India Human Rights - History

India Human Rights - History

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Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape in most cases, although marital rape is not illegal when the woman is over the age of 15. Official statistics pointed to rape as the country’s fastest growing crime, prompted at least in part by the increasing willingness of victims to report rapes, although observers believed the number of rapes still remained vastly underreported.

Law enforcement and legal recourse for rape victims were inadequate, overtaxed, and unable to address the problem effectively. Police officers sometimes worked to reconcile rape victims and their attackers, in some cases encouraging female rape victims to marry their attackers. NGO Lawyers Collective noted the length of trials, lack of victim support, and inadequate protection of witnesses and victims remained major concerns. Doctors continued to carry out the invasive “two-finger test” to speculate on sexual history, despite the Supreme Court’s holding that the test violated a victim’s right to privacy. In 2015 the government introduced new guidelines for health professionals for medical examinations of victims of sexual violence. It included provisions regarding consent of the victim during various stages of examination, which some NGOs claimed was an improvement to recording incidents.

Women in conflict areas, such as in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, the northeast, Jharkhand, and Chhattisgarh, as well as vulnerable Dalit or tribal women, were often victims of rape or threats of rape. National crime statistics indicated Dalit women were disproportionately victimized compared with other caste affiliations.

Domestic violence continued to be a problem. Acid attacks against women caused death and permanent disfigurement. During the year Chhattisgarh became the first state to establish one-stop crisis centers for women in distress, called “Sakhi centers,” in all its 27 districts, supported with federal funds from the Ministry of Women and Child Development. These centers provide medical, legal, counseling, and shelter services for women facing various types of violence, but primarily domestic violence related to dowry disputes and sexual violence.

The NCRB estimated the conviction rate for crimes against women to be 18.9 percent.

In 2015 the Supreme Court directed all private hospitals to provide medical assistance to victims of acid attacks. Implementation of the policy began in Chennai in 2016. In April the government announced that acid attack victims were to be included in the provisions of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016.

In July 2016 the central government launched a revised Central Victim Compensation Fund scheme to reduce disparities in compensation for victims of crime including rape, acid attacks, crime against children, and human trafficking.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): No national law addresses the practice of FGM/C. According to human rights groups and media reports, between 70 and 90 percent of Dawoodi Bohras, a population of approximately one million concentrated in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Delhi, practiced FGM/C.

On June 26, the Supreme Court sought responses from the national government and the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and Delhi following a public interest litigation (PIL) petition seeking a ban on FGM/C. In May national Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi said FGM/C should be a criminal offense.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: The law forbids the provision or acceptance of a dowry, but families continued to offer and accept dowries, and dowry disputes remained a serious problem. NCRB data showed authorities arrested 19,973 persons for dowry deaths in 2015.

“Sumangali schemes” affected an estimated 120,000 young women. These plans, named after the Tamil word for “happily married woman,” are a form of bonded labor in which young women or girls work to earn money for a dowry to be able to marry. The promised lump-sum compensation ranged from 80,000 to 100,000 rupees ($1,300 to $1,600), which is normally withheld until the end of three to five years of employment. Compensation, however, sometimes went partially or entirely unpaid. While in bonded labor, employers reportedly subjected women to serious workplace abuses, severe restrictions on freedom of movement and communication, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, sex trafficking, and being killed. The majority of sumangali-bonded laborers came from the Scheduled Castes (SC) and, of those, employers subjected Dalits, the lowest-ranking Arunthathiyars, and migrants from the northern part of the country, to particular abuse. Authorities did not allow trade unions in sumangali factories, and some sumangali workers reportedly did not report abuses due to fear of retribution. A 2014 case study by NGO Vaan Muhil described health problems among workers and working conditions reportedly involving physical and sexual exploitation. In 2016 the Madras High Court ordered the Tamil Nadu government to evaluate the legality of sumangali schemes. It is unclear whether the state has complied with the court order.

