Skip to main content

Status of SC/ST in India

India's Mindset Towards Dalits Is a Stark Contrast to What Gandhi Symbolised

How would Gandhi have responded to the glaring contradictions in India today?
C. Uday Bhaskar
Gandhi harijans
Gandhi collecting funds for Harijan work. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Even as the Indian state celebrates Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday today, in a high-visibility, made for TV manner – the mismatch on the ground with what the Mahatma stood for and how far India has drifted from his core tenets, is cause for deep anguish and calls for collective action.

Ironically, in Gujarat, where Gandhiji was born, a young 21-year-old Dalit man was reportedly beaten to death by upper-caste men from the Patel community on Sunday. And the crime that warranted such murderous vigilantism?  The young Dalit man and his cousins had dared to ‘watch’ the local garba dance that was being performed in Anand district and the socially superior Patel youth objected to this ‘defiance’ of the lower castes.
The accused is reported to have said that Dalits “do not have any right to watch garba ” and is yet to be arrested. This is not the first such case in recent weeks in Gujarat of lower-caste men being humiliated for what is deemed to be social transgression and violation of traditional norms.
In end September, two Dalit men from a village close to Gandhinagar were reportedly beaten by members of the local Rajput community for ‘daring’ to sport a mustache. The prevailing upper-caste diktats do not allow the local barbers to even cut the hair of or shave a Dalit – and this in the state where the young Gandhi was born.

A local villager also said that Dalit grooms were not allowed to sit astride a horse as part of wedding ceremonies, for this practice is deemed to be only for the upper-castes. The deplorable reality that such blatantly discriminatory social practices are being allowed to continue even 70 years after azadi suggest that while India may have attained political freedom – social equity remains elusive for its under-privileged and ostracised classes – Gandhiji’s Harijans – who remain in ‘paaramparik gulami’ (the slavery imposed by tradition).
If untouchability based on caste was seen as a social practice that Gandhiji tried to redress all his life, the plight of the manual scavenger – defined again by caste – remains another shameful blot on the Indian democratic experience. Manual scavenging relates to the practice of removing untreated human excreta with brooms to baskets and then physically carried away.

No amount of sophistry can justify this ugly side of Indian society, wherein as many as 1,80,000 households have been classified as engaged in manual scavenging activity across the country. While prohibited by law, this is a reality that is tacitly ignored and the plight of such workers is tragic.
Again, in the run up to October 2, a sanitation worker who went down into  a septic tank  in Gurgaon died due to asphyxiation and preliminary investigations indicate that the worker and his colleagues did not even have the basic safety gear such as masks and emergency ropes. Hundreds of such cases occur with sickening regularity across India every year.
This year’s Gandhi Jayanti is also being celebrated as the third anniversary of the Swachch Bharat Mission and while the objective is laudable – the nature of the task is truly Herculean. Long accumulated, malodorous dung in the stables is not a misplaced metaphor.
The Indian stables are in dire need of a change in mind-set apropos Dalits and other socially under-privileged castes. An objective reality check and the contrast with what Gandhiji symbolised – and the make-believe about him – needs to be acknowledged in an unalloyed manner.
Against these developments in Gujarat, which is really only the tip of the rest of the Indian iceberg – it is moot to ask if the bullet-train and such initiatives must be given the priority and attention they now command.
How would Gandhiji have responded to such glaring contradictions?

Commodore C. Uday Bhaskar, retired officer of the Indian Navy, is Director of the Society for Policy Studies, New Delhi.

Village for Dalits (Untouchables) in Southern India
Location: Kuthur, Tamil Nadu, India
Project Type: Community development, Construction, Water
People Served: 25 families
Project Cost: USD $10,000
Timeline: December 2010
Community Contribution: Community members will use the funds and materials they have received to construct the buildings in the village themselves.
Project Description:
Despite the removal of the caste system from the Indian constitution, discrimination against the people who were once considered untouchables still exists- especially in more rural areas of the country. Dalits struggle to find the work and housing necessary to support their families, and perhaps most importantly, often live without the belief that they are equal to those around them.
We are partnering with the organization Passports with a Purpose, a group of travel bloggers dedicated to supporting humaitarian efforts, to fund the building of a village for Dalits in Southern India. For three years Passports has chosen a project for which they raise money and awareness; this year it is an organization called LAFTI, or Land for Tiller’s Freedom. LAFTI has worked tireless for years to help Dalits, especially women, find ways to gain respect from their communities and for themselves.
By partnering with these organizations, we will be able to help fund the materials for a village near Kuthur, Tamil Nadu. This village will provide 25 families with a safe home to call their own and other community resources that they would otherwise be unable to access. Another aspect of this sustainable assistance is that it will sent these families a message of their own worth. By partnering with those who want support them and working to build their own place in the world, they will have the opportunity to see their own worth.

For Dalits in Rural Gujarat, Untouchability Is Still a Part of Everyday Life

"At times we get justice when we complain, but on most days discrimination is a way of life for us."
Damayantee Dhar
Ahmedabad: It was a normal day at work for Sunil Jadav, a part-time lecturer in a college in Kalavad in Jamnagar, until he heard a colleague talking about him to his student.
“Why are taking advice from him? Don’t listen to anything he says, he will pollute you,” Jadav’s colleague was warning his student.
“I am Dalit,” Jadav intervened. “A colleague belonging to a ‘higher’ caste doesn’t want students to be polluted by a Dalit lecturer.”
Jadav has authored 16 books, all in Gujarati, and worked as a journalist for more than a decade before he took to teaching. He is also involved in social activism in Rajkot, where he lives with his family.
“It doesn’t matter how qualified I am, the fact that I am a Dalit still is more relevant in this society. This incident happened to me in February this year, in an educational institute in an urban setting,” he told The Wire.
The actual abolition of untouchability is still far from a reality, despite political rhetoric and the constitutional ban. Caste inequity and injustice is still thriving in the social fabric of Gujarat.
A survey was conducted by the Navsarjan Trust, an NGO that works with Dalits, between 2007 and 2010 in 1,489 villages across 14 districts. Seven years later, on August 15, 2017, Martin Macwan, the head of the NGO, has resumed the campaign against untouchability. Members of the NGO had made a handwoven national flag measuring 125 feet by 83.3 feet, but chief minister Vijay Rupani refused to receive it. Instead, the collector of Gandhinagar received the national flag, with a memorandum asking the chief miniser to declare at least one village untouchability free by the year 2047.
“In our survey, we had concluded that untouchability is not just far from being eradicated, the practice may have even intensified in rural Gujarat. We found there are 98 forms of untouchability that are practiced by ‘upper’ castes against Dalits, while 99 types of untouchability are practiced within 32 sub-castes of Dalits,” stated Macwan.
The survey conducted by Navsarjan Trust revealed that 96.8% of ‘upper’ caste people they surveyed practice rampatar, the practice of serving Dalits in separate utensils. This practice is still a norm in rural Gujarat.
“As a child, growing up in villages in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat, social discrimination was normal. But the memory of one particular incident is very vivid. My grandmother used to work in the fields and I would accompany her almost every day. After work, all labourers would be given chapatis and buttermilk. But it was just me who would have to find the earthen set of utensils kept in some corner of the field, wash the mud off it and stand at a distance from the person who would serve us,” Jadav remembered.
“The shadow of a Dalit should not fall on a villager belonging to an ‘upper’ caste. Such is the extent of bigotry in rural Gujarat,” he added.
Village well off limit for Dalits
In Becharaji village of Rantej taluka in Mehsana, Dalit women are reminded every day that they are ‘untouchables’ while fetching drinking water. A separate water tank, strategically placed at a distance from the village well so that water spilling from the tank does not flow back towards the well, is meant for Dalits. The well is off limits for Dalits – the ‘upper’ caste groups won’t let them use it because they don’t want the water to be “polluted”. There are tube wells in the area of the village where Dalits houses are concentrated, but the water is saline and not drinkable.
“For years this discrimination has been the norm in Becharaji village. It was only last year that the water tank was placed near the well after some activists intervened. Since then, ‘upper’ caste people fill water in the tank from a distance. Dalits still can’t fetch water from the well directly,” said Kaushik Parmar, a Dalit activist from Mehsana.
This is not a story of one village. In Delwada village in Una taluka, women from the Sarvaiya family walk about a kilometre to fetch water, even though 30 m from their house is the village temple that has a government-facilitated water and electricity connection. Piyush Sarvaiya has been running between government offices for basics like water and electricity.
“Until two months ago, a kerosene lamp used to be the only source of light after dusk. Now we have a partial connection, but we cannot run the fans on electricity,” said Piyush, whose brother was burnt alive in 2012 for being in a relationship with a girl of a higher caste.
Village crematoriums not for Dalits
“You see the plot of land there?” asked Dalpat Bhatia, pointing to the piece of land separated by barbed wire and a wall from the venue of the Azaadi Kooch in Dhanera in July this year.
“That is the common crematorium, but Dalits are not allowed there,” Bhatia said. He heads Banaskantha Dalit Sangathan, an organisation working with Dalits for more than a decade.
In some villages that have sizeable Dalit population, a separate crematorium is allotted for Dalits. “In villages where there isn’t a separate crematorium, Dalits find open spaces at the outskirts of their village to cremate their family members. Some Dalits opt for burial too,” Bhatia said.
Ironically, the assembly panel that serves as a watchdog for government welfare schemes for schedule castes in Gujarat recommended in March this year that the state government should take the initiative to build separate crematoriums for Dalits.
“For the government, untouchability does not exist. Years of denial let it thrive and now sanctioning a separate crematorium will legitimise untouchability,” said Ghanshyam Shah, a former professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi who is revisiting the first ever survey done on untouchability by I.P. Desai in 1964.
“We are untouchable even in death,” added Natubhai Parmar, a social activist from the Surendranagar district.
Dalit community members shout slogans at a protest rally in Ahmadabad in August 2016. Credit: PTI
Dalit community members shout slogans at a protest rally in Ahmadabad in August 2016. Credit: PTI/Files
Separate seating and social boycott
In Ranipat village in the Muli district of Surendranagar, at a social function for Dalits, gunny bags were placed instead of chairs for Valmikis, who are considered to be the lowest among the 32 Dalit sub-castes.
“The people of upper caste discriminate against us, we, in turn, discriminate against the Valmikis,” said Kailashben, a resident of the area.
In a similar incident in February this year, villagers belonging to higher castes arranged for separate seating for Dalits at a village programme to celebrate placing an idol in the Sikota Mata temple in Rantej, Mehsana.
“The temple management committee invited us but arranged for a separate seating about 50 m away from the temple for 45 Dalit families,” said Amrutbhai Rathod, a resident of the village.
The villagers protested and refused to attend the function. Following this, upper caste villagers called for an economic and social boycott of Dalits in the village.
Six months after the incident, Dalits are still facing the heat for raising their voices against discrimination.
“They have even refused to sell us fodder for our cattle,” shared another villager.
Discrimination of Dalit sarpanchs
Bhabubhai Senma was the sarpanch of Nandoli village in Kheralu taluka, Mehsana district from 2006 to 2011. However, a Dalit man’s rise to a position of power did not go down well with some. Following an argument, upper caste men beat up Senma one day. Senma filed an FIR.
Following the FIR, the situation only got worse. Villagers decided to boycott Senma and five other Dalit families living in Nandoli. After Senma complained to the authorities about the boycott and the additional collector visited the village, the boycott only intensified. Fed up, Senma reached out to the Gujarat high court. At the high court, Justice G.R. Udhwani questioned how the social boycott constituted untouchability, leaving Senma’s advocate with no option but to seek time to reply with supporting precedence.
In other villages, a Dalit sarpanch is not allowed to function. “Kamalpur village of Dasada taluka in Surendranagar is a reserved seat for scheduled castes, hence the sarpanch of the village is always a Dalit. However, the sarpanch is barred from functioning in his official capacity and the deputy sarpanch, who usually belongs to a higher caste, is making the decisions and is the functional head of the village,” said Natubhai Parmar.
In another incident on August 15 this year, a Dalit sarpanch in Nagadka village in Rajkot was prevented by the husband of the deputy sarpanch from unfurling the national flag. An FIR was lodged by sarpanch Premji Jogal on August 16.
Discrimination against Dalit children
The survey by the Navsarjan Trust showed that discrimination against Dalit children is prevalent in 53.8% of government primary schools. In most cases, Dalits children are made to sit in a separate row while receiving their mid-day meal or even made to clean the toilet in the school.
“We found that Dalit kids are not allowed to participate in the morning prayers of the school. Besides, separate seating for Dalit kids or a Dalit student serving other Dalit students is not uncommon in government schools in rural Gujarat,” said Macwan.
Dalits barred from temples and pilgrimage spots 
“Ninety percent of temples in Gujarat have barred Dalits from entering the premises. Our survey showed that in 92.3% of temples or pilgrimage spots, Dalits are not even allowed to get the prasad,” said Macwan.
Such restrictions are not limited to temple premises. During the Navratri festival, Dalits are denied milk from sellers in many villages of Gujarat.
“We are also not allowed to shave in our villages,” said Kaushik Parmar.
“During village festivals, the women of higher castes maintain the purdah system while our women are not allowed to cover their heads in front of men from higher castes,” said Manjhibhai, a resident of Limdi, Surendranagar.
“Tales of discrimination are endless. At times we get justice when we complain, but on most days discrimination is a way of life for us,” he added.
Izzat ki baat karunga to pet nai bharega (If I talk of dignity I won’t be able to feed myself),” Manjhibhai concluded.
Damayantee Dhar is a freelance reporter.

There Can Be No Freedom of Speech When Casteism Colours How Others Listen

The celebrated Tamil writer looks at the manner in which caste hierarchies operate at the level of the everyday.
Perumal Murugan
When a person from a dominant caste speaks to a person from an oppressed caste, the conversation never sounds like it is happening between two fellow human beings. Credit: Thessaly La Force/Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0
When a person from a dominant caste speaks to a person from an oppressed caste, the conversation never sounds like it is happening between two fellow human beings. Credit: Thessaly La Force/Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0
The debate about the right to freedom of expression today needs a multi-dimensional approach. The nexus between the opposition to freedom of expression and a casteist outlook is an important dimension in Tamil Nadu or India. This is an attempt to see the right to freedom of expression through the lens of caste and its influence.
In a caste-dominated society, the concept of us versus them has a strong and already well-established foundation. ‘Us’ mean a person and members of his caste. ‘Them’ mean members of other castes. It is not unusual for a person to consider himself superior and others ‘inferior’. This turn of mind is also the reason why some people accept another section as superior to them. It is common to encounter such segregation in day-to-day life.

If a person begins his conversation with “we are like…” it is evident that he is veering towards his caste. If he says “the habit amongst us…” he is speaking about a practice within his caste. There are people who ask “what are you?” and try to know your caste. It is easy to differentiate oneself and alienate the other with just one word anywhere in this country. This us versus them discrimination is open and nuanced in the debates surrounding freedom of expression and intolerance.

Members of one caste are never tolerant of the characteristics of members of another caste. It is common to ridicule the habits and customs of another caste. During my wedding, there was one question that I was constantly facing from most of my relatives. “Our food habits are different from theirs. How will you adapt?” The words ‘ours’ and ‘theirs’ is important. Based on castes and regions, food habits in Tamil Nadu do differ, but not greatly so. Rice, sambhar and kuzhambu remain the basic food. You can hardly find a Tamil person who has not relished a parotta. There are many food items that have become common today. Yet there still exists an aversion to the food habits of members of another caste. There exists a sense of condescension about the way they eat their food.

