Mansi has a startling revelation: the principal forced her to dispose of the carcass of a puppy. When she refused to do so she was brutally caned. That is not all, she is also regularly made to sweep the school premises. Investigation reveals that many children like Mansi are forced to perform menial tasks like this in school as they belong to the Dalit community. This incident happened in a primary school in Pratapgarh district of Uttar Pradesh which accommodates students from nearby villages. Among them is Mansi, a student of class two.
Mansi’s story is not unique or an aberration. Such cases often even lead to Dalit children dropping out of schools and colleges due to the discrimination meted out to them. This happens despite the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act which came into force in 2010 which specifically mentions that schools are duty bound to ‘to ensure that child belonging to disadvantaged group ( i.e. SC/ST ) are not discriminated against and prevented from pursuing and completing elementary education on any grounds’.
Furthermore, the abolition of untouchability is enshrined in Article 17 of the Constitution and further provisions such as the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 make these forms of caste-based discrimination punishable criminal offences. As a country, we are constantly failing multitudes of Dalit youth as we turn a blind eye to cases such as these. The time has come for all of us to examine what caste means in our daily lives.
In India, we continue to practice manual scavenging, a derogatory practice, confined to people belonging to lower castes and resulting in their deaths.
One of India’s biggest religious hubs, Puri, is also a hub for atrocities against Dalits by upper caste individuals.