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Submitted by:

Under the Guidance of





The research report entitled “CONDITIONS OF DALIT IN PRE & POST

INDEPENDENCE PERIOD” has been specifically prepared as a research work with the help
of available books and websites with a view to take appropriate action for the protection of
Human Rights of Dalits in the 21st Century.

It is certified that ---

 The entire work reported here has been done by the author under the guidance of Prof.
DR. RAJESHRI VARHADI. All the information used in this work is taken from
existing legal literature on the subject. They are duly documented in the dissertation.
 The work presented in the dissertation has not been submitted before for the award of a
degree or diploma by this or any other University.


Department of Law LL.M, IInd Year (Sem-III) R.No.-24
University of Mumbai Group IV Human Rights Law


I, Sagar Nagesh Ghule, student of LL.M IInd Year, Sem-III at University of Mumbai,

Department of Law, hereby declare that the Non-Doctrinal work entitled “CONDITIONS OF

DALIT IN PRE & POST INDEPENDENCE PERIOD” submitted to University of Mumbai,

Department of Law is a record of an original work done by me under the guidance of Prof. Dr.

RAJESHRI VARHADI, Professor in subject, Human Rights Law at University of Mumbai.


Date: 28.11.2015 LL.M, IInd Year Sem-III R.No.-24
Group IV Human Rights Law


The Non-Doctrinal research on this topic namely, “CONDITIONS OF DALIT IN PRE &
POST INDEPENDENCE PERIOD” aims to bring some of issues arising out of research which
have direct impact of the Human Rights.

History testifies the presence of social cleavages in Indian society, in terms of caste, class,
gender and the like. Such cleavages has changed the entire social fabric of Indian society,
whereby the exploited section, be it the Dalits, adivasis or women, have been systematically
pushed to the periphery by the traditional Brahmanical structure of oppression.
Dalits are the people who are economically, socially, politically exploited from centuries. Unable
to live in the society of human beings, they have been living outside the village depending on
lower level of occupation, and lived as ―untouchable .This exploitation is due to the
discrimination followed by age old caste hierarchical tradition in the Hindu society. The
Dalits(ex-untouchables), who have been brutally exploited by the so-called upper castes, lag
outside the Varnasrama theory and were referred to as outcasts in pre-independent India.

India attained independence, but the Dalits were not allowed to live a life with dignity and
equality. It is this idea of ‗equality, which sparked the beginning of the Dalit Movement in India,
as a protest to the age-old atrocities committed against them. Dalit movement is a struggle that
tries to counter attack the socio – cultural hegemony of the upper castes. The main objective of
the Dalit Movement was to establish a society in India based on social equality. The
constitutional identity, however, fails to capture the true picture. The real picture is something
different which will be reflected in this thesis, in the light of the conditions of Dalit in Pre & Post
Independence period.


I express with all esteem my deep gratitude to Head of Department Dr. Ashok Yende for his

uninterrupted supervision, through guidance and motivation at every stage for completing

research work and my guide Prof. Dr. Rajeshri Varhadi for her exemplary guidance, monitoring

and constant encouragement throughout the course of this research.

I would like to place on record my thanks to all friends, colleagues and well wisher for helping

and supporting me in completion of dissertation.

I am also thankful to the staff of Department of Law and Library staff of University of Mumbai

for extending their co-operation in the matter of Administrative work.

Date: 28.11.2015 MR. SAGAR NAGESH GHULE

Place: Mumbai LL.M, IInd Year Sem-III R.No. 24
Group IV Human Rights Law


NHRC National Human Rights Commission

NHRI National Human Rights Institution

UNHCHR United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

UDHR Universal Declaration of Human Rights

HRW Human Rights Watch



1 Declaration 3
2 Preface 4
3 Acknowledgement 6
4 Abbreviations 7

5 Chapter 1 Introduction & Background 8

6 Review of Literature 10
7 Aims & Objectives 11
8 Methodology 12
9 Chapter 2 Conditions of Dalits In Pre-Independence Period 13
10 Chapter 3 Post Independent India: Dalit Movements After 1947 24
11 Chapter 4 The Position of Dalits In India Today 34
12 Chapter 5 Problems in implementation of Constitutional and Legislative 38
13 Analysis & Interpretation of Questionnaire Method 44

14 Conclusion 45
15 Recommendations 46
17 Bibliography 47
18 Webliography 48



The word ―Dalit‖ comes from the Sanskrit root dal- and means ―broken, ground-down,
downtrodden, or oppressed.‖ Those previously known as Untouchables, Depressed Classes, and
Harijans are today increasingly adopting the term ―Dalit‖ as a name for themselves. ―Dalit‖
refers to one‘s caste rather than class; it applies to members of those menial castes which have
born the stigma of ―untouchability‖ because of the extreme impurity and pollution connected
with their traditional occupations. Dalits are ‗outcastes‘ 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.

Dalits represent a community of 170 million in India, constituting 17% of the population. One
out of every six Indians is Dalit, yet due to their caste identity Dalits regularly face
discrimination and violence which prevent them from enjoying the basic human rights and
dignity promised to all citizens of India. Caste-based social organization extends beyond India,
finding corollaries in Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh, as well as other countries
outside of South Asia (see below). More than 260 million people worldwide suffer from this
―hidden apartheid‖ of segregation, exclusion, and discrimination.


India‘s Constitution abolished ―untouchability,‖ meaning that the dominant castes could no
longer legally force Dalits to perform any ―polluting‖ occupation. Yet sweeping, scavenging, and
leatherwork are still the monopoly of the scheduled castes, whose members are threatened with
physical abuse and social boycotts for refusing to perform demeaning tasks. Migration and the
anonymity of the urban environment have in some cases resulted in upward occupational
mobility among Dalits, but the majority continue to perform their traditional functions. A lack of
training and education, as well as discrimination in seeking other forms of employment, has kept
these traditions and their hereditary nature alive.


In the name of untouchability, Dalits faced nearly 140 forms of work & descent-based
discrimination at the hands of the dominant castes. Here are a few:

 Prohibited from eating with other caste members

 Prohibited from marrying with other caste members

 Separate glasses for Dalits in village tea stalls

 Discriminatory seating arrangements and separate utensils in restaurants

 Segregation in seating and food arrangements in village functions and festivals

 Prohibited from entering into village temples

 Prohibited from wearing sandals or holding umbrellas in front of dominant caste


 Devadasi system - the ritualized temple prostitution of Dalit women

 Prohibited from entering dominant caste homes

 Prohibited from riding a bicycle inside the village

 Prohibited from using common village path

 Separate burial grounds

 No access to village‘s common/public properties and resources (wells, ponds, temples,


 Segregation (separate seating area) of Dalit children in schools

 Prohibited from contesting in elections and exercising their right to vote

 Forced to vote or not to vote for certain candidates during the elections

 Prohibiting from hoisting the national flag during Independence or Republic days

 Sub-standard wages

 Bonded Labor


The area of the present study is new and emerging area and much available literature in the form
of the research report. It deserves a special for taking up such a like issue for the study the only
valuable point contribution and protection of the Dalit rights under the Indian Constitution will
be studies with rich literature has been available in the problem of the study in the forms of the
books, articles and journal and comments from eminent personalities. Expert and writers,
literature in the form of decision and judgment of different bodies, courts and tribunals will be
used to tackle the problems of the study. Even though Constitutional provisions and development
plans are intended to create conditions conducive for establishment of equality between the
Dalits and the caste Hindus, an any studies reveal that these people are still under privileged and
discriminated in various forms.

The studies relating to different Dalit communities in India were first started by the western
scholars, during the British period. Many of them were English intellectual belonging to Indian
civil service. But the studies conducted by such scholars are mainly of ethnographic in nature
and where many of them have dealt with the age old practice of untouchability and how these
down trodden and under privileged have been alienated and discriminated by the caste Hindus,
very few focused on the changing aspect of these people. But after the of the British period in
India concerted efforts were made through Constitutional safeguards and different welfare
measures to integrate the Schedule Castes with in the fold of Hinduism and bring them into the
main stream.


