People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 24

June 12, 2011


Sacred Institutions, Demonic Practices
G Mamatha

 “When we look at modern man we have to face the fact that modern man suffers from a kind of poverty of the spirit, which stands in glaring contrast to his scientific and technological abundance, we’ve learned to fly the air like birds, we’ve learned to swim the seas like fish, and yet we haven’t learned to walk the earth as brothers and sisters.”

- Dr Martin Luther King


ON November 25, 1949, Dr BR Ambedkar sounded a grave warning in the Constituent Assembly: “On January 26, 1950, we will have equality in politics and inequality in social and economic life. We must remove this contradiction at the earliest moment, or else those who suffer from inequality will blow up the structure of political democracy which this Assembly has so laboriously built up.” Unfortunately, our rulers have since then failed to heed this warning and initiate remedial measures.


Thus, even after nearly 62 years of declaring ourselves 'secular, democratic, socialist republic', social and economic inequalities are not just there, but appear to be growing by leaps and bounds. It seems not a single institution in our country escapes its evil embrace. The most revered judiciary, which is considered to be a sacrosanct institution that applies principles of justice to one and all, irrespective of considerations of socio-economic status, unaffected by caste, religion, gender and regional considerations, too, was unable to escape the smear of caste discrimination. Just recently, on March 26, 17 Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe judges were ordered to take compulsory retirement in Chhattisgarh. In this unprecedented decision, these judges, who had either completed 20 years in service or were more than 50 years old, were ordered to retire compulsorily. The recommendation was made to the state government by the legal department, which is since trying to mask it saying that this decision was based on their performance. The recommendation, of course, was accepted by the state government and orders on their retirement issued.


This, in fact, vindicates what a member of parliament had stated during the course of debates on the atrocities against SC/STs in parliament in August 2010: “Dalits are being discriminated against, as far as appointment in the judiciary is concerned. When advocates are chosen to fill the posts of judges, dalit advocates are dubbed as ‘not suitable’. Even at the time of promotion in judiciary, they are discriminated against. General category people get ‘outstanding’ reports and remarks whereas the ACRs of dalits are spoiled. This is the harsh reality of the judicial set-up where justice is not granted to the dalits”.


This is stated as much by the judges whose services were forcibly terminated in Chattisgarh. Paikra, who was serving as an additional district judge in Durg, has nine more years of service remaining. Until last October, he worked as additional district judge (ad hoc) at a fast-track court and was soon regularised as additional district judge in Durg district court. “They regularised me for my performance, usefulness and integrity. I don’t understand what happened in a few months that I was considered unfit for the task,” he says. While he might be diplomatically stating that he does not 'understand what happened', another judge citing examples of several other judges from the general category, does not mince words when he states, “they (general category judges) have been granted extensions despite ‘poor grading’. I still had six years of service remaining but my caste proved unfavourable for me as well as others” (emphasis added).


If this happens to judiciary and this 'sacred institution' is coloured with caste bias, can anyone expect unbiased justice – judgements not influenced by the considerations of caste of the litigants? A truthful answer to this question certainly sounds warning bells to our 'secular, democratic, socialist republic'.


Of course, these developments might not surprise any rational observer of the socio-economic, political situation in our country. No institution can be expected to be 'clean' when its surroundings are murky. Forgetting all the studies conducted by the 'ideologically coloured' organisations, let us take a peek at a recent report published by the United Nations. As per the study conducted by the United Nations Organisation regarding untouchability in 565 villages in 11 states of India, health workers refuse to go to the homes of dalits in 33 per cent villages, children of dalits are made to sit separately during mid day meal in 38 per cent government schools, dalits do not get their letters in 33 per cent villages, dalits cannot draw water from public water facilities in 48 per cent villages and dalits are not allowed to approach police stations in 27 per cent villages. Out of 1000 dalit children, 83 die during birth and 119 out of 1000 die within first five years. Every day more than three women are being raped and every week five dalit houses are turned to ashes, 11 beaten, 13 killed and more than 6 dalits are kidnapped. Every 18th minute there is oppression and atrocity committed on a dalit. The figures provided are just those who had registered their complaints, while many do not file their complaints at the police station. The report published by UN in 2010 observes that the dalit and the tribal people have been leading a pitiable life in India. Might be nothing new for many, but what is new is the mouth that is uttering these facts – the UN!


And now let us train our attention to the education system that builds the 'future India' in its classrooms. Consider this: Jaspreet, a medical student, was in the final year at the Government Medical College in Chandigarh. He was an excellent student throughout, and had never failed in any subject until he reached the fifth and final year. There, a professor whose criteria of merit was not Jaspreet’s performance but his ‘caste’, not only humiliated him on caste lines but failed him twice in the same paper and threatened to further keep on failing him. Unable to tolerate this humiliation any longer, Japreet killed himself in his college library. The suicide note recovered from his coat pocket charged his Head of the Department (HoD). Seven months later, a three-member group of senior professors re-evaluated his answer sheet and found that he had in fact passed the test. Seven months later! That is the sensitivity our system has towards its sons and daughters and that too in such a noble profession like medicine. Doctors are expected to take an oath on Hippocrates stating that they would not be in any way influenced by the socio-economic conditions of the patient, while discharging their noble duties as a doctor. And so much nobility have they shown, by coercing one of their own kin to take his precious life, just because he is not of their caste!


We have just seen how two of the noblest professions are being corrupted by the social evil of caste discrimination and also the study of another 'reputed' institution on this subject. It is a shame that out government is eager to sit in the UNSC as a permanent member, but not half as much eager to eradicate the centuries old social stigma rotting our system. More than this, it itself is gullible of failing to stand by its constitutional obligations of ensuring social justice and remain a role model. Just recently, it has diverted the money amounting to Rs 678.91 crore earmarked for the SC/STs to the Commonwealth Games. This shows the priorities of the governments and its commitment to social justice.


So what needs to be done to cleanse our society from this rot? Let us end with the words of Martin Luther King once again. “Injustice anywhere is a danger to justice everywhere...Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”. So, come let us together break the silence and join our fists!