Friday, June 12, 2020

Dalits and Black Lives Matter

Dalits find themselves outside the Hindu caste hierarchy - a membership determined at birth - and have historically faced violence, segregation and been barred from even having their shadows touch those of people from more privileged castes. India banned discrimination based on caste - a system which divided Hindus into groups based on occupations - in 1955. But ancient biases against Dalits and members of the less privileged Hindu caste groups persist, making it harder for them to access education and jobs and buy homes. Dalits, who were sometimes forced to perform "unclean" tasks like disposing of corpses, and scheduled tribes - Indigenous peoples who are often isolated or disadvantaged - make up about a quarter of India's population of 1.3 billion. Dalits were among the worst-hit by India's strict lockdown, often having to wait longer for their turn to receive food or financial aid at local distribution points, and even being turned away, she said.

Dalit campaigners  support the Black Lives Matter protests. 

" Indian Dalits have historically learned a lot from the struggle of the African Americans," Ruth Manorama, who works for rights of Dalit women, told the Reuters news agency, " This is a good moment to challenge the narrative in India also and talk about the age-old repression of Dalits, which is visible even during the COVID-19 pandemic with discrimination denying people aid."
"It is a good time for people in India to understand and to point out to the government that racial discrimination is not only what you see in America," said Henri Tiphagne of People's Watch. "It is the same as how so-called 'untouchables' are treated in India."
"In India, people need to admit their role in everyday discrimination faced by Dalits and only then can a dialogue for change be initiated. We hope what they are seeing unfolding globally will lead to soul searching," said  Omprakash Mahato, president of the Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students Association, a Dalit organisation at New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University. "People need to understand that every life matters."

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