People's Democracy

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


No. 38

September 18, 2011

 Killing the Right to Dignified Life


G Mamatha


I am a high school going child. Normal as any other child, or that is what I felt till the other day. Till then, I only knew of some of my classmates and schoolmates as having some money more than us. But recently I got to know of a new 'fact'.


I liked my science, maths and social studies classes. In our school, in the civics class, we were taught that the constitution of our country guarantees the right to life. My textbook says, “Everybody is guaranteed the right to life...” Not only that. It also says that we are also guaranteed a right to 'dignified' life. But how I learnt that the real world is very different from that of the books! On the road we used to go to our school, some people used to sit and abuse us. Then I came to know, I am a dalit, not 'equal' to 'others' and am not supposed to raise my head, forget about my voice. Quite opposite to what our sir had taught us in the lesson, 'Equality'.


Our sir also taught us that policemen are for our good, to protect us from thieves and look after our safety. My friend's brother was killed in Paramakudi – shot by the police. Many people were talking many things, about why the police fired. I thought that reading a newspaper would give me a full picture of what had happened. I regularly used to read the headings in the newspaper, but films and sports, I used to completely read. But that day, I thought I should read the news too. There was news on the police firing, but one thing struck me – the people killed are, 'miscreants'. I searched a dictionary for the meaning and found out it means 'an evildoer, villain, one who behaves criminally'. I know my friend's brother and certainly he is none of that. I know him, as one who gets angry whenever somebody abuses him, participates in some meetings, processions, etc. But he is not a villain. Why did the media call him that? Is taking part in a protest wrong? Is it because he is a dalit, he was shot and called miscreant?


Angrily, I searched many old papers to find out what is what. I found many incidents of attacks on dalits, police attacks on protests. I found some interesting similarities among them. One, many of these news items are not on the front page, but in some inner pages, in such places where nobody can see. Some things about heroes, heroines, stars, big leaders, American leaders - what they eat, what they wear, if they are ill, how they had fallen ill, how long it would take to become normal, what they should do...are all prominently printed. Not the protests of the poor people. Protests are creating traffic problems, law and order problems, tensions, etc. No mention of the problem why they are protesting. Two-three years back, seven people were killed in police firing in our neighbouring state, Andhra Pradesh. They were poor people fighting for land. They too did not find a favourable or a prominent mention. A few months back, four people were killed in police firing. The names of these dead are not found anywhere. They are just numbers.So one thing I understood, poor and downtrodden are not 'equal' in our country. My civics book is telling lies – there is no real equality, neither in my village nor in the newspapers.


My search for answers led me to some people who had come to our village after the firing. May be they had come to our village earlier too, but I noticed them now, because of what they are speaking. I had read about them in newspapers earlier too. They are working for 'equality' and dignity. They were explaining both - the laws that are there and also how they are not implemented. They said that we have to fight with the government for the implementation of the laws that are on paper and also for new rights that are needed. They told that during the year 2009 the number of crimes against dalits at national level was 33,594, of which 624 were murders and 1,346 cases of rape of SC/ST women; that 11,143 cases were reported under the SC/ST atrocities prevention act. And importantly, most of the accused in the incidents are not convicted it seems, because the police do not conduct proper enquiries and government lawyers too are not so interested. Why?


They told about some politicians and how they speak one thing and do another thing. They told about the chief minister of Gujarat, who, it seems, is sitting on a three-day fast for 'peace and harmony'. He had in a meeting earlier said that dalits were like mentally retarded children, assuming that dalits are lesser beings and 'they' are superior – being noble born it is their duty to have pity on dalits. This is most humiliating, as it shows that 'they' are the 'givers' and 'we' 'takers', living our life at their mercy.


Why is it always that we, who are poor and downtrodden, who do all the work, are projected as living at the mercy of the rich and the mighty? Is it not we who work in the fields, is it not we who work on the machines, is it not we who pull the rickshaws and carts, is it not we who do all the menial jobs – cleaning, washing, cutting, etc? Then why is our work not recognised? Why are we abused? Why are we called names, miscreants? Why are we killed? What is our wrong? Is it wrong to say that we too want to live our life with dignity? I learnt that our constitution guarantees it. Is it wrong to protest, to demand, to demonstrate? Even that I learnt our constitution guarantees. So what is really wrong?


I understood that there is nothing wrong with us. All the wrong is in the society. Till now we are cutting, washing, cleaning and attending to individual needs. As I understand, now we should clean the society off its casteist bias, wash it off from all the practices of discrimination and cut down the economic roots of this bias. For this, we should unite with all the working people and fight along with them for our rights. This I think would be the real homage we can pay to all those poor, oppressed, discriminated and exploited who had given their lives.