In India, the word Dalit is a literal meaning of the poor and oppressed people. However, throughout the evolution of the countrys democracy, the term Dalit has with time, acquired a new cultural context implying, the individuals who have been broken down by those that are above them in both a systematic and deliberate way. Being one of the seventh largest countries, the Republic of India takes pride in being the worlds largest democracy. This being said, Dalits in the modern Indian democracy are considered as those people who bear the brunt of an infamous legacy of the deepest social degradation. Past and modern day literature contends that based on Indias economic well-being or even the quality of life, the Dalits are usually at the bottom of almost every parameter. For this reason, this review paper seeks to discuss the different parameters that either facilitate or limit the equality of Dalits in the Indian democracy.
To begin with, the Indian constitution acts as a substantial limiting factor for the equality of the Dalits. With more than 68 years of Independence, both Indias constitutional protection and political rhetoric have infamously failed to end the atrocities against the Dalits. Particularly, unlike any other underprivileged group in the country, the Dalits uniquely bear a distinct burden of the degradation of an ancient tradition of untouchability. Despite this fact, under Article 17 of the Indian Constitution and the schedule Tribes 1989, the Indian Constitution has since banned the practice of untouchability and the Prevention of Atrocities Act to combat the discrimination and persecution against the Dalits and all other tribal people. However, regardless of the existence of these legal provisions, it has been virtually impossible for the Dalits to access their rights through the Indian legal system.
Similarly, based on a historical context, the roots of Dalits oppression are greatly attributed to the origin of the Caste system in the Hindu religion. Nonetheless, this kind of oppression has increasingly been orchestrated by the modern day Indian democracy, in which case the constitution has formed numerous barriers which prevent the Dalits from becoming popular. For instance, immediately after India gained self-independence, the constitution abolished untouchability in the law. This being the case, in the modern day today, Dalit politics primarily center on the legal dispensation of the affirmative action benefits in the essentials such as electoral representation, education, and employment, which are granted to them by the Constitution. This aside, the implementation of the Protection of Civil Rights Act 1955/1976 as well as the Scheduled Caste which is both derived from the Constitution, have however remained largely ineffective. According to modern day scholars, there is a myriad of reasons why the implementation of these acts has remained inefficient and hence preventing the popularity of the Dalits. For instance, the Indian Law under the modern democracy lacks vigilance committees of citizens to monitor the implementation process of these acts. As a result, the Indian constitution does not have a statutory power of the Scheduled Tribe or Mandal Commission to punish those who perpetrate the crime against the Dalits directly.
Additionally, as a minority and oppressed group, the Dalits have sought equality and liberation under affirmative government action, but the Indian constitution has continually oppressed them and hence limiting their popularity. Notably, despite the fact that the Constitution is supposed to set limits on the powers of government so as to ensure a democratic system in which all citizens enjoy equal rights, the Indian constitution still oppresses the Dalits. Precisely, every affirmative government action concerning the Dalits is directed towards the amelioration of the Dalits inferior economic and social status. For this reason, the government has therefore failed to liberate them from the dehumanizing and the discriminative effects of both caste and untouchability.
In the same vein, the inseparable nature of caste and poverty has become one of the root causes of Dalits socioeconomic predicaments. Despite the presence of the systems of reservations which work at both the state and the national levels, the Dalits have always found it difficult to break into mainstream debates and discussions of the issues affecting them as a minority group. Besides, although the Constitution gives legal protection and equal protection of the Dalits, one of the primary reasons why they have not been able to break into the mainstreams of political debates and discussions is the fact that their agendas have been co-optioned into those of the mainstream political parties and which are usually led by the upper-caste men. This being the case, the primary demands of the Dalits have consequently been neglected, and as a result oppression, discrimination, economic exploitation, and above all else, inequality remains as the groups most acute problems.
In conclusion, the Indian Constitution under the current democracy has abolished communal representation of reservation of seats in the legislative. Although a majority of the modern day literature have increasingly quoted Article 14 of the Indian constitution which guarantees equal protection of law and before law, many of them have failed to discuss the lack of class bureaucrats and upper caste to social justice as one of the key limiting factors of the equality of Dalits in Indias democracy.
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