There are different regional dialects in Tamil Nadu. But the difference in dialect that exists among different castes living in the same region is always a subject of ridicule. The general perception is that the dominant castes speak in a standard style while the oppressed use slang. This difference made evident in Sanskrit plays has been subsequently perpetuated in various platforms. In folklore, the difference in the speech style used by the mainstream characters and by other characters like messenger, servants and buffoons is hugely evident.

In early Tamil films, one can find that the heroes typically speak in a formal language while the comedians employ a colloquial style. To this day, in a very subtle way, this discrimination exists in films. The language of the comedians is coarse even today. Even if all the characters use a colloquial style, the words used by comedians are ‘different’, so to say. In a very subtle way this bestows the dominant caste identity on the hero characters and oppressed caste identity on the comedians. In films that speak caste pride, the discrimination is blatantly visible.

So this ‘us versus others’ segregation operates at different levels. It is obvious oneself and others are not equal. How can a casteist bent of mind that doesn’t treat a fellow human being on equal terms be expected to give space for other opinions?

When a person from a dominant caste speaks to a person from an oppressed caste, the conversation never sounds like it is happening between two fellow human beings. It is important to pay attention to body language during such conversations. In many schools, the teachers make their students fold hands and place a finger on their mouths to maintain silence. When entering a noisy classroom, the teacher can be heard instructing the students to do it in an angry voice. The students will obey. This is not a punishment, but a method to enforce discipline in the classroom.
Perumal Murugan. Credit: Facebook/ Files
Perumal Murugan. Credit: Facebook/ Files
But where was this taken from? This was taken from the body language of a person from an oppressed caste when he is in conversation with a person from a dominant caste. The person typically shrinks his body, places a hand on his stomach, covers his mouth with another hand and speaks to a dominant caste person. In practice, if the oppressed person sprays saliva on the dominant person when speaking, it is considered impure. So when the oppressed person covers his mouth, naturally his voice his subdued.
This inequality is obvious not just in body language, but in conversational tone too. Often dominant caste members use disrespectful terms like ‘da‘ to address oppressed caste members, even if the latter is an older person. This practice is prevalent even today. The oppressed members are expected to use respectful terms like ‘sami‘ (god) or ‘aiya‘ (master) to address dominant caste members. In a conversation between two persons on different levels of hierarchy, the language used by the person on a higher level is inevitably authoritative.
To be particular, the tone will be authoritative, condescending or enquiring – authoritative when sending them on an errand, condescending when teaching them how to do something or behave and enquiring when asking for the status of the errand. Often such tones are used when the person interferes in the day-to-day or private lives of the oppressed persons.
In stark contrast, the oppressed caste member would employ a language of acceptance, resignation, submission or acquiescence. A language that never protests and says only ‘yes’. Yes-men. In Tamil, the term ‘aamam saami poduthal‘ (saying ‘yes’ in approval) is often used to taunt and ridicule such people. This term has its origins from conversations between two members from different caste hierarchies. ‘Aamam sami’ is the acceptance of every word said by members of the dominant caste, even if they sound absurd. To immediately submit to the wishes expressed by the dominant caste is another kind. ‘Senjirlanga sami’ (will do it lord) is one such expression.
When such discrimination exists, the conversation does not have a shred of parity. One person plays the role of saying and the other of listening. If at any point the listener expresses even the slightest disagreement, it is blown out of proportion. It is called talking back. “He dares to talk back to ME” is a common expression here. The ‘me’ here denotes: “I from the dominant caste”.

To voice a different opinion is considered talking back. A person who talks back is often physically assaulted. How can a balance of opinions emerge when expression of opinion becomes talking back? Even chai shop conversations carry such inequalities and imbalances. One just has to listen. An ordinary conversation would turn heated at one point. That is because someone would have expressed a different opinion. It is immediately seen as talking back and would lead to questions about the roots of the person who had a different view.
There is another common term – listening to one’s words. A primary accusation of a parent towards her/his child is that the child does not listen to their words. It remains the primary accusation of teachers in schools too. “These kids never listen to me,” they would say. This again has a caste-related undertone. Listening to one’s words mean accepting and acting as per the instructions of the person on a higher hierarchical plane without any objection. A slightest objection becomes a complaint.
The person is not entitled to an opinion of his/her own. Even if he/she does have an opinion, it should be kept a secret. They should learn to accept every word from the person ‘above’ and act accordingly. This is the practice of a caste-based society. All the hierarchical structures in our society at all levels are reflective of this practice.
Under such circumstances, freedom of speech and freedom of expression are modern constructs in a society like ours. They are not strengthened enough to penetrate a casteist bent of mind and influence it. I could only think of two reasons for this.
The lack of education is one. We consider anyone who can sign their name as literate. The dropout percentage is certainly higher than what we imagine, especially in primary and middle school education. Even today, a majority of people do not consider education as essential.
The standard of education is the second reason. Literacy is often considered as education. Even if a person is educated, if he dares to defy the caste hierarchy, he is accused of being arrogant because of his education.
Our education system has not been able to create an understanding about caste and its role at any point. A student can complete his/her higher education without being taught in anyway about the caste system and its role. He or she could assume higher positions and discharge the duties under the influence of casteist thinking. Doctors, engineers and bureaucrats can do their work without the smallest attempt to defy their caste. If needed, they can hide their caste affinity. They can choose not to express it. But even if they do, there isn’t going to be a problem.
Not all those who are educated are learned. Our education system has clear demarcations about education and learning. Education in this context only means studying. So however highly educated a person is, wherever he/she goes to work, they do not give up on their caste identity or affinity. Neither is there a necessity to do so. Unless this casteist mind is broken into, how can one expect any kind of understanding about the modern concept called freedom of expression? How can its nuances even be debated?
This is the text of a speech delivered by Perumal Murugan at a Lekhana event in Bengaluru on April 28, 2017. It has been translated from its Tamil original by Kavitha Muralidharan.

For centuries, dalits have been at the bottom of the income and social ladders, despised and exploited
Independent India aimed to improve their lot through job reservations, but with very limited results. Nevertheless, empowerment through democracy and economic opportunities created by 20 years of economic reform have created an astonishing new phenomenon—the rise of dalit millionaires.

They have now established a Dalit Chambers of Commerce and Industry in Mumbai. It is no more than a start. But at long last, some dalits have ceased to be objects of pity, and become objects of envy.


Chamar Family in a North Indian Village 
A Structural Contingent Bernard S Cohn  

Most field workers who talk about family structure in India freeze processes which take place over time. To analyze family types, we. have to look at the individual families we are studying at a moment in time. The view taken here differs from this in trying to view the type of family not as a fixed entity but rather as a structural contingent.

In a north Indian villager the distribution of family types found is a result of the interaction of cultural traditions, structural necessities, and economic factors. 

The types of family which can be seen in the village are nuclear and extended. Extended families may be thought of as two sub-types, unstable and stable; the stable ones are those which are often called joint. 

To illustrate the importance of the underlying conditions of family types and the actualization of the structural contingents, I will describe the situation found among the Chamars, a landless agricultural caste, found in village Senapur in eastern Uttar Pradesh. 

My hypothesis is that it is not only land or property which tends to bring about joint family households among Chamars; rather a combination of factors may be Involved, Land is important, but not sufficient; some of the wealthiest Chamar families do not have joint-family households, The combination of factors should include urban employment and literacy. Literacy leads to a drive for Sanskritization, which in turn is an incentive for joint families.

SOCIA L scientists workin g o n questions of the nature distribution, and processes of change affecting the Indian famil y have generally used simple structural criteria to develop the classifications of famil y types. Most of these scholars tend to think in terms of nuclear and join t families. In this view the join t famil y is associated wit h the rural, pre-modern sector of the society, and the nuclear famil y is viewed as the result of modern industria l and urban conditions. A few scholars, notably Dr I P Desai have pointed to the complexities involved in the relationships withi n even what appear to be nuclear families and have argued that the whole conception of the joint family in urban Indi a is changing but that the direction of change is not simpl y from the join t to the nuclear family and there are many intermediary types to be found. Desai has called strongly for the use of cultura l criteria as well as structural criteria in the study of the family.

Dr Irawati Karve's standard definition of the join t family strongly suggests the need for cultural as well as structural criteria :

 A joint family is a group of people who generally live under one roof. who eat food cooked at one hearth, who hold property in common and who participate in common family worship and are related to each other as some particular kind of kindred.  

Karve adds that the joint family always has an ancestral seat or locality which is the home for the members of the joint family even though trade or service takes them away from the locality. 

It is the argument of this paper that not only do we have to include these cultural phenomena in our discussions of changing family types but that the simple structural criteria used to define family type need to be re-examined to determine the structural pre-conditions which set the type of family and household given individuals wil l live in at any given time in their life. Most field workers who talk about famil y structure in Indi a freeze processes which take place over time. To analyze famil y types, we have to look at the individua l families we are studying at a moment in time. The view taken here differs from this in tryin g to view the type of family not as a fixed entity but rather as a structural contingent. 

In a north India n village the distributio n of family types found is a result of the interaction of cultura l traditions, structural necessities, and economic factors. The type of family which can be seen in the village are nuclear I" typically consisting of a married man and woman wit h their offspring, although in individua l cases one or more additional persons may reside wit h them" (Murdock : "Social Structure" 1949: 1) ], and extended | "two or more nuclear families affiliated through an extension of the parent-child relationship" (Murdoc k : 1949 : 2) ]. Extended families may be thought of as two subtypes, unstable and stable; the stable ones are those which are often called joint. Extended families, which are the cultural ideal among Hindus in north India , develop in response to specific conditions, among which are a traditio n of livin g jointly, an economic base to support a Joint family, sufficient role differentiation withi n the family, clear lines of authority among the generations, the need for a labour pool, and longevity of members of the family. 

To illustrate the importance of the underlying conditions of family types and the actualization of the structural contingents, I wil l describe the situation found among the Chamars, a landless agricultura l caste. found in village Senapur in eastern Uttar Pradesh. Senapur is a large multi -caste village, which is dominated by the landlord Thakur caste The total area of the village is a little over 2,000 acres; and the population in 1953 was 2,100. of whom 600 were Chamars and 450 Thakurs. The Chamars. who provide most of the agricultural labour for the Thakurs. live in six hamlets whic h are located away from the main village site where the Thakurs and the artisan castes reside. 

Chamar Family Types 

The Chamars themselves have no separate terms to distinguish the types of households they live in ; they use one word generally to encompass those who live in one household. ghar, which literally means "house". Other words are used for the wor d we use. for family, but often they encompass more than those who live in one household and refer at times to lineage segments as well as the household. The word ghar, when used in the context of a family , means those who take their food from one chula (stove). Those who take food from the chula form the commensal group, which means to a Chamar the sharing of property and rights, a common pockelhook, a common larder, common debts, common labour force, and usually one recognized bead. The head of the household is usually the oldest competent male in the household. In affairs of the hamlet, the household in recognized as the basic unit and is easily recognized by the other Chamars. who can name the mem Iters of every household and identify the head. 

Most Chamars would express that the ideal household should consist of three generations, in which the grandfather, his sons, and their wives and families all lived in one house and ate from the same chula. The Chamars had before them as a model the Thakur family, which was usually but not always, the three generation join t family. Some Chamars thought that the Thakurs got some of their economic, political and social strength from their family structure. 

There are several important factors which make the achievement of the ideal joint family difficult among the Chamars : demography, economics, the role of women and mobility. 


Chamars, especially males, have low life expectancies. Out of 319 Chamar males, in village Senapur only 19 were above the age of fifty. Out of 338 females, only 25 were above the age of fifty. Clearly a three generation family is impossible if the thir d generation is nonexistent. My impression was that those Chamars who survived childhood usually died between the ages of 35 and 45. Amon g the Thakurs, where the join t famil y is much more prevalent, my impression is that life expectancy is much higher. 


It was difficult to obtain accurate statistics on land held and cultivated and on other possessions among the Chamars. Before. 1952, no Chamar owned land ; all land was owned by Thakurs. After the Land Reform A c t of 1952, however, a few Chamars had the option of becoming landowners. The key concept in the relation of Chamars to the land is not how much they own, but how much they cultivate and under what types of tenure. In December 1952, by their own estimates, the 122 Chamar households cultivated 124 acres as non-permanent tenants and only 12 acres as permanent tenants. In addition, they cultivated nine acres on a sharecropping basis. Chamars estimate that four acres are needed to support a household of 5-6 people. Is there any relationship between family type and land holding ? 

The six hamlets in which Chamars live in the village were classed as rich. middle, and poor, in terms of land held. In every hamlet, extended families have slightly more land per capita than nuclear families.

 Table 2 : Land Holding 

Joint : 3.4 biswas per capita
Nuclear : 2.4 biswas per capita

 Joint : 6.2 biswas per capita
 Nuclear : 5.6 biswas per capita 

Joint : 11.1 biswas per capita
Nuclear : 6.9 biswas per capita 

The average Chamar household cultivates a little under one acre. The average Thakur family cultivates six times as much. Connected with the amount of land cultivated is a range of other economic factors whic h affect household types. A Chamar attaches great importance to the land he cultivates, even though on the average the produce of his own cultivation provides food for himself and his family for only about four months of the year. Most of the land which a Chamar cultivates is part of his pay for workin g as, a permanent agricultura l labourer for the Thakurs. . Actin g as a permanent or as a day agricultura l labourer is the main source of income for a Chamar; for all but a few Chamars, this is the only way to make a livin g in the village. The peak workin g period of a Chamar is when he is between 15 and 35; after that he is considered by Thakurs as old. Older Chamars cannot get employment as ploughmen and have a harder job getting daily work than the younger and better workers. Therefore there is a sharp decline in the economic role of the Chamar male as he grows older and contributes much less to the household. It should be noted that the decrease in economic importance is not so sharp among Chamar women as they grow older. They continue into their fifties and sixties to be economically productive ; they may act as servants in Thakur houses, or they may be m i d wives, or they may release younger Chamar women for held work. 

In Thakur households, men do not have a comparable loss of economic role. It is true that these days Thakurs do much the same work as Chamars, except for actual ploughing. Thus, as a Thakur male grows older, he is 'not able to make as much of a direct physical contribution to the household. Rut since Thakur holdings are comparatively larger, an older Thakur man may still have a role as farm manager; because of his knowledge of crops, agricultural technique and marketing, he can still keep the household managerial role in his hands. He oversees and directs the activities of bis younger brothers, sons, and hired labour. He still continues to be head of the household in the economic sphere of the family's activities. 

The Chamar man, on the other hand, loses his economic role as he grows older. Once his ability to contribute directly through his labour is lost, his position as the head of the household is weakened. His ability to hold his sons arid younger brothers together in a join t family decreases, if it does not disappear.

 Another factor connected wit h their lack of land and their low economic position which presses Chamars to live in nuclear-family households rather than in extendedfamil y households is the bare subsistence level of Chamar life . Most Chamars of Senapur are on a semistarvation diet for at least two to four months a year. The average Chamar family grows only a four months supply of food on the land they cultivate. Other income is earned by daily wage work for Thakurs or by outside employment in an industrial centre. During August and January, even by pooling all its sources of income, the average Chamar household gets only a halfpound of coarse grain per head, per day. For those who get jobs in the village, their wages are at their lowest point during these months. 

The most frequent explanation given for the Chamars for the splitting up of joint-famil y households was squabbling over food. In twelve cases of partition on which I have data, in eight the stated reason for breakup was quarrels over differentia l contributions of food and income. A brother wit h one small chil d does not see why he should share his meagre earnings wit h a brother who has three small child ren arid hence gets a larger share of the common household food supply. Thus it appears that a joint-famil y household requires something above a bare minimum subsistence for its co'n tin nation. 

