy, Arundhati. 2017. The  Ministry of Utmost Happiness. [S.l.]: Penguin books India.
[3] Ibid (1362 of 6459 – Kindle Book)
[4] http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/Gujarat-has-history-of-atrocities-and-discrimination-against-Dalits/article14499609.ece
[5] National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) NHRC Report, Section VI, p. 134