Adonis Diaries

Archive for December 20th, 2022

India, the world’s largest ‘democracy’, is home to the racist, inhumane and discriminatory caste system.

At the bottom of this cast political system are the Dalit or untouchables. India is plagued by daily violent hate crimes against the Dalit.

Rape and killing of Dalit caste members goes unpunished.

In August 2022 9-year-old Dalit student Indra Meghwal was killed by his teacher for drinking water from an earthen pot reserved for students of ‘upper castes’.

In September 15-year-old Nikhil Dohre, a Dalit student, was killed by his teacher for misspelling the word ‘social’ in an exam. Democracies have no outcasts.

Yegor Shestunov, 12 December 2022

In India’s northern state Uttar Pradesh on 26 September, Nikhil Dohre, a member of India’s Dalit caste (aka the untouchables) was killed by his high school teacher at Adarsh Inter College for misspelling the word ‘social’ in an exam. His teacher brutally struck him repeatedly with a rod and kicked him until he fell unconscious.

Nikhil died in the hospital from his injuries. Despite the public outcry and the immediately initiated police search, the teacher has successfully evaded arrest and is still on the run.

Indra Kumar Meghwal, a nine-year-old Dalit student at Saraswati Vidya Mandir school in Surana village in Jalore Rajasthan, was killed by his teacher on 19 August 2022 for drinking water from an earthen pot reserved for ‘upper castes’.

The village Panchayat did not assist the family with financial, legal or even medical support. Indra Meghwal died 24 days after the attack after being denied medical care by numerous hospitals.

The term Casta is derived from a Portuguese word meaning breed, or lineage.

It is a term used to define the status of social inter- and outer- groups in feudalistic systems on the basis of prescribed, hereditary occupations and obligations, the Jajmani system.

It’s hard to let go of the past. And the longer something goes on – the harder it gets.

The “…Caste System is not merely division of labour. It is also a division of labourers.

Civilised society undoubtedly needs division of labour. But in no civilised society is division of labour accompanied by this unnatural division of labourers into watertight compartments.

Caste System is not merely a division of labourers which is quite different from division of labour—it is a hierarchy in which the divisions of labourers are graded one above the other it involves an attempt to appoint tasks to individuals in advance, selected not on the basis of trained original capacities, but on that of the social status of the parents…”  (Ambedkar, 1936)

It is disappointing that Ambedkar’s undelivered speech (whose invitation to a 1936 meeting of liberal Hindu caste-reformers in Lahore was revoked owing to its controversiality) is a timeless statement that aged rather too well.

The economist and jurist Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (1891 –1956) was instrumental in the establishment of the state of India. He headed the committee drafting India’s new Constitution. A Dalit himself, he advocated for the political rights and social freedom for Dalits.

India has changed a lot over the course of its long history, with changes most prominently occurring since independence from the British in 1947. However, despite industrialization, urbanization and economic development, some things remained unchanged.

The caste system – interconnected with almost every social aspect in India and firmly embedded in religious beliefs– has proven resistant to change throughout the centuries.

In fact, despite generational change, a rewritten constitution since British colonialism and numerous legal reforms throughout the decades, the caste system, along with its associated massacres and violence has survived and is firmly embraced.

People come and go, but institutions people create sometimes stay around much longer, outliving them. While formally a democracy, and while having the necessary legal framework, India could not free itself of its past structures.

India is a castocracy: with as many as 3000 main castes and as many as 25 000 sub-castes it is one of the most complex systems of stratification in the world.

Perhaps the purpose of the caste system was not always discriminatory. Ambedkar, for example, believed that it originated as a system of division of labour. This system was meant to mobilize the population accordingly and to preserve endogamy and fusion of the castes.

However, it turned into a deeply embedded network of religious, political, and economic relationships; resulting in methodical discrimination, and social exclusion.

Whatever the original purpose was, it is unlikely that the daily horrors and crimes associated with the caste system were the original intention. The Dalit or untouchables, a quarter of India’s population, are the lowest of the low according to the caste system.