After going through this Unit, we should be able to:

 Understand the nature and class of dalits from various source of history Vedas, puranas,
kings, British colonial and pre and post independence period.
 the root cause of the problems from the Brahmanism and various atrocities faced by
 the Dalit National Movement led by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and his influence on the
political party in India during pre and post independence period.
 To study and review the various legal measures introduced in the favaour of Dalits during
the pre-independence and post independence period.
 To find out the practicing of untouchability in the society and its preventing by legal
 To study the various acts, introduced for the protection of Dalits.
 To study the Dalit rights during after independence and its consequences.
 To find out the causes for failure in protection of Dalits rights.


The Study is based on the secondary and primary sources of data and information. For Secondary
sources, at reliance is placed on available standard literature on the subject government
publications published documents, and current standard journal etc. However, for study
exclusively covering the Dalits, greater is put on primary sources of data and information. The
primary method is through interviewing the persons in various fields of profession.

With a view to pursuing the aims and objectives the following methodology adopted. This
includes area of study sources works of eminent authors of national and international importance
and articles by the eminent persons in the field. Papers presented at various seminars, workshop,
conference, symposia etc.




Untouchables had been described as ―The oppressed of the oppressed and lowest of the low‖,
who had been treated as lesser human beings by the society. Usually people, who belonged to
lower strata of Hindu community, were also known as Shudras, Outcastes or Panchamas.

Shudras – Existence of Shudras (at present referred as untouchables/Dalits) was recognized, as

early as, Pre Mauryan Period (6th century BC to 3rd century BC). Though given a lower status,
they were always an integral part of Hindu society. In the Northern and Eastern parts of India,
they were very much belonged to fourth Varna ―Shudra‖, which was divided into two parts pure
or non-excluded and excluded or untouchables.Shudras were divided into two categories –
touchables and untouchables.

Outcastes – Breaking the caste rules meant loss of caste, meaning complete ostracism or having
no place in the society. Permanent loss of caste – out-caste- was considered to be the greatest
catastrophe for an individual, short of death penalty. By the beginning of Christian era, the out-
castes themselves developed caste hierarchy and had their own out-castes.

Panchamas – In Western and Southern parts of India, they were known as Panchamas as they
were kept outside the four Varnas.


In ancient India, conquered groups/individuals, or groups engaged in menial/

unsavoury/unhygenic tasks/occupations, groups engaged in anti-social activiuties or persons
born illegitimately were treated as Shudras.

Shudras performed essential social and economic tasks as well as worked in agricultural sector.
Segregation of lower castes in Hindu society was not based on economic status or their

incapability to do any intellectual work, but on cultural grounds like their unclean living,
indisciplined life-style or speaking foul and abusive language etc.

All of the social groups living in a local area, whether high or low, were placed more or less as a
series of vertical parallels. They were bound together by economic and social ties and had a
strong bond of mutual dependence. They cared and supported each other in fulfilling different
kind of their needs. Socially, Shudras were supposed to do all sorts of menial work and serving
the upper castes.


All troubles of lower strata of society started after the downfall of Hindu Raj and old Hindus
values. Continuous invasions by Turks, Afghans and Mughals who earlier drained out the
wealth of the nation to foreign lands and afterwards made India their homeland and ruled the
country for centuries. Feudalistic attitude, extravagance and luxurious life style of rulers and
those at the helm of authority, increased the disparity between the rulers and the ruled. It was
not so much out of malice, but the circumstances, which has pushed Shudras away from the

The low status and sufferings of Shudras or their exclusion from the mainstream for centuries
has gradually stopped growth of their personality and made them completely dependent on
others for their livelihood. Centuries old enslavement, ignorance, suppression and ostracism
shook their confidence, deteriorated severely their condition and made them to suffer inhuman
treatment by other sections of the society.


While Dalit women share common problems of gender discrimination with their high caste
counterparts, they also suffer from problems specific to them. Dalit women are the worst affected
and suffer the three forms oppression -- caste, class and gender. Today, the Dalit women have
extremely low literacy and education levels, heavy dependence on wage labour, discrimination in
employment and wages, heavy concentration in unskilled, low-paid and hazardous manual jobs,
violence and sexual exploitation, being the victims of various forms of superstitions. The very

condition of the Dalit women has its root in the Vedic period. They have to work either as maids
or bonded labourers, where they have to face sexual harassment from the upper caste male , or
they will be turned as prostitutes by society. Bhimrao Shirwale, in the story Livlihood has
explored the real face of Brahmanisn which exists even today. The story depicts how a poor
Dalit girl in order to fill her stomach was compelled to sell her body. Her beauty became the
greatest hurdle of her life which made the men to look at her with lusty eyes. This is not the only
instance, such things are common to all the Dalit girls. Woman is the root of any society and if
women are controlled, the entire community can be controlled.

Hindu religious institution were used as an instrument to exploit the Dalit women, and thereby,
making them silent. It was thus, the famous ritual of ‗Devadasi‗ was formed , whereby the non-
Brahmin women, in the name of serving god were made to serve the Brahmin priests. This
service was actually physical service. In other words, the women were sexually harassed and
raped. The only difference is that the women accepted such sexual harassment as a means to
serve God. If God really exist and is considered to be the equal for all , then how come God for
His benefit make one community to be silent after such loss of Dignity. It is said that Draupadi,
who was going to be raped by Duryodhana , was dressed with a saree of infinite length by Lord.



Deprivation of resources at every sphere of social, economic and political lives, led to a state of
immense oppression and degradation. The basic reasons for this degraded status of the Dalits is
caste system leading to untouchability, monopoly of resources and monopoly of knowledge. Not
only are Dalits extremely poor, rather half of the Dalit Population are living below the poverty
line as compared to less than one-third of the rest of the population .Today, they are almost
totally dependent upon the dominant castes for their livelihoods as agricultural or urban labour.
During the Buddha period, the Aryans tried to monopolize resources. For economic control and
social status they monopolized resources. Universally, control over land as a resource for
production and certain other resources were regarded as making for high status. Thus began the
real exploitation. With their control over land, the Dalits lost their livelihood and began to be
degenerated to the status of animals. The practice of untouchability and the lack of knowledge

made them to believe all those superstitious and unreasonable myths formed by the cunning
Brahmins. They were deprived of the three basic needs of society –food, shelter and clothing.
Deprived of food, they filled their stomach with stale pieces of food and dead animals as if they
were not humans.
The so called high castes– the Brahmins gave food to the beasts but not to the Dalits. The
Brahmins got polluted if the shadow of the Dalits fall on them, but their food do not get polluted
when cooked by the firewood brought by the Dalit women, in which many a times the blood of
their cut fingers get sticked . This is an indication of the fact that the rules made against the
Dalits are basically for their own benefits.

The Dalits were believed to be unclean and therefore must not touch anybody belonging to one
of the four main castes. If they do, or even if their shadow falls on a upper caste member, the
person is deemed to have been polluted and must perform a series of cleansing rituals in order to
rid their body of this pollution. It is as if a Dalit has an actual disease such as leprosy, such was
the discrimination against them. And it is to fulfill the stomach; they had to do the dirty works, as
no work was left for them in society. Even knowledge was monopolized by the Brahmins.
Shudras are not entitled to education , to amass wealth, or bear arms. A Brahman can take away
any possession from a Shudra since nothing at all can belong to him as his own. The Aryans who
themselves came to the sub-continent from Middle-East pushed the inhabitants of the land to
jungles, depriving them of their own land and resources. How far is it justifiable? Or, is it
justifiable at all? It is thus the Vedas, which are considered as the sole source of knowledge,
were kept away from the touch of the Dalits and women. This again has three connotations-
Firstly, this would deprive the Dalits from knowledge and education, by which they could keep
the Dalits in the animal status only. They will not know the meaning of equality and dignity.
Secondly, the Brahmins were scared that if the Vedas were read by the oppressed sections, the
real picture of Brahmanism will come in front of them, as because this will lead them to lose
their status. The Dalits, being educated will judge the Vedas based on reason.
Thirdly, this will make them not to claim their right as education can help them to raise
economic status. If Dalits become literate, they can move beyond unskilled labour, earn more
money, and so gain greater respect.

The Dalits were forced to work as manual works like scavenging or as bonded– labour their own
land , or they would not be given food . In return of their labour of whole day, some crumbs stale
bread was thrown to them. Can a group of people living under such socio– economic situation,
be called human beings? Or, it should be accepted that it is Brahmanism that is responsible for
giving the group of human beings called Dalits as mere animals.


