On 15th August 2022, under the banner of ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav', we celebrated 75 years of Independence.
The countdown commenced 75 weeks prior, on March 12, 2021. Throughout this, a series of events based on themes like freedom, struggle, Ideas, Resolve, Actions, and Achievements were organised to commemorate India’s Independence. In view of the ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ campaign, from monuments to our homes and social media; our country was decked up in the tricolour. Patriotism filled our hearts and our homes. India achieved a milestone, having had 75 years of freedom.
Here’s the deal breaker: are all sections of our diverse country free?
Do all Indian citizens truly enjoy the same freedom?
Here are snippets of two articles, 76 years apart:
Only the colours of the paper have changed, not the content on it. The common theme here is Dalit children trying to access water and being beaten up to death because of the casteist society we exist in. Even after Independence was attained, the practice of untouchability and casteism remains strong. There's hardly a difference in the lifestyle of a Dalit from 76 years ago to a Dalit today.
Over the decade to 2016, the rate of crime against Dalits rose more than eight times (746%); there were 2.4 crimes per 100,000 Dalits in 2006, rising to 20.3 in 2016, according to an IndiaSpend analysis of 2016 National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data. Post that, nearly 139,045 cases of crime against Dalits have been registered in different states between 2018 and 2020. On average, India reported 10 cases of rape of Dalit women daily in 2019. Jacqui Hunt, the Europe and Eurasia Director of Equality Now said that as a consequence of gender, caste and class inequalities.
Dalit women and children are subjected to multiple forms of subjugation, exploitation, and oppression. Sexual violence, including rape and gang rape, has been perpetrated against them by men from dominant castes as a mechanism that reinforces India’s deeply entrenched structural hierarchies.
Women’s bodies are being used as a battleground to assert caste supremacy and to keep women ‘in their place’. And while the crimes against SCs/STs are so high, the conviction rate under the Prevention of Atrocities (PoA) Act is as low as 26.86 per cent, with pendency at an alarming 84.09 per cent (2017-2019).
Institutions in India, government or non-governmental, political parties or religious organisations, are conspicuously silent on violence against Dalits.
We as citizens of India are silent and mostly unaware of the crimes against Dalits. While we celebrate independence from the British, we also look at whether Dalits in our country are free from the systems which oppress them.