Most states employed dowry prohibition officers. A 2010 Supreme Court ruling makes it mandatory for all trial courts to charge defendants in dowry-death cases with murder.

So-called honor killings remained a problem, especially in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, and Haryana. These states also had low female birth ratios due to gender-selective abortions. On August 21, the Supreme Court sought suggestions from NGO Shakti Vahini and khap panchayats on ways to prevent harassment and killings of young couples in the name of family honor. The most common justification for the killings cited by the accused or by their relatives was that the victim married against her family’s wishes.

In a case of suspected honor killing in Telangana, police found a lower-caste Dalit man M. Madhukar dead from injuries on March 13. Dalit rights organizations rejected the police contention that it was a case of suicide and asserted the family members of an upper-caste girl were involved in his death. On April 6, the Hyderabad High Court ordered another autopsy on the body following protests and allegations that a local member of parliament was involved in a cover-up operation. There were no updates to the case at year’s end.

There were reports women and girls in the “devadasi” system of symbolic marriages to Hindu deities were victims of rape or sexual abuse at the hands of priests and temple patrons, a form of sex trafficking. NGOs suggested families forced some SC girls into prostitution in temples to mitigate household financial burdens and the prospect of marriage dowries. Some states have laws to curb prostitution or sexual abuse of women and girls in temple service. Enforcement of these laws remained lax, and the problem was widespread. Some observers estimated more than 450,000 women and girls engaged in temple-related prostitution.

There was no federal law addressing accusations of witchcraft; however, authorities may use other legal provisions as an alternative for a victim accused of witchcraft. Bihar, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Assam, and Jharkhand have laws criminalizing those who accuse others of witchcraft. Most reports stated villagers and local councils usually banned those accused of witchcraft from the village.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment remains a serious problem. Authorities required all state departments and institutions with more than 50 employees to operate committees to prevent and address sexual harassment, often referred to as “eve teasing.”

Coercion in Population Control: There were reports of coerced and involuntary sterilization.

Some women reportedly were pressured to have tubal ligations, hysterectomies, or other forms of sterilization because of the payment structures for health workers and insurance payments for private facilities. This pressure appeared to affect disproportionately poor and lower-caste women. In September 2016 the Supreme Court ordered the closure of all sterilization camps within three years.

The country continued to have deaths related to unsafe abortion, maternal mortality, and coercive family planning practices, including coerced or unethical sterilization and policies restricting access to entitlements for women with more than two children. Policies and guideline initiatives penalizing families with more than two children remained in place in seven states, but some authorities did not enforce them. Certain states maintained government reservations for government jobs and subsidies for adults with no more than two children and reduced subsidies and access to health care for those who have more than two.

Rajasthan, one of 11 states to adopt a two-child limit for elected officials at the local level, was the first to adopt the law in 1992. Despite efforts at the state level to reverse or amend the law, it remained unchanged during the year. According to NGO Lawyers Collective, such policies often induced families to carry out sex-selection for the second birth to assure they have at least one son, without sacrificing future eligibility for political office.

Although national health officials noted the central government did not have the authority to regulate state decisions on population issues, the central government creates guidelines and funds state level reproductive health programs. A Supreme Court decision deemed the national government responsible for providing quality care for sterilization services at the state level. Almost all states also introduced “girl child promotion” schemes, intended to counter sex selection, some of which required a certificate of sterilization for the parents to collect benefits.

The government has promoted female sterilization as a form of family planning for decades and, as a result, female sterilization made up 86 percent of all contraceptive use in the country. Despite recent efforts to expand the range of contraceptive choices, the government sometimes promoted permanent female sterilization to the exclusion of alternate forms of contraception.

Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at:

Discrimination: The law prohibits discrimination in the workplace and requires equal pay for equal work, but employers often paid women less than men for the same job, discriminated against women in employment and credit applications, and promoted women less frequently than men.

Many tribal land systems, including in Bihar, deny tribal women the right to own land.

In January 2016 the Bihar government approved a 35-percent quota for women in state government jobs at all levels.