In the pre-Independence period, the anti-caste movement comprised strong non-Brahmin

movements in Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu as well as Dalit movements in Maharashtra, Punjab,
western UP, Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, coastal Andhra and Hyderabad. The attention of Indian
society towards the miseries of untouchables was drawn way back during second half of the
nineteenth century with the introduction of modern education. It opened up the doors of
knowledge and widened the mental horizons of Indian intelligentsia and gave Indians the
understanding of liberal and humanitarian ideas thought of Western World. It had also
highlighted the weaknesses, rigidity and harshness of society towards the weaker sections of the
society. It had attracted the attention of the people towards social evils that had developed in the

Reformers, humanitarians and intellectuals took upon themselves the responsibility to build a
modern, open, plural, culturally rich, prosperous and powerful India out of a fragmented,
poverty stricken, superstitious, weak, indifferent, backward and inward looking society. Many
reformatory efforts were done to uplift the backward groups of Indian society, especially
‗untouchables‘. Later on, it turned into seeking state intervention and generating the idea of
paying special attention to untouchables.

During this period, the attention of humanitarians and reformers was also drawn towards the
pathetic condition of untouchables. They took the path of Sankritisation to elevate them. In
order to prevent alienation of untouchables from Hindu community, they drew the attention of
forward communities towards inhuman condition of lower strata of society and tried to create
compassion in their hearts for downtrodden. Gandhiji tried to create compassion in the hearts of

forward communities for Harijans and on the other he appealed to Harijans to observe cleaner
habits, so that they could mix up freely with other sections of society.

Gandhiji and his followers called them Harijans meaning the ―people belonging to god‖.
However, Dalit leaders did not like the word Harijan as it symbolized a meek and helpless
person, at the mercy and benevolence of others, and not the proud and independent human being
that they were.


By the end of the 19th century, it turned into a political movement. During the nineteenth
Century, in official circles lower castes were addressed as ‗Depressed class‘ or ‗Exterior class‘.
British government in India regarded these people as ‗Oppressed of the oppressed and lowest of
the low‘. Missionaries were trying to convert this section of society into Christianity. British
rulers passed many Legislative regulations and administrative orders and declared denial of
access to untouchables to schools, well

Non-Brahmin leaders, supported by other backward communities – Muslims, Indian Christians,

untouchables and tribals, desired to secure a place for themselves in modern callings, to obtain
legal rights and position of power through government‘s intervention. They succeeded in fixing
up quotas for them in the state Government jobs. From Government jobs, it spread to
educational field too, in order to prepare non-Brahmins for Government jobs.


Around 1909, for the first time, the lowest strata of non-Brahmin Community or the service
class, earlier known as Shudras, was conceptualized politically under the name of untouchables,
when the Census Commissioner suggested to exclude untouchables (comprising of about 24%
of the Hindu Population and 16% of the total population at that time) from Hindu fold for
forthcoming 1911 Census.

The proposal had divided non-Brahmin Community into two Backwards and untouchables.
Also, it had immediately increased the importance of untouchables in political circle, in social

circle, and in their own eyes too. It had also made numbers important in taking political

The suggestion to exclude untouchables from Hindu population was not acceptable to prominent
National Hindu leaders at any cost, for whom continuous decline of the number of Hindu
population had already been a matter of concern. Granting special electorate to Muslims had
already weakened the National movement of Independence. They were concerned that such a
proposal was made intentionally to divide Indians.


By 1909, the lowest strata of Indian society came to be known as untouchables. That was a
crucial point. From now onwards, all these developments inspired untouchables to enter into the
political arena under the name of ―depressed class‖ and desired to a share in political power
separately in India. The whole of 20th century, especially the first and last two decades have
been especially important for political empowerment of Untouchables.

The attempt of British rulers in 1911 to exclude untouchables from Hindu population and
continuous decline of number of Hindus cautioned the national leaders. They gave top most
priority to the abolition of untouchability. They tried to clarify that Untouchability was neither an
integral part of Hinduism nor an outcome of Varna/caste system, nor have any religious sanctity,
but an external impurity and sinful blot on Hinduism. They laid emphasis on education, moral
regeneration and philanthropic uplift. They also appealed to untouchables to observe cleaner
habits, so that they could mix up with other sections freely, retain their Hindu identity and
become proud and independent human beings, that they were.


Emergence of Dr. Ambedkar on the political scene provided the leadership and stimulus to
untouchable movement. Dr. Ambedkar, who was almost the sole national voice of the Dalits in
the first 30 years of the movement, provided it with its ideological framework which demarcates
the general rubric for Dalit resistance even today. He insisted to address untouchables just as
untouchables. He regarded the terms ‗Depressed classes‘, ‗Dalits‘, ‗Harijans‘ either confusing or

degrading and contemptuous. Dr. Ambedkar made it abundantly clear, ‗It was through political
power that untouchables were to find their solution, not through acceptance by Hindus‘. He gave
untouchable movement a national character and a distinct identity during late twenties and early

Ambedkar‘s resistance, in many ways, drew on the ideas of the 19th century Dalit reformer
Jyotirao Phule and yet, in other was markedly different. Ambedkar, like Phule attacked Hindu
society from a metaphysical perspective and shared his stand on the complete dismantling of an
innately anti-democratic and anti-modern Hindu religion as the only way to do away with
entrenched hierarchies of domination and subjugation. Both propagated an idea of an
equalitarian society with decidedly modern ideals. Ambedkar‘s focus is on the irrationality and
superstition of the religion, and he felt comfortable only with an alternative like Buddhism -
which had effectively rationalized God – that would allow him recourse to the call of ‗reason‘.

The 1920s and 30s saw Ambedkar‘s increasing radicalism, and it is in these years that a number
of his most crucial ideas were put into practice, like the right of untouchables to public utilities
with the Mahad satyagraha in 1927 and the entry of untouchables into temples in Nashik in 1930.
Through the 30s, Ambedkar became an increasingly controversial character on the Indian
political scene for his dogged insistence on holding to communitarian identities amidst a
strengthening nationalist freedom movement built on modern, secular ideals. Ambedkar, like
Phule, was willing to appreciate the positive aspects of British imperialism, in that they were
harbingers of modernity in feudal India and had been instrumental in alleviating the conditions of
the Dalits, in whatever small measure. While he declared categorically his opposition to any
form of imperialist hegemony, his primary concerns lay with his own Mahar community‘s plight,
as was clear in his advocacy for reservations for Dalits in jobs and electorates in British India.

In 1936, Ambedkar founded the Independent Labour Party (India), which won 15 seats in the
1937 elections to the Central Legislative Assembly. The party, the movement‘s first attempt at
formal political organization stuck to Ambedkar‘s Dalit agenda but also broadened the scope and
support for the movement by taking up peasant and workers issues which ran closely with those
of caste discrimination. As a result, in 1937 the party pushed for legislation on the abolishment
of the oppressive khoti landlord system prevalent in many parts of the country at the time. As the

agitation reached its climax in 1938, Ambedkar was able to conduct a successful one-day general
strike of Bombay textile workers in support of the peasants. In 1938, Ambedkar‘s ILP joined the
one-day general strike against the Bombay Industrial Dispute Bill, with its Dalit cadres fully in
support of the workers.

The 1940s saw escalating Hindu-Muslim tensions and increased political maneuvering in the
run-up to Independence. In 1942 he formed the All India Scheduled Caste Federation (AISCF)
which remained mainly as a pressure group to secure better conditions and legislation for Dalits
in the soon-to-be-independent India. This party, after Ambedkar‘s ambitious effort at a radical
fusion of caste and class resistance, seemed lukewarm in comparison. But it was him only trying
to make the best of his tactical position to strengthen the community in terms of both social
standing and political representation.

As India entered the 50s with a new Constitution framed by Ambedkar‘s Drafting Committee, he
began to look towards a spiritual resistance to the hegemony of Brahmanism. Months before his
death in December 1956, Ambedkar along with thousands of his supporters, converted to
Buddhism as the ultimate sign of protest. In Buddhism, Ambedkar found a rational, equalitarian
philosophy which he found in agreement with his political principles. Through his conversion to
Buddhism, it can be said that Ambedkar intersected the ideas of both Phule and Periyar in that all
three believed in the need for a weapon at the metaphysical level to combat Hinduism.