The Role of Women 

The small amount of land cultivated leads to another factor tending towards nuclear-family households amolig the Chamars. There is no reason for the Chamars to pool their labour to cultivate their small plots. A man and his wife and children are full y capable of performing all agricultural operations, except the sowing of sugar cane, which is the only agricultura l activity in which Chamars engage on their own plots for which more than one adult male is needed. For artisan castes. such as Lobars or Kohars. or for Thakur landlords, a pool of labour is an economic asset. For example, several carpenters can work together more efficiently wit h respect to tools, facilities, and tasks, and thus an extended-family household is an advantage.

 After disputes over food-sharing. the most common cause for separations among Chamars is disputes between brothers" wives or between wives and their husbands' mothers A Chamar woman is a full economic partner of her husband. She does the same agricultura l labour that her husband does, except ploughing. She is paid the same rate as a man for agricultura l labour. In addition, many Chamar women act as servants in Thakur households, helping Thakur women with al l tasks except those which take place in the kitchen. For their work as house servants, they are paid in grain, cloth and cooked food. 

When a Chamar woman gets into a dispute wit h her mother-in-law, she is in a strong position because of her important economic contribution to the household. Her threat to leave the household is taken seriously, because it would mean considerable economic loss to her husband's household. Chamar women do leave their husbands for short or long periods, and they can divorce their husbands. A woman's father or brothers are not. unhappy to see her come home, because she can contribute to their household. For a Thakur woman to return to her father's house on a permanent or semi-permanent basis is almost unheard of. Not only is tradition against it . but a Thakur woman would become to some extent a burden on her fathers house. When a Thakur woman is young, she contributes indoor labour and children to the household. But. in comparison to a Chamar woman, she does not make such a direct and visible contribution to the income of the household. A Thakur woman is directly under the control of the older women of the house, while a Chamar woman is out workin g and mixing with men. The Chamar woman has a view of herself as a person apart from her husband. She is a ful l and active economic contributor to her household and she may demand separation of the jointfamily household if she feels it would be to her benefit. In a joint family household, there is need for the submission of its members to the authority of a head. Alon g wit h this, there should be role differentiation. In most Chamar households, the economic roles of husbands and wives are interchangeable. 


Traditionally there should be a locus, in a physical sense, for a joint-family household. The, im - portance of a traditional seat of a joint family is obvious among the Thakurs. They point proudly to heir ancestry and to their eon neeion wit h the village and the local region, A Thakur knows his genealogy fo r fifteen to seventeen generations. He remembers the ancestors who lived, farmed, and fought in the village and the region. To a Thakur, land and famil y are one. Even under modern conditions, the interests of the join t famil y and its land are always put first, even at the cost of caste solidarity. 

A Chamar's roots are "not in his land, bu t to a Thakur who has provided him wit h land and the opportunity to gain a livelihood. The primary tie of a Chamar to a village and a locality is through his Thakur by means of the Thakur-Praj a tie. Before the enactment of the Land Reform Act of 1952, the Thakurs owtied all the land in the village ; all non-Thakur households owed a primary allegiance as praja (dependent) to that Thakur household on whose land they had built their house. Theoretically, the Thakur protected his praja and supported h im in time of need. The praja owed allegiance and assistance to his Thakur. Even other Chamars often describe a fellow Chamar, not by name, lineage or household—as upper caste men describe their fellow caste members—but by referrin g to him as the praja of a particular Thakur. The principa l reason a Chamar stays in his village is because that is where he can get work. The greatest depth I found in Chamar genealogies was three ascending and throe descending generations, compared wit h seventeen for some Thakurs. The Chamar does not need the genealogical knowledge that the Thaku r does as there is littl e land to be passed to kin .

From a study of Chamar genealogie s it was evident that over the last seventy years there has been considerable geographic mobilit y among Chamars. Out of forty-eight households found in the largest Chamar hamlet, only eight claimed to be first settlers — i e, that they came wit h the Thakurs. The other fort y households have migrated to the village from elsewhere durin g the past two hundred years. Fifteen per cent of the livin g adult males in the village were from villages other than Senapur. As far as I can find out, all adult Thaku r males were bor n in the village, 

There are three situations whic h lead Chamars to move. A serious dispute wit h his landlor d wil l make a Chamar flee wit h his stock and few belonging; he usually flees to the village of his wife's family , his mother's family , or his married sister. If a Chamar has little land in his natal village, and if his fatherin-law has land and no sons, he often goes to his father-in-law's village ; he settles in his father-inlaw's house and hopes that his son wil l inherit the father-in-law's cultivating rights or land. In Setiapur in 1952, there were four such men Jiving in or near their fathers-inlaw's houses. A thir d reaaon for leaving is if a Chamar hears of an opportunity to get more land to farm in another village, usually the village of affines or uterine kin ; but in one case a Chamar family consisting of a father and two sons and their families left the village because they could buy land in another village.

The mobilit y of Chamar families tends to break up join t families, as often only part of a household moves, leaving behind a nuclear family . The ki n ties among the Chamars who move seem particularly brittl e and after one or two .generations knowledge of the ki n who have moved is lost. 

Establishment of Joint-Family Households

 As I have already stated, most of the Chamar joint-family households are only temporary jointfamily households. A Chamar household continually changes in response to certain conditions. We freeze process to talk about it; but we should not lose sight of the fact that for Chamars the joint-family is a structural contingent not a fixed form. 

Wha t I mean by a structura l contingent can be seen in the following example, which shows the effects of extra-village employment on Chamar households in the village. Of the forty-two joint-famil y households, eighteen had one or more members workin g outside the village. Of the eight nuclear-family households, fourteen had members workin g outside the village. 

Urba n employment works in two ways to maintain or brin g about temporary joint-famil y households. First, if a man leaves his famil y behind while he goes to work in the city, he usually leaves his family wit h his parents or wit h his brother. For the period of the man's absence, 1055 there is a join t famil y since the money remitted from the city goes into the common fund and what land the man may have is used jointly . When the man returns, however, he may set up an independent household; and he wil l then not share the money he brings back. I call this type of joint famil y an unstable join t family : one which has been set up to meet a particular economic situation. 

Outside employment may also be a major factor in setting up a stable join t family : a three-generation joint family existing through time . The families of the three Chamar school teachers illustrate this. In each case the children who became school teachers grew up in join t families. This is not accidental; probably only a joint famil y among the Chamars could afford to forgo a child's labour so that he could get sufficient education to become a school teacher. Kaeh of the three teachers continued to live in a three generation joint-famil y household after getting his education, though none of them is head of his household. In one of these join t families, the oldest generation consists of two brothers and their wives. Whether the joint families will continue after the oldest generation dies off, I do not know. I do think, however, that it is the steady cash income combined with the little land they have to work which makes it possible for these joint families to endure. In several other cases industrial labour on the part of a younger son or brother seems to perform the same function. 

Another factor which seems to stabilize joint families is tradition ; some of the Chamar families have a tradition of livin g in joint-family households. These families tend to be the relatively wealthy and powerful Chamars and also tend to be the leaders of the Chamars. My hypothesis is that it is not only land or property which tends to brin g about joint-family households among Chamars: rather a combination of factors may be involved. Lan d is important but not sufficient; some of the wealthiest Chamar families do not have jointfamily households. The combination of factors should include urban employment and literacy. Literacy leads to a drive for Sanskritization, whic h in turn is an incentive for joint families. 

The Dalit Situation in India Today 
by John C. B. Webster 

John C. B. Webster is editor of the Dalit International Newsletter. 
The subscription address is P. O. Box 932, Waterford, CT 06385. 
His latest book is Religion and Dalit Liberation, which is available from Witnessing Ministries for Christ, 4717 N. Barton Ave., Fresno, CA 93726. 

According to the 1991 Census there were about 138,200,000 Dalits in India a nd they constituted about 16.5% of the entire population of India. The 2001 Census has now been completed. The total population as risen to over one billion, but we do not know yet what the Dalit total is; however, if past trends continue, we may safely assume not only that the Dalit population will also have increased but also that the Dalit proportion of the total population has risen as well.

Dalit “Dalit” (Oppressed) is the name which the people belonging to those castes at the very bottom of India’s caste hierarchy have given themselves. Formerly, they were known as Untouchables, because their presence was considered to be so polluting that contact with them was to be avoided at all costs. The offi cial label for them has been Scheduled Castes, because if their caste is listed on the government schedule, caste members become eligible for a number of affi rmative action benefi ts and protections. Dalits have chosen the “Dalit” label for themselves for at least three important reasons. First, the label indicates that the condition of the Dalits has not been of their own making or choosing; it is something which has been infl icted upon them by others. Thus, secondly, there is an element of militancy built into the label; Dalits seek to overcome the injustices and indignities forced upon them so as to gain the equality and respect hitherto denied them. “Dalit” also indicates that all these castes (Pariahs, Chamars, Mahars, Bhangis, etc.) share a common condition and should therefore unite in a common struggle for dignity, equality, justice and respect under a common name. 

The Dalit Political Strategy Both historically and currently Dalits have adopted four strategies, singly or in combination, in order to attain these ends. The fi rst and most dominant has been the political strategy of gaining power either as an end in itself (if you have power, others come to you and you do not have to go begging to them) or as a means to other ends (e.g., greater economic and educational opportunities). International Journal of Frontier Missions 

However, Dalits have been divided over whether to pursue political power independently of other castes or in alliance with those members of other castes and communities whose interests and ideals are close to their own. For example, there are at present Dalit members of Parliament and of State Legislative Assemblies, as well as Dalit party workers, in virtually all the major political parties, including the Prime Minister’s Bharatiya Janata Party, which in its traditionalist Hindu ideology, is quite anti-Dalit. There are also exclusively Dalit political parties at the regional level and two Dalit-led political parties, the Bahujan Samaj Party of Kanshi Ram and Ms. Mayawati as well as the Republican Party of India, have members of Parliament as well. The Dalit debate within and between the various parties over whether to get whatever share of power Dalits can through whatever alliances are most expedient or to maintain pressure from outside on those in power by maintaining some ideological and programmatic unity, at least among Dalits themselves if not with other disadvantaged groups (tribals, religious minorities, women, the poor in general) as well, has yet to be resolved. As this brief description suggests, there is little political unity among Dalits at the present time and many are wondering out loud whether the political process can deliver what Dalits have every right to expect from it. 

Their Economic Strategy The second strategy has been economic. Not only are Dalits extremely poor (almost half of them living below the poverty line as compared to less than one-third of the rest of the population) but they are also almost totally dependent upon the dominant castes for their livelihoods as agricultural or urban labor. Thus many Dalits have sought greater economic independence, both as an end in itself and as a means to other ends (e.g., political power, educational opportunity). During the past decade a good number of international development agencies, both religious and secular, have also adopted this strategy by funding a variety of grassroots Dalit organizations engaged in a range of community development activities. These activities focus on such things as small-scale industries, teaching new skills, educating Dalits on how to take advantage of government development assistance, developing cooperatives. The task is enormous. Over 75% of the Dalit population is still rural and so these activities have to be carried out village by village. They also face opposition within each village from members of the dominant castes who want to keep Dalits as an impoverished and dependent source of cheap labor. The Social Strategy A third strategy, which can be described as social, has two components. 

Education is one. If Dalits become literate (10.2% in 1961, 37.4% in 1991) or even educated, they can move beyond unskilled labor, earn more money, and so gain greater respect. The other is making life-style changes which get rid of those practices considered especially “low” or “polluting” and substituting those of the “higher” castes instead. For example, they should give up eating certain meats and cease working at certain jobs (e.g., cleaning latrines). The aim of education and life-style change has been to remove some of the more obvious reasons for anti-Dalit prejudice. The social strategy was adopted by the Christian missions over a century ago and it still dominates the churches’ thinking about improving the Dalits’ lot. Today there are churches which are not only giving special priority to Dalits in some of their institutions of formal education, but are also developing joboriented, nonformal educational projects to enhance skill development. The social strategy has also undergirded much of the affi rmative action policy built into India’s constitution. The assumption is that if Dalits get educated, get better jobs, and earn more money so as to raise their class status, then their caste status (measured in terms of mutually respectful and friendly relations with members of “higher” castes) would improve also. The problem has been that the government (controlled by the dominant “higher” castes) has never fully implemented all the progressive affi rmative action legislation it has passed into law. This is a source of great resentment, especially among educated Dalits. 

The Religious Strategy The fourth strategy has been religious in nature. Its moderate form involves reform from within one’s own religious tradition. For example, some Hindu sects have renounced caste hierarchy and some Hindu reformers, Gandhi being the best known, have sought to “uplift” the Untouchables. The more radical religious option, however, has 16 The Dalit Situation in India Today Over the past 125 years, so many Dalits have converted to Christianity that today the majority of the Christian population of India is Dalit! 17 18:1 Spring 2001 been conversion to another, more egalitarian religion. For example, over the past 125 years, so many Dalits have converted to Christianity that today the majority of the Christian population of India is Dalit! Following the induction of their great leader, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, into the Buddhist Sangha in 1956, several million Dalits have become Buddhists.

What a new religion offered to the Dalits was a new identity defi ned by religion rather than by caste, as well as a more egalitarian religious counterculture. This has been only partially successful. No matter what goes on in Christian or Buddhist circles, most Indians still think in terms of caste and so simply assume that anyone who is a Christian or Buddhist is a Dalit. Moreover, both Christian and Buddhist Dalits were denied the affi rmative action benefi ts and protections granted to other Dalits; in 1990 the Buddhist Dalits became eligible and Dalit Christians are still ineligible. By denying these to Christian (and Muslim) Dalits the government is in fact providing strong economic disincentives to conversion and strong economic incentives to Christian Dalits to return to the Hindu fold. 

The Christian Dalits As this brief analysis suggests, the present situation of Dalits in India is complex and confusing. There are no obvious, agreed upon solutions to the problems which the Dalits face; the way forward in the Dalit struggle is by no means clear. However, there are a few trends visible among Christian Dalits which are quite important for Christian thinking on this subject. First and foremost among these is a growing acknowledgement that they are Dalits and that conversion to Christianity has not really changed that signifi cant fact of their lives, despite hopes and promises to the contrary. Most Christian Dalits thus have a dual social and psychological identity, Christian as well as Dalit, and have to live with the tensions built into that dual identity. 

A second trend is an increasing assertion of Dalit identity as a positive thing, a source of pride rather than of shame. In this they (rightly) challenge pervasive cultural norms. One expression of this assertiveness is Dalit Theology; another is a harsh critique of those missionary and Indian Church leaders who, in their efforts to “Indianize” the Church, have equated “Indian” culture with Brahmanic instead of Dalit culture. (One reason why Dalit Christians have resisted a lot of efforts to “Indianize” the theology and liturgy of the Church is because they are fed up with the Brahmanic culture which they converted to get away from!) Perhaps most obvious of all are the persistent efforts to “raise the caste issue” and exorcise the demon of caste discrimination (which is “Legion” and takes many forms) within the churches themselves. Until this is done, the churches cannot embody much “good news” for their own Dalit members, let alone for other Dalits. 

