Caste Discrimination in India and Peru

                                                          Aguilina Pucurimay

For many centuries, the Hindu and Peruvian civilizations have followed a caste system of social stratification. Today, many belonging to the upper castes or social classes still subjugate Dalits in India and Campesinos (field workers) in Peru . Both Dalits and Campesinos are the lowest social classes in their respective countries, and they are oppressed by a caste system that exerts cruel discrimination and segregates these poor populations. The rich people in Peru (ricos) are mestizos with mixed European and indigenous blood. The Campesinos are mostly indigenous Quechuas. Although India and Peru are different culturally and ethnically, unfortunate similarities are manifested in the social conditions of their lowest classes. These impoverished people lack education, suffer political suppression, and have no legal protection.

            One significant similarity between Dalits and Campesinos is their lack of education. A few Dalits benefit from government quotas reserved for castes. Because only a small minority of Dalits have benefited from India ’s policy of quotas in education, their priorities are work activities rather than education.  Therefore, most Dalits are unskilled workers who are exploited due to their lack of education and low social status.  They perform the most menial and unsafe jobs, such as removing human waste and dead animals, or sweeping streets. In the same way Peruvian Campesinos, with no quotas for higher education, are forced to send all the members of their families to work in the fields, including their children, who are often absent from school because of the necessity to work in order to contribute to their families’ incomes. While most Campesinos are engaged in farm labor, others perform manual labor such as trimming trees, sweeping streets, or digging wells under unsafe working conditions.

            Another similarity between Dalits and Campesinos is the political suppression of rights. Dalits are used politically by upper caste candidates, but they are forgotten as soon the election is ended, and their rights are not protected. For instance,  during an election, Dalits are compelled to vote for certain candidates. Dalit villagers who do not vote as they have been told  have been murdered, beaten, and harassed. Also, Dalits who have sought active participation in politics have been  battered or assassinated to keep them out of political office. There are laws which protect Dalits from such abuses of the caste system, but these laws remain unimplemented because the upper caste isn’t held accountable, so the laws are not enforced. Campesinos as well are obligated to vote for “ricos” candidates under the menacing threat of being fired from their jobs. Also, Campesinos have laws which protect their right to vote freely, but they are not enforced. For instance, although the law mandates that employers should facilitate voting for their workers, they don’t allow them to go to the elections polls, and when a Campesino presents a complaint about this, the authorities never proceed according to the law. 

            Finally, the lack of legal protection for Dalits and Campesinos is similar. Dalits are dominated by upper caste organizations. They are discriminated against in all public institutions, which makes it difficult for Dalits to get legal protection. For instance, police often refuse to receive complaints about crimes committed against the members of this lowest caste. Similarly, Campesinos are not protected under the same umbrella of the law. They suffer discrimination and segregation and are often cheated by the rich.  For example, when a Campesino’s cow accidentally wanders onto ricos property, they take that animal as part of their property, and because most ricos have connections with public authorities or the money to bribe them, it is impossible for the Campesinos to inquire about their rights against any member of the upper classes. 

Although Dalits and Campesinos are indigenous to distinctive countries, both groups are  uneducated, suffer oppression and poverty, and lack legal protection. These injustices committed against minorities who are poor should not exist in any country because they conflict with the most elemental human rights. But, sadly, this kind of class discrimination still exists not only in India and Peru, but in countries around the world.