India’s Supreme Court is pushing local law enforcement and state Governments to stop caste discrimination by clamping down on discriminatory practices. Recent verdicts include a ban on using different cups for Dalits in tea shops in Tamil Nadu, cracking down on caste-based violence across the country and outlawing the use of derogatory caste names.

In a case of discriminatory name calling The Supreme Court bench stated that,

“A large section of Indian society still regards a section of their own countrymen as inferior. This mental attitude is simply unacceptable in the modern age, and it is one of the main causes holding up the country’s progress.”

In another case, the Supreme Court has called for criminal proceedings and harsh judgements on tea shop owners maintaining a system of using different cups for Dalits than for other castes. Police in Tamil Nadu have also launched an awareness raising campaign against the so called ‘two-tumbler system’.

There have also  recently been numerous cases of violence against Dalits that have seen harsh judgements from the Supreme Court, including a judgement directing state governments to hold administrative and police officials accountable for caste discrimination of all kinds, and action from the National Commission for Scheduled Castes.  Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has just stated that combating violence against Dalits is a priority.Read the IDSN article on this here >>

In a Gujarat village, Dalit villagers who have been ostracised because they dared to enter the village temple have reported the incident to the National Human Rights Commission. They  were denied access to upper caste shops and services and as a result decided to unite and become self sufficient to stop the discrimination against them having the desired effect.

Manjula Pradeep, Director of Navsarjan, an NGO working for Dalits’ rights, explains that it is common in Gujarat that Dalits are not allowed to enter village temples, do washing in ponds, and visit ration shops, etc. and says that, “In many villages, the upper caste communities have deprived Dalits of accessing drinking water.”

A similar situation exists in Orrissa where Dalits are now also seeking legal redress for the discrimination against them. In a village in Bhubaneshwar villagers were ostracised because a member of the Dalit community attempted to register an assault against him with the Police. Village representatives have now travelled to Delhi to explore possibilities for legal action against the upper caste boycott.

The increased support from the judiciary and police are important for Dalits struggling to fight discrimination in their villages and local settings.

However, Vincent Manoharan, a founder of the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR) cautions that the problem remains with the implementation of such judgements by state actors.

“Many such judgments are delivered, circulars and advisories are issued – but untouchability practices continue to remain and reign in villages,” says Manoharan, “Unless there is a strong political will, a clear bureaucratic commitment and cracking down of the wilful negligence of duty bearers, these practices could  not be checked effectively. However, this judgment [on the ‘Two Tumbler system’] will be an additional weapon in the hands of Dalits and Dalit organisations to intensify their challenge and struggle.”

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More information:

India’s Prime Minister: Combating violence against Dalits a priority

Caste Discrimination and Non-implementation of legislation

Caste Discrimination and Untouchability

Related Press Clippings:

Supreme Court asks Tamil Nadu to get rid of 2-tumbler system (DNA – Daily News & Analysis)

Calling a dalit by his caste an offence: Supreme Court verdict (Deccan Herald)
The Supreme Court Bench said ” “A large section of Indian society still regards a section of their own countrymen as inferior. This mental attitude is simply unacceptable in the modern age, and it is one of the main causes holding up the country’s progress.”

Dalit kids: ‘Untouchables’ and uneducated too (Times of India)
Several students and their parents complained that they were victims of caste discrimination by the school staff since long. The final straw, however, was when teachers refused to serve mid-day meals to the children.

Gujarat Dalits Thumb Nose at upper castes (Mail Today – D.P. Bhattacharya)- In a village in Gujarat Dalits  are asserting  their rights. Rampar is one of the villages where Navsarjan undertook their study on Untouchability practices in Gujarat.

In Vibrant Gujarat, Dalits still outcasts (DNA)

Reservation for Dalit Muslims (Milli Gazette)
Justice Rangnath Misra Commission states that ‘the caste system should be recognized as a general social characteristic of the Indian society as a whole, without questioning whether the philosophy and teachings of any particular religion recognize it or not”. It recommends that ‘Para 3 of the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order 1950 should be wholly deleted by appropriate action so as to completely de-link the Scheduled Caste status from religion’.

SCs/STs form half of India’s poor: Survey (Times of India)
The findings reiterate the long-held hypothesis that dalits are the most-underprivileged sections of population and the easiest marker of poverty. The pilot survey is significant given that results have come from the representative sample of 166 …

Retired dalit officer”s room ”cleansed” using cowdung water (IBN Live)

Orissa: Dalit children refused to take immunisation by health workers (Orrissa Diary – Amarnath Parida))After Balikuda MID day meal untouchability issue, another untouhablity issue has come to notice in Naugaon block area while health workers refused to give immunization to dalit children as they are considered ‘untouchables’