PUCL Bulletin, January 1994

Untouchability and National Integration
- V. Karuppan, I. A. S. (Retd.)

Our Constitution has abolished untouchability. Yet, untouchability continues to be practiced despite the law against it. The anti-untouchability laws are not enforced seriously by upper caste bureaucracy, judiciary, etc. Scheduled Caste officers who are a very few - when posted to enforce these laws are not effective due to 'fear' of their Caste-Hindu superior officers, who exploit their inferiority complexes and insult them. The prosecution of the offenders under these laws are very negligible.

When atrocities are committed against Scheduled Caste people, the authorities find it easy to provide for example, an alternative well for drinking water and separate places for eating and separate burial grounds for Scheduled Castes without enforcing the legal rights of Scheduled Caste people as citizens of the country entitled to all the civil rights which others are enjoying. Generally, the authorities are satisfied with providing an alternative service to pacify the Scheduled Caste people. With a view to avoiding breach of peace, they remove the points of friction which denies the enjoyment of common civil rights by the Scheduled Caste (SC) people. The very fact that they are living in a separate colony though the colonial rule was banished 45 years before, indicates that no serious attempt has been made by any Gandhian or any good Samaritan to bring the people together to live as sisters, brothers to create a sense of fraternity leading to integration. Providing separate wells for drinking water, separate burial grounds, separate place for eating, including separate glasses for tea and coffee, separate places of worship, distances and divides the people on the basis of caste and religion. Under these circumstances clamoring for national integration will be a wild cry. India lives in the villages and national integration should start from the village level. No national integration council will be able to provide this cooperative course at the village level. Well intentioned citizens who are known for their sympathy for SC, ST and other Backward castes (BC) often say that they do something for the SC's as if they are aggressors and uncivilised people. But it is the caste Hindus who practice untouchability. They need to be educated and fully made to accept the realities of life in this country. They must live as brothers and sisters.

There have been instances when SCs have been booked under TADA for their questioning caste Hindus for committing atrocities against SC people. Not many law enforcing officer (upper castes) are known to have sympathy for the depressed and down trodden. I have not during 35 years of my service, come across an officer who was punished or his promotion denied due to lack of sympathy and for not enforcing laws for the downtrodden. But I came across officers, particularly SC officers, whose promotion was denied on the ground that he was a "communally minded" person!

The remedy to alleviate the suffering of the SC people and enforce Human Rights of these people, the following suggestions are worth considering:

  1. Whenever Human Rights are violated an inquiry must be invariably ordered. They should be entrusted to: (a) a committee constituted by the Government with legislators from all parties as members to enquire and submit a report; and (b) a voluntary organisation should be financed to enquire into this; and these reports should be placed before the legislature.
  2. Abolish the programme of providing separate colonies, separate drinking water, separate temple.
  3. Exemplary awards should be given to those persons who make effort and achieve integration on the village level, or impose a collective fine on villages or hamlets for practicing untouchability and call it untouchability tax.
  4. Wide publicity to be given in the village about penal provisions when untouchability is practised. Hand bills, films and wall posters should create a sense of fear among the wrong doers.
  5. Remove fear among the SC staff and officers to the effect that their future may not be affected if they serve the right cause of the SC people.
  6. Any adverse report in confidential report of SC officers should pass through one or more senior secretaries preferably SC officers in the case of SC officers; and in the case of subordinate staff one or more heads of the administrative officers may be nominated to review the confidential reports whenever it has been adversely commented.
  7. Strict enforcement of section 14 c and d in the performance prescribed for reporting on officers and staff and follow-up action on that will render great justice to SC officers and staff.
  8. Whenever a charge memo is issued against SC officers they should be allowed to have the assistance of a department personnel of his choice to defend his case.
  9. Stop ameliorative measures and be strict and put into operation all laws and legal measures without fear to bring about integration of the village.

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