Finally, there are Christian Dalits who are staunch advocates of each of the four Dalit strategies described above and are working hard at implementing those strategies. I see no evidence that one strategy, or even one combination of strategies, has become clearly predominant in Dalit Christian circles. What does seem evident, however, is that over the past two decades Christian Dalits are working more closely with other Dalits to achieve common aims and objectives than was true earlier. “Dalit Solidarity” is an end and means much desired but diffi cult to achieve; yet many Dalit Christian leaders have come to the conclusion that their Christian hopes for their own people cannot be realized in isolation from the realization of the hopes of all the Dalit people. IJFM

Chandra Bhan Prasad
Visiting Scholar Fall 2007
Center for the Advanced Study of India
Center for the Advanced Study of India
University of Pennsylvania
3600 Market Street, Suite 560
Philadelphia, PA 19104

© Copyright 2007 Chandra Bhan Prasad and Center for the Advanced Study of India



Chandra Bhan Prasad

CASI Working Paper Series No. 08-01
January 2008

In this paper, I study the impact of economic reforms in India, and its impact on the centuries-old caste order. Specifically, I argue that capitalism, like caste, is a social order and therefore uniquely qualified to subvert and destroy the caste system from the inside, as opposed to the State, which is a political order and intervenes in the caste society from the outside. The fourfold caste system in India, as preached by Manu and practised for millennia thereafter, is based on the twin principles of blood purity and occupational purity, whereas Dalits, or the untouchables, are left outside of the caste system. We surveyed the backgrounds of the employees of multinational fast-food outlet in a large mall in eastern Delhi, the capital of India, the housekeeping staff and a few street food joints just outside of the mall. We find that the new capitalist economy, with an emphasis on wealth creation, is disrupting the caste system wherein a large number of the workers at the fast food outlet are upper castes, as in the housekeeping department, effectively destroying occupational purity.

We also surveyed the Dalit section of Barkotha village in Azamgarh district, one of the poorest in the state of Uttar Pradesh. The results show that a number of members of the Dalit community now work in urban centers and that their earnings have considerably lifted the living standards – using traditional markers of economic status – of those in the village. Capitalism, as a social and economic force, has the capacity of finally destroying the caste system in India. I propose more extensive research on this phenomenon.
It has been sixty years since India’s Independence, fifteen since 1991’s balance of payments crisis threatened to collapse India’s economy and economic reforms were introduced. This paper shall focus on the impact of these economic reforms on another institution, one which, despite being outlawed sixty years ago, continues to survive, even thrive: one of the most difficult formulations of Indian society, caste order. While there exists a substantial body of scholarship on Indian economic reform, there is barely a letter to the editor, let alone a paper, article or book that examines the impact of economic reform on the caste order. Regardless of one’s stance on economic reform, such reform continues, unstoppable, and it is important to note that it pushes the State to vacate critical areas it has long occupied, particularly the sphere of social change in India.

Irrespective of one’s stance on economic and social reform, there is consensus that the caste order must go. As economic reforms become a lived reality, we must now engage the question of their impact on caste.
First, we must acquaint ourselves with what ‘caste’ really is, particularly as a social ordering, a structural device, of Hinduism (as implied by the term "Caste Hindu Order"); this is a largely accepted point of view given that most Hindu scriptures mandate the Caste Order. As a student at Columbia University in New York in the early part of the 20th century, Dr. Bhim Rao ‘Babasaheb’ Ambedkar, one of India’s leading scholars on the caste system, wrote a paper

  Manusmriti for creating the structural basis of the caste order, we must also examine what the order itself entails. Dr. Ambedkar in his famous "Annihilation of Caste"1 explains the very foundation of caste order: "Caste System is not merely division of labour. It is also a division of labourers."

This division of labour is not spontaneous, it is not based on natural aptitudes. Social and individual efficiency require us to develop the capacity of an individual to the point of competency to choose and to make his own career. This principle is violated in the Caste System insofar as 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. Looked at from another point of view this stratification of occupations which is the result of the Caste System is positively pernicious. Industry is never static. It undergoes rapid and abrupt changes. With such changes an individual must be free to change his occupation. Without such freedom to adjust

A close reading of the 1 Manusmriti yields a deeper understanding of caste order, including its legal, religious, and social implications. It categorizes the members of society into hierarchies and explains their legal duties; it describes the beginning of the universe, the origin of all living beings, and the divine logic underpinning them; and it governs social interactions, including how a guest ought to be treated and how humanity ought to relate to nature. Furthermore, the Manusmriti lays the conditions for the growth and endurance of the caste order as system of [Hindu] dharma. Let us now examine what those conditions are and the source of their authority. 

After explaining the evolution of the universe, Manu states, "But, in order to protect to universe, He, the most resplendent one, assigned separate [duties and] occupations to those who sprang from his mouth, arms, thighs, and feet."

Manusmriti that lay down rules for caste order, 130 relate directly to securing ‘blood purity’ through marriages and sex, while 50 are concerned with ‘occupational purity’. There is an equal, if not larger, number of verses indirectly dealing with the twin principles of ‘blood and occupational purity’. In fact, one might argue that no other issue is dealt with more meticulously than those of blood and occupational purity. The 50 verses dealing with occupational purity are so laid out in the text that they evolve into the very hub of the text around which all other verses rotate. One needs to read just a few of them to understand this. Manusmriti begins with the rishis (sages) asking Manu: "Deign, divine one, to declare to us precisely and in due order the sacred laws of each of the four [chief castes/varnas] and of the intermediate ones."2 This opening suggests that the text is intended primarily to elaborate the rights and duties of the four chief varnas/caste. What, in fact, are these sacred caste-specific laws? 3 As Manu’s monologue continues, the entire law book graduates into a treatise on maintaining the blood and occupational purity of the four varnas. As a book of jurisprudence, the text also focuses on the nature of the punishment to be meted out to those who violate the principles of blood and occupational purity, and, in doing this, describes a host of potential violations. It is interesting to note that © Copyright 2007 Chandra Bhan Prasad and Center for the Advanced Study of India - 8 - George Buhler, trans.

Brahmans, being the guardians of the fourfold

Turning his attention to preserving occupational purity, Manu is similarly stringent: "It is better [to discharge] one’s own duty incompletely than completely that of another; for he who lives according to the law of another [caste] is instantly excluded from his own." varna system, enjoy numerous immunities after committing crimes. They are invariably charged mildly compared to the other three varnas—Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras—for committing crimes of a similar nature or magnitude. There is, however, one notable exception: blood purity. Brahmans, Kshatriyas, and Vaishyas are given similar punishments for violating strictures of blood purity: "A Brahman who approaches unguarded females [of the] Kshatriya or Vaishya, or Shudra female, shall be fined 500 [panas]; but [for intercourse with] a female [of the lowest caste], one thousand."Manu is so focused on maintaining blood purity that he makes no special exceptions for Brahmans: "Twice born men, who in their folly wed wives of the low [Shudra] caste soon degrade their families and their children to the state of Shudra," he says, with the additional warning that "a Brahman who takes a Shudra wife to his bed, will [after death] sink into hell; if he begets a child by her, he will lose the rank of a Brahman." Violating norms of blood purity can bring repercussions beyond one’s own lifetime. 

Manu does accord some flexibility, albeit with a caveat, to members of the higher, "twice-born" castes that are unable to sustain themselves by occupations prescribed for them. On one hand, he describes a demotion in status based on occupation: "By [selling] flesh, salt, andBrahman at once becomes an outcast; by selling milk he becomes [equal to] a Shudra in three days/ But, by willingly selling in this world other [forbidden] commodities, a Brahman assumes after seven nights the character of a Vaishya."

Meanwhile, what if a person of a lower caste—generally a Shudra—departs from Manu’s ordained occupations? The 1 At the same time, it is upward mobilization that is categorically prohibited: "A Kshatriya who has fallen into distress may subsist by all these [means]; but he must never arrogantly adopt the mode of life [prescribed for his] betters."2 In fact, this is the only place where Manu orders a demotion of the violators’ caste status in their own lifetimes; in the rest of the Manusmriti, the punishments prescribed for the higher, "twice-born" castes and, in particular, the Brahmans include demotion in the next birth or degradation of their children’s status, but not their own in this lifetime. Manusmriti explains: "A man of low caste who through covetousness lives by the occupations of a higher one, the king shall deprive of his property and banish [him]."

As we can see, the

One could argue, quite legitimately, that since the Manusmriti builds a caste order on the twin principle of blood and occupational purity, and, accordingly, caste hierarchies are nothing but a reflection of occupational hierarchies. Manusmriti was written over 1500 years ago, and since many changes have taken place since then, it is pointless to base one’s argument .

on the text itself

If we examine Manu’s codes further, the occupations mandated for the top three.

In contrast, the occupations mandated for out-castes (i.e. Dalits) are completely manual in nature and ‘impure’ by description. Regarding blood purity, the less said, the better: inter-caste

1. But that line of reasoning is facetious, akin to saying that because the Holy Bible is a very old book, it has become irrelevant. Certainly, changes have taken place since the Manusmriti was composed, but what is the extent of these changes? varnas/castes—Brahmans, Kshatriyas, and Vaishyas—have a distinct pattern: all of the occupations assigned to them are generally non-manual, non-service, and non-productive in nature. In other words, Brahmans and Kshatriyas are, for example, not expected to use their hands in growing food grains, raising cattle, and trading. A Brahman, in general, should not serve any human being. When he conducts a religious ritual, he serves the gods. When he teaches, he teaches about God. He thus serves only God. He doesn’t produce any thing which can be consumed by humans or animals. Neither does the Kshatriya. His duty is to rule and to protect people under his territory. Vaishyas, as the third lowest in the varna/caste hierarchy, trade and produce grains and thus are closer to serving humans. Shudras, meanwhile, are supposed to only produce goods for human consumption, manufacture goods, and serve the other three (higher) varnas/castes. Within this scheme, since Shudras (today’s OBCs) were an essential part of the varna/caste order, and hence ‘pure,’ so to speak, they had some chance of infiltrating into occupations of the top three varnas. The top three varnas, on the other hand, in times of distress, could climb down from occupations authored for Shudras, but at the cost of losing their social status

Despite any changes society may have undergone, we still need to reflect on the following questions: Before the economic reforms of 1991, did Brahmans sweep floors, clean toilets or sell meat for a living though there might have been be a fair number of Brahmans poorer than those of other castes who were sweeping floors, cleaning toilets and selling meat? Similarly, did Kshatriyas farm the land of a Dalit, wash utensils in houses (even, at least, in a Brahman household), or clean toilets for a living though there might have been many Kshatriyas much poorer than those non-Kshatriyas performing these duties? Did Vaishyas color cow leather, sweep roads, conduct Hindu rituals, or work at cemeteries for a living though there might be

The Daily Telegraph newspaper of London reported on January 13, 2004: "Not just in Punjab and Haryana, but in western Uttar Pradesh as well, women are being put to death if they ‘violate’ the honour of their family and community by marrying a person outside her own caste, community or religion." 1 Manusmriti was codified mirror its spirit. For instance, there are fewer Brahman industrialists despite the fact that they have been the most privileged caste. Similarly, there are not very many Kshatriya industrialists despite the fact that they have been traditional rulers. Nor are there large numbers of Vaishyas in the army, police, and academia, although they have been traditionally full of resources. As a matter of fact, the top three varnas still do not take up occupations mandated for Shudras and Dalits. Shudras are still largely agriculturalists, while Dalits are not even in the discourse.  Many Vaishyas much poorer than others in these professions? Did Shudras skin dead cows, repair shoes, or clean drains for living although there might be many Shudras much poorer than others in those occupations?

If the answer is largely no, perhaps it will illuminate how the caste system has endured through many millennia. Notably, while examples of Brahmans taking up occupations below those mandated to them are rare, there are numerous examples of Brahmans in distress begging, stealing, and even taking to prostitution for a living. The same is true for the other three Defying blood purity is emancipation, and that is why Dalits continue to take pride in marrying non-Dalits. What this indicates is that if the caste order has to be eliminated, it must start by doing away with the twin principles of occupational and blood purity. In other words, all occupations and individuals must become caste neutral. But why, despite more than fifty years of State activism, has this goal not yet been realized?

Caste status, moreover, remains salient over other markers of status, for there are also numerous instances of Brahman parents marrying their daughters to a police constable of their own caste but refusing a Dalit who holds a more senior ranking, such as superintendent of police. Again, that is true for the other three varnas/castes as well.


The preamble of a book often sets the agenda of the book. Accordingly, the preamble of the Indian Constitution sets an agenda for the Indian State and Indian society. It begins with the cry for justice—social, economic, and political justice. The second line talks of liberty—of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship. The third line decrees equality—of status and of opportunity. The final line calls for fraternity – assuring the dignity of the individual. In other words, the preamble is drafted in a manner that sees India as a justice-deficient, hierarchically structured caste society. Within this context, it was the State’s mandate to restructure society and to make India caste-free by outlawing untouchability. Despite these efforts, untouchability, as well as the caste order, continues to be practiced. Despite all its modern jurisprudence and executive power, the State could make India neither caste-neutral nor caste-free. But the question remains: did the State fail in its duty of making India caste-free, or have we, the people, actually failed in understanding the institution of the State?

Dr. Ambedkar was very clear on this matter. One of the biggest issues he had with the Congress party and Gandhi are protected not by law but by the social and moral conscience of society. If social conscience is such that it is prepared to recognize the rights which law chooses to enact, rights will be safe and secure. But if the fundamental rights are opposed by the community, no Law, no Parliament, no judiciary can guarantee them in the real sense of the word ji was over caste. The Congress held that political power could tackle caste, whereas Dr. Ambedkar thought that caste would have to disintegrate from within. Through his writings, he pointed out the limitations of legislation or the power of the State in dealing with issues that are essentially social in nature. He argued Ranade, Gandhi and Jinnah (Thaker & Co., Ltd. Bombay, 1943).

What is the use of the fundamental rights to the Negroes in America, to the Jews in Germany, and to the Untouchables in India? As Burke said, there is no method found for punishing the multitude. Law can punish a single solitary recalcitrant criminal. It can never operate against a whole body of people who are determined to defy it. Social conscience — to use the language of Coleridge — that calm incorruptible legislator of the soul without whom all other powers would meet in mere oppugnancy — is the only safeguard of all rights fundamental or non-fundamental..

Questioning the importance given to political apparatuses, he argues in the same essay: "The thesis that political reform should precede social reform becomes on the face of it an absurd proposition, unless the idea is that the Government is to protect those who have vested rights and to penalize those who have none." To further explain his arguments, Dr. Ambedkar appends this near prophetic statement: "A Democratic form of government presupposes a Democratic form of society. The formal framework of Democracy is of no value, and would indeed be a misfit if there was no social democracy. The politicals never realized that democracy was not a form of government. It was essentially a form of Society." With Dr. Ambedkar’s prophetic observation of castes being "division[s] of labourers" and Manu’s divinely sanctioned law that all varnas/castes must observe the twin principles of occupational and blood purity, why did we expect the State to do what was beyond its jurisdiction? Even as a matter of common sense, how can the State as political entity replace the caste order, primarily a social entity? How can an external force like the State enter into the womb of the caste society to destroy it from within? © Copyright 2007 Chandra Bhan Prasad and Center for the Advanced Study of India 

At best, the State can offer affirmative action policies to ensure that Dalits and Adivasis are proportionally represented in government and private sector jobs and legislature. But how far can the State go? At the best of times, say, in 1990, the total jobs nationally in the public sector stood at less than 20 million, of which Dalits and Adivasis could claim no more than 450,000 jobs. The State can extend similar affirmative action programs in the private sector, which it must do if the private sector doesn’t do it on its own. But, again, how far can the State go? Jobs in India’s organized sector are less than 10 million, of which Dalits and Adivasis can claim about 250,000. It is important to remember here that the Dalit population alone is 161 million. The State can at best create a tiny Dalit middle class, which is necessary, and thus ought to be fostered by the State. But this neither makes India caste-free nor does it eliminate discrimination. The State with all its might has not been able to prevent discrimination within its own organizations. Most Dalit officers and employees have stories to tell of discrimination during their tenure. Unless caste is made ineffectual, inoperable, and irrelevant in public life, discrimination will continue.

