Pakistani Dalits – the disadvantaged survivours


By Amar Guriro 

KARACHI: Dalits or co-called lower caste Hindus – comprising 90 percent of Pakistan‘s religious minorities – are the most underprivileged, with lowest access to education, said a study conducted by Pakistan Hindu Seva (Welfare Trust).

The report said only 16 percent Pakistani Dalits get basic education and only 3 percent of them reach graduation level, while 2 percent go for postgraduate studies.

According to Indian National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, Dalits are ‘outcasts’ falling outside the traditional four-fold caste system consisting of the hereditary Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya, and Shudra classes; they are considered impure and polluting and are therefore physically and socially excluded and isolated from the rest of society.

“Majority of Dalit students are compelled to leave their education between primary and middle level because of their parents low income, who neither work in public sector nor on daily wages, but rather do mean jobs to survive.”

Explaining facts behind the low literacy ratio, the study said that it was because of the dropout ratio of Dalit students during primary and middle school, as their parents find it difficult to afford their educational expenses. Even though the public sector schools give exemptions, the rest including uniform, school shoes, and books are the parent’s responsibility, which they find difficult to fulfil.

Dalits are on the last step of ladder of Hindu caste system, in which they are treated as third-grade citizens. Most Pakistani Dalits live in different districts of Sindh with a majority in Mirpurkhas division and Thar Desert.

“Doughts in the Thar Desert frequently prompt temporary migration of Dalits to barrage areas to scour water, livelihood and fodder for their livestock. This seasonal migration affects their children’s education,” said the study.

Dalits often work as landless peasants on farms of some of the most powerful feudal lords, who treat them as slaves. “In many places, the landlords ask Dalits about the strength of their family members for assistance in work, prior to employing them. Resultantly, influential land owners take Dalit children under their custody, which is another reason behind low literacy ratio,” the study claims.

“In Pakistan, parliament approved thousands of programmes for health, education and poverty reduction during each of their reign, but none of the programmes specifically focus on the issues faced by Dalits,” said Vice President Hindu Seva, Chander Kolhi.

Low literacy rate combined with lack of awareness regarding basic human rights has made matters worse for Dalits; facing issues like bonded labour, being denied seats in public transport, and made to clean toilets, even after passing primary or secondary level education, they are systematically discriminated against, he said.

“Government must know that minorities are a valuable asset and have been living here for a long time, even before partition. It is their right to get complete and free education, good health facilities at hospitals, proper freedom and employment as per their eligibility,” said Kolhi.

“It is unfortunate and sad, that it has been more than six decades since the establishment of Pakistan, but the discrimination and gap between minorities and majority keeps widening with no hope in sight,” said Hindu Seva President Sanjesh Kumar.




Inter-caste marriages taking toll in jatland #Vaw


, TNN | Apr 20, 2013,

ROHTAKInter-caste marriages, along with those of same gotra, are taking a toll on young couples and further deepening the rift between different castes in Haryana. In the last six days alone, three youths have lost their lives over relationships not given social sanction.

While an inter-caste marriage triggered an attack on dalits at Pabnama village in Kaithal district, a young dalit was brutally murdered for opposing his sister’s relationship with an upper caste youth in a Bhiwani village. In Rohtak, an upper caste girl student of Maharshi Dayanand University and her dalit friend of the same university committed suicide after their families opposed their relationship.

According to D R Chaudhary, the founder of Haryana Parivartan Manch, an NGO, the problem lies with the upper castes. “The caste bias is prevalent across social, political and administrative systems in Haryana. A girl from upper caste marrying into a low caste is strictlytaboo, while it is accepted if the boy is from upper caste,” said Chaudhary.

“This is especially common among Jats and Rod ahirs. These communities have muscle power, political power and are land owners. They can approve of their men having relations with dalit women, but go mad if a dalit man has a relationship with their women,” Chaudhary added.

According to him, absence of a powerful social reform movement against caste system in India, especially in Haryana, has been mainly responsible for this deep-rooted problem. “The new generation seems quite liberal in mixing up with cross communities but the elders still reign supreme in families when it comes to taking a decision about marriages,” he said.

