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The Indian Caste System and the Untouchability (Offenses) Act, 1955

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The caste system is the bane of the Indian society. Untouchability is one of the evils of the caste system.The untouchability (offenses)Act, 1955 tries to safeguard the depressed people from the evil of untouchability.

The Indian caste system and the Untouchability (offenses) Act, 1955

Slavery was abolished in US, thanks to the former US President Abraham Lincoln, who issued orders for the emancipation of slavery during civil war.The caste system in India remains the bane of the Indian society and the untouchability is one of the evils of the caste system  that still prevails in India hampering its progress. Nearly 15 % of the Indians still remain untouchables who belong to schedule castes and Schedule Tribes.Of late, these people who belong to these castes are generally referred to as 'Dalits' which literally means broken.

Caste system is deep rooted in the Indian society whose evolution is traced back to some 2000 years ago and the fourfold varna system as pronounced by Manu sasthra.While the top three castes Brahmans, Shatriyas, Vysyas are not untouchables, the Sudras who belong to the lowest caste are menials and people doing abhorred professions such as disposing dead bodies and catching fishes etc are untouchables.These untouchables are called as paraiyas, chandalas etc. Mahatma used to call them 'Harijans' meaning children of God and fought the evil system of untouchability by tooth and nail.It was he who actually declared 'Untouchability is a crime against God' and 'Untouchability is inhuman.'

The people belonging to these untouchable category were rather cruelly treated in the society.They were not permitted to read Vedas and those people who secretly read Vedas were subjected to rather cruel punishments like cutting of their ears, tongues etc.In the state of Maharashtra, the untouchables were not permitted to enter Pune between 0300 to 0500 P.M during which they might have longer shadows that might fall on the upper class people which they despised..

In the post-independant India, the Indian Government took concrete steps to eradicate untouchability from the Indian society.Thanks to Dr.Ambedkar, the father of the Indian constitution who strove hard to mitigate the sufferings of the untouchables.The Indian constitution ensures equality, abolishes discrimination on the basis of caste, creed etc and provides reservation for the schedule castes and schedule tribes in offering employment opportunities and by providing admissions in the educational institutions.These reservations have been periodically extended for them every ten years.Besides,the people hailing from SC and ST are also offered reservation to contest in the general and state elections so as to empower them politically and represent the depressed people in the parliament. Despite providing all these opportunities, still these depressed class people have not shown any significant improvement in the social, political and economic front. Still a bulk section of them remain below poverty line, whose daily income is lower than Rs 24/-.

The Indian Government realized the fact that without providing adequate safeguards from social evils like untouchability, these people can not show any real progress in the political and economic front. Hence, the Indian parliament has enacted the Untouchability (offenses) Act, 1955 providing comprehensive safeguards to these people.The provisions of the act enable these people to mingle freely with the people of other castes.In other words, the people belonging to these depressed classes can not be denied entry into temples, hotels, clubs etc and the people who prevent their entry into these religious and social institutions will be deemed to have committed the offense of untouchability under the provisions of the act. The culprits under the provisions of the act will be awarded with a maximum punishment of 6 months imprisonment or they will have to pay a fine amount of up to Rs 5,000/- or with both.

No doubt the provisions of the Untouchability Act play a significant role in preventing untouchability from the Indian society.and in fact it acts as a deterrent in the prevention of untouchability. However, the act will play a very little role in eradicating the caste system from the Indian society.

Of late, the provisions of the untouchability act are being misused by the individuals as well as the politicians to wreck vengeance upon their enemies. They simply prefer false complaints against their enemies invoking the provisions of the untouchability act.In turn the hapless victims are detained and imprisoned. In order to get themselves acquitted, they apply for bail and then regularly attend the proceedings of a sessions court for years together.

Thus the untouchability act which was enacted with a lofty ideal of eradicating untouchability from the Indian society is grossly subjected to abuse of process of law..

References:

Untouchability in India-An Overview/International Humanist and Ethical Union/

http://www.iheu.org/node/1814

The Untouchability (Offenses) Act, 1955/Government Acts

8 comments

Abdel-moniem El-Shorbagy
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Rama lingam
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