Lt. to the Ed. in response to "the Greatest show on Earth"
Following is the letter we have sent to the Editor of Daily Express in response to an article on Kumbamela. There is so munch news about this Hindu festival and the whole media is centred on this human gathering. We, in our organisation think that all our friends should start writing something about Hinduism and its inhuman treatement to the vast majority of the population of India in the name of religion and Caste. Please make the best use of the opportunity when the festival is on.
With best Wishes from all the members of VODI Team
Voice of Dalit I n t e r n a t i o n a l
Your article on " The Greatest Show on Earth" Thursday January 11th and Letter of the Day " A Spectacle of Love and Faith by the Ganges" by Joy Cameron was read with great interest.
Ours is an organisation working for the Human Rights of the "Untouchables" of India other wise called the Dalits - meaning the 'broken people' or constitutionally called the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes who number about 250 million of Indian population. These untouchables are also found in a few other countries within the Indian Sub-continent.
In your article you speak about " .they recruited 8000 `sweepers` - as members of `Untouchables` castes are now called, " to deal with the sewage by hand". Your above statement very clearly acknowledges the existence of "untouchables" and 'manual scavenging', based on caste, which in reality is illegal and non-existent in India. Furthermore India is one of the civilised nations who have signed the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights and several similar International declarations.
You know the 'caste' system you speak about is one of the cardinal principles of Hinduism and is glorified in Hindu Holy Scriptures. Caste system or "Varnasharam" is based on "Varna" or colour, which is otherwise called racism. According to the Caste System there are four castes of people who are believed to have born out of the mouth, hands, thigh and feet of the Brahma - 'the creator'. These four categories are assigned certain professions and graded social status. Their interactions are controlled by rules and regulations, pollution, taboos etc. Accordingly, the fourth caste who are the labouring castes and who number more than 350 million of India's population are like the slaves and then come the 'out castes'- the 'Untouchables'- the unsee- ables, who are treated as worse than slaves and less than animals. It is from these untouchable castes that they have recruited the official figure of 8000 people to remove the "sewage by hand. " The actual figure could be much higher than this.
If it is to do a job, then why can't it be advertised and invite application and then employ from open market, rather than engaging people from certain caste. Or since it is connected with a religious function, they could have also engaged volunteers irrespective of caste to do the work. On the other hand they employed the 'untouchables' to do scavenging 'by hand'. This is once again just to perpetuate caste system and untouchability in the name of religion. In England if we need cleaners or sweepers we do not employ only people belonging to certain category like blacks, white, Christians, Hindus or Muslims. It will be advertsed and selected from general public. Certainly not from any particular community.Do you realise the danger, inhumanity and illegality involved in your glorification of the religious festival?
Several newspapers and televisions have reported that thousands of naked holy men are assembled for this festival. There has been displeasure from some Hindus in this country towards television showing naked holy men, taking ganja (opium), pulling cars by tying ropes around their penis' etc. All this is done in the name of religion.
There used to be a practice in India, whereby, every year a large number of untouchable, naked women were similarly going in religious processions. Due to media intervention and general opposition from civilised communities, including U.K, it has recently been stopped. When the practice was in existence a large crowd used to assemble to watch the naked young women. If women can be stopped from parading naked in the name of religion why can't in the same way men parading naked in the name of religion be stopped? Why this double standard in Hinduism?
Many Hindus are living in England. They have started constructing their temples, observing their caste system, celebrating their Rama festival, Krishna festivals etc. I would like to know if the Hindus in this country wish to have a similar naked parade of men, in the name of religion, through the streets of England and if so, will the English civilised society allow such a spectacle to take place in this country?
Your reader Joy Cameron said, "the Hindu faith and love should be example to us all" We suggest to the reader that she read about Hinduism and untouchability in depth. Most people do not know the actual teachings of Hinduism in relation to Caste and Untouchability and the resulting inhuman treatment of the multitude of the Indian population. The religious teachings are written in Sanskrit, which many do not understand and are prohibited for the non- high caste population to read. When we think of religion and people we think of love, kindness, brotherhood and compassion etc. and yet, unfortunately, Hinduism has the inhuman Caste engraved within it which give them the belief of their right to treat the Untouchables as they wish.
Our organisation networks with other Dalit organisations both in UK and abroad and one of our major concerns is that untouchability and increasing Dalit atrocities are rarely reported in our national newspapers. There is a hidden apartheid in India, which is now becoming an issue of major International concern. There is an Early Day Motion - No. 491 - "Dalit Rights in India" signed by 80 of our MPs await adjournment debate in our Parliament hopefully in February. I make this timely request to your news paper to start reporting about the Dalit situation in India.
Please acknowledge this letter and contact our organisation. Please also send a copy of our letter to your reader Joy Cameron.
Awaiting your valuable response