After the death of Ambedkar, however, the Dalit movement began to lose its vitality. The
Republican Party of India, which was again an attempt to try and make the AISCF‘s narrow
caste agenda into a broad-based movement against inequality, discrimination and injustice. The
party, however, proved to be only a name-change and in the post-Independence Nehruvian
utopia of industrialization and secular modernity, the call of the Dalits was either ignored or

But by the 1970s, as promises of development grew stale and the old resentment began to
resurface, the Dalit movement returned in a decisively more militant mode. In 1972, the Dalit
Panthers came to the fore with the stated intention: ―We don‘t want a little place in Brahman
galli; we want the rule of the whole country.‖ Strongly influenced by the Naxalite movement, the

Dalit Panthers showed no aversion towards violence – meeting ShivSena cadres in open street
confrontations – and looked to define ‗Dalit‘ in a far broader sense, looking to rally not just the
untouchables, but workers, women and all other oppressed sections of society to a people‘s
revolution. The Dalit Panthers, in an attempt similar to what Ambedkar tried in the 30s, welded
together disparate issues of land reform, untouchability and communalism. Like Ambedkar, the
Panthers also stood as a critique of both the Congress Government and the facile, sold-out Left,
and tried to bring together the most diverse groups as a viable political alternative. The group
was active through the 70s but by the 1980s, it was rife with internal splits that rendered it

In the new decade of coalition politics, as caste-based regional parties gain prominence, a few
questions still cast a shadow of doubt. Throughout the Dalit movement, its response has always
been tactical in nature, depending upon the incumbent circumstances. Consequently, one may at
times find the movement's political positions to be in apparent contradiction – their use of caste
identity in an attempt to fight caste inequality; their seemingly favorable stance towards British
imperialism in India as against their opposition to globalization.

While such a strategic approach may have worked well until now, there is a need to think
seriously on the question of ‗what is to be done‘, now that the movement is gaining some
measure of power – what is the agenda the movement can offer the country as a whole? What is
required is a genuine ‗view from below‘ based on a solid theoretical foundation, rather than
purely empirical assertions. A viewpoint that can build a Dalit critique in every field of study and
provide an alternative vision of the world.

Other prominent leaders of untouchables like Mahatma Phule, Ambedkar or Gopal Ganesh
vehemently criticized Hindu hierarchical structure and regarded untouchability as an inevitable
concomitant of Varna/caste system. They taught the lower castes to get united and make
eradication of caste system their major plank as it engaged them to forced labor or unsavory jobs
imposed many restrictions on them and prevented them from joining the mainstream of the
society. According to them, Hindus treated lower castes as lesser human beings, meek and
helpless persons, who should always remain at the mercy and benevolence of upper castes.


In accordance with the provisions of the Communal Award of 1932, instructions were issued, in
July 1934, to schedule a list of the people entitled for preferential treatment in matter of special
electoral representation and appointment in the Central Government jobs. This gave birth to the
term Scheduled Caste in 1935. Scheduling was a legal activity having sanction of legal
authorities. Therefore, no one had any objection to this term.

The term ―scheduled castes‘ continued after the independence for the purpose of Reservation. It
is being used for the lower strata of society, who could not benefit from the newer opportunities
in matter of education, occupations and economic development.


All the reformatory, social and political efforts done before independence bore fruits only after
India got Independence. Preamble of the Indian Constitution promises 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.
Article 15 of the Constitution prohibits any kind of discrimination on grounds of caste, race,
religion, gender or place of birth;.

Some time and somewhere the movement to uplift the submerged section of scheduled castes
seems to have got derailed. Only the well-intended provisions of the constitution need to be
implemented judiciously for the benefit of not only the really submerged sections, but of the
Indian society as a whole.




The Dalit Movement is the result of the constant hatred being generated from centuries in their
heart from the barbaric activities of the upper castes of India. Since Dalits were assigned the
duties of serving the other three Varnas, that is all the non– Dalit, they were deprived of higher
training of mind and were denied social-economic and political status.

The division of labour led to the division of the labourers, based on inequality and exploitation.
The caste system degenerated Dalit lifes into pathogenic condition where occupations changed
into castes.

They lived in the Hindu villages hence did not have advantage of geographical isolation like
tribes. They were pushed to the jungles whereas, the mainland was occupied by the
Brahmins. They were barred from entering into those mainland areas in every sense, they were
prohibited to wear decent dress and ornaments besides being untouchable. Many of the atrocities
were committed in the name of religion. Besides, the system of Devadasi they poured molten
lead into the ears of a Dalit, who happened to listen to some mantra. To retain the stronghold on
people, education was monopolized.

The most inhuman practice is that of untouchability, which made the Dalits to live in extreme
inhuman situations . This has made the Dalits to rise and protest, against the inhuman practices
of Brahmanism.

The Dalits began their movement in India with their basic demand for equality . The inhuman
and barbaric practices committed against the Dalits, led them to protest against the caste –
based hierarchical system of India.

The Dalit movement that gained momentum in the post independence period , have its roots in
the Vedic period. It was to the Shramanic -Brahmanic confrontation and then to the Mukti

Movement. The Mukti movement was led by very poor Dalits who fought against the saint –
poets of the time. With the introduction of western language, and with the influence of the
Christian missionaries, the Dalits began to come across the ideals of equality and liberty and thus
began the Dalit Movement in modern times. The frustrated Dalit minds when mixed with reason
began confrontation against the atrocities of Brahmanism.

Dalit movement was fundamentally the movement to achieve mobility on part of the groups
which has logged behind. They were a reaction against the social, cultural and economic
predominance and exclusiveness of other class over them.

Educated Dalit , gradually begin to talk about the problems of poor and about exploitation and
humiliations from the upper castes.

They also got a fillip through British policy of divide and rule in which census operation played
a sufficient role. British policy classifying caste. On the basis of social precedence provided an
opportunity for making claims for social pre-eminence a through caste mobilisation..

Improved communication network made wider links and combination possible; new system of
education provided opportunity for socio-economic promotion, new administrative system, rule
of law under mined certain privileges enjoyed by few and certain economic forces like
industrialization threw open equal opportunities for all dismantling social barriers.

All these factors contributed to the shift in position of untouchables. Social reform movement
such as those of Jyotiba phule in Maharashtra and Sri Narayan Guru in Kerala also began to
question caste inequality.

Gandhiji integrated the issue of abolition of untouchability into national movement and major
campaign and struggles such as Varkom and Guruvayur Satyagraha were organized. Gandhiji‘s
effort was to make upper caste realise enarmety of injustice done via practice of untouchability.

In early 1970‘s a new trend identified as Dalit Panthers merged in Maharashtra as a part of
country wide wave of radical politics. The Dalit Panthers learned ideologically to Ambedkar‘s

thought. By 1950‘s Dalit Panther had developed serious differences and the party split up and

In North India new party BSP emerged in 1980‘s under Kanshi Ram and later Mayawati who
became the chief minister of U.P.


The strategies, ideologies, approaches of Dalit movement varied from leader to leader, place to
place and time to time.

Thus, some Dalit leaders followed the process of‘ Sanskritization‘ to elevate themselves to the
higher position in caste hierarchy. They adopted Brahman manners, including vegetarianism,
putting sandalwood paste on forehead, wearing sacred thread, etc. Thus Dalit leaders like Swami
Thykkad (Kerala), Pandi Sunder Lai Sagar (UP), Muldas Vaishya (Gujarat), Moon Vithoba
Raoji Pande (Maharashtra) and others tried to adopt established cultural norms and practices of
the higher castes. Imitation of the high caste manners by Dalits was an assertion of their right to

Dalits also got converted to Buddhism. Dr. Ambedkar converted to Buddhism along with his
millions of followers at Nagpur in 1956.

As a protest against Hinduism some of the Dalit leaders founded their own sects or religions.
Guru Ghasi Das (MP) founded Satnami Sect. Gurtichand Thakur (Bengal) founded Matua Sect.
Ayyan Kali (kerala) founded SJPY (Sadha Jana Paripalan Yogam) and Mangu Ram (Panjab)
founded Adi Dharam.

