The role of Dalit women in the struggle against discriminatory practices needs better recognition in society, including among Dalits

women1In large number of villages, Dalit women have addressed the issue of discrimination in basic amenities. At many places, they have been able to resolve it without severe violence. But this history has most of the times not been written or documented, says Manjula Pradeep 

The extent of violence against Dalits has been increasing and one of the major reasons is awareness and assertion amongst them has gone up which has led to increase in the reporting of these incidents to the police authorities. But the question of state impunity and failure to protect the rights of Dalits is still a pertinent question which is being raised again and again by the civil societies and members of the Dalit movement and its supporters.

The issue of caste based violence is most of the times ignored as an issue of systemic conflict, so there is lack of mechanism apart from laws like Prevention of Atrocities against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, 1989 which is enacted to protect their rights as citizens. If caste based violence is addressed by the state as systemic conflict then the framework, policies and mechanisms to address the same would also need to be changed.

Whenever caste based violence occurs, it is reported or not reported to the police. Whether it is reported or not reported, the impact of the violence does affect the Dalits who are victimised. Majority of the time the caste based violence or incidence of atrocities creates an environment which leads to tension, divisions and many times forces the affected Dalits to leave their village or place of residence.

When we say Dalits it means a social group which includes children, women and men. During the course of intervention to address the issue of violence, the Dalit leaders who are all men take control of the situation and are involved in the decision making process and they most of the times exclude Dalit women to be part of the same. This leads to a pressure which is built on Dalit women to accept the decisions and further accept the result of the decisions which they would actually want to question or do not want to accept. But they do not have voice or any role to play in the decision making process.

In the context of caste based discrimination, Dalit women have played important role in addressing the issue of untouchability and caste based violence which most of the time has been ignored or not recognised by the community and the larger society. In majority of the villages, Dalit women have addressed the issue of discrimination in basic amenities and mainly access to drinking water and most of the times they have been able to resolve it without severe violence. But this history has most of the times not been written or documented. The Dalit women have used peaceful and non-violent strategies to address the issue of untouchability which many times Dalit men have not.

If the role of Dalit women is recognised then there is a possibility that serious incidents of violence against Dalits could be prevented and the tension between the Dalits and non-Dalits could be reduced. But for that a mechanism has to be created where due spaces have to be provided to the Dalit women who come out as leaders in the Dalit communities and then they can enable a peace making process where there is a process of dialogue and negotiation to see the possibility to end a problem which can in future lead to serious atrocities, mass killings, etc.

The identity of Dalit women who are perceived as weak and vulnerable would also change slowly and they would become key stake holders in the larger process of addressing and elimination of the issue of caste based discrimination.


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