The Dalits of Gujarat are still forced to live in ghettos. Even the emerging well-educated and economically sound section within the community is still not acceptable as neighbours by non-Dalits in various parts of the state.
In a study conducted by MH Makwana, head of the department of sociology, Gujarat University, it was found that non-Dalits still refuse to sell their house or rent it to a Dalit family. Even well-educated and financially sound people are facing this problem.
In Ahmedabad, there are more than 40 Dalit-dominated ghettos, such as Rajpur, Gomtipur, Dariyapur, Khanpur, Shahpur among others. The study says that the Dalits settling in new localities still have the tendency of preferring that the neighbourhood belongs to their own sub-caste group.
The study reveals that the relations of Dalits with upper caste men in residential areas of Ahmedabad, Vadodara and Surat have undergone a positive change while in Rajkot, Bhavnagar or parts of north Gujarat the gaps are very much clear.
"In Ahmedabad, most of the Dalits are living in ghettos for last many years. There is a trend that after getting benefit of quota system or other government schemes they change their locality, yet they prefer to live at a place where their neighbours are from the same community," said Makwana.
The study entitled 'Socio-economic development of Dalits during last two decades', feudalism still prevails in north Gujarat (Mehsana, Patan, Sabarkantha among others) and Saurashtra region. This has restricted the Dalits from taking advantage of development since upper caste still wears the centuries-old rigid mindset of discrimination.
The study is based on Dalits in urban areas ranging from Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Rajkot, Bhavnagar and Surat and few interior areas of Patan in north Gujarat.
Central parts of Gujarat (Panchmahals and Vadodara) have witnessed a liberal and moderate change in social system while traditional Varnashram-based social system has remarkably loosened its grip in tribal-dominated areas of south Gujarat because of its proximity to Mumbai, Christian missionaries and benefit of coastal area.
When it comes to the question of untouchability, central and southern parts of the state have witnessed a moderate change in the last two decades while in north Gujarat region untouchability still exists. During the last two decades of liberalisation and a vibrant Gujarat, circumstances haven't changed much. As a matter of fact, the improving social and economic status of Dalits, witnessed till 1990s, started witnessing a deceleration in all these years.
Feb 24, 2009