Overlooked and ignored, the problem of untouchability continues to be practised and perpetrated in the country. It is a lifetime of misery and humiliation, unimaginable for the relatively privileged but a daily reality for over one-fifth of the country’s 120 crore-plus population, as revealed succinctly in 22 short and easy to view videos under the Article 17 Campaign launched on April 14, 2012 by India Unheard, which claims to be the “first ever community news service launched by Video Volunteers”.
Captured from length and breadth of country, the videos show us a representative picture of our land. As India Unheard explains, “Our community correspondents have spent two months documenting untouchabilty across the country. Because they are from the community, they have been able to capture intimate images, rarely witnessed by outsiders.”
The videos reveal a life of being treated as subhuman, shunned by the society, made to sit and eat separately, not being part of any social occasion, condemned to live in a filthy locality that never figures in any scheme for cleanliness or sanitation. Children are served their mid-day meals in schools in areas separated on the basis of caste and Dalits have to travel to the nearest city for a haircut and shave because they are barred from barbershops in the villages. They are not allowed to take drinking water from the sources provided for the public; complaints and petitions are never heeded and they are not allowed to have a voice even in panchayat bodies. The videos also reveal the inhuman conditions under which the Safai Karmcharis work, that often prove fatal for many of them. They are fated to perform only menial tasks like cleaning sewers and manholes with bare hands and without the basic equipment or safety precautions like gloves or masks. Any deviation from these stifling practices, wittingly or unwittingly, invites severe punishment, even death. The discrimination continues after death, for the last rites for deceased of their lot have to be performed away from the rest of the people.
It deprives them of basic dignity and subjects them to discrimination and ostracisation from society, forcing them to a life on the margins, unable to live and mix with others.
Untouchability has gone down so deep in our social psyche that even within the so called untouchable castes this practice is prevailing as some castes think the others untouchable. In one of the videos, a Dalit man testifies on how he will never allow his own sons and daughters to marry into a ‘lower’ Dalit sub-caste.
The campaign has been named The ARTICLE 17 Campaign after Artcile 17 of the Constitution which abolished the practice of untouchability in its any form : “Untouchability is abolished and its practice in any form is forbidden. The enforcement of any disability arising out of Untouchability shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law.”
Video Volunteers has invited the people from across the world to sign a petition online addressed to the National Commission of Scheduled Castes, asking for action against the person’s whose crimes have been documented in the ARTICLE 17 videos: “We demand that the National Commission for Schedule Castes, the body responsible for observing and enforcing the laws protecting citizens from these practices, prosecute these specific cases documented in the videos and prosecute other cases like them”.
"SOME FACTS ABOUT OUR CONSTITUTION AND UNTOUCHABILITY":
THE CONSTITUTION OF INDIA
WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens:
JUSTICE, social, economic and political;
LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;
EQUALITY of status and of opportunity;
and to promote among them all
FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation;
IN OUR CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY this twenty-sixth day of November, 1949, do HEREBY ADOPT, ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION.
Caste-based discrimination in India,
Publications from Indian Institute of Dalit Studies,
International Consultation on Caste-BasedDiscrimination,
Caste-based Discrimination in SouthAsia,
Slavery or Sumangali? Exploitation of Dalit GirlsExposed
Dip in crimes on dalits, not much to cheer, TheHindustan Times, 17 April, 2012, http://www.im4change.org/rural-news-update/dip-in-crimes-o
Untouchability under security meet scanner-NishitDholabhai, The Telegraph, 18 April, 2012, http://www.im4change.org/rural-news-update/untouchability-
Dalit students shun this government school by PVSrividya, The Hindu, 15 April, 2012, http://www.im4change.org/rural-news-update/dalit-students-
Clash in Hyderabadover Dalits' right to eat beef-Ashok Das, The Hindustan Times, 17 April, 2012, http://www.im4change.org/rural-news-update/clash-in-hydera
Dalits suffered most during Maya rule: MHA report,The Indian Express, 9 April, 2012, http://www.im4change.org/rural-news-update/dalits-suffered
The Scream of the Ants by Panini Anand, 2 April,2012, http://www.kindlemag.in/srorys_details.php?id=Mjk4&&am
Sterilisations carried out under torchlight on Dalits, SCasks why, The Financial Express, 2 April, 2012, http://www.im4change.org/rural-news-update/sterilisations-
'Made-Snana', Brahmin 'atrocity against Dalits' to bebanned: CM, The Financial Express, 29 March, 2012, http://www.im4change.org/rural-news-update/039made-snana03
Dalit attacked for drinking from upper caste’s pot byBhaskar Mukherjee, The Times of India, 17 February, 2012, http://www.im4change.org/rural-news-update/dalit-attacked-