In this video the correspondent profiles his own community – the Valmikis, perhaps the most oppressed community in India.
Amit Kumar lives in Ladwa – an urban village in Kurukshetra district of Haryana, along with 1200 of his Valmiki Dalit community members. The Valmikis are among India’s most vulnerable people who are regularly tortured, ostracized and discriminated against by people of higher caste.
As a Valmiki, Amit has shared most of what his community experiences everyday – untouchability and discrimination. As a school student he faced discriminatory treatment from ‘upper’ caste teachers. Even today, he is barred from entering the temple in his village, and his ‘upper caste’ neighbours don’t allow him to enter their homes or touch them.
Watch Amit's profile video here
Although ‘untouchability’ was declared illegal in 1950 it continues to haunt millions of Dalit men, women and children. Most of them are also trapped in a cycle of poverty and illiteracy. It is estimated that over 50% of India’s 150 million Dalits still do not have proper housing, medical care, education and employment prospects. In Amit’s Valmiki community only 10% people are literate. 90% of them, including Amit’s own family, live below the poverty line (earning less than 7 USD a month).
Valmikis are considered the ‘lowest of the low’, at the very bottom of the hierarchical caste ladder. When it comes to livelihood, most in the community continue their caste assigned menial and filthy jobs such as skinning of animal, cleaning animal hides, cleaning drains, sweeping streets, public toilets and manual scavenging. Amit’s own parents are street sweepers. By taking up the jobs that nobody else will do, the Valmikis provide the most crucial service to the society and therefore help our civic system survive. Yet the society seldom takes notice of them. In fact, instead of giving them the dignity of labour that they deserve, the society treats them as filthy and polluting. And the only time that Valmikis are in news, is when the community is attacked/ostracized by the ‘higher’ castes. Other times the community is practically invisible and unheard.
However, of late there have been some changes in his community. More children are now admitted in schools, because parents want their children to get educated and have a better future. As a result, the community now has a handful of youth who have been to a college –like Amit did. The government has provided free housing to the community under special schemes. So most of his community members now have a home of their own. But as far as caste-based atrocities are concerned, they are continuing. Amit hopes that education and public awareness can help decrease this as well. Through this video Amit wants to reach out to the global community with the message ‘Do not alienate us. We have lived apart from other communities for long. It’s time to live together’.
You too can reach out to Amit and his community by leaving a comment.
If you are an NGO working on Dalit or Human rights, click here to get more information from Dalit communities across India.
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