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Double Whammy

Stacy Alcantara's picture

This incident of September 2007 was one of the worst and most apparent cases of discrimination one could think of: Mrs. Dhanwanti Devi Meghwal is Pradhan, or leader, of a block in India’s Jodhpur district. She had been elected as representative at the block level for Scheduled Caste Women. At an inaugural ceremony of a cattle fair, she was about to raise the flag, when a member of the local assembly, Mr. Babu Singh Rathore suddenly stepped forward to stop her from raising the flag. More details on page 22 of this UN End Poverty 2015 Report (pdf).

His reasons? She belonged to the group known as Dalits—one of the lowest castes in India—and she was a woman. What happened was not merely a simple case of discrimination against women. It was, in fact, a classic example of the challenge that Dalit women in the Rajasthan state of India have faced since the caste system was put in place. It was a double whammy—class discrimination and gender discrimination.

Gender and class discrimination in India have been among the chief culprits as to why many people, particularly women, are living and are caught in the vicious cycle of extreme poverty. It is a legacy that the Dalits are forced to pass down from generation to generation.

75% of Dalit girls drop out of primary school (pdf), despite strict affirmative action laws reserving seats for Dalit children in school, according to the data from the National commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes 2000. The dropout rate at every level of education for girls exceeded those of boys because of the strict observance of traditional gender roles. 

Dalit girls who wanted to pursue higher studies in universities could not do so because of limited opportunities and access to resources. According to the End Poverty 2015 Report, India’s Ministry of labor found out that 85% of the Dalit women are landless, work for subsistence wages, and have the most horrible occupations. 

The income that Dalit women earn is not even enough to put food on the table. Their poverty has made them highly vulnerable to gender-based and class-based violence, like sexual harassment and physical assaults. Many have also reported that their houses have been attacked and burned just because they were Dalit women.

The Indian constitution’s existing provisions to afford every citizen equal rights and opportunities are not enough. Life has to be breathed into such provisions, such that they will become actions and not just words that lie dormant in the pages of the law of the land. Every 20 minutes, a crime against a Dalit is committed.

Traditional societies like India need to rethink the role of women as well as the significance of the caste system, if it is to consider development as its top agenda. There is a pressing need for women to break free from being limited to the confines of the house. There is a pressing need for women and men to change their attitudes towards the role of women because mere mindsets are integral in either enhancing or suppressing the role of women and their contribution towards development.

Comments

Submitted by Anonymous on
Thanks to you for very excellant blog about the social issues my all friends in India are telling me about treatment of Dalits and Scheduled Casts and there is grave injustices that should not exist in democracy with big section of society. So good researching and keep up! I also saw article in National Geographic's magazine few years ago on same issue.

Hi Stacy, great post. I totally agree that this is an issue that really needs to be addressed. It looks like things might be slowly changing...there's the example of Ms. Mayawati, who is Chief Minister of the Uttar Pradesh state, and is planning to run for Prime Minister.

Submitted by Arunakshi on
hey people , I am new here but i really love this concept...its thought provoking....as far as the issue is concerned a great deal of enthusiasm is needed to do something regarding this gender thing.....we just cant quote examples of leaders we need to go to the grassrooot level...the condition in humiliating and torturous for females n therefore we need to tighten our belts and do something for that...and this might provide us a platform for same..

Hey Stacy, As Saadia pointed Mayawati is a Dalit and also a woman (double whammy as you call it) and also happens to be the Chief Minister of the largest and the most populous state in India. She is a very powerful lady! What also needs to be pointed out is that within 50 years of Independence, India also had a Dalit President -K R Narayan!! After how many years of Independence did USA get a black President????? Discrimination is an issue in countries across the world and is condemnable. However, my personal opinion is that India always receives more than its share of criticism. How many times have you heard about the way burakumins are still discriminated in a highly developed country like Japan? A Dalit President was followed by a Muslim President (who is India

Submitted by Usha R on
I quite second Saptarishi Pal's response to the article on "Doubele Whammy". Indian caste divide is not too extreme as people make it out to be. Yes, there are issues, but people are changing. Moreover, I do not understand why Hindus have been put down so heavily. If not for them, other religions would not have found place in the country. It is important for people to know that all faiths must be respected. The issue highlighted could also be seen in another perspective - Education. India has a high illiteracy ratio, which could impede its development. Rather than cribbing more about illtreatment, if India channelises its energies into educational development (certainly not converting education system as business, as it is in the current scenario), creation of job opportunities to the qualified, it would have a significant role to play in the world economy.

Submitted by Arunakshi on
Here's a suggestion to include terrorism as an issue.... i think its an important issue and it should be taken up for discussion

Submitted by Manbir Singh Pabla on
I think Stacy Alcantara ,has rightly put up the issue of discrimination in india against the dalits by citing this case of Mrs. Dhanwanti Devi Meghwal.The problem is not solely of women discrimation ,but discrimination based on class,religion,caste. Hindu religion has laid the concept of division of society on the basis of work.So we got Brahmins who were religious preachers,Kshatriyas who were kings and warriors, the Vaishyas who were agriculturists and traders ,and Shudras who were service providers and artisans.And this was probably done some time in 1st millennia A.D. much later in 18th century Adam Smith ,who is regarded as father of modern economics proposed in his book "An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations" ,that division of labour helps in obtaining maximum efficiency and hence higher productivity. I am doubtful of both of these theories to be true in the globalized world we live today.The world today is a world of intelligentsia,of consumerism and of innovation.The very fact that 70% of indians live under $2 a day appeals to me a far bigger problem ,it is the source of this discrimination and if some how our recent growth in the decade's since 1991 can help us revert this prolonged poverty and increase standard of living of all ,be sustained for 2 decades atleast it can serve as a means to eliminate these discriminations and as well as an end to a united ,strong socio-economic indian society of 21st century. There is no place for discrimination of any sort in the globalized world of today ,much like there are no barriers or borders for artists.The real question is not whether there exists a discrimination against dalits ?, but that whether are we changing and bringing in benefits of globalization ,of growth to these people ? whether is the present well to do indian society changing it's mental outlook of the past and accepting the dalits to be an equal and offering philanthropic aid to dalits so that they can undo their historical sins ? Whether are the dalits eager enough to take advantage of the growth ,and send their future of generations to schools to learn the language of the globalization "english" so that they be better off than themselves ? yes ,there exists many division based on caste,class,religion in India, but i am happy to see that growth has made india look forward ,the vision of india i have and that many of the educated young share is what will define the future of india ,and i am confident that it is bright. Education has made has think and differentiate between the right and the wrong ,between acceptance and denial of our deeds ,and i hope whosoever reads this ,where ever he is supports that we all may become ideologically wrong ,and the consequences of it derail the very foundations of progress ,but there comes a time when we realize the gross shortcomings of our ideology and we liberalize,we adapt to better things and we make a change to heal the wounds of ideology. America and Russia took 45 years to end a bitter cold war, America took 43 presidential terms to elect the 44th as a black president,China may call itself communists but it's leader Deng Xiaping's rhetoric as long as we progress there's no difference between a black cat and a white cat took the communists to be capitalists at least in economics. India will change and i hope the youth of india will help bring that change fast. Women,dalits,caste,class,religion all have to go my dear indians to mars if we have to be one of the major respected power on earth.

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