Sube Singh Samain, a Haryana khap leader, said although khaps have decided to keep away from inter-caste marriage rows, young couples tying the nuptial knot need to have the approval of their families. “The opinion of families matters a lot. If they are against a relationship, then these couples should understand it and heed by the advice of their parents. Problems begin only when they don’t (go with the family’s wishes),” said Samain.

One week’s toll

April 14: Dalit boy Surya Kant marries upper caste girl Meena at Panbama village of Kaithal district, triggering an upper-caste backlash. While the couple managed to flee the village, lower caste villagers bear the brunt

April 16: Jaimal Kumar, a dalit, brutally murdered by an upper caste youth of Devsar village in Bhiwani district, for objecting to the advances made by the accused, from the upper caste, towards his sister

April 17: An upper caste girl student of MA economics in Maharshi Dayanand University, Rohtak, commits suicide after her family disapproved of her plans to marry a dalit youth. Her boyfriend commits suicide a day later


University of Lucknow- Stop Casteism! Stop Discrimination!

December 5, 2012

caste system 300x121 University of Lucknow  Stop Casteism! Stop Discrimination!The following article was written bySeema Chandra, a student activist of Lucknow University, over an incident of caste discrimination suffered by her younger sister and college mate – Garima Chandra. Instead of acting on it, the University has only ended up legitimizing it by not only doing nothing against the errant students, but actually practising it themselves.

After nearly a month of the incident, fed up over the inaction of the University, Seema and Garima with support from their college mates, activists and few faculty staff will be protesting on 7th December against the incident and the University’s failure to respond. To know more about the protest or to send solidarity messages to Garima and protest mails to the University, please contact Seema directly at (with copy Seema can also be reached at 8765829986. To generate more support for this campaign, please do consider signing this petition

New Socialist Alternative (CWI-India) is in complete solidarity with Garima Chandra and we demand that the University of Lucknow take immediate action and see to it that such incidents are not repeated in the future. Such incidents are not rare occurrences, but are practised daily in several colleges and Universities across the country.

Capitalism, instead of eliminating casteism, has ended up accentuating caste based practices and is linked to the social structure of Indian society which is controlled mainly by upper caste-class. As long as Capitalism and landlordism exist in India, casteism shall be an inherent part of its socio-economic structure and this system of divide and rule will only continue.


“Please do not make me pay the price…!!”

Now “understand what comes by birth and cannot be cast off by dying is caste”. Wiping off the tears and in the loudest of her voice she says “where is my fault..? Is it a crime to be a Scheduled Caste? I wish if god would have asked me once the choice to choose the caste!”

This is what exactly happened on 5th of November in Social Work department of Lucknow University, when Garima Chandra (a student of the same department) was harassed by her three female classmates on the grounds of her caste and had to endure the mental trauma.

When the matter was reported to the coordinator of the Social Work department, the coordinator in his least bothering tone said “…please whatever you people have to do, do it outside the department.” The members of the Proctorial board were informed in writing about the same incident, they laughed off and said “You people should make yourself flexible. All these things have been carried out from generations and Scheduled Caste people will have to tolerate with all this”. The same matter was reported once again on 7th November 2012 to the Proctor board.

The matter was further taken up to the Vice Chancellor of the Lucknow University. However the assurance was given that matter would be inquired and something would be done about it. It is almost a month, a committee was made to further look into the matter. When the committee was hearing into the matter, three of the female teachers made fun of the victim. They giggled over all this and said: people who are Daliths are in the habit of taking revenge over their caste. It is just a small issue do not make a hue and cry over it. If someone has said something, it is a daily routine, what is new in it? Be with it, do not oppose, compromise on it.

The victim was not even heard or made to put her opinion in front of the committee. Was it her caste that had made others laugh over it? Instead of understanding it is as a deep psychological wound, everyone else thinks it is can simply be patched up. God only knows what are the morals of these teachers. What is more shameful is that caste discrimination is being so openly practised in a secular institutions like a university.

