As election results are almost declared, Pakistan is entering new phase of governanc under a new premier. Hindus comprise about 1.85% of Pakistan population ( wikipedia.org and as of 2010, it had fifth largest hindu population in the world. Pakistan census separates scheduled castes from the main body of hindu population who constitute a further 0.25% of national population. Thus, dalits constitute significant numbers in the population of Pakistan. More than 85% of hindus are dalits according to Chander Kumar, activist ( Pakistan dalits in peril, published 24 March 2012,countercurrents) and they have been living for over 5000 years in Pakistan.
Chander Kumar analysed 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.
They are also facing hardships from dominant muslim community. Both hindu upper castes and muslim majority overlook them and do not address their problems on political stage . Dalits in Pakistan remain in severe state.
Struggles with ruling community
Dalits have tried to take on patriarchy in hindu community and people of their own community as in India . Dalits had to counter Muslim domination. They are struggling to come out of the narrowminded peoples . The usual struggles in pakistan against mass tyranny from dominant muslims continued till recent times.
Dalits enter politics
Krishna Kumari became the first woman from Kohili community of hindus to be elected as a senator through Pakistan Peoples party ticket. (Pakistani Hindu senator from ‘ untouchables ‘ rejects caste by KHUNWAR KHULDUNE SHAHID, March 6, 2018, www.atimes.com). She is the second hindu woman after Ratna Bhagwan Chawla but first one from ‘dalit ‘ community. She is a human rights activist. Talking to Asia Times , she said that discrimination of dalits exist in India and not in ‘ . She abhors being labelled a dalit and insists that she would work for all hindu and muslim backward people in the area.
Though there may not be stark caste discrimination as in India, the dalits in Pakistan also face problems. Since all the hindu community is being persecuted by the rulers, differences between castes in hindus of Pakistan may remain dormant. Other senators of hindu community also condemned the tag of ‘ untouchable ‘ being labelled at her.
Meanwhile, two dalit women Radha Bheel and Lelan Lohar contested as independents candidates from Mirpur Khas district of Sindh . (This Pak elections, Hindu Dalit Women Brandish A Pencil For Rights, by AHMED SAEED and Umer Bin Ajmal, posted 24, July,18, thequaint.com ). In 2016, Bheel, alongwith some other members of 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 dalit community are being discriminated against. She says that though dalits are in a majority, tickets are given mostly to upper castes candidates. ‘……..No party focusses on the issues we are facing …’
She says. Lohar says her real fight is with feudal lords and points out that she was threatened and asked to withdraw or face grave consequences. She was married at very early age and one of her daughter died due to ill- treatment of in- laws after getting married at a young age.
There are others who filed papers for the elections. Some are contesting from general seats. Even differently abled Ansoo Kohili is aspiring. She rose to fame for starting a school at her cattle shed. ( Zulfiqar Kunbhar, posted June 12, 2018, dailytimes.com). After Sunita Parmer, 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 the cudgels to fight theocracy of the dominant religion as well as caste conflict in hindu community. Dalit power is becoming a potent force in Pakistan
Sheshu Babu is a writer from India