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The Dalits of India Essay

I had been planning my trip to India for a year. I read about the Dalit people by accident one day while waiting for my car at a car repair shop. The Dalit people — also known as “Untouchables” — have been the most oppressed caste for over 3,000 years, living at the bottom of India’s rigid social order. The word “Dalit” means “broken, ground-down, downtrodden, or oppressed. ” Dalits comprise about ¼ of the population of India: that’s seven times the entire population of Canada. [1] This large group of people are considered to pollutants to the rest of India. They are considered to be a lower class of people and are treated this way.

The Dalit people are only given disgusting jobs like preparing bodies for cremation, picking up human waste and dead animals. The Adivasis is the collective name used for the many tribal peoples of India. Adivasis are not an homogenous group — with over 200 tribes speaking over 100 languages, which vary greatly in ethnicity, culture and language; however there are similarities in their way of life and generally perceived inferior position within Indian society.

There are over 50 million Adivasis constituting 7. 5% of the Indian population, thus making it the largest tribal population in the world. 2] The best way for me to prepare for this trip was to get back to the basics. I started by weaning myself off of modern day conveniences. I packed away my coffee pot and my gps. I learned how to use a compass and a map. I took a few camping trips to learn how to start a fire and cook food on that fire. I researched the native plant life of India so I will know what I can eat and touch. I packed my luggage 6 months early. Every week or two I would go through and re-pack, getting down to the basics. During the ‘weaning process, I learned a lot about myself and how much stuff I do not need.

The 67. 7 million people belonging to “Scheduled Tribes” in India are generally considered to be ‘Adivasis’, literally meaning ‘indigenous people’ or ‘original inhabitants’, though the term ‘Scheduled Tribes’ (STs) is not coterminous with the term ‘Adivasis’. Scheduled Tribes is an administrative term used for purposes of ‘administering’ certain specific constitutional privileges, protection and benefits for specific sections of peoples considered historically disadvantaged and ‘backward’. [3] In 1952 the Nehruvian Panchsheel gave the Adivasi these rights:

1. Tribals should be llowed to develop according to their own genius. 2. Tribals’ rights in land and forest should be respected 3. Tribal teams should be trained to undertake administration and development without too many outsiders being inducted. 4. Tribal development should be undertaken without disturbing tribal social and cultural institutions 5. The index of tribal development should be the quality of their life and not the money spent [4] The race is India but the cultures are different from the ‘normal’ India natives. The Culture of the Dalits is one of hard-work and rest, honesty and simplicity, achievements and celebrations.

Dalits are always creative and productive, celebrations and enjoyments. Come with that freedom, frankness, open heartedness, songs, steps, beats, drums, dance and drama; food, feasting, festivals, thanksgiving, worship, prayer and sacrifices. It is an agriculture based agrarian farm culture. [5] These groups of people are so hated that officers that are paid to protect and enforce laws never bother. They are just there for the pay. The ‘outside’ world does not want to learn about these people. If they were just given a chance, other would learn that they are not lower class people because they are poor or live a very simple life.

They do not show any relevance to the modern communist economy. They have collective ownership of the means of production, they have a sense of equality among community members, they have a spirit of cooperation with each other, they make consensus decisions pertaining to the community and aim to protect and nurture their environment. With all the planning and weaning I did to prepare, I was still amazed when I first arrived. Beautiful and sad. The people are treated like a lower class but they are so full of love and life. I learned so much about life in just the few months that I was there.

Even when life sucks, you can make the best out of it. Even though these people are suppressed and treated very poorly, they survive. With the help of foundations like the Dalit Freedom Network, they will continue to survive and their lives will slowly get better. I will continue to pass the story of the Dalits along to everyone I come in contact with. Their story is an encouraging one. It is my hopes that my story will touch the heart of at least one person, so that someday, other peoples like the Dalits will people who care.

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