Opinions

Hathras Case — Equality of dalits not limited to their right to vote

When incidents like Hathras hit headlines, one is prompted to deliberate on how much importance is being given to Indian Constitution? There is no end of political claims being made about India heading for development spelling progress of all Indians. Clearly, this will remain just a claim, a mirage and/or electoral dream spun by politicians to win votes till they and Indians as a whole become seriously conscious of their duties and rights as per constitutional dictates.

Who is/are to be blamed for the prevalence of social inequality which is largely responsible for increase in violence against the weaker sections, particularly those from Scheduled Castes and Tribes, which include Dalits? Statistically, there has been a six percent increase in crimes against Dalits over a decade (2009 to 2018). As per the report of National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) released earlier this year, on an average, 91 rapes and 80 murders were reported daily in 2018. Please note, these statistics include only reported cases. The possibility of a significant number not being reported due to pressure or some other reason cannot be ignored. Besides, possibility of a number of these having being deliberately planned due to social differences and/or to provoke communal hatred along religious/caste/some other lines cannot be ignored.

Against this backdrop, one cannot help but deliberate on what has happened to politicians, bureaucrats, police and other leaders assumed to be responsible for maintaining social harmony and ensuring security for people in general?

Paradoxically, police and their associates appear to have been extra-active in trying to prevent certain politicians, media representatives and others from reaching Hathras on their way to the victim’s residence. There are also reports of pressure being exercised to prevent media coverage of the incident. Well, if these “duty-bound” persons can be extra-concerned about playing their “role”, at this point, what prevents them from being similarly concerned in preventing so many cases of violence and murders, which the statistics indicate?

The preceding point clearly indicates that criminals of various kinds are likely to continue their atrocious activities if strict action is not taken against all of them by the concerned authorities. But if authorities pay greater importance to “pressure” exercised upon them from certain sectors, prospects of their paying due attention to their duties may be viewed as practically minimal.

Yes, the same point can be made about parts of the capital city (Delhi) having witnessed riots last February. Irrespective of who and which families were targeted, some importance needs to be given to why were the concerned authorities and/or officers not able to prevent the same? The same question can be raised against the violence against property and students in Jawaharlal Nehru University and Jamia Millia Islamia.

One had the impression that all associated with the government, whether politicians and/or officers are bound to give respect to Indian Constitution. Their position and duty rests on their commitment to the Constitution. Nothing needs to be said about the importance accorded to rights such as that of equality, religion, freedom to worship and so forth in the Constitution. But the increase in crimes and violence triggered against those considered as of “lower” castes and classes is hardly reflective of the importance accorded to such constitutional dictates.

It is imperative at this stage to make people conscious of their constitutional rights and duties. Till the depressed continue to suffer, prospects of increase in violence against them are likely to prevail. It is of course commendable that a certain number of people and a few leaders have chosen to raise their voices as well as take steps in support of the Hathras-victim. Who knows for long that this wave will last, that of voicing demand for justice for the Hathras-victim. Who knows as to how many more have been targeted since this incident.

Here, it is imperative to draw attention to another point. As suggested earlier, till the oppressed are empowered to raise their voices and strengthen their stand in society, they are likely to be considered as easy targets by criminal elements. It is possible, such moves have socio-political motives behind them. There is, however, no denying that political moves are also designed along differences based on religion, caste and other ethnic factors.

It would be more pertinent if greater importance is given to economic factors. Let us accept it, each time a case similar to Hathras-incident hits headlines, other shortcomings in the system are pushed – at least for a while – to the backburner. While it is imperative to demand justice for the Hathras-victim, it is equally important to consider that numerous families of this class belong to economically deprived sections. Also, their literacy rate is not high. Simply speaking, in addition to voicing support for justice, some importance needs to be given to ensuring educational and economic progress for the socially deprived conditions. Besides, social networks should be used fully to make Indians aware of their constitutional rights. Nobody should be considered as unequal. Equality of all is not limited to their right to vote!