With the growing process of democratization. Dr. Ambedkar demanded adequate representation
for Dalits in the legislatures and in the administration. Government of India Act, 1919, provided
for one seat to the depressed classes in the central Legislative Assembly. In 1932, British
Government headed by Ramsoy Macdonald announced the ‗Communal Award‘.The award
envisaged separate electorate for the Depressed Classes. Mahatma Gandhi went on a historic fast
in protest against Communal Award especially in respect of depressed classes. The issue was
settled by Poona Pact, September 1932. It provided for reservation of seats for depressed classes

out of general electorates sets. The Constitution of India now provides ‗for reservation of seats
for Scheduled Castes in proportion to their population in Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha under
Article 330 and 332.


At a time, when there was no means of communication to support the Dalits, pen was the only
solution. The media, newspapers were all under the control of the powerful class –the Brahmins.
Given that the Brahmins would never allow the Dalits voice to be expressed, as it would be a
threat for their own survival, the Dalits began their own magazine and began to express their
own experiences.

Their pen wrote not with ink , but with blood, of their own cuts –the cuts being basically mental ,
with instincts of physical in them.

Dalit literature, the literature produced by the Dalit consciousness, emerged initially during the
Mukti movement. Later, with the formation of the Dalit Panthers, there began to flourish a series
of Dalit poetry and stories depicting the miseries of the Dalits the roots of which lies in the rules
and laws of Vedas and Smritis. All these literature argued that Dalit Movement fights not only
against the Brahmins but all those people whoever practices exploitation, and those can be the
Brahmins or even the Dalits themselves.

New revolutionary songs, poems , stories , autobiographies were written by Dalit writers . All
their feelings were bursting out in the form of writings.

Educated Dalit and intellectuals begin to talk about the problems without any hesitation
and tried to explain to the other illiterate brothers about the required change in the society.

Dalit literature, try to compare the past situation of Dalits to the present and future generation not
to create hatred, but to make them aware of their pitiable condition.

It is not caste literature but is associated with Dalit movement to bring about socio –economic
change, through a democratic social movement.


Power on other side can be cut by only power. Hence, to attain power, the first thing required is

It was thus, Phule and Ambedkar gave the main emphasis on the education of the
Dalits, which will not only bestow them with reason and judgement capacity , but also political
power ,and thereby socio—economic status and a life of dignity. They knew that the political
strategy of gaining power is either an end in itself or a means to other ends. In other words, if the
Dalits have power, then they do not have to go begging to the upper castes . Also they will get
greater economic and educational opportunities.

Phule thus added that without knowledge , intellect was lost ; without intellect , morality was lost
;without morality, dynamism was lost ;without dynamism ,money was lost ;without money
Shudras were degraded , all this misery and disaster were due to the lack of knowledge.Inspired
by Thomas Paine‗s ―The rights of Man‖ ,Phule sought the way of education which can
only unite the Dalits in their struggle for equality.

The movement was carried forward by Ambedkar who contested with Gandhi to give the Dalits,
their right to equality. In the words of Ambedkar, Educate, Organize and agitate. Education, the
major source of reason, inflicts human mind with extensive knowledge of the world , whereby ,
they can know the truth of aphenomena ,that is reality. It therefore, would help to know



Babasaheb Ambedkar has undoubtedly been the central figure in the epistemology of the dalit
universe. It is not difficult to see the reason behind the obeisance and reverence that dalits have
for Ambedkar. They see him as one who devoted every moment of his life thinking about and
struggling for their emancipation; who sacrificed all the comforts and conveniences of life that
were quite within his reach to be on their side; who conclusively disproved the theory of caste
based superiority by rising to be the tallest amongst the tall despite enormous odds, and finally as
one who held forth the torch to illuminate the path of their future.

Upon India‘s Transfer of Power by British Government to leaders of High Cast on 15 August
1947, the new Congress-led government invited Ambedkar to serve as the nation‘s first Law
Minister, which he accepted. On 29 August, he was appointed Chairman of the Constitution
Drafting Committee, charged by the Assembly to write India‘s new Constitution.The text
prepared by Ambedkar provided constitutional guarantees and protections for a wide range of
civil liberties for individual citizens, including freedom of religion, the abolition of
untouchability and the outlawing of all forms of discrimination. Ambedkar argued for extensive
economic and social rights for women, and also won the Assembly‘s support for introducing a
system of reservations of jobs in the civil services, schools and colleges for members of
scheduled castes and scheduled tribes and Other Backward Class, a system akin
to affirmative action. India‘s lawmakers hoped to eradicate the socio-economic inequalities and
lack of opportunities for India‘s depressed classes through these measures.


Ambedkar had considered converting to Sikhism, which saw oppression as something to be

fought against and which for that reason appealed also to other leaders of scheduled castes. He
rejected the idea after meeting with leaders of the Sikh community and concluding that his
conversion might result in him having a ―second-rate status‖ among Sikhs. He studied Buddhism
all his life, and around 1950, he turned his attention fully to Buddhism and travelled to Ceylon
(now Sri Lanka) to attend a meeting of the World Fellowship of Buddhists.While dedicating a
new Buddhist vihara near Pune, Ambedkar announced that he was writing a book on Buddhism,
and that as soon as it was finished, he planned to make a formal conversion to Buddhism.
Ambedkar twice visited Burma in 1954; the second time in order to attend the third conference
of the World Fellowship of Buddhists in Rangoon. In 1955, he founded the Bharatiya Bauddha
Mahasabha. He completed his final work, The Buddha and His Dhamma, in 1956. It was
published posthumously. After meetings with the Sri Lankan Buddhist monk Hammalawa
Saddhatissa, Ambedkar organised a formal public ceremony for himself and his supporters in
Nagpur on 14 October 1956. Ambedkar completed his own conversion, along with his wife. He
then proceeded to convert some 500,000 of his supporters who were gathered
around him.He prescribed the 22 Vows for these converts, after the Three Jewels and Five
Precepts. He then traveled to Kathmandu in Nepal to attend the Fourth World

Buddhist Conference.His work on The Buddha or Karl Marx and ―Revolution and counter-
revolution in ancient India‖ remained incomplete.

His allegation of Hinduism foundation of caste system, made him controversial and unpopular
among the Hindu community. His conversion to Buddhism sparked a revival in interest in
Buddhist philosophy in India and abroad. Ambedkar‘s political philosophy has given rise to a
large number of political parties, publications and workers‘ unions that remain active across
India, especially in Maharashtra.

The Buddhist movement was somewhat hindered by Dr. Ambedkar‘s death so shortly after his
conversion. It did not receive the immediate mass support from the Untouchable population that
Ambedkar had hoped for. Division and lack of direction among the leaders of the Ambedkarite
movement have been an additional impediment.

According to the 2001 census, there are currently 7.95 million Buddhists in India, at least 5.83
million of whom are Buddhists in Maharashtra.This makes Buddhism the fifth-largest religion in
India and 6% of the population of Maharashtra, but less than 1% of the overall population
of India. The Buddhist revival remains concentrated in two states: Ambedkar‘s native
Maharashtra, and Uttar Pradesh — the land of Bodhanand Mahastavir, Acharya Medharthi and
their associates.



In 1971 Kansi Ram quit his job in DRDO and together with his colleagues established the
Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes and Minorities Employees
Welfare Association. Through this association, attempts were made to look into the problems
and harassment of the above-mentioned employees and bring out an effective solution for the
same. Another main objective behind establishing this association was to educate and create
awareness about the caste system. This association turned out to be a success with more and
more people joining it.

In 1973, Kanshi Ram again with his colleagues established the BAMCEF: Backward And
Minority Communities Employees Federation. The first operating office was opened in Delhi in
1976 with the motto-―Educate Organize and Agitate―. This served as a base to spread the ideas
of Ambedkar and his beliefs. From then on Kanshi Ram continued building his network and
making people aware of the realities of the caste system, how it functioned in India and the
teachings of Ambedkar.

