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Home > Know Your Rights > Right against Untouchability
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Q1.  What is Untouchability? How was it practiced?

A1.  Untouchability is a social evil practiced in Hindu religion in which certain communities were considered impure and untouchable. The so called high caste Hindus denied the untouchables or dalits the right to eat with them, enter temples, and take water from the public wells and live in the main city. Untouchables were forced to do menial and dirty jobs. They were deprived of their right to education and the right to possess land and other forms of property. It is the worst form of exploitation and humiliation of human beings.


Q2.  Is untouchability still practiced in India?

A2.  Constitution of India abolished the practice of untouchability when it came into force in 1950. Untouchability is no longer practiced in India as it is a crime in Indian law. However, in certain remote villages of the country where people are still uneducated and orthodox, untouchability is still practiced with the Dalit community. But, officially it has been abolished from India.


Q3.  What protection is provided under right against practice of untouchability?

A3.  The Constitution of India abolished the practice of untouchability. Practice of untouchability has been declared an offense and anyone doing so is punishable by law. Any person who prevents anyone from entering a place of worship or taking water from a well is punishable under the Untouchability Offences Act of 1955 (renamed as Protection of Civil Rights Act in 1976) with a maximum imprisonment of 6 months and a fine of 500 rupees. He is also prohibited to contest in elections for lifetime if found practicing untouchability.


Q4.  What is the importance of the right against untouchability?

A4.  Right against untouchability is a great fundamental right. It is a right that gave equal status to the dalit population of India and restored their respect. Now, no shop can refuse to sell and no person can refuse to render any service to any person on the ground of untouchability. No dalit can be refused entry in any public place and cannot be denied admission or a job on ground of untouchability.


Q5.  What are the main features of the Untouchability Offences Act, 1955?

A5.  The Untouchability Offences Act, 1955, was the first law that made untouchability an offence in India. Any person practicing untouchability was committing an offence under the Act, punishable with imprisonment for six months or a fine up to Rs. 500 or both. A subsequent offence is punishable with both imprisonment and fine. Also, under the Act, a person convicted of an untouchability offence will be disqualified for contesting the elections.


Q6.  I am a Dalit who faces untouchability. What should I do?

A6.  You can directly approach the Police in your area and file a complaint that you are facing untouchability. The person doing so will be punishable under the Untouchability Offences Act. However, if the police fails to file your report, you can directly approach the Supreme Court of India and file a petition for violation of your fundamental right against untouchability. You may need the services of a lawyer for this. However, you can also approach an NGO (Non Governmental organization) working for Dalit’s rights, which might help you.

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