Say no to Casteism!

The passing out batches in the Social Work department will be out in the field soon and practice the same. Even though we are living in a class based society, but caste is still a huge problem in India. Do these same people understand the mental wound one goes through in such cases? If University does not act soon, in the future we will only hear more such cases. Or maybe in the future it would become part of our lives to hear such incidents daily.

When such cases crop up, i wonder why constitutional protection against caste discrimination is totally ignored? Why do people forget that practising casteism is a prohibition under the Constitution and it’s a crime and offence as stated in Article 17? The need of hour is to raise and to reach out to more and more people irrespective of their backgrounds and support anti-casteism. Every institution should make sure that caste based practices are a thing of the past or else those institution or its faculty plus its students who practice casteism, should be held accountable and taken to task accordingly.

Seema Chandra


News Clipping on Garima Chandra’s ordeal in University of Lucknow:

TN shocker! Dalits lead isolated lives in enclosed fence #castesystem #discrimination

A fence seperates the Dalit colony from the rest of the village


Ganesh Nadar in Tuticorin,

A Hindu caste group has built a fence around a Dalit colony to prevent them from venturing onto their fields and using sanitation facilities. The reason: The SC community protested against their employers six years ago. Ganesh Nadar brings attention to the plight of 50 families from Velayuthapuram in Tamil Nadu‘s Tuticorin district

The road to Velayuthapuram is winding and in a very bad shape. The coastal village is far from the highway and few buses ply on this route.

Ponds that dot the road leading to Velayuthapuram are dry; the landscape is rocky. Clearly, there is little scope for agriculture. Borewells are deep and yet unyielding.

This village in the Kayathar Union of Tamil Nadu’s Tuticorin district has over 1,000 houses — most of them belong to the Rettiars, a class above the Dalits, and over 50 houses belong to the Scheduled Castes.

What comes as a shocker is that these 50 houses are enclosed in a barbed fence that separates it from other parts of Velayuthapuram. Cut off from the rest of the village, those in this colony lead isolated lives.

There is no road that connects to this part of the village and the situation has been the same for the last 30 years. The other part of Velayuthapuram has concrete roads.

The affluent Rettiars, who own all the agricultural land in Velayuthapuram, do not employ the Scheduled Castes. So they have to travel to other villages to find work. Most of them have found jobs in matchbox factories in Kovilpatti, which is 22 km away.

Even, the Rettiars employ labourers from neighbouring villages.

Even basic facilities like sanitation are not provided to them — all they have is a public toilet with no water in it. While this toilet is reserved for ladies even the men use it, as they dare not venture on to land belonging to the Retttiars.

There is a freshly painted tank with no water in it. The Dalits get water only two days a week.

Only one toiltet has been constructed for 50 families in the village and that too has been reserved for women

Image: Only one toiltet has been constructed for 50 families in the village and that too has been reserved for women
Photographs: Ganesh Nadar/
Most Dalits are reluctant to talk to the media. Hesitatingly they said, “The last time a woman from Delhi had come with her television camera. The day after the broadcast, the police visited the village and were inquiring about who spoke to her. The deputy superintendent of police from Kalugumalaiquestioned us for 30 minutes. Now, that you have come the police will be here back again.”And as the villagers have predicted, the police did visit them.However, Dalits were not always disconnected from the village. The barbed fence came up six years back.Recalls a SC youth, who requested anonymity, “We worked in the fields belonging to the Rettiars and if we did not we were beaten up. But the last generation, to which my father belongs, did not like working for the Rettiars. They were intolerant towards us, but could not hit back as we were outnumbered. So, we turned to the police.”

The cops filed cases under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and arrested 10 men belonging to the Rettiar community. They were booked under the Goondas Act, which meant they could not get bail for a year.

The Rettiars were agitated and decided to stop employing the Dalits and prevented them from entering their fields. They simply built a fence around the SC colony.

