What makes you a proud Hindu

India: Dalit uprising

SEND DATE Mon., 01/29/2018 | 04:50 am | The first

Pintu and Ashok got lucky today. You have been hired to do a few hours of work. Shortly beforehand, the two day laborers numbed themselves with some schnapps. Otherwise they wouldn't be able to stand the job. Ashok rises up to his waist in the stinking broth made from human excrement - for the equivalent of five euros a day. Only with a shovel he clears the blocked sewer again. Ashok explains: "I can't get another job. What else should I do? I have to support my family. So this is still the best."
Actually, this degrading work is prohibited by law. But Pintu and Ashok are Dalits, "untouchables" as they used to be called. The authorities don't look very closely. For Pintu, the work is a necessity: "A lot of people think it's a shitty job. I don't think so. We also clean latrines with our bare hands. How else can it work when they are clogged? It's one for us Bread and butter job. "

Dangerous work

The work is dangerous. Air is often scarce in larger septic tanks. 300 sewer cleaners suffocated or drowned in sewage in India last year. Higher social class Indians care little about the fate of the Dalits. Nobody is considerate anyway. In the 4,000-year-old Hindu caste system, the Dalits are still at the lowest level, although the caste system has been officially abolished for 70 years. Without a chance of social advancement, Dalits like Ashok find it difficult to maintain a little dignity. It is ten degrees cold that day: Ashok has to wash himself on the street: "I have to soap myself two or three times to make the stench go away. Otherwise I get sick: all the bacteria. Quite often I have had a rash. "

Dalit activist Bezwada Wilson has been fighting against discrimination for years: He does not want to accept that the 250 million Dalits are treated like second-class people: "Of all people who starve in India and live below the poverty line, 90 percent are poor, because they belong to the 'untouchables'. They are poor because they are denied all opportunities. They are poor because they don't even get the minimum wage. They are poor because the government does nothing about it. They are poor because they are in the lowest caste was born. "

Dalit activists

Dalit students meet in a student dormitory in Delhi: Despite quotas for university places, they are disadvantaged, often even beaten, sometimes just because they have mustaches. Hindu fundamentalists think that only the upper castes are allowed to do so. The Dalit students therefore post on social media. They want to be proud Dalits - with mustaches. Student Devashish Jarariya: "I say, if that's enough to hurt a superior caste feeling, then we will twirl our mustaches even more. And I appeal to all young people who have had enough of the elitist caste system: Let your mustache grow too . "

Self-confident Dalits, that doesn't suit many reactionary Hindus at all. A few days ago, Hindu fundamentalists attacked a Dalit memorial event in southern India: stones flew, a person was killed. Protests arose across the country. In Mumbai, Dalits stopped train traffic and temporarily paralyzed all public life.

Successful Dalits

N K Chandan is one of the few Dalits who have made it economically. He started as a small employee in this plastics factory, worked his way up and finally took over the company: 50 employees, mainly Dalits, a medium-sized entrepreneur. It wasn't always easy. When he wants to take out a loan from the bank, he often gets refused, he tells us, because his name already suggests that he is an "untouchable" man: "We have to work harder than others. The problem is that we need financial support are dependent on higher castes. There are simply no other Dalits who have enough money to lend me some. "
At home, N K Chandan lives the life of the upper middle class: the children study. He has domestic workers, some of whom belong to the upper castes - wrong world. Chandan knows that he is an absolute exception, because at the latest the neighbors let him feel that they do not recognize him as one of them: "As long as you drive a small car or a cheap motorcycle, everything is fine. But woe betide you buy a Honda or a BMW. Then the neighbors get jealous and start telling everyone that I only made it because of government subsidy programs. "

There are state funding programs for Dalits, but they are just the famous drop in the ocean. The sewer workers Ashok and Pintu can only dream of it. Ashok lives with his wife in a slum in Delhi. The entire apartment: just ten square meters. The two children are with their grandparents in Calcutta, 1,500 kilometers away: "My children are the reason why I do this job. They should get an education. And for that I have to get into the canal." His wife Renu is concerned: "When he comes home, I feel bad for him. I don't want him to do this job. But what can we do? Our children should have a better life."
For Ashok, on the other hand, the only hope that remains is that tomorrow he will be able to clean up the dirt again for people of higher castes.

Author: Peter Gerhardt, ARD New Delhi

Status: 01.08.2019 01:05 a.m.