Gender-biased Sex Selection: According to the latest census (2011), the national average male-female sex ratio at birth was 1,000 to 943. The law prohibits prenatal sex selection, but authorities rarely enforced it.

Fundamental rights in India

Fundamental rights in India are the rights guaranteed under Part III (Articles 12-35) of the Constitution of India. There are six fundamental rights recognised by the Indian constitution: the right to equality (Articles 14-18), the right to freedom (Articles 19-22), the right against exploitation (Articles 23-24), the right to freedom of religion (Articles 25-28), cultural and educational rights (Articles 29-30) and the right to constitutional remedies (Article 32 and 226). [1]

While the Constitution also creates other rights, such as the Right to Property, they are not fundamental rights. In cases of fundamental rights violations, the Supreme Court of India can be directly petitioned under Article 32 of the Constitution. The Rights have their origins in many sources, including England's Bill of Rights, the United States Bill of Rights and France's Declaration of the Rights of Man.

Fundamental rights for Indians have also been aimed at overturning the inequalities of pre-independence social practices. Specifically, they have also been used to abolish untouchability and thus prohibit discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, gender or place of birth. They also forbid trafficking of human beings and forced labour (a crime). They also protect cultural and educational rights of religious establishments. Right to property was changed from fundamental right to legal right.


The term “Human Rights” is perceived, particularly in the present day India and perhaps in many developing countries, as an idea that is totally western but the idea of ‘human rights’ is as old as the history of human civilization. However, no sane mind can deny that the phrase ‘Human Rights’ was adopted only in the present century these rights were previously known as ‘Natural Rights’ or ‘Rights of men’ and had a place in almost all the ancient civilization of the world. In the Middle East for the protection of these ‘rights of men’ the the Babylonion Laws, Assairians Laws provided little laws. In India, the Dharma of the Vedic Period and in China, the jurisprudence of Lao-Tze and Confucius assisted in protecting these basic or fundamental rights of men. The truth is that what the West has discovered about ‘Human Rights” now, India had embedded the same in its deep-rooted traditions since ancient times of Vedic Period or perhaps even before that.

The history of ancient India is replete with the fact that the jurisprudence related to human rights has always captured a place of importance. Moreover, it reflects in the prevalence of different cultures, traditions and faiths in India. Vedic texts reveal that the quest for equilibrium, harmony, knowledge and truth inspired ancient Indian minds more than their counterparts the Greeks and the Romans. It is true that ancient Indian philosophers and thinkers about 5000 years ago expounded a theory of higher moral law over and above positive law containing certain values of universal validity like Dharma (righteousness), Artha (wealth), Kama (desires), and Moksha (salvation), with a view to establish a harmonious social order by striking a balance between inner and outer, spiritual and material aspects of life.

The legal philosophers of ancient India as they were universalists, humanists, rationalists and moralists evolved a system of legal theory that was based on higher values and ideals every aspect of life was regulated by Dharma that became virtually supreme law in ancient India. It is Dharma that has impelled men since Vedic ages to obtain “righteousness”. The natural laws, as described in Vedas, Puranas, Mahabharata, Bhagwat Gita, etc., was propagated by mystics, saints, poets and philosophers during the Vedic age. It can now be said that the philosophy expounded by the saints of the Vedic times is nothing but a reinstatement of Natural Law with religious fervour to enthuse people towards the path of Dharma, enlightenment and unity. These ancient texts are enough to convey to the present day ‘men’ that it is the higher law of morality, justice and righteousness which has been continuously guiding and directing Hindu thought, spirit and action from times immemorial and would continue to mould for the realization of Dharma in a timeless fashion. The study of some of the ancient texts and writings on stone or pillars show that Indian minds placed the rights of men at the top level: King Ashoka in his Kalinga Edict II says, “All men are my children, and just I desire that they may enjoy every kind of prosperity and happiness both in this world and in the next, so also as I desire the same for all men.” Ashoka worked day and night for protection of “Human Rights” particularly after the ‘bloody’ war of Kalinga which changed his life, and perhaps lives of the coming generations, for ever.