The road leading to the Dalit colony in Velayuthapuram


Image: The road leading to the Dalit colony in Velayuthapuram
Photographs: Ganesh Nadar/

The Dalits turned to the then collector for help. “The collector told us, ‘You are only 50 families and they are a thousand. The MLA and ministers support them, as they are a larger vote bank. You will have to live in the fence; you can’t do much’,” recalled a Dalit man.

The protest against the Rettiars fell through.

Since then the Dalits have been leading an oppressed life on the other side of the barbed wire. And since the land belongs to the Rettiars no action can be taken against them.

“Most of this land belongs to Radhakrishnan Rettiar. He belongs to the Communist Party of India and it’s shocking that he has encouraged our seclusion,” said people from the SC community.

However, Palani Rettiar, the president of the panchayat, blames the media.

“The media has blown everything out of proportion. We are living here in peace for six years and you have come to disturb it,” he told

When asked about the lopsided development of the village where the Dalits did not even have access to road or water, “I am ready to consider their demand when I get the required funds.”

But he was mum on why the fence was built. “Six years back, I was working elsewhere, I really don’t know what happened here. But the barbed wires have been put up by individual farmers to protect their fields. The panchayat has got nothing to do with it,” said Palani Rettiar.

“The Dalits have voted for me and I will look after them. But I cannot do anything about the barbed wire as it is on private land.”

Why have we banished our own brethren?


On the eve of the moving of the Draft Constitution in 1949, Dr. Ambedkar expressed his insurmountable fear over the existing inequalities in Indian society. He observed:

“On 26th Jan 1950 we are going to enter a life of contradictions. In politics we will have equality and in social and economic life we will have inequality. In politics we will be recognising the principle of one man and one vote, one value. In our social and economic life we shall by reason of our social and economic structure continue to deny the principle of one man, one value.”

Dr. Ambedkar was well aware of the discrimination faced by Dalits due to the institutionalised caste system. He said: “On the social plane, we have an India based on the principles of graded inequality, which means elevation of some and degradation of others. On the economic plane, we have a society in which there are some who have immense wealth as against many who live in abject poverty.”

Dr. Ambedkar’s observations were true, made on the basis of some of his own painful experiences, when way back in 1918 in spite of attaining high educational qualifications he was not allowed to drink water from a pot ‘reserved’ for the high caste professorial staff at Sydenham College of Commerce and Economics in Mumbai. Dr. Ambedkar realised then that education had not succeeded in bringing out the desired attitudinal change in most of the “upper” caste people towards Dalits. “Upper caste” in village or city even with the highest degrees shared the same mindset when issues of Dalits emerged.

Only recently, on 15 February 2012, at Daulatpur village in Haryana’s Uklana region, a Dalit youth had to face the wrath of an upper caste when in a bid to quench his thirst he drank water from a pot located on his premises. Once his caste became known, his hand was chopped off with a sickle. Even though we are living in the 21 century and make claims of having the world’s largest democracy, there is little change in the attitude of the upper caste towards Dalits, literate or illiterate.

Surveys* show that 27.6% of Dalits are still prevented from entering police stations and 25.7% from entering ration shops. Thirty-three per cent of public health workers refuse to visit Dalit homes, and 23.5% of Dalits still do not get letters delivered in their homes. Segregated seating arrangements for Dalits are found in 30.8% of self-help groups and cooperatives, and 29.6% of panchayat offices. In 14.4% of villages, Dalits are not permitted even to enter the panchayat building. In 12% of villages, they are denied access to polling booths or forced to form a separate line.

In 48.4% of villages, Dalits are still denied access to common water sources. In 35.8%, they are denied entry into village shops. They are supposed to wait at some distance from the shop, the shopkeepers keep the goods they bought on the ground, and accept their money similarly without direct contact. In teashops, again in about one-third of the villages, Dalits are denied seating and are required to use separate cups. In as many as 73% of the villages, they are not permitted to enter non-Dalit homes, and in 70% of villages non-Dalits do not eat together with Dalits.

In more than 47% villages, bans operate on wedding processions on public (arrogated to upper caste) roads. In 10 to 20% of villages, Dalits are not allowed even to wear clean, bright or fashionable clothes or sunglasses. They are not allowed to ride their bicycles, unfurl their umbrellas, wear sandals on public roads, smoke or even stand without the head bowed.