But to return to the fundamental question, is there any other force that can eliminate occupation and blood purity, thereby making caste-neutral? The State could not do it because it was beyond its domain.

How can the State deal with issues of occupational and blood purity? Can the State, for instance, legislate and execute the idea that a certain percentage of Brahmans must take to cleaning toilets and sweeping floors? Can it ensure that a certain percentage of Kshatriyas must marry Dalits? Can it enforce the idea that a certain percentage of Vaishyas must skin dead cows?© Copyright 2007 Chandra Bhan Prasad and Center for the Advanced Study of India 

Can it legislate and execute the idea that a certain percentage of Shudras must start washing dishes in Dalit homes? Why should we blame a bull for not giving milk even after we fed it with that expectation? How, then, will the caste order – one of the ugliest social institutions this planet has seen – go?


Indeed, we maintain that the market has the potential for neutralizing caste in India’s public life and finally leading India into a caste-free zone. Unlike the State, but like caste itself, the market is a social entity and, as a result, is capable of replacing caste. Unlike the State, the market operates from within caste society, as an internal force, and hence has the inherent capacity to rip apart the very fabric of the caste order. To most Indians, the market is about economic growth and profit. They are often unaware that the market is also essentially a cultural package which is capable of confronting and dismantling old cultures. The market culture ushers in a new regime of aspirations, a regime that does far more than just redefine the markers of good living.

Under this new market-fostered culture, the individual needs more than the bare necessities he required earlier. Goods that were not needed earlier are now indispensable. Men, women and children in this culture need more than their compelling necessities; thus, the foundations of demand are laid. To match these new aspirations, a person needs to work more or take up professions which he otherwise may not have done. From a self- contented state, man transforms into a being with unending material desires. He is now overwhelmed by the new culture and gradually turns into an aggressive consumer, where buying becomes a sport. More buying triggers demand, which in turn triggers manufacturing (and supply). This process results in industrialization, and urbanization becomes the first baby the market produces. It is no wonder, then, that more than people, it was capitalism which fought feudalism because it was capitalism which led industrialization. As feudalism met its demise, so did many atrocious social customs and practices.

After World War II, capitalism acquired a new objective: to re-industrialize the already industrialized world. Aggressive consumerism met re-industrialization, producing the service sector as its first offspring. During this entire process, the market creates what I call ‘mass distress.’ This, in turn, leads to the emancipation of the citizens of the marketplace, most specifically in pluralistic societies; these citizens are then free to transcend their loyalties to groups, ethnicities, and nationalities.

For example, an American consumer’s loyalty toward Ford or General Motors can be compromised, if Toyota cars become cheaper and more fuel efficient--why, in this case, should the American consumer suffer from nationalism? In the pre-Wal-Mart [1962], pre-McDonald [1955], pre-satellite TV [1962], and pre-Coca Cola-in-a-can [1955] era, American blacks were not allowed into nightclubs. Post-consumerist capitalism, black customers are served even in strip clubs. The Civil Rights movement did bring great changes, but it could only seek desegregation. But what if white strippers still avoided taking black males for lap dances? Market-anchored distress would leave the dancer with no choice but to earn as much money as she could, even if it meant serving a black male. Thus, market-authored mass distress produces a new society where  citizens betray their old loyalties in favor of money. Making money becomes a mass movement in order to fight the mass distress continually produced by the market. In the process, a new society comes into being, replacing localism and provincial traditions. Given its innate capability for creating mass distress, the market economy is more suited to India than any other society in the world, given that India needs to emancipate itself from the social ghetto of caste.

Civilizationally, a caste society teaches man to live with a minimum of needs; thus, the caste Hindu tries to score a moral point over the materialistic West. When Gandhi

By definition, the market economy ought to be doing two things together: one, setting newer, materialistic markers of status and, two, creating mass distress by hyping aspirations. The expected result will be that higher castes will ‘betray’ Manu by taking up occupations considered impure or lowly and expanding the economy enough to accommodate Dalits in newer occupations. Over a decade and half has passed since India reluctantly embraced the market economy in 1991, but we still don’t know whether traditional beneficiaries of caste order are betraying Manu and if Dalits are defying Manu by quitting caste-based occupations that they have been placed into against their will.

Gandhi ji created the slogan, ‘Simple Living, High Thinking,’ he was actually only further invoking the essence of caste society. In such a society, people could value social capital over material capital. The basic markers of caste status remained non-negotiable and non-purchasable. A Brahman, therefore, despite being poor, could still walk with his head held high as he had his sacred thread around his torso or sandalwood paste on his forehead. A Kshatriya, despite his poverty, could still walk with pride, twirling his upturned moustache, which was the marker of his caste. © Copyright 2007 Chandra Bhan Prasad and Center for the Advanced Study of India - 19 - The Guardian, May 30, 2007

International Herald Tribune, June 1, 2007

The story of Chhatrapati Shivaji, a legendary Indian king who fought the Mughal Empire, reveals the centrality of caste order. After the Battle of Sinhagad in 1670, Shivaji became the undisputed king of the Maratha Empire. Despite his achievements as an outstanding military leader and strategist, he had to rise in the caste hierarchy to become a Kshatriya, something that was not possible unless a Brahman ritualized his Kshatriya status. A poor, rather insignificant Brahman named Pandit Ganga Bhatt was brought in from Kashi to declare that Shivaji’s ancestors were Kshatriyas. After being thus ritually anointed as a Kshatriya, Shivaji was crowned in 1674 as a Chhatrapati – King of Kings.

In contrast to this upward "promotion" in caste status, an opposite trend is seen in India today. Earlier this year, the state of Rajasthan witnessed a massive Gujjar (a Shudra caste that is low in the hierarchy) uprising asking to be listed as Adivasi (indigenous tribal) status in order to be eligible for affirmative action programs. The UK-based daily newspaper

The Guardian headlined its May 30 story "Caste demands demotion to win state jobs."1 Similarly, a June 1 article in the International Herald Tribune entitled "Fighting their way to the bottom in India," commented: "A fight for the right to be downwardly mobile exploded this week in north India, as a powerful community of Indian shepherds asserted that the best way to rise up in modern society was to take a step down in the regimented class hierarchy."2 © Copyright 2007 Chandra Bhan Prasad and Center for the Advanced Study of India 

The Hindustan Times, June 26, 2007

The Times of India, May 25, 2006

The Brahmans have always viewed reservations in jobs and educational institutions with contempt. But all of a sudden, even the Brahmans of Rajasthan are demanding reservations. "Brahmins in Rajasthan have nothing – no jobs, no land and no means of survival. We are not doing well economically," Bhanwarlal Sharma, President of the Rajasthan Brahmin Mahasabha, was quoted as saying in.

Why has this spectacular process of seeking self-demotion begun, and why has it begun now and not, say, before 1991?

It does not require any distinctive genius to explain why castes are seeking the demotion of their status in the caste order. Once listed in the OBC or Dalit category, members of that caste group are entitled to affirmative action jobs under the State, thus increasing their chances of getting jobs. Post-1991, India has come to be known for its globalization-regulated economic reforms. Can we then argue that it is the forces of the market that are compelling caste members

The Hindustan Time
s.1 At least 14 Other Backward Classes (OBC) castes are demanding Dalit status in Uttar Pradesh. Jats in Rajasthan successfully demoted their own rank when they got onto the OBC list in 1999. "There has been a 90 percent increase in the number of centrally notified OBCs from 1,257 castes in 1993 to 2,297 in 2006," found a May 25 report in The Times of India.2 Additionally, several hundred castes are approaching The National Commission for Scheduled Castes to be included in the Dalit (Scheduled Caste) list. This new phenomenon of seeking demotion in the caste hierarchy was unheard of in earlier Indian history. © Copyright 2007 Chandra Bhan Prasad and Center for the Advanced Study of India - 21 - Questionnaire submitted to manager of mall: See Appendix I to seek demotion of their rank in the caste hierarchy? If this is true, if the situation does illustrate market-driven mass distress, then there should be similar signs of demotion in occupational hierarchy as well. To find out if that is happening, we decided to conduct field research in two places in Anand Vihar, one of Delhi’s urban suburbs.


There are two questions to which we sought answers: (1) Is the logic of the market turning the traditional beneficiaries of Manu into his betrayers? (2) Are they seeking occupational demotion in order to adjust to the call of the market? For the purposes of this paper, we settled on a mall in an eastern suburb of Delhi; officially, the suburb is in the state of Uttar Pradesh but is generally considered a satellite town of the national capital. The mall serves middle and lower-middle class neighborhoods of East Delhi and employs a number of janitors who clean toilets and sweep the floors. The mall also houses several restaurants, including a multinational fast-food franchise outlet.

Overview of Dalit Human Rights Situation

Over one-sixth of India's population, some 170 million people, live a precarious existence, shunned by much of Indian society because of their rank as “untouchables” or Dalits—literally meaning “broken” people—at the bottom of India's caste system. Dalits are discriminated against, denied access to land and basic resources, forced to work in degrading conditions, and routinely abused at the hands of police and dominant-caste groups that enjoy the state's protection.

   Historically, the caste system has formed the social and economic framework for the life of the people of India.  In its essential form, this caste system involves the division of people into a hierarchy of unequal social groups where basic rights and duties are assigned based on birth and are not subject to change.  Dalits are ‘outcastes’ falling outside the traditional four classes of Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya, & Shudra.  Dalits are typically considered low, impure & polluting based on their birth and traditional occupation, thus they face multiple forms of discrimination, violence, and exclusion from the rest of society.
   Beginning in the 1920s, various social, religious and political movements rose up in India against the caste system and in support of the human rights of the Dalit community.  In 1950, the Constitution of India was adopted, and largely due to the influence of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar (chairman of the constitutional drafting committee), it departed from the norms and traditions of the caste system in favor of Justice, Equality, Liberty, and Fraternity, guaranteeing all citizens basic human rights regardless of caste, creed, gender, or ethnicity.  The implementation and enforcement of these principles has, unfortunately, been an abysmal failure. (Photo:

   Despite the fact that “untouchability” was abolished under India's constitution in 1950, the practice of “untouchability”—the imposition of social disabilities on persons by reason of their birth in certain castes— remains very much a part of rural India. “Untouchables” may not use the same wells, visit the same temples, drink from the same cups in tea stalls, or lay claim to land that is legally theirs. Dalit children are frequently made to sit in the back of classrooms, and communities as a whole are made to perform degrading rituals in the name of caste. Most Dalits continue to live in extreme poverty, without land or opportunities for better employment or education. With the exception of a small minority who have benefited from India’s policy of quotas in education and government jobs, Dalits are relegated to the most menial of tasks, as manual scavengers, removers of human waste and dead animals, leather workers, street sweepers, and cobblers. Dalit children make up the majority of those sold into bondage to pay off debts to dominant-caste creditors.

   Dalit women face the triple burden of caste, class, and gender.  Dalit girls have been forced to become prostitutes for dominant-caste patrons and village priests. Sexual abuse and other forms of violence against women are used by landlords and the police to inflict political “lessons” and crush dissent within the community.  Less than 1% of the perpetrators of crimes against Dalit women are ever convicted.
   The plight of India's “untouchables” elicits only sporadic attention within the country. Public outrage over large-scale incidents of violence or particularly egregious examples of discrimination fades quickly, and the state is under little pressure to undertake more meaningful reforms. Laws granting Dalits special consideration for government jobs and education reach only a small percentage of those they are meant to benefit. Laws designed to ensure that Dalits enjoy equal rights and protections have seldom been enforced. Instead, police refuse to register complaints about violations of the law and rarely prosecute those responsible for abuses that range from murder and rape to exploitative labor practices and forced displacement from Dalit lands and homes.  Laws and government policies on land reform and budget allocations for the economic empowerment of the Dalit community remain largely unimplemented.
Dalits who dare to challenge the social order have often been subject to abuses by their dominant-caste neighbors. Dalit villages are collectively penalized for individual “transgressions” through social boycotts, including loss of employment and access to water, grazing lands, and ration shops. For most Dalits in rural India who earn less than a subsistence living as agricultural laborers, a social boycott may mean destitution and starvation.
   The present time is an historic moment, not only for Dalits, but for all those committed to basic human rights and principles of justice, equality, liberty, fraternity.  India, a rising star and increasingly important player on the world stage, must not be allowed to ignore the injustice and oppression within its own borders any longer.  Together, we must unite, nationally and internationally, to force the Indian government to rise above an entrenched caste-mentality and to properly enforce its laws, implement its policies, and fulfill its responsibility to protect the basic human rights of ALL of its citizens.
Among the Dalit community and its supporters & sympathizers, Dr. Ambedkar’s statement resounds louder today than ever: 
“My final words of advice to you are educate, agitate and organize; have faith in yourself. With justice on our side I do not see how we can lose our battle. The battle to me is a matter of joy. The battle is in the fullest sense spiritual. There is nothing material or social in it. For ours is a battle not for wealth or for power. It is battle for freedom. It is the battle of reclamation of human personality.  It is in the fullest sense spiritual. There is nothing material or social in it. For ours is a battle not for wealth or for power. It is a battle for freedom. It is a battle for the reclamation of human personality." 
Jai Bhim!
**Some information above quoted/adapted from Chapter 1 of: Smita Narula, Broken People: Caste Violence Against India’s Untouchables (Human Rights Watch, 1999).

Status in India
1. Overview
India's caste system, a social hierarchy based on traditional occupations, is divided into four castes, and "thousands of sub-castes" (The Globe and Mail 2 Dec. 2011). The lowest group, Dalits, formerly known as "'untouchables'," are viewed as being outside the caste system, with traditional occupations that are viewed as "polluting" (ibid.).
Sources indicate that inter-caste marriages in India are uncommon (Navsarjan 20 Apr. 2012; The Globe and Mail 2 Dec. 2011). According to a survey of 5,462 people from 1,589 villages in Gujarat state that was carried out by Navsarjan, a Gujarat-based Dalit rights organization (Navsarjan n.d.), and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, inter-caste marriage is forbidden in 98.4 percent of villages and inter sub-caste marriage is prohibited in 99.1 percent of the villages surveyed (Navsarjan and RFK Center 2010, 17, 24). The Director of the New Delhi-based Centre for Social Equality and Inclusion, who works to end caste-discrimination, stated that . . . inter-marrying continues to be a taboo. While legally there is no bar to inter-caste marriages and the state even makes provisions, it remains on paper. Marriages are most often arranged within one's caste and sub-caste ensuring that many other norms are also followed.
[t]he deeply entrenched caste norms do not make it easy for even educated progressive thinking people to cross caste boundaries in matters like marriage. Even when young people studying in universities may consider marrying across caste, sooner or later they realize the impracticalities of it . . . (qtd. in the Globe and Mail 2 Dec. 2011)
A professor of sociology who is also the Chair of the Centre for the Study of Social Systems at the School of Social Sciences at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, in correspondence with the Research Directorate, estimated that more than 95 percent of marriages in India occur "within the traditionally/socially acceptable limits" (19 Apr. 2012). Sources indicate that inter-caste couples face more problems than inter-religious couples (The Globe and Mail 7 Dec. 2011; Professor of sociology 10 Apr. 2012). Inter-caste marriages involving Dalits [the lowest caste group] are considered less acceptable than those involving two different dominant castes (Navsarjan 20 Apr. 2012; Professor of history 10 Apr. 2012; The Globe and Mail 2 Dec. 2011).
Societal attitudes also vary depending on the region and class (Navsarjan 20 Apr. 2012; Professor 19 Apr. 2012). In a telephone interview with the Research Directorate, a professor of history at the University of Toronto, who has written about religion and caste in India, explained that each caste has specific rules about who they can and cannot marry (10 Apr. 2012).

