Wrong number?

Dialled one? Do you expect to get beaten up for it, have your hair shaved off, and then be paraded through the streets?

In Bhiwani, a village in Haryana, a Dalit youth had to go through this. Dalits belong to the lower caste. It does not matter whether they are educated or have made some money. They are stigmatised only because they are born in what is still the backward caste. It is there in the scriptures. Perhaps, it was valid then as it pointed to certain professions, although there were clear rules about how to treat the shudras. These people, even four decades after independence, carried night soil (that is, shit) on their heads in a cosmopolitan city like Mumbai. And even today in some parts of the country they have to tie a broom behind them to clean the road on which the higher caste folks will later walk. Their shadow cannot fall on these people, and they are still not permitted to enter temples.

Legally and politically they are termed Scheduled Castes/Tribes, and the term Dalit was given to lend them an identity. It is way better than being called Harijans (children of god) that Mahatma Gandhi patronisingly anointed them with.

This is what Suresh, the young man, said, “I was trying the telephone number of one of my acquaintances on Monday when I inadvertently dialled the number of Dharam Singh (another villager). The moment I realized my mistake, I apologized immediately and disconnected the phone.’’

That is what we all do. And the person either tells us it is okay or bangs down the phone. But not for him. The next day the person who received the call brought six of his friends. They tonsured him, tied him to a motorcycle and dragged him through the streets, hitting him all the while. He could not go to the cops because they threatened him.

The police have yet to register a case and are, like old Indian bureaucracy, “looking into the matter” and that too because the Dalits have demanded action.

Will they get justice? No. I am going by precedent.

And here the papers are screaming out kitschy ads about the best Ganesh pandals for which there are prizes. The deity is fed, the devotees are fed. This is the god of prosperity. Prosperity for the few. The sculptor still lives in poverty. The guys who fix those neon lights will not prosper. The fat cats will become fatter cats. The ones in the middle will think they will get something out of all this. Make a statement. The Elephant God made from different materials.

Is prosperity about this? We should be ashamed about instances such as the one I mentioned, and it is really insensitive to say, oh, what is new? No. It is not new. And it has to be restated. That is the tragedy. So, feeding gods is not going to make your home a better place and priests dunking themselves in buckets of water are not going to bring rain.

We are ethically becoming poor. Damn all the exotica. I guess, I have got the wrong number…


  1. Farzana,
    Don't be impatient .Yes it is shame what happened to this boy and in better societies it would not happen.It would be equally cruel if this boy was brahmin. Ignorance has no religion or identity or caste. Knowledge, education and more responsible law and order can heal it.Give credit when due.I am reluctant to criticise Islam when i know flaws of religion of my birth.Hope you would find similar restrain.

    You must be proud that inspite of all drawbacks India is making progress.You are blogging and i am commenting.
    kul bhushan

  2. "You must be proud that inspite of all drawbacks India is making progress.You are blogging and i am commenting."

    Two strangers connected through cable pipes commenting on torture of a dalit youth is PROGRESS? That's by far the bizarre-iest definition of progress I've ever heard!!!

  3. it's not only the dalits.A married woman,mother of two kids,was raped in Haryana.When the police did not listen to her complaints,she had no option but to commit suicide.Can anybody imagine the level of despair the woman must have gone through?There is not a single article on the newspaper nor a single discussion on the 'we the people' or 'face the nations'.Somehow,for the media,the only people who are victimised are the muslims.While the fact is that this nation or society does not care about anybody unless that care gives something in return,in terms of media appearances or ngo work.Highlightling incidents of dalit persecution or bias against muslims may suit the agenda of 'hate india' lobbies but the fact is nobody cares for you unless u r a part of a political pressure grp.

  4. Kul Bhushan:

    Do you call this impatience? When do you think our society will learn to treat people based not on caste, at the very least? What do I give credit to?

    Why bring in Islam here? Did I say there was no caste system in Islam? I am afraid, it does nor matter what religion we are talking about, if something is wrong according to me then i will point it out.

    What restraint is lacking here? Did those blokes have any restraint when they dragged that fellow?

    Education is all fine, but education does not give us the power to belittle others who do not have basics of life.

    And we cannot turn out faces away from these realities that do exist. I am not merely opining; these are things we see and I have visited colonies of these Dalits. I am not saying it gives me a better perspective, but it does make me understand the issue differently.

    Had a Brahmin goes through it, I would have written about it.

    I hope you see these as 'drawbacks' of India and the progress the country has made would have made better sense if it was inclusive and not exclusive.


    Your comment was not addressed to me but I have something to say. This may not be progress but if two strangers can conduct a dialogue on a subject of importance then it is a move towards a greater understanding of that issue.


    If it was not reported anywhere, how did you know about this incident? It is a horrible crime by any yardstick but do think about it - we are not about whose tragedy is bigger.

    Highlightling incidents of dalit persecution or bias against muslims may suit the agenda of 'hate india' lobbies but the fact is nobody cares for you unless u r a part of a political pressure grp.

    I do agree that the media has an agenda often, but which persecuted groups are you referring to that do not pressurise political groups?

    Unless you can point those out, you are just hitting out at others for being highlighted.

  5. Farzana,
    thanks for defending.Portia could have not done any better.

  6. Kul Bhushan:

    I said what I felt. I am sure we aren't dealing with a pound of flesh walla :)


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