Touch Me Not!
The Untouchability Offences Act was passed in 1955. Yet, even today, 27% of Indians polled admit to practising some form of untouchability!
Gandhiji considered untouchability the worst impediment to reform and unity, stating that the whole moral basis for asking for freedom from the colonial masters would be rendered void and hollow if Indians continued to practise it.
The Untouchability Offences Act was passed in 1955. Yet, even today, 27% of Indians polled admit to practising some form of untouchability! This follows a recent survey by the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) and the University of Maryland, USA.
Over 42,000 households across India, covering all major religions and castes, were surveyed. Questions like "Does anyone in your family practise untouchability?" and "Would it be okay for a scheduled caste person to enter your kitchen or use your utensils?" were asked. The sad, alarming results: All groups practise it in varying degrees: Hindus (30%), Sikhs (23%), Muslims (18%) and Christians (5%) admitted to the practice. Statewise, prejudice was most seen in the northern states with MP (53%) topping the list (more detailed information at ncaer.org).
The survey also reveals that high income does not change the mindset towards untouchability. Nor doconversions. "These findings indicate that conversion has not led to a change in mindsets," writes lead researcher Dr Amit Thorat of the NCAER. "Caste identity is... difficult to dislodge in social settings."
What makes a difference, says the report, is education.