2. Treatment

Sources indicate that there are no official statistics available on the prevalence of mistreatment towards inter-caste couples (Navsarjan 20 Apr. 2012; see also Professor of sociology 19 Apr. 2012). The BBC notes that "hundreds" of people are killed annually in India for marrying someone of a different caste or for marrying against their parents' wishes (16 Nov. 2011). Human Rights Watch notes that, according to an independent study, at least 900 honour killings, in which people are killed for marrying outside their caste or religion, or within their kinship group, occur each year in Haryana, Punjab, and Uttar Pradesh states (18 July 2010). However, the professor of sociology at Jawaharlal Nehru University expressed his personal opinion that, although inter-caste couples initially face resistance from their families, particularly the woman's family, that most cases of inter-caste marriage are eventually accepted (19 Apr. 2012).
Inter-caste couples may reportedly face "social ostracism" (IPS 18 Aug. 2010) or "social excommunication" (Navsarjan 20 Apr. 2012). In correspondence with the Research Directorate, the Executive Director of Navsarjan explained that inter-caste couples are often forced to leave their homes, particularly in rural areas (Navsarjan 20 Apr. 2012). Human Rights Watch explains that inter-caste couples, and other couples who fear the reaction of their families or communities, often elope, after which
[t]he wife's relatives frequently then file abduction complaints, leading the police to arrest the husband, even if the woman denies being abducted. The woman is then forced to rejoin her family, where she may be confined, abused, and sometimes killed. (18 July 2010)
Hard News, a new Delhi-based news magazine, states that honour crimes against inter-caste couples range from "quiet murders passed off as suicides, to pre-meditated, long-drawn public humiliation and social boycott" (22 Jan. 2012). According to the Navsarjan Executive Director, inter-caste couples may be murdered either by family members or "people with social clout" in the community (Navsarjan 20 Apr. 2012).
Media sources and human rights organizations have reported on specific cases in which people who married someone of another caste were murdered (The Times of India 15 Mar. 2012; ACHR Oct.-Dec. 2010, 30; Human Rights Watch 18 July 2010; UNI 13 Mar. 2012). According to the US Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2010, on 22 June 2010 in New Delhi, two women who married outside of their caste were killed by their brothers (US 8 Apr. 2011, 48). The Centre for Dalit Rights (CDR), which monitors caste-based human rights violations in Rajasthan state (n.d.b), recorded a case from 1 September 2010, in which a Dalit in an inter-caste marriage was allegedly murdered by a dominant caste member in the district of Jaipur (CDR n.d.a, 52). In an example from the Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR), on 11 November 2010, a man who married a woman of a different caste was shot and killed by his wife's brother in the town of Tohana, in the Fatehabed district of Haryana state (Oct.-Dec. 2010, 30). In addition, Indian media sources reported on a case from March 2012, in which an upper-caste woman, who married someone outside her caste, was allegedly killed by her brother because he disapproved of the marriage (The Hindu 15 Mar. 2012; Times of India 15 Mar. 2012; UNI 13 Mar. 2012); the victim lived in Mysore (Times of India 15 Mar. 2012).
There are also specific examples in which inter-caste marriage partners were assaulted (UN 2 June 2010), threatened (CDR n.d.a, 89), confined by their parents (Deccan Chronicle 29 Feb. 2012), and had false charges filed against them (ibid.; The Hindu 26 Mar. 2012; Human Rights Watch 18 July 2010). In addition, there are cases in which inter-caste couples committed suicide (The Globe and Mail 7 Dec. 2011). In some cases, the family members of a person in an inter-caste marriage are forced out of their villages (The Pioneer 3 Apr. 2012; The Times of India 22 Feb. 2012).
According to the Executive Director of Navsarjan, Dalits who marry people from other castes are subject to "torture, discrimination and [abuse]" (20 Apr. 2012). She explained how male and female Dalits are typically treated when inter-marrying as follows:
If the bride is a Dalit, then most of the times she is not accepted by her husband's family members and she is later deserted by her husband as well. This makes her life pitiable as she is not even accepted by her parents and relatives.
If the bride-groom is a Dalit, then he goes through criminal intimidation from the bride's family. He would not be accepted and given equal treatment as a son-in-law by his in-laws. He goes through social exclusion and rejection. (20 Apr. 2012).
The professor of history at the University of Toronto said that inter-caste marriages between upper castes and Dalits can lead to violence and killings (10 Apr. 2012). Similarly, the Director of the Centre for Social Equity and Inclusion in New Delhi stated that inter-caste marriages, particularly those that cross the "touchability line," may put the person's life in danger (The Globe and Mail 2 Dec. 2011).

2.1 Situation in Rural Areas

According to Human Rights Watch, khap panchayats, "unofficial village councils," in the northern states of Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, issue edicts forbidding inter-caste marriage (18 July 2010). Media sources report that these khaps order honour crimes, including those motivated by inter-caste marriages (The Guardian 24 June 2010; BBC 16 Nov. 2011) and often "unleash violence" on those who do not follow their orders (The Times of India 3 June 2010). The Pioneer reported on a case in which a khap panchayat issued an edict expelling a family whose son married a woman from a different caste (3 Apr. 2012).
The Navsarjan executive director noted that mobility is restricted in rural areas and that the chance of inter-caste couples "being identified and targeted is much higher than in the urban areas" (20 Apr. 2012).

3. State Protection

India's Special Marriage Act-1954, which came into effect on 1 January 1955, allows for inter-caste marriages, but requires that couples give written notice of their intent to marry at least thirty days before the marriage (India 1954, Sec. 1, 4, 5, 7). Human Rights Watch notes that the thirty-day notice period is sometimes used by families to locate and kill or forcibly break up couples (18 July 2010).
According to the Executive Director of Navsarjan, the Indian government gives 50,000 Indian rupees (INR) [about C$930 (XE 11 May 2012a)] to inter-caste couples who marry (20 Apr. 2012). Media sources corroborate that this amount was given to those in inter-caste marriages in the state of Maharashtra (Afternoon Voice 2 Mar. 2012) and the state of Kerala (The Hindu 2 Mar. 2012). According to The Hindu, in Kerala, the money is aimed at helping couples "in distress" to establish a livelihood; to qualify, one of the spouses must be from a scheduled caste [government term for Dalits], and their annual income must be less than 22,000 INR [about C$410 (XE 11 May 2012b)] (ibid.).
The Executive Director expressed the opinion that the government does not provide protection to inter-caste couples who experience mistreatment, and that the police are "not effective" and are sometimes themselves the perpetrators of violence against inter-caste couples (Navsarjan 20 Apr. 2012). According to Human Rights Watch, some local government officials are "sympathetic" to the edicts of the khap panchayats, "implicitly supporting the violence" (18 July 2010).
Media sources report that, in November 2011, 28 people were found guilty in a 1991 murder case of an inter-caste couple and a relative who helped them; 8 were sentenced to death and 20 were sentenced to life imprisonment (BBC 16 Nov. 2011; The Globe and Mail 7 Dec. 2011). The village panchayat had reportedly ordered that the couple, a Dalit man and a higher-caste woman, and the relative be killed, and they were subsequently hanged and set on fire (BBC 16 Nov. 2011). According to BBC, honour killings often carry life sentences and the Supreme Court ordered states to abolish honour killings and to punish such crimes with execution (ibid.).
Media sources indicate that the Haryana government operates "protection homes" for runaway couples (The Indian Express 19 Apr. 2011;
 India Today 9 May 2011). Couples are initially allowed to stay in the shelters for 10 days, after which the threat is reassessed and length of stay extended if deemed necessary (The Indian Express 19 Apr. 2011;
 India Today 9 May 2011). The Haryana government reportedly claimed that 151 couples used these protection homes between 21 September and March 2011 (The Indian Express 19 Apr. 2011). The Haryana government also maintains that police reports were filed against 113 people in 21 cases related to threats and other mistreatment of the couples (ibid.). In addition, in December 2011, the Punjab and Haryana High Court reportedly ordered police not to register cases of abduction charges against couples who marry against their parents' wishes (ibid. 15 Dec. 2011).
Media sources also indicate that threatened couples can petition the Punjab and Haryana High Court for protection (The Times of India 31 Mar. 2010; IBN Live n.d.). However, sometimes couples are killed before the protection is granted (ibid.) or despite the police protection efforts (The Times of India 31 Mar. 2010).

4. Inter-caste Children

Regarding the situation of children born to inter-caste couples, the professor of sociology stated that he was not aware of cases in which such children faced "serious problems" (19 Apr. 2012). In contrast, the Executive Director of Navsarjan stated:
The caste identity of the child born out of inter-caste marriages is related with her/his father as India is a patriarchal society. If the father is Dalit, then the child faces less problems than if the mother is Dalit. Many times a Dalit woman is deserted by her in laws and also by her husband, so the responsibility of the child comes on her shoulders.
In rural areas, the children of inter-caste couples face more humiliation, abuses in the neighborhoods, in the schools, etc than in the urban areas. (19 Apr. 2012)
According to information posted on the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment's website, for a child of an inter-caste couple to qualify for "Scheduled Caste" status, which the government defines as "extreme social, education and economic backwardness arising out of the traditional practice of untouchability," depends on whether the child has been brought up and accepted in the community of the scheduled caste and is decided on an individual basis (India n.d.). However, the website also gave examples to show that, generally, the scheduled caste status follows the father's status (India n.d.).
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

 The Status of Dalit Women in India’s Caste Based System Sonia Mahey, University of Alberta

 In this paper I wish to present the devastating effects of the caste system on the educational, social, and economical status of Dalit women in modern India. My aim is to highlight the harsh reality of the suppression, struggle and torture Dalit women face every day of their miserable lives. The hardships of Dalit women are not simply due to their poverty, economical status, or lack of education, but are a direct result of the severe exploitation and suppression by the upper classes, which is legitimized by Hindu religious scriptures (Thind n.pag; Agarwal n.pag). We see many examples of brave Dalit women who being quite aware of the horrifying truth and despite the heavy odds still strive to put an end to their suffering (Thind; Agarwal; News Archives). In doing so they most certainly ensure a brighter future for the generations to come. Ruth Manorama, an active member of the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights and the National Alliance of Women, once stated that in a male dominated society, “Dalit women face a triple burden of caste, class and gender” in which she sums up the plight of Dalit women, highlighting the fact that Dalit women are a distinct social group and cannot be masked under the general categories of “Women” or “Dalits” (News Archives). In Ancient India (3200-2500 B.C.), the caste system was non-existent since even the most learned men were good householders and had varied occupations. The women of ancient India were just as superior as men in learning, education, and intellect. The choice for her mate was according to her own wishes and marriage was practiced after the coming of age. She attended parties, competitions, and religious functions as she wished. The remarriage of young widows was also a common practice (Thind). The creation of a number of Hindu religious books including the Manusmriti, Atharva Vedas, Vishnu smriti, and many others like these and their strict compliance by the Brahmans (upper priestly hindu caste), led to a society in which equality between men and women was far from existent (Agarwal). Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, an architect of the Indian constitution, also makes it very clear in his  article titled “The rise and fall of Hindu woman” that the root cause of suffering for women in India are these so called Hindu religious books (Thind; Agarwal). Books like the Manusmriti divide people into a stratified caste system and promotes inequality between men and women (Thind; Agarwal). According to the Manusmriti, women have no right to education, independence, or wealth (n.pag). It not only justifies the treatment of dalit women as a sex object and promotes child marriage, but also justifies a number of violent atrocities on women as can be seen in the following verses (Agarwal; Manusmitri): A man, aged thirty years, shall marry a maiden of twelve who pleases him. Or a man of twenty-four a girl of eight years of age. If (the performance of) his duties would otherwise be impeded, he must marry sooner. (Manusmitri IX.94) By a girl, by a young woman, or even by an aged one, nothing must be done independently, even in her own house.” (Manusmriti V.147) Her father protects (her) in childhood, her husband protects (her) in youth, and her sons protect (her) in old age; a woman is never fit for independence. (Manusmriti IX.3) Women have no right to study the Vedas. That is why their Sanskaras are performed without Veda Mantras. Women have no knowledge of religion because they have no right to know the Vedas. The uttering of the Veda Mantras is useful for removing sin. As women cannot utter the Veda Mantras, they are as unclean as the untruth. (Manusmriti IX.18) A Brahman, Kshatriya, or Vaishya Man can sexually exploit any shudra woman. (Manusmitri IX.25) Even the killing of a dalit woman is explicitly justified as a minor offence for the Brahmins: equal to the killing of an animal (Manusmitri). If the killing of an untouchable was justified as a minor offence, you can imagine the treatment they received throughout their lives. 151 In a male dominated society, Dalit women suffered unimaginable oppression, not only through caste, but gender too, from which there was no escape. The laws in the Manusmriti and other Vedic scriptures close all economic, political, social, educational, and personal channels through which Dalit women could be uplifted (Thind n.pag). The horrendous Laws in the Manusmriti were incorporated into Hinduism because they were favourable only to the Upper castes, which form the majority of India. Even today, in modern times, we see the severe oppression and exploitation of Dalit women. The Laws of the Manusmriti have a devastating effect on the level of education reached by Dalit women (Thind n.pag). According to the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes 2000, approximately 75% of the Dalit girls drop out of primary school despite the strict laws of the Government of India, which hold reservations for Dalit children (National Commission n.pag). Despite showing keen academic aptitude, reasons for this early drop out from the education system is poverty or to escape humiliation, bullying and isolation by classmates, society, and even their teachers (Thind). There are large numbers of reported atrocities on Dalit women that can be found recorded in various newspaper articles, journals, and government reports in India many of which can be viewed on The majority of the stories we read and hear are of bright young Dalit girls who are punished by the upper caste teachers in rural area of India, for daring to score good grades. Feeling rejected most girls in this situations drop out of school and have nowhere to turn but towards manual scavenging and other repulsive jobs (News Archives). According to the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, the majority of the educated people are of the upper caste, many of which may practice caste-based discrimination. Therefore, Dalit girls feel discouraged to enter education and we see the lowest literacy rate for Dalit girls compared to the Total population of educated upper caste girls (National Commission n.pag). The Annual Report of University Grant Commision for 1999- 2000, shows that Dalits in general have very low participation rates in higher education (Annual Reports of University n.pag). The main reasons for the very low literacy rate among Dalit women could be some or all of the following: 

The Lack of educational resources especially in rural areas. 

Privatization of schools and colleges. 

Extreme poverty, because of which they cannot afford the expensive fees for the private schools. The demand for an increase in the Dowry for educated girls. 

