Even after entering the 70th year of Independence, India still finds itself unable to shed the identity of being a caste-ridden society. And when the intolerance reaches a stage where not only the people, but even the statues feel unsafe, it is a definite sign that terms like justice, equality, secular and fraternity mentioned in our Preamble are in grave danger.
Dr B. R. Ambedkar was one of the most scholarly leaders of India and the founding father of our constitution - the world's lengthiest written constitution. Regarded as modern Manu, he advocated equality in the society and asserted that India cannot achieve the status of a developed society if it does not learn to treat its citizens equally. He worked for the rights of Dalits and ensured that the law provides them with equal opportunity and justice against oppression.
But, despite the constitution providing equal rights to everyone in our country, the fact does not seem to resonate with the dominant castes of Tamil Nadu. Over the years, there have been incidents where Dalit opponents garlanded Dr Ambedkar's statue with slippers, provoked violence and riots by cutting the statue's head off and other similar actions to disturb the harmony.
The intolerance towards Dalits in Tamil Nadu is such that people from dominant caste groups do not shy from demanding laws protecting Dalits against atrocities to be toned down. There are still some villages that don't allow Dalits to enter Hindu temples or use the community wells.
How is the authority expected to act in this case?
In a rather cowardly way adopted by the Tamil Nadu government to ensure that offenders do not disregard the revered leader and sentiments of people again, the officials have put the statues in cage.
It has also been reported that no action was taken against the offenders. Also, from among 15 judicial enquiries into incidents of atrocities against Dalits since 1956, no one has been punished.
As the political scientist C Lakshman said on the issue, "This is Tamil Nadu's biggest shame. It shows the complete failure of the state to protect the Dalits. The state is increasingly succumbing to caste barbarity."
Incidents like this shake the hollow pride that we take in being a country with unity in diversity.
The original story is written by Soutik Biswas of BBC.