Mahathma Gandhi said: “Untouchability is a crime against God and men”. He called untouchables by the name of ‘HARIJANS’ meaning Children of God and fought for their emancipation. In 1949, Govt. of India made it a criminal offense to practice untouchability. But it has not changed much in the lives of people who belong to the lower caste in Hindu society. Not that Gandhi’s ideology and struggle lacked passion and resilience, but the Hindus were more strong and committed to not let go of the material gains and pompousness the caste system gave them.
This mindset travels through the borders and affects Hindus in Pakistan to a degree where it is a threat to their existence and identity. Dalit representatives in a meeting of the Pakistan Dalit Solidarity Network discussed the monopoly of upper caste Hindus when it comes to reserved seats in the assembly. The system originated in India has been unconsciously accepted and followed by people of this country and the political parties give an opportunity to upper caste Hindus to step into politics.
The concerns shared by the Scheduled Caste Rights Movement Pakistan, Pakistan Dalit Solidarity Network, and the Upgrade Minorities for Integrated Development cannot be ignored, especially when the population of the scheduled castes is much higher than that of the upper caste Hindus.
The meeting has highlighted another major issue that Dalit families face when they get themselves registered under the category of Hindus even when there is a separate category for the scheduled caste. The fear of Dalit representatives is genuine that this trend will further decrease the number of Dalits here in Pakistan which is around 2 million today. Their demand for a share in employment, scholarships, national resources, development schemes and parliament to be raised has a reason which is a threat to their existence. The whole effort is based on an initiative to secure the coming generation which will be proud Dalits, rather not someone who have been isolated since centuries because of people who have a strong social acceptance.
Pakistanis have unluckily never understood the ideology behind the creation of this country and that reflects in the treatment given to people like Dalits who have to fight against the same caste system India has been following blindly. It shows that even this country, which fought against India in 1947 as a minority, has nothing to offer to Hindus who live here. Their all struggle and ideology died soon after they have achieved an independent country–Pakistan.
To understand Dalits’ situation, Pakistanis should put themselves in their shoes to imagine what would have happened if this minority did not succeed in 1947. An equal opportunity to Hindus regardless of their caste is the route Pakistanis should take in order to stay committed to their base in Islam, which is equality.