Humiliation and bullying by the high caste students and teachers. (Thind) Since only a small percentage of the total population of Dalit women are educated, the fate of the majority is very grim. According to India’s Ministry of Labour, 85% of the Dalit women have the most formidable occupations and work as agricultural laborers, scavengers, sweepers, and disposers of human waste. Many of these women work for minimal wages under the upper caste landlords, since it is proposed that by the National Commission for SC/ST that 85% of the Dalits are landless (News Archives). When the Dalit women refuse to work for ridiculously low wages or fail to follow their harsh orders it results open violence, humiliation, beatings, rape, and jail. There are also a number of cases where the houses of Dalit women have been burnt down (Agarwal; News Achives). In one particular case, a four months pregnant agricultural labourer, from the southern part of India, was stripped naked and beaten, in front of the whole village and her family by the upper caste landlord. Later, she was retained in jail, where the police beat her. This resulted in the miscarriage of her baby (News Archives). In another case, a school student in Gujarat made a mistake of joining the dancing in the main square of her village, in which most of the participants were of the upper caste. The upper caste boys pulled her out and threatened to rape her. For interfering, her mother was slapped. In the hope for justice, she forced her parents to file a complaint to the police against her assailants. Her mother was constantly threatened by the upper caste families for complaining to the police. Feeling deeply humiliated by no justice and rumors of rape, the girl committed suicide (News Archives). There are many cases like these, all of which cannot be discussed here. The worst exploitation of dalit women involves a lifetime of suffering, torture, and rape (Thind n.pag). Justified by the Vedic scriptures, the Devdasi system (also known as temple prostitution) was introduced by the High caste Hindus, and it  still exists in some parts of India (Thind; Agarwal; Narula). According to the Human Right Watch Report in 1992, an estimated 50,000 girls were sold every year to Hindu organizations that are involved in the Devdasi system (n.pag). These girls are called the “female servants of god” and are sexually exploited (Thind n.pag). After a lifetime of living as a prostitute and servant, the women in their later years are sold to brothels, where they are further tortured and often die of neglect or AIDS (Thind; News Archives). The Devdasi system and Child marriage are also justified by Hindu Scriptures (Thind; Agarwar; News Archives). The 1992-93 Annual report from the Ministry of Welfare shows 1,236 reported cases of rape on Dalit women and the National Commission for SC/ST shows that approximately 10,000 cases of human right violations on Dalits are reported every month. But what is even more disturbing, is that only one out of ten of the cases are reported annually whilst, nine go unreported. In addition to this, according to the Human Right watch Report, approximately 115 million children are in slavery and 2.6 million children are held as bonded labourers (Narula). After fifty-five years of India’s independence and despite the excellent laws in place to protect Dalit women, they are still suffering unimaginable atrocities from the high caste Hindus. It is believed that thousands of these cases go unreported and unpublicized because the poor Dalits that live in rural areas, who are the worst victims, have no control on power, wealth, justice, police and the media (Thind n.pag). The only way these Dalit women can escape the viscous cycle of poverty, abuse and oppression is through education. Through education more Dalit women can come to know their basic human rights and they can then raise an even stronger voice against abuse and exploitation from the upper castes (Thind; Agarwar). Many Dalit Non-Government Organizations (NGO‘s), both in India and abroad, have been involved in raising the plight of India’s 250 million untouchables. One of the most important tasks of these Dalit NGO’s is to bring the plight of Dalit people to the attention of the International community and to document and publicize human right violations. As the poorest of the poor, Dalit women lack the means and the opportunity to defend themselves at home or to make their problems known outside of rural India. Many Dalit women have formed NGO’s through which they collectively fight against abuse from the upper classes. Such Dalit women abandon tears and embrace the shield of confidence in  the hope of equality. The courage, struggle, and persistence of today's Dalit women against suppression, exploitation and torture has the power to ensure that the future generations will not have to face the bleak reality Dalits have faced for the past two thousand years. The caste system is truly a crippling disease to approximately 250 million Dalits in India today (Narula n.pag). Since its roots are embedded in the Hindu religious scriptures, it seems this disease has no cure, but every voice raised against caste-based discrimination and suppression through Dalit Organizations will turn this from a losing battle to one of victory in which every Dalit will have equal rights, access to education, and a chance to succeed and prosper. Many of the Dalit NGO’s are involved in establishing schools, scholarships, and basic supplements to Dalits in the rural parts of India. NGO’s such as the Ambedkar Centre for Peace and Justice and the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights are involved in bringing the plight of the Dalit people to the attention of the international community and to document and publicize human rights abuse. The longterm objectives are to enfranchise Dalits as full citizens of their society and eliminate caste-based discriminations. I would like to acknowledge, Mr. R. Kamble and Dr. Narnaware for their valuable support and knowledge. 

Dalit Feminism

 In this chapter, I would look at debates on feminism, debates on caste and gender and dalit feminists' critique of main stream feminism. The 1990s is a crucial decade for feminist politics in India. There has been a radical shift in feminism when dalit women have begun to negotiate their representation. Feminism represented only the voice of upper-caste/middle class women, and neglected the question of social justice. The question of caste became crucial to feminist politics and a new need was felt to analyze the feminist movement's blindness to caste. There are two factors which led to this new awareness: one is the participation of women in the protest against the implementation of Mandai Commission's proposal to extend reservations to the OBCs (Other Backward Classes). I Upper-caste women declared that they were against all kinds of reservations to save the nation from the hands of unmeritorious groups. Upper-caste women in this context appeared as assertive women's groups who had shown their social responsibility. This assertion of upper-caste women had shown caste and patriarchal connotations in their argument and lamentation over the death of merit due to reservations. They announced that if the reservations for OBCs is going to be implemented along with already existing reservations for SC/STs, they are going to be deprived of employed husbands. The statement indicates that they support caste system which strictly forbids exogamy and secondly it also implies that they are economically and socially dependent on upper-caste men. Thus they feel their attempt to rescue the upper-castes from "marginalization" due to reservations is justified. 

The second factor contributing to rising awareness was dalit feminists' questioning of the feminist movement's exclusive focus on issues of concern to upper-castel middle class women and its exclusion of dalit women from both representation and recognition as a group facing unique challenges, within feminist organizations. Ruth Manorama is one among such dalit feminists who vehemently questioned the feminist movement's neglect of the caste question and social justice.

Dalit feminism is a still emergent theoretical framework for analyzing casteist patriarchy and various caste-related issues arising in relation to women's lives. DaHt feminism critiques mainstream feminism that excludes the theorization of caste system. At the same time, daHt movement cannot solve the question of datits without theorizing patriarchy and internal patriarchy, because the category dalit includes its women population crushed under the wheels of caste and patriarchy. 

Neither upper-castes nor lower and outcastes are free from patriarchy. But once the awareness of caste oppression is instilled and brings the untouchable into the category of daHt one should step out of the traditional caste position and culture to solve the caste question. In the same way, the emancipating category dalit needs to be free from the caste prejudice and theorize caste system to argue for an egalitarian society for everyone and prevent marginalization of any particular community or category within itself. Since the category is both emancipating and democratic, the significant question of patriarchy cannot be neglected. If the daHt movement is meant to deconstruct certain oppressive systems like caste system, it is equally important to theorize and fight patriarchy within  the dalit community and outside to bring equality and justice for both datit men and dalit women. So far the daHt movement has not focused on issues related to casteist and internal patriarchy within the dalit community and dalit organizations. It is this absence that creates the need for a dalit feminist perspective to emerge. 

Dalit feminism repudiates the sweeping category women which has been central to feminist politics. Gender is a signi fie ant factor of oppression in the society at large and in the family as well. A dalit woman has to face gender discrimination being a woman. and economic and caste exploitation of being a dalit and at the same time she is oppressed by the patriarchy from which the daHt communities are not free. She equally suffers due to the lack of cultural capital as dalits on the whole suffer from. To understand dalit feminism, it is necessary to understand the feminist movement and dalit movement in India. Since 1990s, we find a significant change in the feminist politics and daJit movement, with the assertion of dalit women and rise in consciousness. They defined themselves in relation to dalit movement largely dominated by dalit men and feminist movement largely sustained by upper caste women.

Feminism in India and Issues of Dalit Women 

Politicizing the personal has been one of the most radical points of feminism from the beginning of the movement. Feminism has radically questioned the existing gender relationships, gender discrimination and theorized patriarchy. In the west, feminist movement has been begun by a narrow group of white. middle class and university educated women who theorized the personal as political and other related concerns of women. In India also, feminism (feminist movement) that developed in 1970s (already existing in an unorganized informal way in views, literature and thoughts of women) theorized patriarchy in such a way that ascribed a common agenda to all women. Rege says, "The category 'women' was conceived as being based on collective state of women being oppressed by the fact of their womanhood. "(90) [n the context of India too, women who participated in the movement were middle class, upper caste, urban and educated and thus their theorization of patriarchy missed out caste-class differences among women themselves. Universal sisterhood gained significance in Indian context as welL As a movement that had both intellectual and political concerns, feminism tried to bring awareness among women about oppression, domestic violence, rape and patriarchy and so on. It discusses the issues of gender inequalities and sexual oppression of women to make them rise in revolt against the discrimination that prevails in the family system and in the society. In India (as in case of the west), women belonging to other sections of society other than upper-caste women have powerfully critiqued feminism for its exclusive focus on issues concerning upper-caste (middle class) sections of women which are made to look like the concerns of all women. 

Before I attempt to trace the brief history of feminism in India, I perceive feminism or any such category at two levels: firstly, feminism that works at the theoretical level and secondly, at the organizational level. Feminism has been a theory of understanding which can be operated at very personal level in dealing with the everyday life, family, thinking and consciousness. But at this level, there is no history that can be traced out. At organizational level, I would like to discuss feminist movement in India and various  important ramifications that developed which is an important study for dalit feminism to undertake. 

Though in the beginning (i.e in 1970s to 80s) educated urban women participated in the movement that dealt with the issues of women such as domestic violence, dowry and so on, later, urban working class women also participated in the movement. But these organizations in which the working class women participated are not exclusively feminist organizations. Some of them were left-based organizations fighting against unequal wages, for land reforms and so on. In the later stages, there has been a clear division between what is called feminist organization and other organizations in which women take part. Though they represent the voice of educated upper-caste middle class women, there have been a few interventions by such organizations in issues of importance to lower caste and dalit women. The Mathura rape case is one such historic milestone.' But such interventions have also been criticized by dalit feminists as tokenisms in the history of feminist movement. The interventions made by feminist organizations and women's groups led to changes in the Indian law on rape. But politically conscious dalit women significantly claimed at this point the right of selfrepresentation and declared that they do not want feminists to act and speak on their behalf. From 1990s, various dalit women's organizations have been formed.s At a larger level, even the contemporary feminist concerns are more of upper-caste middle class women than of dalit or lower caste women. Challenging the control of female sexuality, restriction and regulation of women's sexual choice are the important questions that are voiced by feminist organizations. 

The National Federation of Dalit Women was founded by Ruth Manorama in 1993. The organization raised its voice against violence on dalit women. Dalit Mahila Sanghatana was formed by dalit women in Maharastra in 1995. It focused on representing the dalit women's question at the International Women Conference held in Beijing. The self representation of dalit women in Durban Conference on Racism in 1993 and International Women's Conference in Beijing 1995 are path breaking events in the history of daht women politics. 

Sharmila Rege pointed out that upper caste women are more vulnerable to domestic violence and other forms of oppression within the family whereas dalit women face the threat of rape and violence in public sphere.  According to her domestic violence is upper-caste woman's issue and caste oppression and sexual exploitation are the issue of dalit woman. Though both the upper-caste and dalit woman's situations are oppressive, the violence that is generated on dalit women springs from caste and casteist patriarchy. Caste system and hierarchy makes dalits and dalit women subservient to the uppercastes. Dalit communities being involved in works such as leather works, manual scavenging, human scavenging, and a huge number of them in land cultivation and are dependent on the upper-castel land-owning castes. Thus, dalit women who take part in public labour are more prone to labour, economic and sexual abuse and exploitation at the hands of the upper-castes. Women of upper-caste communities are subservient to the men of the same family, whereas dalit women experience patriarchal oppression within the family as well as outside the community. 

Even the reformist movement during colonial times in India has perceived the issues such as Sati and child marriages as upper-caste women's issues, although they were prevalent in dalits and lower castes. The idea of "Indianness" and "Indian culture" were assumed to be that of the upper-castes. It was also assumed that the violence against women and the patriarchal structures were the same for women of all castes. Gabriele Dietrich says that the violence against women cuts across caste and class though the circumstances change.  But not only the circumstances but the patriarchal structures and the systems from which such violence springs also differ and they are also strongly connected. Guru argued in "Dalit Women Talk Differently" that Dalit women suffer two distinct patriarchal structures: the Brahminical form of patriarchy that stigmatizes dalit women due to their caste identity of being untouchable, and political and literary marginalization of dalit women by dalit male dominant movement. Guru argues that the political marginalization of dalit women in post-Ambedkarite dalit movement. He says that, "( ... )dalit men are reproducing the same mechanisms against their women which their high caste adversaries had used to dominate them; "(83) Guru sees patriarchy as the production of upper-caste society and culture. Different manifestations of patriarchy such as dowry, child marriages seem to be part of only upper-caste culture. Guru points out that the upwardly mobile dalits are imitating the upper-caste patriarchy.  Guru says that patriarchy in Maharastra and in the entire country reproduces the upper-caste tradition of dowry, which commodifies women even from landless dalit families. "The dowry system, which was almost non-existent among dalits two decades ago, has become a serious problem now particularly in Maharastra," Guru points out." He also criticizes the Brahminization of dalits through patriarchy.

Guru's argument missed out on datit patriarchy which is not new to the dalit castes even at the grassroots of the pre-Ambedkarite period. ' His critique also ignores the physical abuse within the families that dalit women have to endure and the economic exploitation within the families. Though dalits do not take part in the culture of upper-castes (in case of temple related rituals, food habits and so on), they have been ghettoized at the outskirts of the village and still have interactions with the upper-castes as their labourers and scavengers. Such interaction might have made them imitate the upper-caste control over women in case if such oppression of dalit women and dalit patriarchy was not present at one point of time in the history. Dalit women autobiographers Baby Kamble, Urmila Pawar and other do not agree that even before Ambedkarite period where dalits were living under poor and traditional caste position. 

Rege says that feminism finds it hard to shift its settled viewpoint from the issue of rape in case of dealing with Dalit women. To substantiate the above we can look back at the feminists occasionally intervening in issues like Mathura rape case. In most feminist writings dalit women are either treated with sympathy since they are more prone to rape and sexual exploitation or considered to have privilege to enjoy more freedom and sexual freedom in particular (though not necessarily their relations are out of choice but out of helplessness to fight the landlords and upper-caste men. This happens because of the absence of dalit women in feminist organizations and even in the collections of feminist writings to represent the dalit experience. 14 Mainstream feminism lacks the awareness on the dalit grassroots level experiences and dalit patriarchy. It may also make them blind to the fact of how the upper-caste norms are penetrating in the dalit communities in modernity. However dalit communities were never free from  patriarchy before such upward mobility brought by the economIc betterment or education.

In the context of growing awareness among dalits and (thus) growing atrocities on them, dalit women face sexual abuse, rape by upper-castes and though the feminist movement and dalit movement focus on such issues, an adequate theorization of caste and patriarchy in dalit communities has not been worked out.

According to the norms of the society, "purity" is associated with caste in India. Birth in a particular caste would decide whether one is "pure" or "polluted". The lack of "ritual purity" makes dalit women already "impure". Their participation in the public labour and their visibility in the public, economic deprivation also make dalit women "accessible" to upper-caste men. The economic and caste inferiority leads to the sexual exploitation of dalit women by upper-caste males. Due to the power of upper-castes over dalits, it is not possible for dalit community to fight the exploitation. 