That it is matter of pride to have legacy of ‘human rights, but at the same time we have to accept the fact that the philosophy of ‘human rights’ in modern sense, in India, has taken shape during the course of British rule. The Indian National Congress, the sole social organization which was in the vanguard of freedom struggle, took the lead in this matter. National struggle for freedom was truly an attempt of the Indians to secure for themselves basic human rights( the firs is ‘the right to live with dignity) for all the people which resulted in a making of the Constitution of India that was promulgated by the people of India in January 1947 through this in India ushered the heroic development of the philosophy of human rights of India.

The Death of Human Rights in India?

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government appear intent on squelching any independent scrutiny of India’s human rights problems. Last week, the government froze the assets of the human rights organization Amnesty International, claiming that the organization was in violation of Indian law. Its stated reasons aside, there is more than ample evidence that the government was irritated by Amnesty’s unfavorable reports on recent riots in New Delhi, India’s human rights record in Jammu and Kashmir, and the passage of recent legislation that could adversely affect Muslims.

Images of Amnesty International closing its Indian offices may be shocking, but this is hardly the first time an Indian administration, faced with similar criticisms, reacted with hostility. For example, at the height of the Kashmir insurgency in 1990, Narasimha Rao, then prime minister, was surely irritated by criticism of the Indian security forces’ harsh counterinsurgency tactics. Still, his actual efforts to limit the work of foreign human rights organizations in India was minimal. On the contrary, stung with repeated allegations of rampant human rights violations in Kashmir, his government created the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to examine the charges. Initially dismissed as a public relations move, over time, the NHRC became more autonomous and powerful.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government appear intent on squelching any independent scrutiny of India’s human rights problems. Last week, the government froze the assets of the human rights organization Amnesty International, claiming that the organization was in violation of Indian law. Its stated reasons aside, there is more than ample evidence that the government was irritated by Amnesty’s unfavorable reports on recent riots in New Delhi, India’s human rights record in Jammu and Kashmir, and the passage of recent legislation that could adversely affect Muslims.

Images of Amnesty International closing its Indian offices may be shocking, but this is hardly the first time an Indian administration, faced with similar criticisms, reacted with hostility. For example, at the height of the Kashmir insurgency in 1990, Narasimha Rao, then prime minister, was surely irritated by criticism of the Indian security forces’ harsh counterinsurgency tactics. Still, his actual efforts to limit the work of foreign human rights organizations in India was minimal. On the contrary, stung with repeated allegations of rampant human rights violations in Kashmir, his government created the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to examine the charges. Initially dismissed as a public relations move, over time, the NHRC became more autonomous and powerful.

As he is faced with criticisms of his own, it is hard to imagine Modi setting up such a watchdog. Instead, he’s decided to bully Amnesty International. After New Delhi froze all its bank assets, the organization chose to suspend its activities in India. This was the fifth time it felt compelled to discontinue its operations in the country. The last time, before now, was in 2009, when its applications to be allowed to accept funds from abroad were repeatedly denied and it faced budget shortfalls.

The global human rights organization has again come under pressure from the current government. In October 2018, one of India’s national anti-corruption organizations, the Enforcement Directorate, accused Amnesty of violating the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act and seized some of its bank accounts. Faced with this action, Amnesty closed its offices in Bengaluru and laid off some staff. Later, in 2019, India’s Income Tax Department sent a letter to the organization accusing it of tax irregularities. Amnesty called all this a “pattern of harassment” related to its role highlighting widespread human rights abuses in the country.

