Skip to main content

The other side of elections: Pakistan's Dalit women assert for their rights by seeking space in country's politics

Krishna Kumari
By Sheshi Babu
As election results are almost declared, Pakistan is entering the new phase of governance under a new premier. Hindus comprise about 1.85% of Pakistan’s population. In fact, it has the fifth largest Hindu population in the world. Pakistan’s census separates scheduled castes from the main body of the Hindu population; thus they constitute a further 0.25% of national population. Clearly, Dalits constitute significant numbers in the population of Pakistan.
However, according to Chander Kumar, an activist, more than 85% of Hindus are Dalits. They claim to be living in the region which now called Pakistan for the last over 5000 years.
Chander Kumar has analyzed the plight of Dalits, citing work done by the Royal Mandate of the Dalit Development Programme. Several members of Dalit Programme identified the problems faced by Dalits in Pakistan, viz. caste discrimination, lack of education, technical skills, water shortage, overwhelming of the community engaged in hard labor and manual work etc.
Dalits also face hardships from the dominant Muslim community. Both Hindu upper castes and Muslim majority overlook them and do not address their problems on the political stage. Dalits in Pakistan remain in dire straits.
Dalits have tried to take on the ruling establishment, but it seems to be an arduous struggle. They have had to counter Muslim domination. They are struggling to come out of the narrow-minded of the ruling sections. The usual struggle in Pakistan against mass tyranny from those in power has continued.
Krishna Kumari became the first woman from the Kohili community of Hindus to be elected as a senator through the Pakistan People’s Party ticket. She is the second Hindu woman after Ratna Bhagwan Chawla, but first one from the Dalit community to be elected. She is a human rights activist.
In her interview with “Asia Times”, she claimed that discrimination of Dalits exists in India and not in Pakistan. She abhors being labeled a Dalit and insists that she would work for all Hindu and Muslim backward people in her area. She said, “We are not Dalit in Pakistan. These discriminations exist in India but not among us indigenous Hindus in Pakistan.”
Though there may not be stark caste discrimination as in India, Dalits in Pakistan also face problems. Since the entire Hindu community is being persecuted by the rulers, differences between castes in Hindus of Pakistan may have remained dormant. Other senators of the Hindu community also condemned the tag of 'untouchable' being labeled on her.
Meanwhile, two Dalit women, Radha Bheel and Lelan Lohar, contested as independents candidates from Mirpur Khas district of Sindh. In 2016, Bheel, along with some other members of the Dalit community, started a movement called Dalit Sujaag Tehreek (DST) to highlight the conditions of backward classes.
Contrary to Krishna Kumari views, Radha Bheel feels that the Dalit community is being discriminated against. She says that though Dalits are in a majority, tickets are given mostly to upper castes candidates. According to her, “No party focuses on the issues we are facing...”
Lohar, on the other hand, says that her real fight is with feudal lords, and points out that she was threatened and asked to withdraw her candidature, or face grave consequences. She was married at a very early age, and one of her daughters died due to ill-treatment by in-laws after getting married at a young age.
There are others Dalits too who filed papers for the recent elections. Some contested on general seats. One of them, a differently-abled, Ansoo Kohili, is inspiring. Earlier, Sunita Parmar, a mid-aged woman from Meghwar community, had filed her nomination papers to fight from a constituency in Tharparkar district. Following her, five more Dalit women have come forward to contest. They all are not satisfied with selection of candidates from upper castes.
Though the results may or may not reflect the victories of these women, their courage to contest should be appreciated. In a Muslim dominated country, Dalit women are taking up the cudgels to fight theocracy of the dominant religion as well as caste conflict in the Hindu community. Dalit power is becoming a potent force in Pakistan.

Comments

TRENDING

Political consensus? Celebrations, with over 5,000 plus post-vaccine deaths in India

By Rosamma Thomas*  As India fully vaccinated nearly 20% of its population and celebrated the “milestone” of administering one billion (100 crore) Covid-19 vaccine doses, it was time to remember those who died shortly after vaccination . By October 20, 2021 Twitter handle C400T, tracking deaths reported to have occurred after receiving the Covid-19 shot in India, updated the 5,134th death.

Is sacrilege charge against Punjab Dalits any different from Pak blasphemy cases?

Lakhbir Singh, his wife By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*  There is no doubt that Sikhism actually was a revolt against the Brahmanical system and superstition. Guru Granth Saheb is perhaps the only Holy Book which contains matters from different religions as well as those of various Sufi saints, including Kabir, Ravidas, Baba Farid and others. The aim of Sikhism was to create an egalitarian society, and, definitely, Punjab that way is far better than many other States in India, where violence against Dalits is rampant.

Billion vaccine doses? Devil is in details: 70% haven't got 2nd jab; numbers jacked up

By Prof Ujjwal K Chowdhury*  India has reached the one billion Covid-19 vaccinations milestone. It is indeed a great news and a big salute to the less paid ordinary health-workers in interiors of India for this feat. The government wants all of India's 944 million adults to get vaccinated this year. Around three-quarters of adults in the country of 1.3 billion people have had one shot and around 30 percent are fully vaccinated, the government says.

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Uttarakhand, Kerala disaster due to policies favouring India's developmental mafia

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*  Two of India’s most beautiful regions where thousands of people go to watch and feel the wonders of nature are suffering because of the extremely disastrous rains and floods. The pain that the rains brought to Kerala and Uttarakhand is a warning to all of us. It's nature’s warning to us to mend our ways.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Religious mobs replicate blasphemy laws, 'threatening' liberty in a free country

Nihangs, Lakhbir Singh By Ajit Singh*   A Dalit man, Lakhbir Singh, was mercilessly beaten up and lynched to death near farmers’ protest site in the State of Haryana allegedly by Nihang Sikhs. It was alleged that he committed blasphemy by desecrating the Holy Book Guru Granth Sahib.

March opposes Sabarmati Ashram renovation: 'Mahatmaji had kept open for access to all'

Counterview Desk A Sevagram to Sabarmati march, which began on October 17 from Wardha (Maharashtra) and will end on October 24 in Ahmedabad (Gujarat), has demanded that the Sabarmati Ashram, the government should not impose "the fashion and glitz of a shallow modernity" at the cost of Rs 1,200 crore, in the name of renovating the Ashram founded by Gandhiji.

Shabana Azmi joins Pak physicist Hoodbhoy to condemn B'desh anti-minority violence

By Our Representative  Several well-known South Asian activists and public figures of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Maldives have expressed “deep distress” by the spate of violence and killings in Bangladesh on the occasion of Durga Puja and Vijayadashami. “Attacks on minorities are a sign of injustice and a matter of shame for any society and bring a bad name to the Government”, they said in a joint statement.