Saturday, December 06, 2003

Less in numbers, more in menial jobs

New Delhi, December 5: YOGESH and Siyaram are busy sweeping the red carpet. These Dalit migrants are from a village near Aligarh. As a stark life-sized exhibit near them - part of the ongoing photo and poster exhibition on the state of Dalits titled Hidden Apartheid - states that nearly half the sweepers in India are from the Dalit community. A number greatly out of proportion considering they are only 16 per cent of the population.

The exhibition, organised by the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR) and the NGO Anhad (Act Now for Harmony and Democracy), is timed to coincide with a Dalit Swadhikar rally of Dalits and human rights activists setting out tonight from Delhi to reach Mumbai for the World Social Forum on January 16.

Flagging off the rally, former president K.R. Narayanan argued that the condition of the Dalits was the touchstone of the condition of India since it revolved around fundamental issues of access to basic resources and livelihood in a time of growing disparities, evident in the rise in the number of Dalits below the poverty line.

Praising the NCDHR's he expressed hope that the exhibition would ''awaken peoples''' conscience.

Researched and designed by social activist Shabnam Hashmi and designer Pervez, the exhibition powerfully depicts the numerous disadvantages that the Dalit community in India continues to face. The show draws attention to their low numbers in secondary schools and universities, government bodies and academic posts, and on the other hand their high representation in menial jobs.

Drawing extensively on newspaper articles and government reports, it juxtaposes national statistics with studies of individuals who are battling discrimination and violence - a woman panchayat leader, a family who dares to enter the village temple, a scavenger.

Source: The Indian Express, December 6, 2003

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