Amnesty International has not been the government’s only target. Rather, New Delhi appears to be in the midst of an orchestrated campaign to undermine any independent scrutiny of the country’s human rights record. Earlier, in 2015, the government named the Ford Foundation, a major American philanthropic organization, on its national security watch list and placed it under the jurisdiction of India’s Ministry of Home Affairs. The foundation, which had operated in India since 1952, has a storied history, including catalyzing India’s agricultural Green Revolution in the 1970s. New Delhi’s message was clear: The Ford Foundation’s work in certain areas was unwelcome. It is widely believed that the government was particularly incensed with the foundation’s decision to fund a well-known human rights lawyer and activist, Teesta Setalvad, and her work representing the victims of a pogrom against Muslims in Gujarat when Modi was chief minister of the state. Following the government’s actions, the Ford Foundation, which had disbursed more than $500 million in the country since the early 1950s, decided to freeze its spending.

The harassment and intimidation of critical nonprofits have two critical implications for India’s democracy. First, such behavior obviously threatens the exercise of civil liberties and personal rights. This, in itself, is deeply disturbing. Second, it can also undermine the legitimacy of government institutions charged with law enforcement and anti-corruption, because they are being asked to act in completely partisan and dubious ways to hound nongovernmental organizations.

For now, the Modi government’s intolerance of foreign institutions that question it is growing.

Given the significant asymmetry of power between the NGOs and the government in almost every instance, the latter has prevailed. Unless a groundswell of opposition emerges from India’s increasingly beleaguered civil society, there’s little hope that Modi’s human rights record will improve. That’s especially true given that the Indian judiciary, long known for its independence, is increasingly submissive to Modi, too.

If there is one small sign of hope, it is that the NHRC has issued a formal note to the home ministry asking it to clarify its grounds for freezing the financial assets of Amnesty International. Whether its elicits a meaningful response is doubtful. At best, if it persists with its inquiries it could put the government on notice that even a quasi-governmental body finds its actions questionable. And so, the Modi government may still continue to use its expansive and largely unfettered executive powers to shoot any messenger who dares bring it unwelcome news.

Sumit Ganguly is a columnist for Foreign Policy and a distinguished professor of political science and the Rabindranath Tagore chair in Indian cultures and civilizations at Indiana University, Bloomington.

State Human Rights Commission

According to the The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, amendment to point 10, State Human Rights Commissions were formed to perform the functions of the commission as stated under chapter V of TPHRA,1993 (with amendment act 2006). At present, 26 states have constituted State Human Rights Commission.

The SHRC works under the NHRC and takes cognizance of cases under their jurisdiction and if applicable transfers the cases to the NHRC, if an appeal is made, the NHRC works as the Supreme Court and is the highest appellate authority in these matters.

The State Human Rights Commission constitutes of the following members

  1. A Chairperson, who has been The Chief Justice of a High Court
  2. A member, who is or has been a judge of the High Court or of a district court with minimum experience of 7 years as a district court judge
  3. A member, who has practical knowledge and experience in matters relating to the Human Rights

An important point to note is that the NHRC, under Section 36 of the The Protection of Human Rights Act,1993 cannot take jurisdiction of any case pending under a State Human Rights Commission.

Resistance and Progress

Within India, grassroots efforts to change are emerging, despite retaliation and intimidation by local officials and upper-caste villagers. In some states, caste conflict has escalated to caste warfare, and militia-like vigilante groups have conducted raids on villages, burning homes, raping, and massacring the people. These raids are sometimes conducted with the tacit approval of the police.

In the province Bihar, local Dalits are retaliating, committing atrocities also. Non-aligned Dalits are frequently caught in the middle, victims of both groups.

"There is a growing grassroots movement of activists, trade unions, and other NGOs that are organizing to democratically and peacefully demand their rights, higher wages, and more equitable land distribution," said Narula. "There has been progress in terms of building a human rights movement within India, and in drawing international attention to the issue."

In August 2002, the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (UN CERD) approved a resolution condemning caste or descent-based discrimination.

"But at the national level, very little is being done to implement or enforce the laws," said Narula.

Enron: History of Human Rights Abuse in India

(New York) -- The human rights abuses that plagued the Enron Corporation's Dabhol power plant in India from 1992 to 1998 demonstrate the need for U.S. government agencies to scrutinize such controversial projects more closely, Human Rights Watch said today.