In 1980 he created a road show named ―Ambedkar Mela‖ which showed the life of Ambedkar
and his views through pictures and narrations. Wall paint about Saheb Kanshi Ram‘s Birth
Anniversary .In 1981 he founded the Dalit Soshit Samaj Sangharsh Samiti or DS4 as a parallel
association to the BAMCEF. It was created to fight against the attacks on the workers who were
spreading awareness on the caste system. It was created to show that workers could stand united
and that they too can fight. However this was not a registered party but an organization which
was political in nature. In 1984, he established a full-fledged political party known as
the Bahujan Samaj Party. However, it was in 1986 when he declared his transition from a social
worker to a politician by stating that he was not going to work for/with any other organization
other than the Bahujan Samaj Party. During the meetings and seminars of the party, Kanshi Ram
stated to ruling classes that if they promised to do something, it would pay to keep the promise,
or else just accept that they were not capable of fulfilling their promises. Later he converted to

The movement of Kanshiram markedly reflected a different strategy, which coined

the ‗Bahujan‘ identity encompassing all the SCs, STs, BCs, OBCs and religious minorities
than ‗dalit‘, which practically represented only the scheduled castes. Kanshiram started off with
an avowedly apolitical organization of government employees belonging to Bahujana,
identifying them to be the main resource of these communities. It later catalysed the formation of
an agitating political group creatively coined as DS4 – the Dalit Shoshit Samaj Sangharsh
Samiti, which eventually became a full-fledged political party – the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).

Purely, in terms of electoral politics, which has some how become a major obsession with all the
dalit parties, Kanshiram‘s strategy has proved quite effective, though in only certain parts of the

The careful analysis will show that the combination of certain historical developments and
situational factors has been behind this success. As Kanshiram has amply experienced, it is not
replicable elsewhere. It is bound to be short-lived and illusory unless this success is utilised to
implement a revolutionary programme to forge a class identity among its constituents. If not, one
will have to constantly exert to recreate the compulsions for their togetherness and allegiance.

The imperatives of this kind of strategy necessarily catapult the movement into the camp of the
ruling classes as has exactly happened with BSP. BSP‘s electoral parleys with Congress, BJP,
Akali Dal (Mann) that reached the stage of directly sharing State power in UP recently,
essentially reflect this process of degeneration and expose its class characteristics today.

Kanshiram‘s reading of Ambedkar ignores the fact that Ambedkar had to carve out space for his
movement in the crevices left by the contradictions between various Indian political parties and
groups on one side and the colonial power on the other. For most of his time, he sought
maximisation of this space from the contending Muslim League and Congress, and eventually
brought dalit issue to the national political agenda.

The underlying value of the movement of Ambedkar was represented by liberty, equality and
fraternity. Kanshiram does not seem to respect any value than the political and money power. In
Ambedkar, one cannot miss an overflowing concern for the oppressed and wrath against the
perpetrators of oppression


While the Indian Constitution has duly made special provisions for the social and economic
uplift of the Dalits, comprising the scheduled castes and tribes in order to enable them to achieve
upward social mobility, these concessions are limited to only those Dalits who remain Hindu.
There is a demand among the Dalits who have converted to other religions that the statutory
benefits should be extended to them as well, to overcome and bring closure to historical

Another major politically charged issue with the rise of Hindutva‘s (Hindu nationalism) role in
Indian politics is that of religious conversion. This political movement alleges that conversions

of Dalits are due not to any social or theological motivation but to allurements like education and
jobs. Critics argue that the inverse is true due to laws banning conversion, and the limiting of
social relief for these backward sections of Indian society being revoked for those
who convert.Many Dalits are also becoming part of Hindutva ideology.

Another political issue is over the affirmative-action measures taken by the government towards
the upliftment of Dalits through quotas in government jobs and university admissions. About 8%
of the seats in the National and State Parliaments are reserved for Scheduled Caste and Tribe
candidates, a measure sought by B. R. Ambedkar and other Dalit activists in order to ensure that
Dalits would obtain a proportionate political voice.

Anti-Dalit prejudices exist in fringe groups, such as the extremist militia Ranvir Sena, largely run
by upper-caste landlords in areas of the Indian state of Bihar. They oppose equal or special
treatment of Dalits and have resorted to violent means to suppress the Dalits.

A dalit, Babu Jagjivan Ram became Deputy Prime Minister of India

In 1997, K. R. Narayanan was elected as the first Dalit President. K. G. Balakrishnan became
first Dalit Chief Justice of India.

In 2007, Mayawati, a Dalit, was elected as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, the most
populous state in India. Some say that her 2007 election victory was due to her ability to win
support from Dalits and the Brahmins. Dalit who became chief Ministers in India are
Damodaram Sanjivayya (Andhra Pradesh) , Mayawati four times chief minister of Uttar Pradesh,
Jitan Ram Manjhi, chief minister of Bihar.



According to the 2001 census, scheduled castes comprise 16.2 per cent of the total population
of India, that is, they number over 17 crore. Scheduled tribes comprise 8.2 per cent of the
population, that is, they number over 8 crore. Both together constitute 24.4 per cent of the Indian
population, that is, they together number over 25 crore.

The six states that have the highest percentage of scheduled caste population are Punjab (28.9),
Himachal Pradesh (24.7), West Bengal (23.0), Uttar Pradesh (21.1), Haryana (19.3) and Tamil
Nadu (19.0). The twelve states that have the largest number of scheduled castes are Uttar
Pradesh (351.5 lakhs), West Bengal (184.5 lakhs), Bihar (130.5 lakhs), Andhra Pradesh (123.4
lakhs), Tamil Nadu (118.6 lakhs), Maharashtra (98.8 lakhs), Rajasthan (96.9 lakhs), Madhya
Pradesh (91.6 lakhs), Karnataka (85.6 lakhs), Punjab (70.3 lakhs), Orissa (60.8 lakhs) and
Haryana (40.9 lakhs).

Almost every socio-economic indicator shows that the position of scheduled caste families is
awful. In many cases their plight is getting worse. Let us have a look at some of the major

LAND: In 1991 70% of the total SC households were landless or near landless (owning less
than one acre). This increased to 75% in 2000. In 1991, 13% of the rural SC households were
landless. However, in 2000 this saw a decline and was 10%. As per the Agricultural Census of
1995-96, the bottom 61.6% of operational holdings accounted for only 17.2% of the total
operated land area. As against this, the top 7.3% of operational holdings accounted for 40.1% of
the total operated area. This gives an indication of land concentration in the hands of a few.

FIXED CAPITAL ASSETS: In 2000, about 28 % of SC households in rural areas had acquired
some access to fixed capital assets (agricultural land and non-land assets). This was only half
compared to 56 % for other non-SC/ST households who had some access to fixed capital assets.
In the urban areas, the proportion was 27 % for SCs and 35.5 % for others.

AGRICULTURAL LABOUR: In 2000, 49.06 % of the working SC population were
agricultural labourers, as compared to 32.69 % for the STs and only 19.66 % for the others. This
shows the preponderance of dalits in agricultural labour. Between 1991 and 2001, the number of
agricultural labourers in India increased from 7.46 crore to 10.74 crore, and a large proportion of
them were dalits. On the other hand, the average number of workdays available to an agricultural
labourer slumped from 123 in 1981 to 70 in 2005.

CHILD LABOUR: It is reported that out of the 60 million child labour in India, 40 % come
from SC families. Moreover, it is estimated that 80 % of child labour engaged in carpet,
matchstick and firecracker industries come from scheduled caste backgrounds. The tanning,
colouring and leather processing, lifting dead animals, clearing human excreta, cleaning soiled
clothes, collection of waste in slaughter houses and sale of toddy are some of the hereditary jobs
generally pursued by Dalit children.

PER CAPITA INCOME: In 2000, as against the national average of Rs. 4485, the per capita
income of SCs was Rs. 3,237. The average weekly wage earning of an SC worker was Rs.
174.50 compared to Rs. 197.05 for other non- SC/ST workers.

POVERTY: In 2000, 35.4 % of the SC population was below the poverty line in rural areas as
against 21 % among others (‗Others‘ everywhere means non-SC/ST); in urban areas the gap was
larger – 39 % of SC as against only 15 % among others. The largest incidence of poverty in rural
areas was among agricultural labour followed by non-agricultural labour, whereas in urban areas
the largest incidence of poverty was among casual labour followed by self-employed households.
The monthly per capita expenditure (MPCE) for all household types was lower for SCs than

EMPLOYMENT: In 2000, the unemployment rate based on current daily status was 5 % for
SCs as compared to 3.5 % for others in rural and urban areas. The wage labour households
accounted for 61.4 % of all SC households in rural areas and 26 % in urban areas, as compared
to 25.5 % and 7.45 % for other households.