Over the decades, oppression, prejudices, murders and gang rapes of the untouchables became so disturbingly common that simply calling them systemic would be an understatement.

Historically, the untouchables experienced expulsion and isolation.

Today, the untouchables are not allowed to drink from the same wells as the other classes.

They are not allowed to attend many Hindu temples.

They must perform the worst jobs.

They are already politically marginalized and have nowhere to turn to as the police mostly side with the upper classes.

A brief examination of the headlines of ordinary Indian newspapers shows that every day someone is beaten to death, tortured, raped, lynched, burnt alive—on the basis of caste. As many as 5 atrocities are committed against the untouchables per hour.

This raises an interesting question: why are the untouchables touched? Because, according to Manusmriti, one of the legal texts and constitution among the numerous Dharmasastras of Hinduism, anyone who touches the untouchables becomes impure.

The idea of purity plays one of the most central roles in Hinduism, with the caste system enforcing this idea. Why would the higher casts voluntarily become impure through gang rapes, murders and other crimes?

One of the explanations, according to Human Rights Watch, is that abuse and other forms of violence is used as a tool by landlords and police to inflict political “lessons”, to crush dissident- and labour movements and to “assert their caste power”.

Since they are perceived as lowest of the low, the Dalit are not considered human.

Historically this has indeed been so: in the 20th century alone there were more than a dozen massacres and slaughters, and while the 21st century started not too long ago, there were already as many caste-related violence cases.

Since the early 1990s, because of the untouchable’s growing rights movements, acts of violence increased exponentially.

What can one do to a caste system that has existed for more than three thousand years? What can change the longest-running system of social organization?

The solution would be, according to Cynthia Stephen who is a social policy researcher working on issues concerning the untouchables, empowerment of the untouchables; strict implementation of the law, decisive actions, adequate education and promotion of rights – all of which is much easier said than done, given the fact that India is not planning to eliminate or change its cast system any time soon.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of iGlobenews.


Cholera likely to stay without serious reforms to Lebanese water sector

by Shaya Laughlin

Dec 15, 2022

If you think Lebanon’s cholera outbreak is “under control” – as declared by the country’s caretaker Health Minister Firass Abiad last week – think again.

While Lebanon has recorded fewer new cholera cases and deaths in the past few weeks, it’s too early to celebrate. (Probably the heavy rain has moved the stagnant river water?)

The official cholera numbers tell one side of the story. The track record of Lebanon’s water and wastewater sector tells another.

Indeed, the fight against cholera could be far from over. 

Hanging by a thread  

Lebanon’s cholera outbreak has exposed severe flaws in Lebanon’s collapsing water sector. Even before the financial crisis of 2019, the sector struggled due to decades of catastrophic management.

International donors kept the sector afloat with hefty loans and grants. Amid Lebanon’s economic downfall, donors stepped up when the dramatic devaluation of the Lebanese Lira left the country’s four regional water establishments – Bekaa, Beirut Mount Lebanon, North and South – unable to provide vital public water services.  

With cholera at Lebanon’s doorstep, donors once again answered the call for help. A long list of international organizations stepped in to halt the spread of the disease through vaccination and awareness campaigns, as well as the provision of fuel and chlorine.

Among the donors, the EU promised €800,000 for “community-based water, sanitation and hygiene interventions” in areas with many cholera cases. UNICEF also quickly ramped up its support to the country’s struggling four public water institutions.  

The cholera outbreak has further entrenched a dependency on the international community. The Lebanese government and the Ministry of Energy and Water (MoEW) have further shifted their responsibilities onto donors and international aid organisations. While acknowledging their vital support, the MoEW’s water advisor told Badil that gaps remained. 

“The donors have failed mostly to support us when it comes to energy sources… which mean fuel primordially,” Suzy Hoayek explained. “It’s not enough because, at the end of the day, you need to supply water. The only way to supply water in some places is through pumping and this requires fuel.” 

