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Dalits in India – BBC has it wrong

October 14, 2006
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This evening, the 14th of October 2006, I heard on BBC World that Dalits are converting to Buddhism and Christianity en masse because Dalits in India can only become labourers. What a sweeping statement!

I didn’t know this, although I live in India and am an Indian. True, we have a traditional caste system that is born out of occupations, but today this sort of suppression is unheard of. Dalits are not forced to become labourers or anything else.

If any Dalits are laborers today, it’s for the same reason that people from other castes are labourers. Because they are uneducated. In fact Dalits today can and have opened businesses, entered politics and are becoming training to be doctors and engineers. Even in rural areas. They are becoming prosperous and rich. And good for them.

So what in the world is BBC talking about?

Perhaps the channel wants to say that Dalits are socially looked down upon and in that case they are right. Only Indian intellectuals do not look down upon Dalits. The caste system exists in rural and semi-urban India. But even in the UK I am sure accents matter and tell you where people come from. So it is the case with Dalits.

In some rural areas Dalits are socially ostracized, are prevented from entering temples and drawing water etc. Plus atrocities happen against them. Women are raped, people murdered.

If Dalits want to convert to Buddhism or Christianity for this reason – I say great! I am with them. But not  is because they can only become labourers because that’s a lie!

Related Reading: Has caste-based affirmative action worked?

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Sicilian permalink
    December 16, 2006 10:20 pm

    I would have no comment on the conversion process. Equally true is the fact that I am not against any of the upper castes. I would agree to the fact that a dalit is a laborer cas they r uneducated in addition I would add that dalits lack other skills with which “other” un educated have (example rhetorics, business and many other traits related to self esteem), but a dalit laborer faces more discrimination as a land/farm laborer then his counterparts. In fact ‘discrimination’ is a far lighter word to use, they brutally face many incidents which could be recorded as crimes. An ordinary dalit, regardless, of social status faces more such discrimination against him then his other counterparts, an example would be more theft of valuables, biasness in promotion (esp. in private companies), more assignment to “low” or “menial” tasks in a group. Well the examples are endless. I would directly site one reason for conversion. No matter how much educated an dalit is, no upper caste in open avows his friendship (I would accept that many are nice in private one to one chat) and I would relate religion more as an “social association” , then any other thing. Hence if Muslims, Christians, Buddhists are proud to associate with them socially, I do not feel any harm in conversion, from a more pragmatic view.

  2. December 17, 2006 6:26 am

    I agree with you Sicilian, in fact you are saying exactly what I have said!
    I am not deny that Dalits face discrimination. Please note my last line.
    And I also said that if that is the reason for the conversion – gung ho. Gung ho means good!
    The BBC had said that Dalits are converting because they are being prevented from becoming educated and rising to other professions. Surely you cannot believe that Dalits are being prevented from studying? Why, even the government is providing reservations and many people are getting that advantage!
    These foreign channels have no idea about the Indian reality. Even the NRI’s who work for them have no idea about Indian reality.
    And as you said some private companies discriminate as well. That is because they are being run by some bigoted individuals. Such bigoted people will discriminate against all minorities including women. If a person is well educated and qualified, he or she has the freedom of choice to choose the company he works for. Today Dalits in this country have this opportunity…to get a good education.

  3. October 25, 2007 10:42 am

    There is greater awareness among the Dalits today.

    Poverty is the cruse to mankind. It is a black spot on forehead and blot on Humanity. The first sitting Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh to openly acknowledge the parallel between the practice of “Untouchability” and the Crime of Apartheid you described. “Untouchability is not just Social Discrimination; it is a Blot on Humanity.” Our greatest enemy is poverty and not human beings if we want to progress, we will have to fight poverty. There is a need for people to understand that poverty is their common enemy and not another human. Our enemy is poverty! It is the root cause of our problems and it should be the object of our fight. We must eradicate poverty and illiteracy and reduce inequality within upper- castes and Untouchables.

    “Our greatest enemy is poverty and not human beings if we want to progress, we will have to fight poverty. There is a need for people to understand that poverty is their common enemy and not another human. Our enemy is poverty! It is the root cause of our problems and it should be the object of our fight. We must eradicate poverty and illiteracy and reduce inequality within upper- castes and Untouchables of India. Promote world peace through prayer” May Peace Prevail on Earth”!

    Nishikant waghmare,Mumbai.India
    October25, 2007.

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