65 years after untouchability was abolished, one in four Indians admit to practicing it in some form in their homes– a shocking fact revealed by a pan-India survey that was flagged at a seminar of Dalit intellectuals, writers and academicians here.Indians belonging to virtually every religion and caste group, including Muslims, Christians, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, admit to practicing untouchability, shows the India Human Development Survey (IHDS- 2).
The survey was conducted by National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) and University of Maryland, US and its full results are to be released later this year.
The issue was highlighted at a seminar “Rise of the Oppressed: Impact of Dalit Literary and Cultural Interventions” in Maharashtra and Beyond over the weekend.
Speakers including former member of Planning Commission Bhalchandra Munagekar Y S Alone, Professor of Art and Aesthetics, JNU, and Waman Kendre, Director of National School of Drama, Suhas Borkar of Working Group on Alternative Strategies, called for waging a war on “the mindset of social injustice”.
After Borker spoke about the findings of the survey, other speakers including Mungekar, who is a member of the Rajya Sabha, said that the revelations were quite shocking.
Munagekar recalled the pain and hardship he and his family had to undergo due to the stigma of being a Dalit. He, however, said that the writings of Babasheb Ambedkar and Jnanpith Award winner V S Khandekar had greatly influenced his way of thinking.
Alone said dismantling of hegemony of the upper castes began with the rise of the Ambedkar movement in the country.
Kendre dwelt upon the tradition of great Dalit writers and poets like Namdev Dhasal, Annabhau Sathe, Daya Pawar, Shantibai Kamble and Narayan Surve among others and how their revolutionary writings brought about a resurgence and gave a sense of self-confidence to the Dalits.
Smita Patil, Assistant Professor, School of Gender and Development Studies, IGNOU spoke about the contribution of Dalit women writers.
Speaking about the impact of Dalit literature beyond Maharasthra, Ram Chandra, Associate Professor of Language, Literature and Cultural Studies at JNU, called for rejection of the “exploitative and unjust” Hindu caste system.
The seminar was organised by Maharashtra Sanskritik Ani Rannaniti Adhyayan Samiti and Working Group on Alternative Strategies.