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India’s Dalits still fighting untouchability

In India, the Hindu caste system has created a group that has borne the brunt of discrimination by the wider society. This group—the dalits—are located at the base of the caste system. Although laws exist to protect them, they still face widespread discrimination in India. Recently, this disenfranchised group has been fighting back and this has taken the form of reactions against discriminatory practices they face in everyday life.

Please read the following article for further commentary and discussion with regards to this development.

BBC News. (2012, June 12). India’s Dalits still fighting untouchability. BBC News. Retrieved from 

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-18394914

Apply relevant theories and concepts to examine the case presented above regarding the discrimination faced by the dalits in India. In your response, you must address the following points:

a) Provide an overview of the situation faced by the dalits in India and identify two issues that this group experiences in contemporary Indian society.

b) Identify theories and concepts related to the development of the self in relation to one’s position in society. Applying the relevant theories/concepts, explain and elaborate on the continued discrimination that is perpetuated on the dalits.

c) The actions of Dr Vinod Sonkar at the beginning of the article suggests that some members of the group are responding towards the unfair treatment they received as a result of their status in Indian society. Discuss whether such actions change age-old practices in Indian society.

d) Participation in the discussion board questions posed by the instructor.

Overview of the situation faced by Dalits in India

a)    Dalits are a social group that is considered to be the lowest group in the social hierarchy system (John, 2017). In India, the caste system has been a deep-rooted problem, especially among Hinduism. The social stratification of the society according to one’s social position that a person is born with has been represented through the caste system (Agarwal, 2016). the caste system has remained a part of the Hindu society from a tedious time, and the people are always found using it in their way. The Dalits being in the lowest position of the social stratification has been through the worst experiences in India.

India is famous for its caste system and with legal laws present for the protection of the lower caste people it is still evident in many rural places of India (Bhosale, 2015). The plight of Dalits in India is worse since the Indian government is made up of the upper castes people who have successfully convinced the international as a country where the caste system is only an internal problem (Griffith-Jones, 2016). However, the truth is it lies in its every functional body. According to Dr Sonkar’s thesis, India’s 15 per cent of the population is still kept on the margin of the of society due to untouchability. Also, even after the ban on the practice of untouchability, there are many such cases that display the unfair practice. Incidents such as, local barber refusing to cut the hair of Dalits, Dalit children are forced to have lunch separately, Dalit women have to walk miles away to fetch water, and many more are some common examples that show the conditions of Dalits in India (Bach, 2015). In different rural places, Dalits are found struggling with life for even essential amenities. They are always the victim of the upper class’ maltreatment. The laws fail to secure them, and due to the fact that there are no Dalit policemen, Dalits are not helped by the police as well.

A person can change his or her class, however, is it not possible to change the caste as it is ascribed in nature and therefore it remains throughout a Dalit's life (Middlemiss, 2017). Dalits have to face severe challenges and hard works than the people from upper classes to earn money and get out of the cycle of poverty. People avoid buying from Dalits for they do the dirtiest manual jobs in the society. The Dalits are eventually being stopped from achieving better social class through the method of untouchability (Ray & Esteban, 2016). There are no prominent Dalit in academic or in journalism and only two supreme court judges out of hundreds that appointed. With all the modernisations and development after sixty-five years of independence, the Dalits are still suppressed and broken.

b)    It is through the mean of self-awareness that enables individuals to be aware of oneself as an object.  The objective self-awareness helps an organism to be the object of its own attention, be in aware of the presence of its mind and also to know and remember that it knows and remember (Maines, 2017). There is a subjective self-awareness that involves the capacity to differentiate oneself from their physical and social environment (Zahavi, 2017). This trait is possessed by most of the animals including humans with an extra form of self-awareness that is the symbolic self-awareness. The symbolic self-awareness is the ability that lets human form an abstract cognitive representation of self through the help of language (Irvine, 2016). Humans are able to communicate, evaluate, and develop self-related attitudes due to symbolic awareness. The concept of self is the overall framework that involves the past experiences, present knowledge and future expectations along with beliefs, socialisation and learning. The social self is the personal concept of self including their personal relationships and personal traits, through which individually define them. It is a form of the self-constructed image or collective identity. Each person develops their attitude in life and the main attitude is the one that is developed toward oneself. The value a person gives to oneself is the self-worth that the person thinks of himself, this sense of self-worth is known as self-esteem (Cooley, 2017).

