When we refer to a nation as a “developing” country a few things come to mind. We may think of extreme poverty, corruption or widespread disease. However, we ignore the fact that the word “developing” implies a process of change, not a fixed state. We assume that because a nation is currently behind other parts of the world politically or socially that she will always be so. The people in New Delhi with which I have discussed these issues do not deny the presence of inequality in India. But they do not accept it.
In the state of Uttar Pradesh there is a large Dalit community. Dalit comes from the Sankrit word meaning “oppressed”. People in this caste have been known as “untouchables” because of the severely polluted conditions in their places of employment. They have recently adopted the Dalit title. Members of this community are forced to use public lavatories because of lack of sanitation in their homes. The government sets up these facilities. This is especially problematic for women because it is unsafe for them to travel to these areas at night. On May 27, 2014 two young girls were raped and hung on a tree in Katra Village on their way to use one of these public toilets. Suspects have included policeman hired to patrol the area. In Uttar Pradesh cops are permitted to use lethal force with little regulation. Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav responded to a reporter’s question about the exponential rise in rape cases by saying, “You are safe. Why are you bothered?” The minister’s father has been quoted on the same topic stating that, “Boys will be boys.”
GMI administrative director Pattie Gonsalves, Faith Gonsalves of Music Basti and other members of these institutions have created a petition in response to this event and the comments from the aforementioned politicians. The petition demands an apology from Yadav, a review of the code of police conduct and implementation of higher sanitation standards in rural areas. Members of GMI and Music Basti are passionate about promoting change in India in regards to gender equality, health and political corruption. Their actions are proof that although India has a long road to achieving egalitarianism, its people are not satisfied with the status quo.
The courage my friends in New Delhi have displayed should serve as inspiration to people living in all parts of the world. We think that voting for the politician we support is enough to make change. Anchors on Fox News televise their opinion that racism in the US is solved since the president is black. People think that posting a video about social justice on Facebook is a call for action. We need to realize that if we really want to make a difference we have to make it ourselves. We have to live our lives as if each one of us were an example for the rest of the world and the next generation.
Please read and sign the petition Pattie has created at this link: