Most people in India think that untouchability no longer exists - but it does, and it affects millions. Since nearly one-quarter of VV's community correspondents are Dalits, this is an issue close to our heart. The Community Correspondents (CC's) decided they wanted to gather the visual evidence to prove, once and for all, that this age old practice still plagues society.
During February and March, the CC's documented untouchability across the country. They documented villages in Rajasthan where women have to take their sandals off when walking through the upper-caste area. Where barbers won't give a shave to non-dalits. And where far worse things happen, like a man who got his hands nearly chopped off for drinking water from an upper caste's waterpot and where hundreds of people die a year cleaning municipal gutters, in the caste-dictated profession of 'manual scavenging.'
We launched the campaign on April 14, 2012, and the day we did so, the videos ran in the daily news bulletins of two major television channel in India, showing that community video can get the media to look at issues it usually ignores. It's been covered in the press, including a great article in the Agence France Presse, and in numerous other publications.
We are aiming to accomplish one clear goal with these videos: we want the Indian government to begin prosecuting the so-called 'every day' forms of untouchability. And so we've partnered with change.org, the petition site, and leading Dalit groups in the country to put pressure on the government.
Here's the problem in a nutshell: The government will prosecute violent instances of untouchability when they happen, such as Dalits' houses being burnt down or Dalits dying in gutters (both of which we've documented.) But the non-violent ones are never prosecuted. People view these untouchability practices as custom, even though they are a form of apartheid for millions. Nonetheless, these 'every day' forms of untouchability - for instance, Dalits not being allowed to wear sunglasses, or to go in the temple - are equally as illegal under the Indian constitution.
So that's why we're urging the Indian government to give justice to the millions who experience these kinds of discrimination, and to prosecute the 'every day' forms of untouchability. I hope you will watch some of the videos below, and sign the petition.
Thank you as ever for your support!
In the words of Neeru, our 24 year old Community Correspondent in Gujarat, this is why we're doing this: “As a child, I had experienced untouchability at school where I was forced to sit and eat separately from the children of 'upper caste' families. We wanted to give viewers the responsibility, as witnesses, to end this age old oppression once and for all.”