Theories and concepts related to self-development and discrimination

An identity that is based on the roles played by an individual is the situated identity. Every situation demands a role that defines a social position in the situation (Hester & Housley, 2017). Playing the roles as per the situation helps in building social positions and Dalits have been playing the part of the suppressed group under the upper caste people for a very long time therefore at present, the situation of the Dalits have become constant that is hard to amend. The social class works in society as an identity. Social class is related to the experience of privilege as well as disadvantages based on their perception of social class. The Dalits are naturally seen by the other group of people as the under privileged group due to its occupation.

People are often recognised by its group, Dalits are the group of people that belong to the lower strata of the social hierarchy (Deshpande, 2017). The situation of Dalits is the consequences of the situated identity of the group. The group is defined by the occupation it plays in the society. When a child is born in the Dalit community, it is socialised in the way where it starts accepting the unfair treatment and it builds its concepts of self and identity. There are some who goes against the norms and their collective identity and show the trait of individuality. The situated identity of the Dalits for years has been the role it has been playing in society.

c)    The article shows Dr Vinod Sonkar threw the glass on the wall and threw money on the counter when he was asked to wash his glass after drinking tea. He was asked to do so as he was a Dalit and the shopkeeper would not touch the glass after a Dalit uses it. There are many people belonging to the community of Dalits who have worked hard to get out of poverty and make the proper living (Dhankhar & Bhati, 2016). There are people belonging to the Dalit community tried hard to bring change such as B. R. Ambedkar. However, it is not enough in India where a person no matter which status he belongs to his caste is given the primary priority. Although there have been laws coming up every year, the question is which law in India is not interpreted, misused and abused? If it is the law that is considered as the ultimate solution, there will never be any change. The old-age practices are mostly found in the rural area where the caste system is still considered an essential factor as well as an aspect. When the urban area is considered, a Dalit may not face equal struggle as he would in a village however, there are still many ways that one can witness the discrimination in the bright city life as well. The population belonging to the older age group is found very rigid when the caste is mentioned; also the caste system plays an important role in Hinduism for marriages as well. In an overall frame, the situation of Dalits is in the slow process of change where the Dalits are approaching different people for different moves. However, the maximum support to eliminate class struggle is the support from the non-Dalits. Dalits have been suppressed for a long time in India, the political parties, the government and other people that are required to eliminate the caste system to bring the change. However, it is not the situation in India. India, people are still holding firm belief regarding caste system. The Dalits in India are faced with challenges even today along with other discrimination. There is a wave of anger that is built inside Dalits that are against the people who are enjoying a good life by making themselves the leader of Dalits. It is not new to stand for the Dalits and then to forget their responsibility in times of the suffering and crisis of the Dalits.

References:

Agarwal, A. (2016). Human Rights of Dalits and Untouchables. Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences, 9(1).

Bach, B. E. G. P. M. (2015). “There's really no such thing as the'voiceless'. There are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard.”?Arundhati Roy.

Bhosale, S. K. (2015). The Indian Constitution.

Cooley, C. H. (2017). Human nature and the social order. Routledge.

Deshpande, A. (2017). Affirmative action in India is largely caste-based and takes the form of quotas or reservations of seats in public institutions of higher education, government jobs and elected positions. Using a mixed methods research design, this paper examines whether and to what extent, additional stigmatization adversely affects the use of reservations for higher education or jobs. The quantitative analysis is based on a primary survey conducted by the author in the city of Delhi in 2014-15. The empirical analysis ... (No. 280).

Dhankhar, E., & Bhati, A. S. (2016). Toward an Alternative Classless Society Through Comics. IUP Journal of English Studies, 11(1), 14.

Griffith-Jones, S. (2016). Photovoltaic lamps in poor areas of Dalits in Tumkur, India. Journal of Financial Stability, 9, 820-830.

Hester, S., & Housley, W. (2017). Language, Interaction and National Identity: Studies in the social organisation of national identity in talk-in-interaction. Routledge.

Irvine, L. (2016). The person and the self as social accomplishment. Animal Sentience: An Interdisciplinary Journal on Animal Feeling, 1(10), 11.

John, R. (2017). Regional Socio-economic Scenario and Economic Upliftment of Dalits in India: What Does Contemporary Evidence Say?. Contemporary Voice of Dalit, 9(1), 13-18.

Maines, D. (2017). The faultline of consciousness: A view of interactionism in sociology. Routledge.

Middlemiss, L. (2017). Marriage, love, caste and kinship support: Lived experiences of the urban poor in India. Routledge.

Ray, D., & Esteban, J. (2016). Development and Conflict. Annual Review of Economics, 8(1).

Zahavi, D. (2017). Pre-Reflective Self-Awareness and Experiential Selfhood: Singular and Plural. Filozofija I Društvo, 28, 4.

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