In 1999, Human Rights Watch charged in a 166-page report, "The Enron Corporation: Corporate Complicity in Human Rights Violations," that Enron subsidiaries paid local law enforcement to suppress opposition to its power plant south of Bombay.

"Enron is now being widely accused of arrogance and lack of transparency, but the people of Dabhol have known that all along," said Arvind Ganesan, director of the Business and Human Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. "Enron was complicit in human rights abuse in India for several years."

Local opposition to the Enron project began in 1992 over concerns about corruption and the hasty negotiations over the terms of Enron's investment. Farmers complained that the power plant had unfairly acquired their land and had diverted scarce water for its needs. Local activists raised concerns over potential environmental damage.

The U.S. government bears special responsibility for the human rights consequences of Enron's investment because of its aggressive lobbying on behalf of the three U.S.-based companies developing the project, Ganesan said. Although the Indian press widely reported the human rights troubles around the power plant, U.S. officials failed to investigate the matter.

The World Bank repeatedly refused to finance the project because it was "not economically viable," but the U.S. government extended between $290 million and $300 million in loan guarantees to Enron for its investment in Dabhol.

The Export-Import Bank requires an analysis of the human rights implications of its loans. But the State Department's entire human rights assessment for one Export-Import Bank loan for the Dabhol project read, "The State Department has no objection to this case on political grounds or on the basis of human rights issues."

"U.S. taxpayers funded corporate complicity in human rights abuse," said Ganesan. "Congress should make sure that never happens again." Ganesan urged the U.S. Congress to establish a human rights assessment office at the U.S. Export-Import Bank to report to Congress.

A provision was introduced in the U.S. Congress during 2001 to strengthen the Export-Import Bank's human rights oversight. But the Bush Administration, the head of the Export-Import Bank itself, and many members of the U.S. business community opposed the provision, which was "killed" by a committee of the House of Representatives in November 2001.

The 1999 Human Rights Watch report documents how contractors for the Dabhol Power Corporation harassed and attacked individuals opposed to the power plant. Police refused to investigate complaints, and in several cases, actually arrested the victims on trumped-up charges. The Dabhol Power Corporation, under provisions of law, reimbursed the abusive state forces for the security they provided to the company. These forces, located adjacent to the project site, were stationed there largely for the purpose of dealing with protests. While they reported to local police, their expenses were paid by the company, a subsidiary of Enron.

In one instance in June 1997, Maharashtra police raided a fishing village where many residents opposed the power plant. They arbitrarily beat and arrested dozens of villagers, including Sadhana Bhalekar, the wife of a well-known protester against the plant. They broke down the door and window of Bhalekar's bathroom and dragged her naked out into the street, beating her with batons. Bhalekar was three months pregnant at the time. In another instance in May 1997, police beat and arrested nearly 180 protesters who were demonstrating peacefully outside the company gates. The protests had largely ended by 1998.

Since the project's inception in 1992, Enron and the government of Maharashtra state, where the power plant is located, repeatedly ignored public complaints. "Dabhol Power Corporation would not tolerate any human rights abuses by its employees and sub-contractors," the company said in a 1997 statement. "If you have concerns about police actions, we suggest that you take it up with the police or government body that is responsible for their operations." In 2000, Enron began to take steps to address future violations, but those efforts ended when the company collapsed.

Dalits and the Origin of Untouchability in India: Origin of Untouchability!

The term &ldquoDalit&rdquo in Sanskrit is derived from the root &ldquodal&rdquo which means to split, break, crack, and so on. It means split, broken, burst, etc. as an adjective. Jyotiba Phule, the founder of the Satya Shodak Samaj, a non-Brahmin movement in Maharashtra, is believed to have coined the term &ldquoDalit&rdquo. He used the term to refer to the outcastes and untouchables as the victims of the caste-based social division of the Indian society.

