What is untouchability
Earlier, untouchability in India (especially in rural areas of the country) was the deep practice of excluding the lower caste people (tribes, criminals, law-breakers or people suffering from any infectious disease) from the society of higher caste people through the caste system. Lower caste people were strictly protected to get involved in the functions, traditional activities and other cultural programs of the higher caste society and they were punished after breaking the laws.
Untouchability in India before Independence
Before the Independence of the India untouchability and caste system was at the peak and was the main reason of pulling the country’s growth and development back. Lower caste people were considered as the polluted people by the higher caste people and were strictly prohibited to do some common activities. Some of are mentioned below:
- Untouchable people were strictly prohibited to eat together with caste members in the society.
- They were separated by providing separate utensils, seating arrangements, food arrangements in the villages during any social functions and festivals celebration.
- They were prohibited to enter to the temples, using any comfortable things like umbrella, wearing sandals, entering to the home of higher caste people, bicycle riding in the village, using common village path in front of the higher caste people.
- They were separated by providing other burial grounds.
- They were banned to use common public resources like wells, temples, ponds, schools and etc.
- They were forcefully bounded to do only labour works in the society.
- They were threatened for permanent social banishment if denied to carry out their regular duties.
Untouchability in India after Independence
After the independence of the India, untouchability became an illegal issue and treated as the social development inhibitor. However, in rural areas of the country it was continue but it came as a big social problem in the urban areas. It was very necessary to empower the lower caste people means untouchable people in the society in order to get the whole country development.
After independence, the Indian government has given some constitutional reservations for backwards in both areas like education and employment. Backwards class people were given access to use the common public resources with same authority. New age caste youths have played a big role in removing the practice of inequality in the society by developing the tradition of inter-caste marriages.
Why Anti Un-Touchability Week Celebration Starts at 2nd of October
Anti Un-Touchability Week campaign celebration every year on 2nd of October (birthday anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi) has been passed by the legislature parliament as this campaign deeply belongs to the significant roles of Mahatma Gandhi against untouchability.
Mahatma Gandhi has played a memorable role in uplifting the status of untouchables in the Indian society. He has popularized the most famous saying and slogan for untouchables in India like “Harijan” means “the people of God” which was first invented by the “Guajarati Brahmin saint, Narasinha Mehta”.
Removing the practice of untouchability in India was one of the main missions of Mahatma Gandhi in order to uplift the real social condition the demoralized and exploited people. It was the mission of making some basic changes in the caste structure to uplift untouchables and abolish casteism. Gandhiji has said that “I do not want to be reborn. But if I am to be born, I would like to be born an untouchable, so that I may share their sorrows and sufferings”.
He also said that “if untouchability is not wrong, then nothing in the world is wrong”. He has started various nationwide movements to bring social and cultural assimilation for untouchables by removing their disabilities. He said that without removal of untouchability in India “Swaraj” has no meaning.
He worked on the campaign of equal education and social status for all caste people and made an ashram for all groups of people to remove differences. He has served for the “Harijan Sevak Sangha” which was started by the Takkar Bapa (a social reformer) in 1932 for establishing the social welfare of untouchables by allowing them the use of common resources like public roads, wells, ponds and etc.
He has made some important proposals for the untouchable’s welfare, did fast campaign at Yeravada Jail on 20th of September, 1932 against untouchability including “Harijan Day” celebration by all a day throughout the year. Gandhiji and Dr. B. R. Ambedkar (father of Indian Constitution) both have fought against untouchability for promoting the well-being and social welfare of untouchables.
Role of Government in Making India an Untouchability Free Country
The national constitution of India has legally eliminated the bad and unsocial practice of untouchability by establishing the variety of laws and campaigns to develop untouchability free society through both educational institutions and public services. Indian government is continuously working on this strategy to completely remove the untouchability and social inequality among different groups of people to bring the concept of equality for all caste in India. For example, in the recent years, the Vithoba Temple in Pandharpur, India is the first temple of India having backward classes priests, Malabar Temple Entry Act was started for opening the entry of untouchables to the temples in Malabar as well as entry to Madurai temple in 1939.