Prejudice and Discrimination Article: India
A visit to India brought me to a face-to-face, glaring reality of discrimination, prejudice, racism, and xenophobia, at its worst. India is classifiable as an extremely diverse country with a wide distinction in terms of culture, language, geography, and ethnicity. The other key aspect about India is its caste system that has sustained international recognition because of widespread discriminatory tendencies that hinder human advancement (Das & Mehtal, 2012). India’s caste system has existed since the ancient times, and the rich history seems to have cemented the culture in the society.
The caste system divides the people in India’s society into various categories depending on the caste they are born into. The castes determine the nature of jobs and activities that one can get involved in. People from the caste of Dalit and Adivasis, also known as the untouchables, cannot get certain jobs nor do some activities; they are relegated to being toilet cleaners and garbage collectors. The system also prohibits some people from eating with other who do not belong to their caste while marrying across castes is often viewed sacrilegious (Das & Mehtal, 2012).
India’s constitution bans discrimination of persons or any group people in terms of any demographic indicator be it religion, sex, race, caste, or place of birth (Article 15). It also advocates for the right to equality of all the citizens regardless of the caste (Bhengra, 1999). The government has also formulated and implemented various policies to address the socio-economic difficulties that the untouchables face and to minimize the adverse effects that the discrimination incidences continue to have on the economy at large. The gap between the rich, who are people from the highest caste, and the poor, who comprise the lowest caste, continue to widen because of the social injustices that exist in the Indian society. Despite all the efforts set in place by the government, the Dalits and Adivasis continue to struggle for survival in the country. A firsthand experience of the discrimination of the Dalits in India can be repelling yet an enduring reality or norm to the Indian society. The violence orchestrated against them, especially the women folk, is only describable in best term as inhumane and requiring international attention. The untouchables live in conditions that are subhuman and degrading to humanity, and they inhabit an insecure environment prone to constant caste-related attacks (Das & Mehtal, 2012).
A keen look at the Indian society indicates a country with diverse practices and culture and this led to increased suspicion between the various communities. The Adivasis and Dalits, which form the untouchables in the society, tend to be denied justice by the system that prefers to ignore the existence of discrimination in the country. This group faces increased violence against its members and hostilities from the other castes despite the official state policies against discrimination. Adivasis and Dalits form a quarter of the entire Indian population; hence, they are around 250 million people (Haub & Sharma, 2010). The segregation tendencies in India have led to amplified violation of the basic rights of some critical mass of the society. Most people in India live within the range of one dollar to two dollars per day, but the untouchables survive on less than a dollar a day (Haub & Sharma, 2010).
The consequences of discrimination and prejudice on the Dalits and Adivasis have had an enormous impact on their lives and economic status in the country. Illiteracy rate among the untouchables stands at 65%, which is double the official illiteracy rate of the country. This can be attributed to the fact that the untouchables have limited access to education and even the few that manage to reach university or college levels suffer from a psychological problem inflicted by the constant discrimination they constantly experience. In terms of education, the Adivasis and Dalits remain one of the illiterate groups of people in a developing society. In the pursuit of education, the untouchables face insurmountable challenges that are mostly educational and economic in nature. For a very long time, education in India has been viewed as a preserve of the high and middle castes in the society. This has prohibited the lower caste people to seek education (Bhengra, 1999).
They face hurdles in terms of getting admission in schools just by belonging to a different caste. The high level of ignorance among the group leads them to remain confined within the boundaries of unjust social cultures. Going against the societal norm by seeking education always lead to retributions chief among them being suicidal cases of untouchables in some campuses. Few people from the castes manage to afford education and perform well in the society. They disapprove the age-old belief that they lack the capacity and competence to carry out certain duties in the society. In order to address the inconsistency in the society in terms of education, the government has reserved 69% of the total university admission for students from the lower castes. The affirmative action aims at reducing the illiteracy among people from the lower caste to bring it at par with the country literacy rate of 27% (Sinko, 1971).
In terms of economic advancement, the caste system in India relegated people from the Dalit and Adivasis castes to certain menial jobs in the society. The jobs tend to pay little and enable them to afford only food and few other needs. The Dalits practice subsistence farming in an advanced, commercial economy. This limits their ability to advance economically and socially. The cultural settings confine their economic development even when they have an opportunity to participate in productive ventures. The best handicrafts from India can be attributed to the Dalits yet the income from such endeavors only benefit the middle castes that trade internationally while they exploit the lower castes (Das & Mehtal, 2012). Toilet cleaning remains one of the culturally reserved jobs for the Dalits while their women are recognized as prostitutes to people from the higher castes (Chandra, 2005). The subsistence economic mindset continues to aggravate their exploitation while the other castes maintain their statuses. The discrimination from the other castes hinders the untouchables from venturing into productive professions and activities that can alleviate their poverty. The Dalits and Adivasis live below a dollar per day unlike people of other castes. In the rural areas, where the discrimination reigns supreme, the untouchables seem to have resigned to their fate and accept the jobs culturally designed for them (Das & Mehtal, 2012).
The caste system in India cuts across all religions in the country: a further hindrance to any efforts by the administration or government to address it. The discrimination of the Dalits appears in the most simplistic of ways that can be ignored: from where people eat, the people they can interact with, and even the people they can intermarry with. Marriages are only allowed within the castes, and inter-caste marriage is prohibited and any violation is socially punishable (Bhengra, 1999). The Indian society is highly tied to its culture. It seems that culture justifies the discrimination of the lower castes in the country. Deeply rooted discrimination hinders any prospects of making India a free society. The Indian culture continues its bias towards certain castes at the expense of the lower castes. It must be checked if the country is to develop further.