Confronting Marginalisation

In India, Adivasis, Dalits, women and other marginal groups have been experiencing inequality and discrimination for long. Dalits have been prohibited from using amenities like public wells. Condition of Adivasis continues to be pathetic despite relief and rehabilitation measures. Several Dalits have adopted Buddhism out of frustration. There are different factors – economic, social, political and technological; that make certain groups marginalised. Experiences of inequality and discrimination in a society make minority groups take bold challenges against the government and powerful groups. Many among them look up to the Constitution to address their concerns. Constitution lays down the principles of a democratic society through the list of fundamental rights.

Fundamental Rights guaranteed by constitution are – Right to Equality, Right to Freedom, Right against Exploitation, Right to Freedom of Religion, Cultural and Educational Rights and Right to Constitutional Remedies. Constitution lays down the principles that make our society and polity democratic. Article 17 states the abolition of untouchability and makes practice of untouchability a punishable crime. In the case of cultural and educational rights, distinct cultural and religious groups, like Muslims and Parsis, have the right to be the guardian of their cultures. Government has adopted a reservation policy to uplift SCs, STs and Backward Classes. Under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989, the government banned the ritual of Dalits washing the feet of priests. C.K.Janu, an Adivasi activist, pointed out that one of the violators of Constitutional rights guaranteed to tribal people are governments in the various states of India. They allow non-tribal encroachers in the form of timber merchants, paper mills, etc. to exploit the tribal land and forcibly evict tribals from their traditional forests in the process of declaring forests as reserved or as sanctuaries.

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