Dalits were earlier known as &ldquountouchables&rdquo and &ldquooutcastes&rdquo for centuries. The degrading terms were replaced by the British administration by &ldquoDepressed Classes&rdquo in 1919. Gandhiji called them Harijans(People of God). Ambedkar did not accept Gandhi s term.

He demanded a separate electorate for the &ldquoDepressed Classes&rdquo, and pro­posed the term &ldquoProtestant Hindus&rdquo. In 1935, the British government defined them as the &ldquoScheduled Castes.&rdquo It was during the 1970s that the Dalit Panther Movement of Maharashtra popularized the term Dalit. Today, the term is used for the Dalit people of various religions and protest movements.

Dalits occupy the lowest position in the caste hierarchy based on ritual purity and occupation, and outside the Varna system, which gives them the traditional name Panchumas. They have been oppressed throughout the recorded history of India, relegated to doing agricultural tasks, and polluting occupations like disposing dead bodies, working with leather, cleaning toilets and sewage, etc.

They have been stripped of their dignity and denied basic human rights. They were considered &ldquountouchables&rdquo implying that anybody touching them would be polluted. They were denied access to roads, temples, schools, etc. to avoid &ldquopollution&rdquo of other castes.

To this day, thousands of villages have a separate area for Dalit houses, separate wells for Dalits, class rooms where Dalit children sit separately, and tea shops with separate glasses for Dalits. Such discrimination occurs despite laws against such practices. Centuries of oppression and dis­crimination has resulted in poverty and its associated problems amongst Dalits.

A large number of Dalits converted to religions including Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, and Sikhism for equality and human dignity. Dr Ambedkar believed that neither Marxism nor bourgeois nationalism nor republicanism provided any solution to the problem of caste.

So, he turned to religion. He rejected Christianity and Islam, because they did not originate to fight the caste system. He chose Buddhism and converted to it along with millions of Mahars. Ambedkar noted that the Buddha created his Sangha as a model of casteless society and the laity was to emulate the bhikkus in order to bring about such a society into existence.

Right to health and livelihood

The handling of the COVID-19 pandemic exposed weaknesses in the public health care system. It also resulted in unsafe and poor working conditions for those who lack adequate social and economic protection, such as community health care workers and religious minorities.

The government accused members of the Muslim Tablighi Jamaat minority of spreading COVID-19, and as a result, health care facilities denied access to Muslims. Instances of hospitals refusing Muslim pregnant women and cancer patients surfaced in April 2020. In the months following the nationwide lockdown of March, social media and WhatsApp groups were flooded with calls for social and economic boycotts of Muslims, alongside fake news stories and other misinformation.

The COVID-19 pandemic overburdened the public health care system, but little protection was provided to front-line health workers in terms of safety equipment and social security such as medical and life insurance. These included people working in the community, such as Accredited Social Health Activist workers and sanitation workers.

The Supreme Court delayed a hearing in a public interest case urgently seeking transport, food and shelter for migrant workers who were left stranded for over a month by the sudden imposition of the lockdown. On 7 April, as many migrant workers were walking to their distant homes in the absence of government-sponsored or public transport, India’s Chief Justice, S.A. Bobde, stated while hearing the petition that the Supreme Court “did not want to interfere with the government decisions for the next 10-15 days”. At least 200 migrant workers were killed in road accidents while walking long distances home in other districts or states during the lockdown. In May, after intense public pressure, the government began running special trains for stranded migrant workers. However, many died from a lack of food and water on these trains, including a four-year-old child who died of hunger.

During the lockdown, workers in the informal sector – who constitute more than three-quarters of India’s workforce – faced enormous difficulties due to rampant job losses. However, many states suspended the legal protections otherwise afforded to workers, such as regulation of working hours, the right to form trade unions, and safe working conditions.

The COVID-19 lockdown resulted in an increase in violence against women, particularly domestic violence. Pregnant women and girls faced further barriers accessing health care, and there was an increased risk of maternal mortality and morbidity.

