Thursday, August 2, 2012

Dalit women walk bare foot to show respect to 'upper caste' villagers in Rajasthan

The district administration in Karauli has undertaken steps to ban the practice after's Video Volunteers brought the discriminatory practice into light. 

When 39-year-old Sunita Kasera, a journalist for Video Volunteers, was sipping tea one hot afternoon in Dangariya village, eastern Rajasthan, she noticed something peculiar. Many women, who left their houses with their footwear on, would abruptly remove them in the middle of the road and wear them again after a few yards of walking bare foot.
After asking a few women about the curious practice, Kasera quickly recorded the practice of caste discrimination on her handycam. The women of Dangariya, Karauli, were forbidden from wearing their footwear when they walked past the dwellings of “upper caste” residents. “I was shocked to see it,” says Kasera. 
An online petition was posted by Video Volunteers based on Kasera’s story calling for administrative action to put an end to this discriminatory practice. They received more than 5000 signatures within 48 hours.
Bowing to the civil society outcry on this issue, the district administration of Karauli called for a public hearing in the village. “Everyone in the village was present,” says Kasera, “they all promised to stop this discriminatory act against the Dalits".
District Magistrate M Bishnu Charan Mallick then sent a press release to all police stations and village heads in District Karauli detailing how untouchability is a punishable offence under Article 17 of the Indian Constitution.
Video Volunteers has been monitoring the village on a daily basis, and finds that from the time the administration has come down heavily on the villagers, there has not been a single incident of caste discrimination in the village. “This is just our first victory,” says Siddharth P, Communications Manager, Video Volunteers. “Change in the mindset of the administration is the first step to enforce law. We are confident that there will soon be a marked change in the mindset of the people.” 

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