While nearly 277,000 liters of fuel have been distributed so far to Lebanon’s water establishments and wastewater treatment – it remains a band-aid solution. The country’s water sector will continue hanging by a thin thread until the government leads the way to reform. 

 A clear disconnect 

The outbreak has, so far, spread to 8 governorates across Lebanon, infecting 5,105 people. Out of these suspected and confirmed cholera cases, 23 people have died.

Many of the patients affected by cholera have been Syrian refugees living in informal tent settlements (ITS) across the country that lack proper water and sanitation infrastructure or wastewater treatment. This has resulted in the widespread blaming of Syrians for this outbreak. 

Yet, in line with long-standing government policy, ITS were never connected to public water or wastewater services. This policy was aligned with the government’s decision to avoid any long-term settlements of Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

Instead, Syrian refugee communities remained dependent on NGOs and international organisations or the non-regulated water trucking mafia known to gamble with water quality. 

Water tests recently conducted in ITS showed that 83% were contaminated, in comparison to 52.5% of water tests from places connected to publish water networks. 

Last week, the Litany River Authority (LRA) announced that four out of 10 water samples collected from the Bekaa contained cholera. The LRA said that the contamination was linked to “the discharge of untreated wastewater” and present in areas “downstream from camps for displaced Syrians, sewage outlets or hospitals”.  

Unfortunately, the situation could get worse. Winter is about to start, with heavy rainfall expected to result in rivers of dirty water, swept-up garbage and untreated wastewater. These conditions create an ideal environment for cholera to propagate.  

Stinky situation 

The cholera outbreak is a stark reminder that Lebanon needs sustainable solutions for its wastewater systems – but the government’s next planned step does not reassure.   

Next month, the responsibilities of all of Lebanon’s wastewater treatment plants are expected to be handed over from the CDR to the regional water establishments, as spelled out by law 221 of 2000.

Yet, the establishments are on the brink of collapse. Amid Lebanon’s economic crisis, they cannot afford to buy paper and pens, let alone pay their staff’s wages. Without strengthened financial and human resources or a proper wastewater tariff, the establishments are far from ready for the additional burden. 

Donors have already pumped millions to help Lebanon improve its wastewater systems. Between 1990 and 2021, the Lebanese government received more than 1.5 billion USD in wastewater loans and grants.

“It’s crazy,” Assaad Thebian, executive director of Gherbal Initiative, an advocacy group, told Badil. And once again, the international community will be stepping in to help with this latest transition phase. 

Hoayek told Badil: “We are working on that very closely with the international community because they will be supporting us financially to do this transitional procedure.” She added: “We will be building the capacity and do the necessary reforms of the water sector in order to reach a proper transition of the wastewater sector and financial stability of the establishments as a whole.” 

On all fronts, Lebanon is seeing the result of its short-visioned policies and long-standing structural issues.

At crossroads 

On all fronts, Lebanon is seeing the result of its short-visioned policies and long-standing structural issues. While Abiad is now taking the credit for the plateau in cholera cases, he unashamedly blamed the start of cholera on stingy international donors and the issue of Syrian refugees during a press conference at the onset of the outbreak in October. 

“There is a decline in aid from our international partners under many pretexts,” Abiad told reporters at the time. “Of course, we do not accept these excuses, because we believe that the resolution of the issue of the refugees that has lasted for 11 years is not the sole responsibility of Lebanon, but also and primarily of the international community.” 

the government only has itself to blame for things not being ‘under control.’ 

Today Lebanon stands at a crossroads. On one side, Lebanese politicians can continue playing their favourite blame game, with potentially devastating consequences for the country’s most vulnerable communities. Or the Lebanese parliament can take the road to prioritising water issues on the national agenda and making the necessary sector reforms, as outlined in the MoEW’s latest National Water Sector Strategy.

Indeed, without the real recovery of the water and wastewater sector when outbreaks of all sorts of diseases keep spreading, the government only has itself to blame for things not being ‘under control.’ 

*Additional reporting by Connor Kanso




December 2022

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