Indians are also guilty of genocide against Dalits and tribals who are often attacked, insulted and humiliated
Recently, I had a long talk with a German on Skype. Our discussion revolved around the incidences of human rights violations and the mass genocide that have shamed the world. I told him that the genocide of Jews by the Nazis was no doubt terrible but it was not unique.The Europeans who came to North America almost wiped out the entire native-American population and the small numbers of survivors were driven into concentration camps euphemistically called ‘reservations’.
Before the British came to India, it was a prosperous country, having over 30 per cent of the world’s trade. By the end of British rule in 1947, it became impoverished, and our world trade was reduced to only about 2 per cent. During British rule, which lasted roughly from 1757 to 1947, it is estimated that about 100 million Indians died of starvation, and many became beggars, criminals or scavengers. Nobody talks of this Holocaust, since very few people even know about it. If one were given a choice between death in a gas chamber and death by starvation, many people would opt for the former, as the latter is much more painful and prolonged. Further, the Belgians slaughtered millions of natives in the Congo and the Americans wiped out about 10 per cent of the population of Vietnam by B-52 bombers, napalm, agent orange and other devilish devices.
I then said we Indians are also guilty of genocide against our Dalits (low castes) and tribals. The atrocities against Jews lasted only from 1933 to 1945. But we have been committing atrocities on our Dalits and tribals for centuries. Even today for a Dalit boy to fall in love or marry a non-Dalit girl is often inviting a death sentence, by “honor killing”. Dalits are often attacked, insulted and humiliated for even trivial acts, like riding a horse to his wedding. In February last year, a 27-year-old man from the Dalit community was forcibly alighted from a horse in his wedding procession, subjected to casteist slurs and allegedly beaten up in Gujarat.
No doubt there has not been a large-scale massacre of Dalits or tribals like the Holocaust of Jews for quite some time. But what can be called as “ideological genocide” continues to this day. Dalits are often insulted and humiliated, demeaned and belittled constantly and treated as “neech” (inferior) by most of the upper castes and even by the backward castes(OBCs). Even many of our youth, who are expected to be more idealistic, often attack Dalits, as happened in Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh or in a few Tamil Nadu Universities.
I often receive emails and facebook messages from Dalit youth complaining of their ill-treatment by upper caste students in colleges and universities. Many Dalit girl students have said that the upper caste girls refuse to have food with them in hostel messes and often insult them. I am not indulging in whataboutery, but who are we to blame the Germans for what they did to the Jews when we are no less guilty (though in a different way)? The treatment of Dalits and tribals is a disgrace to our country, and the time has come when this infamy must come to an end.
(The writer is a former judge of the Supreme Court of India. The views expressed are personal.)