"Untouchability shuts all doors of opportunities for betterment in life
Untouchability is a curse that has prevailed in the society for centuries. From
the earlier times, untouchables has been the victim of the inhuman treatment
just for the reason that they did not belonged to the "elite class" of people.
The questions arousing the curosity of the readers had always been as to "Who
were Untouchables?" " Why were the treated like that?" "What had been done for
them so far?"
Meaning of Untouchables
Untouchable in the simplest of words if explained means "things that cannot be
touched". From the beginning of the civilization, human race had always been
categorized into different sections on the basis of how much wealth or power an
individual possessed. As time flew and people started making progess, when
wealth became power, the class system started becoming rigid. The class system
is of the apex structure.
At the top were the rulers or precisely the wealthiest who were the most
powerful followed by the group of their acquaintances who served as well as
advised them. In this apex structure of class, just below the ruling parties and
the nobles, the Officers were the common man who ran small business. As one
moves below, you would find a class that was neither a king nor belonged to the
king or to his men or subjects.
Those were the untouchables that usually lived outside the walls of the city and
were a part of inhuman treatment, washed and cleaned others restrooms etc.
People belonging to the lowest class have been objectified as "thing that cannot
be touched" and hence The "Untouchables."
History of the untouchables in India
Untouchables were known as 'Dalits'. The term 'Dalit' has been derived from the
Sanskrit word Meaning 'down' and 'destrodden'. Untouchability was not only
prevalent in India but also on Japan, Tibet and Korea.
People in India were divided into four castes namely:
- The Brahamans or the ruling class.
- Kshatriyas or those in the armies.
- Vaishyas were the ordinary business men or the artisans.
- Shudras or simply the 'untouchables' that served the other three classes
The Shudras were the slaves that were looked down upon. They lived outside
the walls of theKingdom, were not allowed to enter the temples or to draw water
from the well or to use any Other kind of public amenities. The Shudras were
devoid of any kind of educational opportunities and were a part of ' a child of
a slave can only be a slave' slogan.
Many reformers such as Jyotiba Phule, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Raja Ram Mohan
Roy, Swami Vivekananda worked really hard against the untouchability practices.
Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi were the most prominent reformers among
all. Mahatma Gandhi called the untouchables as 'Harijans' meaning 'children of
Abolishment of Untouchability
After fighting for decades to remove this social barrier and exercising
dominance over oppressed classes,� The practice of untouchability was finally
and legally banned by the Constitution of India in the year 1950 under Article
17. Article 17 came into force on June 1st, 1955.
Article 17 clearly states that untouchability in any way is prohibited
irrespective of any caste, Colour or creed and incase somebody practices it
shall be liable and punished by law.
'Untouchability is abolished and its practise in any form is forbidden. The
enforcement of any disability arising out of untouchability shall be an offence
punishableIn accordance with law.' �
Importance of Article 17
- Article 17 reflex country's democracy, it clearly states that power of
the people is above all which later tends to seek social equality
- Such constitutional and legal safeguards country's democracy.
- Abolishment of untouchability under Article 17 opened doors of
opportunities for the underprivileged that were oppressed.
- The oppressed classes have now an access to educational and financial
opportunities to Improve their living lifestyle.
- Article 17 helped in weakening the caste structure that was so rigid and
tough to breakthrough it.
- Article 17 gives an access to the Dalits for all public amenities
including using public wells and entering temples.
- Article 17 guarantees that Dalits would not be be exposed to the inhuman
treatment that they had been a victim of.
- Dalits under Article 17 are now not looked down upon as slaves but
rather are treated at par with others in every field of life.
- Article 17 guarantees the implementation of social justice in the
society, such implementations are necessary for establishing the democratic
side of a country.
- Hence it is necessary to remove all the practices that are undemocratic
and discriminatory in nature.
- Ingale Appa Balu (AIR-1993)
The Supreme Court in the case of Ingale Appa Balu of year 1993 stated that
practice of Untouchability is an indirect form of slavery and if it is
continued, caste system would still exist.
- Devarajiah vs B.Padmanna* (1957)
The court revised the provisions under Article 17 and stated the abolishment
of untouchability. The court also further stated that it's practice in form
is strictly prohibited.
Abolishment of untouchability under Article 17 was indeed an applausable step
taken by our Constituent makers as well as the government because it's
abolishment not only paved all the paths for the opportunities for the oppressed
classes but also gave our country India, a stronger side of democratism where
the power of the people and its constitution is supreme above anything else.
The abolishment of the practice was not only a blessing for the lower castes but
also it was the result of the constant efforts and never ending hardwork of our
reformers that toiled their entire lives even in the 17th or the 18th century
where the caste system was so rigid, where they faced so many obstacles and
repercussions to uplift the social status of the untouchables.
Although the constitution of India has banned the practice but this curse is
still prevalent in many parts of India where untouchables still struggle for
their upliftment and identity, so as the citizens Of the Democratic Republic of
India, it is our responsibility to carry out the legacy of the social works of
our reformers and our constituent makers and let's uplift the people to make
India a better and a stronger nation where people are not judged on the basis of
their castes but for their competency and their sheer hard work because somebody
has rightly said " a small step taken today would surely turn into a larger step
- Quote by Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar
- Article 17, Constitution of India
Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Aaliya Fatima, University of Lucknow
Authentication No: MR306754319557-08-0323