Information Age Touches the "Untouchables"
Over 250 million people worldwide suffer from caste discrimination, which is an obstacle to the fulfillment of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights (BBC, 2005). The fact that millions of people in the ‘global village’ live with no human dignity is not a joke and it sounds an utter stupidity to continue taking it as lightly as we have so far. Therefore, in this information age marked by so much advocacy on human rights, it would always be relevant to stress the need of information dissemination against the practice of caste untouchability—the most embarrassing issue of the age of information revolution.
Human rights agenda have been an integral part of democracy today. Dalit issues in India and Nepal have been indispensable human rights issues accordingly. In this Cyber Age, raising Dalit issues not only as an advocacy profession but also as a serious social responsibility has been a challenge for all conscious and honest human beings.
So far, a few caste discrimination-related incidents have been reported by media and comments made by human rights organizations. No matter how serious caste-based oppression is, especially the concerned states have been found unresponsive to it.
Many untoward incidents based on caste discrimination commonly occur mainly in India and Nepal every year, with many deaths related to caste violence in India. Media cover some of them; nevertheless, the concerned countries have not yet prepared their concrete position to protect the Dalits from frequent inhuman treatment.
Embarrassingly, the age-long fighters of democracy in Nepal have not incorporated the issue of untouchability as a major agenda in their party politics and programmes. The frequent strikes and protests of political parties never included the medieval practice of untouchability as an agenda. To this day, no political party in Nepal has called any strike or any movement on behalf of the Dalits. No parliamentary sessions have ever raised a demand for making a national promulgation against the practice of caste untouchability. Parties’ sisterly organizations merely murmur as per their party guidelines. In so many cases, party workers at district and village levels have been found involved in the discriminatory behavior. It raises a question—are they properly informed about the seriousness of the issue?
There remains a great deal of superficiality among political parties over this issue. The lack of intra-party communication at agenda level is a proof of it. Equally, there has never been any inter-party communication on this issue. All we know about the stand of political parties on Dalit issues is that they mention in their election manifestos some ceremonial things about what they simply wish for the Dalit community and appoint some leaders in their Dalit wings. This type of total absence of organized information dissemination on the medieval practice of caste untouchability among and within parties must now be realized, though too late.
What is equally interesting to mention in this context is the passiveness of religious leadership on the practice of caste untouchability. There are many religious institutions, all having the vision of the wellbeing of mankind. Hindu religious leaders are said to have been educated in profound Sanskrit philosophy. Hindu theologians always claim the superiority and universality of their philosophy. But the most surprising thing in the world is that they have never seriously dealt with the cruel treatment going on in the name of caste untouchability which is clearly referred to in several Hindu scriptures such as the Vedas, Upanishads, the Mahabharata and the Manusmriti. All they say about untouchability is that it is not the product of Hindu religion or Hindu politics. In fact, religious information dissemination against the cruel practice of caste untouchability is almost nill. A few pundits’ individual efforts against the practice of caste untouchability has not been backed up institutionally by religious institutions.
Surprisingly, no religious manifesto denouncing the practice of caste untouchability has come out yet. Is it so because Hindu scholars have profound knowledge in their philosophy and lack basic knowledge in human rights and civic fundamental rights?
Thus, one may wonder about the primary cause for the existing multisectoral inertia regarding Dalit issues. Is it the lack of information or the lack of the sense of responsibility? Substantial and regular information dissemination against the practice of caste untouchability could definitely help the suffering Dalit masses to a great extent.
Global Media and the Practice of Untouchability
The majority of global population still does not know that millions of human beings labeled as ‘untouchables’ are treated like animals somewhere in the global village. Only a limited number of non-Asians know what the practice of caste untouchability is and that it is deep-rooted in South Asian countries like India and Nepal.
Millions of Dalits in South Asia are facing extremely cruel and inhuman treatment in the name of caste. The violation of Dalits’ rights starts right from Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and never ends. Yet, global media sporadically give just a nominal coverage to such a painful issue deeply tied to the dignity of human civilization. Should global media prove their vigour in this matter, concerned states will certainly face difficult times to persist with the medieval practice of caste untouchability.
But national media, with their powerful agenda-setting role, have to treat the practice of caste untouchability as a major mainstream agenda first. Should this issue remain only a minority issue subject to the mercy of seasonal advocates, there will be no real impact on policymaking institutions. For example, National Dalit Commission and other Dalit-related institutions of Nepal need sufficient media input at present.
So far, there has been no adequate utilization of the trends of the current information revolution at national and international levels for freeing Dalits from painful caste shackles.
Indeed, the everyday practice of caste untouchability among so-called ‘touchable’ and ‘untouchable’ human beings (ritually ‘pure’ and ‘impure’ human beings) can provide everyday relevance to global media that seek interesting and informative stories with varieties of angles. It therefore is reasonable to say that global media must not forget the dehumanized lives of Dalits while disseminating human rights information globally.
Tags: Dalits , Caste , Untouchability , Hindu , Global Media , Information Dissemination , India , Nepal
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