RESERVATIONS: 15 % and 7.5 % of central government posts are reserved for SCs and STs
respectively. For SCs, in Group A, only 10.15 % posts were filled, in Group B it was 12.67 %, in
Group C it was 16.15 % and in Group D it was 21.26 %. The figures for STs were even lower, at

2.89 %, 2.68 %, 5.69 % and 6.48 % for the four groups respectively. Of the 544 judges in the
High Courts, only 13 were SC and 4 were ST. Among school teachers all over the country, only
6.7 % were SC/STs, while among college and university teachers, only 2.6 % were SC/STs.

EDUCATION: In 2001, the literacy rate among SCs was 54.7 % and among STs it was 47.1 %,
as against 68.8 % for others. Among women, the literacy rate for SCs was 41.9 %, for STs it was
34.8 % and for others it was 58.2 %. School attendance was about 10 % less among SC boys
than other boys, and about 5 % less among SC girls than other girls. Several studies have
observed discrimination against SCs in schools in various forms.

HEALTH: In 2000, the Infant Mortality Rate (child death before the age of 1) in SCs was 83
per 1000 live births as against 61.8 for the others, and the Child Mortality Rate (child death
before the age of 5) was 119.3 for 1000 live births as against 82.6 for the others. These high rates
among the SCs are closely linked with poverty, low educational status and discrimination in
access to health services. In 1999, at least 75 % of SC women suffered from anaemia and more
than 70 % SC womens‘ deliveries took place at home. More than 75 % of SC children were
anaemic and more than 50 % suffered from various degrees of malnutrition.

WOMEN: While dalit women share common problems of gender discrimination with their high
caste counterparts, they also suffer from problems specific to them. Dalit women are the worst
affected and suffer the three forms oppression – caste, class and gender. As some of the above
figures show, these relate to extremely low literacy and education levels, heavy dependence on
wage labour, discrimination in employment and wages, heavy concentration in unskilled, low-
paid and hazardous manual jobs, violence and sexual exploitation, being the victims of various
forms of superstitions (like the devadasi system) etc.

SANITATION: Only 11 % of SC households and 7 % of ST households had access to sanitary

facilities as against the national average of 29 %.

ELECTRICITY: Only 28 % of the SC population and 22 % of the ST population were users of

electricity as against the national average of 48 %.


1981 to 2000 for which records are available, a total of 3,57,945 cases of crime and atrocities
were committed against the SCs. This comes to an annual average of about 22,371 crimes and

atrocities per year. The break-up of the atrocities and violence for the year 2000 is as follows:
486 cases of murder, 3298 grievous hurt, 260 of arson, 1034 cases of rape and 18,664 cases of
other offences.





Art. 15. Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth
Art. 16. Equality of opportunity in matters of public employment
335. Claims of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes to services and posts.
330 Reservation of seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the House of the People.
332.Reservation of seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the Legislative
Assemblies of the States.
Art. 243-D. Reservation of seats in PRIs.
Art. 243 T Reservation of seats in Municipality
Article 338 National Commission for Scheduled Castes



It is a great irony that we try to implement the act through an agency that is perceived as an
agency of oppression.

— Christodas Gandhi, then-Tamil Nadu implementation officer for the Atrocities Act

Higher-caste police already have a biased mind. They assume that complaints of [Dalits] are
made up or bogus. It is with this mentality that they investigate. Any person who has already
presumed something as wrong will ultimately prove the case wrong to prove him or herself right.

— Dalit district superintendent of police

Although a potentially powerful piece of legislation, the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes
(Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 is hampered by thepolice‘s lack of willingness to register
offenses or their ignorance of the terms of the act itself. Under Indian law, a police officer is
bound to enter in the station diary all reports brought to him concerning all cognizable and non-
cognizable offenses. Failure to do so, or entering a report that was not made to him, is punishable
under Section 177 of the Indian Penal Code. In most cases, however, the offending officer
escapes punishment. The police take on the role of the judiciary and determine the merits of the
case even before pursuing investigations. Cases at all levels are influenced by caste bias,
corruption and ignorance of procedures under the Atrocities Act.


Wherever the Atrocities Act is not used properly, it is because there is no knowledge, no
strength, so it has failed. It is a tool. On its own it will not be implemented. The use of Atrocities
Act as a tool has changed people‘s lives. There are hundreds of cases I can quote.

— Vivek Pandit, Maharashtra activist

Most beneficiaries of the Atrocities Act know neither the content of the act nor which agencies
are responsible for its implementation. In an interview with Human Rights Watch, the then-
chairman of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes asserted,
―Many states do not even have translated copies of the act or the rules. Station-house officers do
not even know of its existence.‖ In many instances, however, even knowledge of proper
procedures has not led to registration or investigation of cases. Because offenses under the
Atrocities Act are non-bailable, the mere registration of certain offenses can result in fifteen to
twenty days in jail for the accused. An activist in Tamil Nadu explained, ―If any case comes
under the Atrocities Act, the accused will go straight to jail without any bail. So caste Hindus
cleverly use the police to avoid putting cases under the act.‖. Police manipulate First Information
Reports [FIRs] and charge sheets, charging the accused under sections of the Indian Penal Code
or under lesser offenses of the Atrocities Act.


In Tamil Nadu, from 1992 to 1997, some 750 cases of atrocities against Dalits were registered
annually by the state police. However, the number of convictions secured by protection of civil
rights cells established in each district to implement the Atrocities Act was very low. From 1992
to 1997 only four out of 1,500 cases led to a conviction, despite the fact that in 1997, as many as
118 villages were considered by the government to be ―atrocity-prone.‖ Police officers have
attributed the problem to the lack of a supporting unit to investigate reported crimes (the PCR
cell in each district is headed only by an inspector of police) and to the fact that ―most police
personnel come to the cells either because they are facing action for delinquency or inefficiency,
or as punishment for refusing to toe the line of their political bosses.‖ One senior official
complained, ―With the PCR cells seen as a dumping ground of bad elements in the Police
Department, how do you expect us to perform well?”

A lack of witnesses can also hamper an investigation—they either do not exist or are unwilling to
come forward out of fear or economic vulnerability. According to T. K. Chaudary, ―They would
lose wages for the day, so they cannot come to testify.‖


Even when cases are registered, there is no court to try them. No cases have gone to trial, so
there are no convictions. Aside from paltry amounts from the prime minister‘s relief fund, no
compensation is given in the registered cases, as is required by the 1995 rules.

— Bharathan, NGO activist

The backlog of cases is largely due to a lack of special courts and special prosecutors. Pursuant
to the act, each revenue district within each state must designate a special court for the trial of
such offenses. According to lawyers with the People‘s Union for Civil Liberties (Tamil Nadu),
almost all Atrocities Act cases go to regular sessions courts, which are already overburdened
with original and appellate jurisdiction over district-level civil and criminal cases. Terrorism and
Anti-Disruptive Activities Act (TADA) cases are also being sent to these courts.


An investigation conducted by Navsarjan, an NGO that has been working with Dalits in Gujarat
since 1989, exposed the under-reporting of Atrocities Act cases and the biases of officers
charged with its implementation. The study covered eleven ―atrocity-prone‖ districts between
1990 and 1993 and showed that 36 percent of atrocities cases were not registered under the
Atrocities Act. Moreover, in 84.4 percent of cases where the act was applied, cases were
registered under the provision for name-calling (Section 3(1)(10)). That is, in many cases the
actual and violent nature of abuses was concealed.



That the Atrocities Act is perceived as a serious threat to upper-caste interests was readily
apparent in the state of Maharashtra where, in 1995, a promise to repeal the act became a
centerpiece of the Shiv Sena party‘s electoral campaign. Caste-based violence is common in
parts of rural Maharashtra. In September 1995 the Maharashtra state government began
withdrawing over 1,100 cases registered under the act, alleging that many of the cases were false
and registered out of personal bias. The stated goal of the drastic move, which began in 1994,
was to ―promote communal harmony.‖On January 14, 1994, the state government renamed a
university in Marathwada, eastern Maharashtra, as Dr. Ambedkar University. The renaming led
to rioting and abuses by caste Hindus in the community. Many cases were registered under the
Atrocities Act in the aftermath of the riots. In the week following the renaming, at least four
Dalits were stabbed, Dalit huts and shops were burned in seven villages, and statues of Dr.
Ambedkar were desecrated throughout the region.