Restrictions on temple entry average as high as 64%, ranging from 47% in Uttar Pradesh to 94% in Karnataka. In 48.9% of the surveyed villages, Dalits are barred from access to the cremation grounds.

In 25% of the villages, Dalits are paid lower wages than other workers. They are often subjected to much longer working hours, delayed wages, verbal and even physical abuse, not just in ‘feudal’ States like Bihar but also notably in Punjab. In 37% of the villages, Dalit workers are paid wages from a distance, to avoid physical contact.

In 35% of villages, Dalit producers are still barred from selling their produce in local markets. Instead, they are forced to sell it in the anonymity of distant urban markets where caste identities somewhat blur, imposing additional burdens of costs and time, and reducing their profit margin and competitiveness.

Just because they happen to be born in the “wrong community,” Dalit families are subjected to some of the extreme forms of humiliation and degradation generation after generation. They are treated as worse than animals. So much so, now most of them have internalised discrimination as their fate and they dare not raise voice against their tormentor for fear of punishment. For, they know even if they protest they have no hope of getting justice. That is because a majority of the positions in the government set-up are occupied by the “upper castes.”

And even if with great difficulty a lower caste person tries to make it to those positions, he is kept out through shrewd manipulations. Between 1950 and 2000, 47% of Chief Justices and 40% of judges were of Brahmin origin, according to a parliamentary committee report. In order to continue their monopoly over important positions, upper caste people have fought tooth and nail using all possible means to keep Dalits from even dreaming of aspiring for those positions.

To break the domination of upper castes, it became necessary to introduce affirmative action for and positive discrimination of Dalits, as part of the policy of the government. But implementing positive discrimination has not been an easy task and many seats reserved exclusively for Dalits still remain vacant, again because of the shrewd manipulations of the dominating castes.

In spite of traditions of high educational qualifications, many feign ignorance of the constitutional laws; rather they do not want to understand them because of their vested interests. In spite of glaring atrocities against Dalits, they are reluctant to share with them positions their families have been holding for ages. Complicity of the state makes situation worse, allowing crime against Dalits continue. Equality remains on paper.

Even today, given a chance many still do not hesitate to shift all the blame on the colonial regime for most of the ills existing in Indian society, especially for dividing the country. The British government even today is being accused of making a mockery of civilisation and its principles by its hypocritical actions. But now their place is taken over by our own country brethren, the only difference being ‘hypocritical action’ is directed against their own countrymen.

Some of the “upper castes,” it seems, are bent on leaving behind Britishers when it comes to the issues of oppression. Dalits are targeted most because the perpetrators are aware that they are not empowered. On July 11, 1997, sub-inspector M.Y. Kadam left General Dyer of Jallianwalabagh massacre behind, when he fired shots at his own countrymen and co-religionist Dalit protesters, above the waist, who had gathered in Ramabai colony in Mumbai in protest against desecration of Dr Ambedkar’s statue.

Moral and ethical issues and democratic values get subordinated in the face of corruption perpetuated by the oppressive caste system. There is not even the remotest desire to make democracy more functional. The caste system with graded inequality remains popular amongst those whose privileges are associated with it. For the same reason, the idea of egalitarian society fails to gain currency in their quarters. Lessons like, “United we stand and divided we fall” are hard to learn and even if by mistake they are learnt, they become hard to implement. Caste is meant to divide, not unite. A nation which lost its freedom on that account should be cautious, lest its divisions drive it to a state of subservience to an alien rule again. What ‘hidden pride’ lies in discriminating against and oppressing one’s own countrymen and co-religionists is hard to discern.

* (The details of the surveys have been sourced from the book, Untouchability in Rural India, authored by Ghanshyam Shah, Harsh Mander, Sukhadeo Thorat, Satish Deshpande and Amita Baviskar published by SAGE Publications, New Delhi,2006).

(The writer is Head, Department of History, BBAU, Lucknow, Email ID is: shuradarapuri@




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