In ancient India, social and economic status were determined by the caste into which one was born. Though it is largely irrelevant today in urban areas, it is still a divisive force which creates unrest from time to time.

On January 2, many Dalits, members of a lower caste group, celebrated the victory of The Battle of Bhima Koregaon, which occured between the British Army and the Indian Resistance 200 years ago. In the battle, the Indian Resistance—which consisted of the Indian upper caste and the British—was aided by the Dalits.

Right-wing political supporters saw this celebration of the British Army as treasonous and reacted by pelting rocks and stones at the Dalits, resulting in several injuries and one death. One day later, Mumbai completely shut down as thousands of protesters took to the streets in resistance against the caste system and the government.

As long as caste discrimination exists, Indian society cannot be considered advanced or civilized.  Reports suggest that Dalits do not have many of the privileges that are common throughout India like access to clean water and the ability to live within certain communities. The constitution of India grants everyone equal rights, but the Dalits have been on the receiving end of intolerance and neglect, which the government chooses to ignore, and many believe that the Dalits have not been granted access to basic human rights; they are even considered to be “untouchable,”  further highlighting their unfortunate status in such a modern country.

Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India, leads the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). In recent times, the party has come under fire for its radical views toward both religious and ethnic minorities in India. While the economy of India has been growing at an impressive rate, many groups of people like the Dalits seem to have been forgotten and treated as second class citizens by the government.

The Indian government must work toward equality for all people and not just their favored political base. Issues of discrimination are not new, and they have plagued our world for hundreds of years. Citizens of each country, including India, should elect officials that stand for the whole country and not just a select and privileged few. Any instance of hate and prejudice should be publicly denounced and punished, especially by the elected leaders.

Turning a blind eye to please voters should be equally condemned. In this day and age, dialogue must always prevail above violence and physical conflict. Society cannot evolve and move forward if we are held back by the heavy weight of hatred and discrimination.