The reality of Caste Discrimination among Children

The reality of Caste Discrimination among Children

Caste system in India is a system operating covertly even after its abolition by law. It is one of the traditional methods of social segregation in India dating back a thousand years. Even after a long hard battle to abolish social evils such as ‘untouchability’ in contemporary India, we tend to still practice the age-old custom of basing a person’s identity on his caste. Not only that, but this social practice affects a person from a lower caste so much that right from their birth they bear the burden of belonging to a particular community. In matters involving education, marriages, employment opportunities and others, caste plays an enormous role in determining what the outcome will be for them in life.

The caste system is an evil that infests our society like a plague and makes it hollow from within. This largely hinders various opportunities for the people from lower classes while simultaneously benefitting the rest. Although significantly reduced in urban areas with the advent of urbanization and secular education, India as a whole still struggles with this problem of caste discrimination in villages and countryside areas. Commonly referred to as Dalits, they are segregated in ways such as ostracizing entire communities, separating the access to basic necessities like wells for water, ration shops for food items, schools (if any), practising untouchability, separating professions and allotting the ‘lowly’ tasks like cleaning toilets, gutters, clearing off carcasses and bodies, etc.

Run-on the deafeningly loud ideas of purity and population, caste system accelerates long term injustices to the people. Consequently, its effects on children are alarming as well. It creates a barrier for a lot of them coming from these marginalized castes who wants to break this system and rise higher. Children are very sensitive to changes around them and with good catching power, they easily observe the discriminating behaviour of their peers and elders. When exposed to such behaviour for a longer period, they assume it to be their only reality. Oftentimes this lowers the morale of ambitious children and chains them in this vicious circle of perpetuating caste systems.

Schools in villages where all children come together regardless of caste differences are observed as an active playground for caste discrimination. The idea of the superiority and inferiority of castes is instilled in children because of the actions displayed by teachers, other school staff and parents. Parents often ask for their kids to be separated from Dalit children, do not allow their children to play together or befriend Dalits. Reports suggest that Dalits are not allowed to study subjects like Sanskrit as it is the language of the Brahmins. They are not allowed to sit in the front rows and are forced to sit in the back or on the ground. They are also asked to clean the toilets and the school. They face abuse in all forms- be it verbal, physical or sexual. Children belonging to ‘lower castes’ often face verbal and physical abuse at the hands of their teachers, bullying from their upper-caste peers and in one bizarre case, the principle of the school physically beat up children from the lower castes for having drunk water from the pots used by their upper caste fellows.

In Anubhav Sinha’s 2019 movie Article 15, which highlights the Article 15 of the Constitution of India that prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth, there is a gruesome depiction of caste-based crimes. The movie shows hideous sexual crimes committed against girls from the lower caste at the hands of upper caste people and then painted as a case of honour killing. Apart from this, any such hierarchical system prevents an individual, and by extension, a community to better their living standards. They continue to spend their lives in extreme poverty, not being able to secure good jobs and own land or being able to provide education to their children. As observed in a significant number of cases, children of these Dalits are sold off to pay debts to settle loans or forced to work in underpaid agricultural bondage labour. An estimated fifteen million children in India are working in slave-like conditions in order to pay off debts as bonded labourers. There is a lack of access to healthcare and education benefits. Huge dropout rates and low literacy levels ensure that they fail in rising above this trap of the caste system. As in most other cases, gender here also plays a role in creating more alienation and abuse for the female sex, both of which comes in the form of verbal and physical levels.

The constitution of independent India banned discrimination on the basis of caste, but as Dr B.R. Ambedkar puts it, “Constitutional morality is not a natural sentiment. It has to be cultivated. We must realize that our people have yet to learn it.” The practice is still very much in use and lately, we have even witnessed a rise in crimes against these Dalit communities. The government, in the bid of correcting this practice and uplifting these people, advanced reservations in educational institutions and government jobs to scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, which are the lowest in the caste hierarchy.

According to the 2011 census, the Scheduled Castes have 10 percentage points lesser than national literacy rate of 74%. In terms of literacy, women from the Scheduled Caste are at 48% and ST women at 40%. Recorded Dropout rates in schools show higher incidence for SC and ST’s. The numbers are again dismal in higher education where SCs comprise just 12% and STs 4% of the total college-going population. (MHRD, 2012) Government schemes like Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Mid Day Meal programme and others put emphasis on eliminating discrimination among children. However, the teachers and staff who are expected to ensure that the schemes are effective, themselves practice caste-based discriminations thereby becoming agents of a bygone Hindu order violating basic human rights. It is time to step forward and stop discrimination on caste lines in order to save the children’s childhood and provide them with a better chance at securing their futures, irrespective of their caste and gender.


“Background” Human Rights Watch. Accessed on 21st October 2020.

Coffee, Diane and Dean Spears. “Caste is Stunting all of India’s Children” Foreign Policy. 15th September 2017. Accessed on 20th October 2020.

Contributor. “Caste Discrimination” Vikaspedia. Accessed on 21st October 2020.

“What is India’s Caste System?” BBC. June 19, 2019. Accessed on 20th October 2020.

Mruthunjaya, Anshuman. “Caste-based Discrimination in Indian Schools” Medium. 21st April, 2019. Accessed on 20th October 2020. Image – Ritesh Arya

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