Writer: Mariajose de Jesus Castillo Cervantes
Editor: Renata Carlos Daou
Graphic Designer: Maulina Gheananta
Despite the progress of society over the years, there are still many minorities around the world who are victims of discrimination. Many cases against certain communities or groups, such as women, Latin Americans, and African Americans are well known. But not enough has been said about the discrimination that Hindus suffer to this day. According to NBC News reports, this problem is so severe that 50% of Indian Americans experienced discrimination in the last year. But, where does discrimination towards Hindus begin? What is the reason for this discrimination?
The origin of discrimination against the Hindu community originates from different sectors. One of them, surprisingly, is within the Hindu religion itself. In Hinduism, there is a caste system in which society is arranged in different levels of hierarchy. It is considered that a person who is born at a certain level of this hierarchical pyramid will remain at that level for the rest of his life. The differences between the levels of this hierarchy are justified by the doctrine of karma, in which it is believed that the place in which one finds oneself within this pyramid is due to the actions one did in previous lives. In what has been called India's "hidden apartheid," entire villages in many Indian states remain completely segregated by caste.
Within this pyramid, there are several levels, but the lowest level of the pyramid is given to the Dalits. The Dalits represent more than one-sixth of the population of India. Within the Hindu community, Dalits are marginalized and discriminated against. In certain cases, they can even be excluded from religious rituals, temples, restaurants, etc. In India, Dalits endure near complete social ostracization (banishment from a society or group).
This discrimination affects people of all ages. For example, Dalit children, on some occasions, are forced to sit at the back of the classroom when taking classes.
Likewise, accessibility to institutions is also scarce for this group and they become more marginalized in society, which means that they cannot access education, health services, or decent jobs, affecting every person in this community. Lower-paying jobs are mostly given to Dalit people, making it difficult for them to escape the state of poverty and poor quality of life that many of them live with. There is so much poverty in this community that even children are forced to work. An estimated 15 million children work in slave-like conditions to support their families.
The marginalization of “lower-class” communities, such as the Dalits, often creates severe problems as a large number of people with low literacy levels. A lack of formal education or training and discrimination make it more difficult for employment, creating this poverty an unescapable cycle.
Getty Images: David Talukdar/NurPhoto
Hinduism is a very beautiful, complex, and is a large religion, but for us to understand a little more about it, let's talk about its values and some ideologies. It is very complex since it involves many religious ideas. For this reason, it is sometimes referred to as a "way of life" or "family of religions," as opposed to a single, organized religion. Hindus strive to achieve dharma, which is a code of life that emphasizes good conduct and morality.
Thus, we can see that Hinduism is based on morality, good conduct, being a good person, and respecting others.
Hinduism is not a religion based on class division, so many people who are part of it are in constant conflict with the discrimination that exists within the same community.
Kavita Pallod Sekhsaria, a Hindu writer has told her perspective on this situation. In her article, she mentions that she was never taught this hierarchical pyramid in her religious classes or by her parents. She learned about this discrimination through her school classes. As she learned more about what many people in her community suffered, she was shocked and saddened. She questioned very much these discriminatory ideologies that people of her religion had. She wondered "How could a message of discrimination make sense in a religion that went so far as to say that all people are divine, whether they're even Hindu or not?"
But she learned that "Everything and everyone is divine, and part of the ultimate spiritual goal was being able to see that." This statement gives us a true perspective of Hinduism.
Hindus have been discriminated against and violated in several countries over the years. One of the most alarming and well-known cases is the violation of the human rights of Hindus in Bangladesh. They have suffered considerably as a consequence of political events since 1947. In the official census of 1915 of East Bengal (East Pakistan) the Hindu community consisted of 22%, then in 1991, it decreased to 15%, and in 2011 to 8.5%. Since the beginning of the new millennium, the Hindu population has suffered significantly at the hands of Islamic extremists resulting in their further exodus into West Bengal in India. In 1988, Islam was established as the state religion. However, Article 44 of the Constitution recognized other religions and gave freedom to citizens to practice and promote their beliefs. Despite this, Hindus have said that attacks against them only continue to grow.
The attacks were encouraged by religious zealots and local leaders using Islam as a pretext for violence against Hindus; according to independent witnesses, police stood in silence nearby. Many believe the reason for this violence is to drive minor religions off their land and take it over.
Over the years these attacks have been seen in all kinds of situations. In 2014, “in the build-up to the election, Hindus were subjected to threats and attacks to intimidate communities ahead of the vote.” A report from Minority Rights talks about how “Hindus have been targeted not only in intercommunal attacks but increasingly by extremist militants. On 5 December 2015, a series of blasts targeting a Hindu ceremony in Dinajpur left six worshippers injured. A few days later, another temple in Dinajpur was attacked by militants with guns and bombs, leaving nine injured.”
As society grows, there seem to be more reasons for humanity to separate. One constant reason for wars, conflicts and the marginalization of many communities is religion. Many individuals do not seem to understand the beauty and uniqueness of each religion. They exist to give us hope, peace, happiness, balance, and help us lead an easier life. As Kavita Pallod Sekhsaria says in her article, "We're all human. Religion makes us more than that, not less".
If you want to learn more about this social issue and help the cause, check out the Hindu American Foundation.