This story does not belong to any distant past. It happened just a few months ago, when a Dalit woman named Gangamma ended her life because she was denied drinking water at a tank only because she belonged to a lower caste!
Magadi taluk is just 40 kilometres from Bangalore and is reportedly a place where untouchability is at its peak. In a village in Magadi taluk, there is a tank from which only upper caste people are allowed to take drinking water. Gangamma came to the tank to fetch some water as she could not find any other source of drinking water that day. It was a hot afternoon and to quench the thirst of her family she dared to approach that tank even though she knew that she was not allowed to do so. But as she approached the tank, she was denied access. Infuriated, people began to mock her. The upper caste women verbally abused her, and denied her access to the tank water. Gangamma did not remain quiet and protested. But to her dismay, the villagers and even the Panchayat asked her to pay a fine of Rs 101 as a penalty for trying to take water from the tank meant only for upper caste villagers. What could a poor Dalit woman do? She was completely heartbroken. The next day, April 22, news spread like wildfire that Gangamma was dead! She had taken her own life by consuming poison, leaving behind a letter that said “I QUIT”.
Gangamma’s death proves how society has double standards and the evil of the caste system is so incredibly rampant. A case has been registered with the state human rights commission but officials could not provide the status of the case.
Discriminatory practices are the order of the day. For example, Dalits are served water or any drink in earthen cups while upper caste people are served in steel glasses; village barbers refuse to offer their services to Dalits and so on and so forth. Not many know that such practices attract strict legal consequences. Gangamma’s death is just one among hundreds of such cases in a city like Bangalore. Annually, over 3000 Dalits, i.e., about nine persons per day, are victims of caste atrocities and discrimination.
When will our nation shake away the shackles of social evils such as the caste system?