India’s abuse of women is the biggest human rights violation on Earth

I ndia is at war with its girls and women. The planned rape of eight-year-old Asifa in a temple by several men, including a policeman who later washed the clothes she was wearing to destroy evidence, was particularly horrific. Asifa’s rape has outraged and shaken the entire country. Yet sexual abuse in India remains widespread despite tightening of rape laws in 2013. According to the National Crimes Records Bureau, in 2016 the rape of minor girls increased by 82% compared with the previous year. Chillingly, across all rape cases, 95% of rapists were not strangers but family, friends and neighbours.

The culturally sanctioned degradation of women is so complete that the prime minister of India, Narendra Modi, launched a national programme called Beti Bachao (Save Our Girls). India can arguably be accused of the largest-scale human rights violation on Earth: the persistent degradation of the vast majority of its 650 million girls and women. And this includes the middle classes, as I found when interviewing 600 women and men in India’s cities.

India’s women are traumatised in less obvious ways than by tanks in the streets, bombs and warlords. Our oppression starts innocuously: it occurs in private life, within families, with girls being locked up in their own homes. This everyday violence is the product of a culture that bestows all power on men, and that does not even want women to exist. This is evident in the unbalanced sex ratios at birth, even in wealthy families. But India also kills its women slowly. This violence is buried in the training of women in some deadly habits that invite human rights violations, but that are considered the essence of good womanhood.

The first teaches girls to be afraid of their own bodies. When a girl is not supposed to exist, 1.3 billion people collectively pretend that girls don’t have bodies and especially no sexual parts. If girls do not have bodies, sexual molestation is not possible, and if it does happen, it has to be denied, and if it cannot be denied, the girl must be blamed.

Denial of sexuality in homes is another habit that is deadly to girls. Almost every woman I interviewed had experienced some form of sexual molestation. Only two had told their mothers, only to be dismissed, “Yes, this happens in families,” or “No, this did not happen.” Indian government surveys show that 42% of girls in the country have been sexually abused.

Speech is another basic human right. To have a voice, to speak up, is to be recognised, to belong. But girls are trained in silence. They are told to be quiet, to speak softly, dheere bolo, to have no opinions, no arguments, no conflicts. Silent women disappear. They are easy to ignore, overrule, and violate without repercussions. Impunity flourishes.

It serves a culture of violence to create pleasers, another habit that further erodes a woman’s sense of self. Pleasers compromise and sacrifice, all disguised through the ubiquitous phrase beta thora adjust kar lo – “darling, please adjust a little”. It means to be punished to force you to fit in, to do what others want you to do and never say no.

Women whose sense of self has been worn down, by definition must depend on others, which only serves to breed fear and violence. Over 50% of Indian men and women still believe that sometimes women deserve a beating. One woman is killed every hour for not bringing enough dowry to a husband. But dependency is still presented as a virtuous habit and independence as a bad characteristic. Dependent women have no separate identity and are legitimate only as mothers, wives and daughters. Such women are trained to put duty over self – the suicide numbers are highest for housewives.

The right to assemble is a right taken away by dictators. In India it is the culture that subverts women’s desire to organise. The cultural design of oppression is so clever, that it instils a habit of distrust and trains women to demean, dismiss and discount other women. Almost no woman I interviewed belonged to a women’s group. They said, “I don’t have time for gossip.”

The real genius of this system lies in the fact that oppression has been recast as a virtue. So erasure of self – the most treacherous human rights violation – hides in plain sight, sanctified by loving families, perfumed by our definitions of goodness. And the private sphere, the family, remains impenetrable and untouchable.

We have underestimated the power of culture in creating violence within our families. To reclaim our humanity we need a national conversation about what it means to be a good woman and a good man in India today.

Deepa Narayan is a social scientist and author of Chup: Breaking the Silence About India’s Women

Watch the video: Η ιστορία της Ινδίας (July 2022).


  1. Kajisida

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