Don't forget the Dalits
Being untouchable has no place in our world.
With its many different facets, there is no single solution to the plight of Dalits. However, Dalits plead for their cause to resonate worldwide, like apartheid in South Africa.
‘Untouchability’ was banned in India’s Constitution, but as Dr B.R. Ambedkar, architect of India’s constitution and Dalit icon, once said, “It will take more than a law to remove this stigma from the people of India. Nothing less than the aroused opinion of the world can do it”.
The Indian Government has taken some remedial measures to address the social exclusion of Dalits, and the current political leadership has repeatedly stated its commitment to combat caste-based discrimination. However, much more needs to be done.
Global corporations investing in India can play a role, by implementing the ‘Ambedkar Principles’, which set out how to comply with the UN Global Compact with special sensitivity to caste.
Corporations must ensure all their supply chains are entirely clear of labour exploitation, for demand increases supply, and Dalits are the most susceptible to labour exploitation. They should take responsibility in hiring practices, to ensure Dalits are not excluded from employment because of the structural disadvantages faced by their communities.
India’s global partners can play a role. The UN has charged the Indian Government with demonstrating clear progress to tackle the many different forms of caste-based discrimination, and this message needs to be reinforced by fellow UN member states.
Foreign aid and development policies, too, should specifically tackle the structures that support social exclusion, especially caste-based discrimination.
It is up to us to see that this happens. Don’t forget the Dalits.
Marcus Perkins and David Griffiths wish to express their great thanks to each of the subjects of the photographs, for their hospitality and for openly sharing their lives with us. We are also extremely grateful to very many people for their generous assistance with the project.
They include: Minesh Amin, Harish Arisalya, Indira Athawale, Penny Ayres, Jill Coombe, Dataram, Tom Fewell, Ganesh, Sarah Griffiths, Emma Howlett, Solomon Isaac, Ajay Kumar, the late Kamal Kumar, Manohar, Ashish Missal, Sam Paul, Sarah Perkins, Liz Pruett, Udit Raj, ‘Auto’ Raja, Bama Raman, Tina Ramirez, Chabinath Shiply, Ajay Kumar Singh, Madhu Chandra Singh, Meena Varma, Bezwada Wilson, and Angela Wu.
Others preferred to remain unnamed, but we gratefully acknowledge their contributions also.
Left: Devamma was our host when we visited her community. She cooked for us and allowed us to use her home as a base during our stay. Devamma has lived with leprosy for more than 40 years.