Friday, September 9th, 2011
Dalits continue to be oppressed
Hyderabad: On the state of the Dalits, who make up approximately 16%
of India's population, the US cable says they occupy the lowest
position in the social structure and face constant and severe
Formerly called 'untouchables,' because 'caste Hindus' believe they
can be 'polluted' by having any contact with them, most Dalits remain
trapped at the bottom rung of the caste ladder. In fact, most "caste
Hindus" consider them to be so low as to be outside the caste system
"Despite the Anti-Untouchability Act of 1955 and the Prevention of
Atrocities Act of 1989, crimes against Dalits are still a major social
problem, and discrimination is widespread," reads the cable. One
Poloff is quoted as meeting several personalities on the issue and
attempting to trace the genesis of the problem. They say education and
reservation are among the crucial issues that can help uplift the
Dalits in the social hierarchy.
At the beginning of the discussion, the cable states that "Embassy
interlocutors report that after one year of UPA rule, limited
government efforts to improve Dalit (formerly called "untouchables")
socio-economic status have shown little success, ensuring that they
continue to face severe economic and social discrimination.
The government reservation laws do not extend to the private sector,
the largest and fastest growing segment of the economy."
The discussion veers around the political leadership and its sincerity
in dealing with the issue."While the UPA has focused on bettering the
lot of the Dalit community, it is dominated by upper caste Hindus,
very few of whom are genuinely concerned about the plight of Dalits.
This ensures that Dalits will continue to be an oppressed,
discriminated group in India," the cable says.
Although the GOI has passed legislation and established government
bodies to administer these laws, it has failed to attack the root of
There are success stories, but acts of violence and prejudice against
Dalits, combined with government negligence, persist and there is
little upward mobility among the Dalit population.
" Without a broader, more comprehensive approach to teach tolerance
and equality early in primary schools, it is unlikely that the social
acceptance of caste-based discrimination will fade any time soon.
The increasing dominance of the private sector in the economy could
also result in greater economic polarisation if there is no mechanism
in place to combat job discrimination," thus ends the cable.
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