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The Hidden Apartheid in Modern Era

Updated: Jan 18

“Equality may be a fiction but nonetheless one must accept it as a governing principle.”

Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar

In the modern era, caste-based discrimination is one of the most disturbing issues faced by India. The hardest-hit section of the Caste system is the Dalits, who are officially called the Scheduled Castes.

Untouchability is an ancient form of caste-based discrimination It is an intricate and prevalent issue in India, though this is practised globally and not just in India. For ages, the practise of untouchability has relegated and intimidated a sector of Indian civilization to a life marked by violence, humiliation, torture, and disgrace. The discrimination is so persistent that many Dalits started to believe that they are responsible for their sufferings and their condition.

As being one of the world’s largest democracy and one of the largest and most developed economies, the practise of caste-based discrimination remains in contrast to the progress, which the Indian Government seeks to promote within the international community. Thus, like a shameful secret, “hidden apartheid,” untouchability remains an extremely sensitive and least concerning the issue.

Legal Provisions Against Untouchability

The Untouchability Offences Act of 1955 (The Protection of Civil Liberties Act) was enacted which provided penalties for preventing a person from entering a place of worship or from taking water from a tank or well.

The Indian Constitution states certain articles and laws to protect the rights of the Scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.

Article 17 of the Indian Constitution says: Untouchability” is abolished and its practice in any form is forbidden. The enforcement of any disability arising out of “Untouchability” shall be an offence punishable by law.

Article 14 states the equality before the law that the State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.

Article 15 states the Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth.

Article 46 states that the educational and economic interests of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and other weaker sections shall be promoted and e protected from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.

Article 243D and article 243T deals with Reservation of seats for the Scheduled Castes and scheduled tribes in certain departments. Further, Article 330 reserves the seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the House of the People and Article 332 Reserves seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the Legislative Assemblies of the States.


The resources which are available to the Dalits who want to bring a change are rigorously limited. According to reports, the average literate Dalit males are only 20% compared to the other rural areas. Worldwide, 52 % of all "Scheduled Caste" workers are landless agricultural labourers, compared to 26% of other caste workers.

Although many Acts, Articles, and Provisions have been introduced, the crime against Dalits continues and increases. There has been some progress, but for the past several years, the reports have been on violent and humiliating attacks against the Dalits have routinely exceeded 10,000 cases. Many cases go unrecorded and unreported. The main reason is that this sector of society is considered as one of the most burdened sectors of society.

Although the practice of untouchability was abolished and banned in 1950, this practice remains in a huge part of rural India. Representing over one-sixth of India's population, Dalits Are the victims of nearly complete social boycott. They face many kinds of humiliation like they may not cross the line which divides their part of the village from that of the higher castes. They may not be allowed to use the same wells, visit the same temples, or drink from the same cups in tea stalls. Dalit children are made to sit at the back of classrooms. In what has been called India's "hidden apartheid," entire villages in many Indian states remain completely separated by castes.


Prateeksha Singh is currently pursuing law at Lloyd law college.

They can be contacted at prateeksha1508@gmail.com.

Edited By: Swathi. Ashok. Nair.


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