The abuses documented in this report are in violation of the international human rights treaties
outlined below. As a party to these treaties, India is obligated to comply with their provisions.
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) and the Human Rights
Committee (HRC), monitoring bodies under the United Nations International Convention on the
Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the International Covenant on Civil and

Political Rights, respectively, have both expressed concern over the severe social discrimination
still practiced against members of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. Both committees have
also recommended measures that can be taken to ameliorate the situation.



In the concluding observations of its forty-ninth session held in August 1996, as it reviewed
India‘s tenth to fourteenth periodic reports under the convention, the Committee on the
Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) affirmed that ―the situation of Scheduled Castes
and Scheduled Tribes falls within the scope of‖ the International Convention on the Elimination
of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, 1965.Article 6 of the convention provides that state
parties shall ―assure to everyone within their jurisdiction effective protection and remedies,
through the competent national tribunals and other State institutions, against any acts of racial
discrimination which violate his human rights and fundamental freedoms contrary to this
Convention, as well as the right to seek from such tribunals just and adequate reparation or
satisfaction for any damage suffered as a result of such discrimination.‖.


In July 1997 the sixtieth session of the Human Rights Committee considered India‘s third
periodic report submitted under Article 40 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights (ICCPR). The committee made the following observations pertaining to caste:

The Committee notes with concern that, despite measures taken by the Government, members of
scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, as well as the so-called backward classes and ethnic and
national minorities continue to endure severe social discrimination and to suffer
disproportionately from many violations of their rights under the Covenant, inter alia, inter-caste
violence, bonded labour and discrimination of all kinds. It regrets that the de facto perpetuation
of the caste system entrenches social differences and contributes to these violations. While the
Committee notes the efforts made by the State party to eradicate discrimination.

RIGHTS, 1966

Article 7 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
provides that state parties shall ―recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of just and
favorable conditions of work.‖ These include ―fair wages and equal remuneration for work of
equal value without distinction of any kind,‖ and ―safe and healthy work conditions.‖



Succumbing in part to pressure from domestic human rights NGOs and the National Human
Rights Commission, India signed the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or
Degrading Treatment of Punishment on October 14, 1997. The provisions of the convention will
become binding upon its ratification.


When I am doing this Non-Doctrinal Research in between when I am taking the interview that
time I feel that, those people who are work in different fields of profession. So I suggest that
those laws made for awareness of Human Right which was not properly implemented. So the
implementation of the laws is very important for the enforcement of Human Rights.
Untouchability is a crime against humanity. Untouchability against dailit and other sub-caste of
Dalits is still prevalent in our society which is inhumane. Hence it is the right time to adopt the
principles of Dr. Ambedkar.

Untouchability is abolished but injustice practices are not. Today to wear good clothes is not
forbidden, but to get good job is. In the name of reforms and social uplift, today's political and
social systems are pitting one group against the other, sowing hatred and perpetuating a sense of
rejection from the past. Education is the only remedy for such discrimination. Thus the
Movement for social change will succeed only when all the Dalits unite together to fight for
equality. However they should accept that caste that is deeply rooted in peoples mind cannot be
erased. So here social change would mean to get rid of discriminatory practices and get rights,
necessary for the upliftment of the backward section of society-the Dalits.


Dalit Movement , a social revolution aimed for social change, replacing the age old hierarchical
Indian society , based on the democratic ideals of liberty ,equality and social justice , has begun
much earlier , became intense in the 1970s and began to deem at present.. No one wants to
confront with those who have power. Besides this, the minds of the people are brahmanised
through hegemony.

Yet another vital issue is that the movement lack people from all the communities of Dalits. For
instance, in Maharashtra, the Mahars dominated the movement. The other Dalit communities like
the Mangs, Chamars were not actively involved in the Movement. The Mangs and Chamars had
their traditional duties, whereby, they could somehow manage their food .But the Mahars did not
have any traditional duty which made them to protest.

It should be noted that Dalit Movement is against Brahmanism and not Brahmins. The
Brahminism is a mental state which accepts superiority of one man over another man. It gives
more respect and profit for the caste which is up in the ladder of caste system, and as it goes
down the ladder, resources and respect also decreases. It‗s contribution for the Dalits which is
lowest of all the castes is nothing but exploitation, jeering and slavery. This mental state of
Brahminism not only exists in Brahmins but also in Shudras, who simply shape the ideas of
Brahmanical practices without testing them with scientific temperament and reasoning. India got
independence but the Dalits are humiliated even now.

Untouchability is abolished but injustice practices are not. Today to wear good clothes is not
forbidden, but to get good job is. In the name of reforms and social uplift, today's political and
social systems are pitting one group against the other, sowing hatred and perpetuating a sense
of rejection from the past. Education is the only remedy for such discrimination. Thus the
Movement for social change will succeed only when all the Dalits unite together to fight for
equality. However they should accept that caste that is deeply rooted in peoples mind cannot be
erased. So here social change would mean to get rid of discriminatory practices and get rights,
necessary for the upliftment of the backward section of society-the Dalits.


The Constitution of India provides equal rights to all its citizens right to live with equality,
honour and dignity. But the caste system and untouchability somehow and others are still playing
negative roles from different parts of the society. Untouchability is a crime against humanity.
Untouchability against mehtar/dom sub-caste of Dalits is still prevalent in our society which is
inhumane. Hence it is the right time to adopt the principles of Dr. Ambedkar.

The Constitution of India is designed in such a way that all its citizens are equal before it. Our
nation is facing different sorts of socio-economic, educational and political evils in the society
and only the effective implementation of Constitution in its real spirit can overcome them. The
Dalits also will have to come forward and to labour hard in all social, economical, educational
and political fields to compete with the other members of the society. They should avoid power
demonstration and enjoy their rights properly.

Each Dalit member will have to try to become a Second Ambedkar. God has created the entire
creature including human beings without caste identity. It is we who make all these
discriminations. So the people of advanced classes will have to change their mentality. They will
have to be more generous towards the Dalits regarding untouchability and the upliftment of their
socio-economic, educational and political status etc. by accepting them as equal humans like

A democratic movement from the grassroots level has to be launched against discrimination
and atrocities as they are more apparent in rural areas. There is a need to change the status quo
and discrimination.

The Dalit human rights have to be taken to the center stage of any political and social movement
in the country. Dalit right to be human cannot be attained by themselves being mere spectator.

Dalits have to spearhead this human right movement and all progressive forces should join their
hands with them.


1. B.R. Mani, Debrahmanising History-Dominance and Resistance in Indian society (New

Delhi: Manohar Publishers,2005)

2. U. Chakraborty, Gendering Caste: Through a Feminist Lens (:Popular Prakashan,2003)

3. S. Paik, Daughters of the Lessar God: Dalit Women’s Education in Postcolonial Pune,
doctoral diss., University of Warwick, United Kingdom, PhD,2007

4. A. Dangle, Poisoned Bread (New Delhi: Orient Blackswan, 2009)

5. B, Kamle, The Prisons We Broke (New Delhi: Orient Blackswan, 2009)

6. G. Omvedt, Dalit Visions: The Anti-caste Movement and the Construction of an Indian
Identity (New Delhi: Orient Blackswan,2006)

7. Justice Ashoka, A. Desai, Judge, Allahabad High Court Justice the People Modern Law
House, Allahabad. First Edition 2000 p.45.

8. Antony, M.J. Dalit Right, Landmark Judgement on SC /ST / Backward Classes, Indian
Social Institute, New Delhi, Reprinted, 1998, p.IX

9. Ramaiah, A., Laws for Dalit Rights and Dignity Experiences and Responses from Tamil
Nadu, Rawat Publications, New Delhi, 2007, pp.2.3

10. Human Rights Abuses of Dalits in India By Bina B. Hanchinamani : American

University Washington College of Law Volume 8 | Issue 2

11. Human Rights Watch interview with Vivek Pandit, director of NGO Samarthan, Usgaon,
Maharashtra, January 29, 1998.


1. National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights website:

2. International Dalit Solidarity Network website:




5. Conditions Of Dalit In Pre-Independence Period - http://out-
8. The Dalit Situation in India Today

9. Present Dalit (Scavengers) Situation in India http://www.behind-the-open-