Caste Violence and Dalit Women 

It is also important to look at another important context of caste violence which provides insights into issues which have been ignored by the feminist groups which assert "universal sisterhood". In the context of Chunduru, where the thirteen dalit men were massacred by upper-caste Reddy landlords, upper-caste women complained (in order to justify the atrocity) that they were subjected to sexual harassment by dalit men. 

ls In Khairlanji (Maharastra), in 2006, a dalit family was battered and killed by caste Hindu men and women after sexually abusing dalit women in the family with the entire  village looking on. In this context, a woman journalist Sarita Kaushik strongly defends the crime as against dalit women as a punishment to a daJit woman's sexual "immorality".  
Both the contexts firstly signify women are not free from patriarchal family structures which make them subservient and dependent on the males of the same caste/families. Women also are part of the caste system which make them equally casteist. Secondly it is also substantiated that women and their experiences are not free from their caste position. In both the contexts, upper-caste norms of purity and sexual morality have been treated as the norm for the whole society and dalit women are judged immoral for the fact of being untouchables who are prone to upper-caste sexual exploitation by upper-caste males. Nowhere does society ensure the dalit women's right to live free from sexual exploitation and in spite of that they perceived to be impure. In the context of Chunduru, when the women of upper-castes were purportedly molested by dalit men, death came as a punishment for dalit men. In my understanding, upper-caste women's act of defending the upper-caste male atrocities has its own patriarchal connotations. Women are dependent on men of the family. So, there has been a patriarchal force that works to make upper-caste women defend the atrocities committed by males in order to save them. Patriarchy and caste system are intrinsically linked, upper-caste women are sexually controlled and oppressed in order to save the sanctity of the caste.  The conception of category of 'women' being central to feminism has been threatened once again in the context of Chunduru where the upper-caste women have taken the responsibility of protecting their men from being punished for the atrocity committed. 

Susie Tharu and Tejaswini Niranjana, while talking about post Chunduru developments, mention the incident in which 300 upper caste women marched on the streets complaining that they had been sexually harassed by the dalit men in Chunduru and gheraoed the cars of the then chief minister lanardhan Reddy and fonner Chief Minister N.T Ramarao, protesting the state's failure to protect them from datit men. ls As in the case of the anti-Mandai agitation, upper-caste women in post-Chunduru agitation presented themselves not as traditional submissive women but as feminist subjects who are assertive, non- submissive and protesting against the "injustice" done to them as women or as eitizens. Rege pointed out that in this context upper-caste women 'were invoked as feminist subjects, assertive, non-submissive and protesting against injustice done to them as women and as citizens.' 19 Both in anti-MandaI agitation and post-Chunduru agitation, there was a "masculinization of lower castes" that is all dalits are males and all women as upper-castes. Therefore "obscuring the Dalit woman and marking the lower caste as the predatory male who becomes the legitimate target of 'feminist' rage". The agitation of upper-caste women also served to bring justification to the massacre since upper-caste women are socially dependent on men.  Though, upper-caste women protesting on the streets, publicly claiming that they had been molested by dalit men is not acceptable according the gender nonns of the uppercastes, it gained "respectability" since it is upper-caste women who were protesting out of their aspiration to protect their "endangered chastity" by dalit men. Upper-caste women's protest attained respectability because it is directed against dalit men and generally it is believed that dalit men do not have "access" to upper-caste women. However the protest seems to be "feminist", it gained acceptance because it does not question the foundations of caste or gender. Hence, the upper-caste women's participation in anti-Mandai agitation (upper-caste women announced that they are against extending the reservations to Backward Castes because there is a future threat to them being deprived of employed husbands) and in post-Chunduru marches, reinforces the patriarchal norms of the caste system. According to the norms of the caste system, it is seen that dalit men have no "access" to the upper-caste women which would contaminate the upper-castes whereas dalit women are seen traditionally bound to be subservient and accessible to uppercastes. It is important to posit a question whether if the same protest is done by upper-caste women against upper-caste's males' injustice would have gained the same sort of support from the people and state. It is equally important to see if dalit women's protest against upper-caste men and their exploitation would have gained the same support and respectability. 

Where upper-caste women are considered to "belong" to the upper-caste men, dalit women are not seen as just "belonging" to dalit men but they can be "accessed" by uppercaste men as well. This does not mean that the caste ideology keeps only upper-caste women within the restrictions of the norms of chastity and datit women completely outside such norms of chastity. Though the norms of chastity are not applied to dalit women where they have been sexually accessed by upper-caste men, they are equally subject to norms of chastity within the dalit community. Thus the caste ideology mediated through gender does not make dalit women who take part in public labour free from the internal patriarchy which makes them victims of physical abuse, norms of chastity, economic exploitation (by dalit men also) and so on. 

In the context of education bringing awareness among dalits there are also instances of inter-caste marriages between upper-caste women and dalit men. In case of Chunduru atrocity, the alleged teasing of upper-caste women by dalit boys was also claimed as one of the reasons for massacre which was mentioned in various reports on Chunduru. Either the marital relationships or any kind of relationships between dalit men and upper-caste women is seen as a threat to the sanctity of caste. 

Though feminism treated women as a monolithic category, it did not help to understand the caste and gender dynamics of Chunduru massacre. Caste and patriarchy need to be understood as interlinked categories since Chunduru massacre provided us with the incidents of upper-caste women targeting dalit men while sexual exploitation of dalit women had never been considered as a feminist/women's subject to initiate any such protest against upper-caste men in fact such exploitation is sanctioned by custom. 

Caste Hindu Women and Dalit Women in the Context of Hindutva 

Feminism in India neglected the factors of caste and class, which are crucial in a society like India. Mainstream feminists could not deny the fact that being women of uppercaste, they enjoy the privileges of their caste and a respectable caste position in the society, where as dalit women face caste discrimination. Such caste oppression and the discrimination that dalit women face are not exclusively from caste Hindu men but from caste Hindu women as well. GopaI Guru substantiates this with the example of Shiv Sena women attacking the Dalit women in Bihar.

"The conditions also take a violent form as when the Shiv Sena women attacked Dalit women in Sawali village of Chandrapur district in 1988. Thus, beneath the call for women's solidarity, the identity of Dalit woman as 'dalit' gets whitewashed and allows a non-Dalit woman to speak on her behalf." 

Dalit women face discrimination by caste Hindu women when it comes to questions like access to drinking water in the villages since the caste position of Hindu women makes them privileged over dalit women. 

Though Hinduism is not a monolithic category and is not founded upon any single holy text, Hindu lawgiver Manu seems to have a strong base in Indian society. The Manusmriti inculcates both the patriarchal and caste hierarchy into the society of India and provides the basis for the ultimate dominance of the Brahman community. But this hierarchical society probably might have undergone changes in various periods. In spite of all the changes Brahmin community and its ideology won superiority over the rest of society and thus the caste system and casteist patriarchy are preserved and protected in Hindu society. In Indian context, Hindu religion is the origin of the caste system and provides basis and legitimizes patriarchy. Not just dalitism or dalit feminism, even mainstream feminism needs to look into the religious basis of patriarchy and oppression of women. Unless the mainstream feminism critiques religion and caste that control over women's sexuality, it is difficult to understand the contemporary politics of also provides an understanding of how the various oppressive systems like caste and patriarchy fortify each other.  

Understanding Patriarchy in Dalit Castes

Just as feminism excluded dalit women and confined itself to the issues of upper-caste women, dalit movement also excluded dalit women and the theorization of patriarchy that operates at various levels among different castes in the society. 

Though women suffer from patriarchal oppression, but the system works in different ways in various situations. For example, writers such as Gabriele Dietrich and Kancha Ilaiah say that the patriarchy of dalit communities differs from that of upper-castes and dalit women suffer weaker versions of the patriarchy and thus dalit women live in more egalitarian society. Gabriele Dietrich says there is scope for dalit women fight back the oppression in the families.

    "Cases of dowry connected with torture and murder are more frequent among upper castes and it is probably not exaggerated to say that family violence among upper castes tends to be quite systematic. This type of systematised family violence occurs much less among backward castes and Dalits unless they have become economically prosperous and try to imitate upper caste values, which is very rare. Dalit women are not under the ideology of husband-worship and if they face violence within the family, they may fight back."

Ilaiah conveys a similar understanding of dalit patriarchy.
 "A Dalitbahujan woman does not have to perform padapuja (worshiping the husband's feet) to her husband either in the morning or in the evening. She does not have to address her husband in the way she would address a superior. In a  situation of dispute, word in response to word, and abuse for abuse is the socially visible nonn. Patriarchy as a system does exist among Dalitbahujan, yet in this sense it is considerably more democratic.'·

Kancha llaiah ignores the fact of internal oppression and he makes assumptions about absence or presence of "democratic" patriarchy in daJitibahujan society. Such assumptions were made with superficial understanding of patriarchy and due to the absence of practices like Sati and dowry and the recognition of right to divorce in dalitbahujan culture which is only a myth in various contexts.

"In our families, girls whose in-laws did not look after them well, got divorced very easily and within days second husbands were found for them. While marriages take place at home and are celebrated with one type of meal and drink, divorces also take place with food and drink. Seeking divorce from an irresponsible husband is as much a sanctioned social act as performing mamages. 

Similarly, when we read that Hindu women ought to die along with their dead husbands I was extremely happy that our women do not have to die like that."

Though it is agreed by various scholars such as Sharmila Rege that the patriarchal systems among dalits differ from the patriarchy of upper-castes but it is a misleading idea to perceive dalit communities to be more egalitarian and to say that dalit women can fight back. Swati Margaret points out that the scholars like Kancha I1aiah are  ignoring the fact of wife battering in dalil' families. She also critiques Ilaiah commending dalit communities as observers of "democratic" patriarchy in the families.  It is also important to underline the physical violence that dalit women suffer within the family and the economic and labour exploitation within the same is not something that can be ignored.  I believe even the imitation of upper caste ideals and culture is not the only reason behind dalit patriarchy but daIit caste is also part of larger caste system. At the same time violence also comes from upper-castes on dalit women. Such experiences of multiple ways of oppression of being a woman and a dalit have been neglected by the feminist and dalit scholars. 

I believe that the importance of dalit women writing and bringing out their experiences is stressed in this context where dalit writers and upper-caste women writers have not only been blind to the existence of dalit patriarchy but have also "romanticized" it by proclaiming that there is much freedom, equality and space to fight back for dalit women. For Kancha I1aiah, violence of Sati is almost absent in dalit community. But equally violent forms of patriarchy existed in dalit castes. He ignored the brutal torture and violation of human rights that take place within the dalit community and the atrocities committed on dalit women. Barna in her Sangati shows how dalit women were tortured and killed by their husbands. Mariamma's mother (Barna's Periamma) was repeatedly beaten black and blue by her husband. She dies when he severely tortures her in her post pregnancy for she refuses to have sex with him.(lO) Many incidents of torture and rape of dalit women by their husbands were discussed in Sangati. 

Ilaiah also says that dalit-bahujan women enjoy the right to divorce. Baby Kamble says that she had witnessed the terrible violent forms of patriarchy in the grassroots level dalit families who even lack the food to eat everyday unless they get dead cattle from the upper-caste families where they do manual scavenging such as removing the night soil. It never was easy for any girl to escape the torture from their husbands or in-laws. The right to divorce is not observed in dalit society at all. The tortured wives have got no choice but to live in the in-laws house. She has no space in her natal house to take shelter.

"Many daughters-in-law would try to run away to escape this torture. Once night fell, darkness would descend everywhere, at home, in the village, on the roads. When everybody was fast asleep, the harassed daughter-in-law would pick up a couple of rags and run away under the cover of darkness. It was not at all an easy thing to do. There were no vehicles in those days to take her quickly to her mother's home. The young girl had to be entirely on her own. She had to be extremely careful, and watch each step she took. She had to find her way in pitch darkness, through hills and valleys and thick forests; she had to cross streams and rivers. Her escape would take place in mortal fear lest people who knew her in-laws were watching her. It would take her at least two days to reach her mother's home. Immediately on her heels would follow her brother-in-law or sasra or her husband! Nobody, neither her in-laws nor any of the others, had any sympathy for the poor tortured girl. The husband or the in-laws would beat her to a pulp. Even her brother and father would flog her mercilessly and ask the in-  laws to take her back. The poor girl, numb with pain and hunger, was forced to return to her husband's home."

Kancha Ilaiah's idea of right to divorce of dalitlbahujan women only helps to celebrate daHt culture, but it is not entirely true. Right to divorce is not a common phenomenon among daHt castes, The situation of lack of freedom to escape from the oppressive marriage that is narrated by Baby Kamble is the situation that belongs to the period of I 940s. That shows dalit castes at the grassroots level were also not free from patriarchy. 

According to Gabriele Dietrich, dowry related violence and systematized violence is less among dalits unless they become economically prosperous. But the incidents of atrocities on dalit women narrated by Baby Kamble date back to 1940 where dalits in that period have no possibility of economic prosperity, The relative absence of Sati does not imply that there was no presence of patriarchal violence among dalits. Though dalit women do not have to perform padapuja (what Ilaiah points out), a symbolic form of slavery, one cannot perceive dalit women to be free from patriarchy. They are still considered to be slaves to the family, husband and community. Kamble says "So we made our own arraignments to find slaves -- our very own daughters-in-law I If nobody else, then we could at least enslave them." Dalit women live like slaves and are treated inferior to every member in the in-laws family. Child marriages as a practice also assumed to be a common phenomenon among upper-castes. But Baby Kamble points out that girls of the age around eight or nine were married off among Mahars.

Kamble's autobiography substantiates one dalit women in ten used to die during the childbirth due to lack of awareness, medical help and suppositious beliefs. One daHl  woman among hundred used to be mutilated by husband or in-Iaws Barna describes many dalit women were tortured to death by their husbands. Urmila Pawar sys that daHt men tight for equal right and humane treatment from upper-castes but they behave so inhuman towards their women folk substantiating it with many incidents. Such incidents and experiences of dalit patriarchy have been brought the necessity of dalit women speaking for themselves. 

Gopal Guru, in "Dalit Women Talk Differently", argued that dalit women need to organize themselves outside the mainstream feminist organizations, on the basis of experience, representation and identity. Guru says that the dalit movement is not egalitarian due to internal patriarchy. Similarly, solidarity of women in the society of India is highly contradictory. He also discusses certain internal factors like "Dalit patriarchy", political and literary domination of dalit men. 
Dalit writing and women writing show a significant absence of representation of datit women. The contemporary dalit writing also equally misrepresents the dalit women cause by suspending it as a "non-severe" issue compared to the larger concerns of dalit movement and dalit writing. Literary and political marginalization of dalit women in post-Ambedkarite period also brings the necessity for dalit women to bring out their experiences of patriarchies and caste oppression. 

Patriarchy in Dalit Castes and AmbedkaritelDalit Movement. 

Before looking at the contemporary daht feminist views, r would briefly look at the history of how dalit women organizations took form with the initiative to work for daHt women's cause and development.  Unnila Pawar, a dalit woman writer, who has been associated with many social movements In Maharastra, traced out dalit women's contribution to various Issues related to the oppression of dalit women, such as Devdasi and Murli? These practices in the name of religion are to be found in most villages. DaIit girls are the victims of such practices. Devdasi (Murli) is a tradition of dedicating girls as sexual slaves to the temples. Being a dalit woman herself, Pawar insists on the significance of education for daIit women. It was Ambedkar who insisted on education for dalits and lower castes. According to Ambedkar, education alone would enable the untouchables to fight untouchability and discrimination. Educated daJit women took the initiative to organize dalit women to revolt against such discrimination not only in the society as a whole but also within the so-called emancipatory movements such daIit movement and feminists groups. 

DaJit women, who actively participated in Ambedkarite movement, finnly demanded free and compulsory education for dalit women and they also protested against child marriage among dalits. Meenakshi Moon and Unnila Pawar analyzed the way in which dalit women organizations worked and their participation in Ambedkarite movement. In this phase dalit women who participated in Ambedkarite movement have also stood for the refonnation of marriage and rituals associated with it. "They tried to eliminate unnecessary rituals in the marriage ceremony and tried to reduce expenses in the marriage. ,,

Moon and Pawar's effort makes a difference in documenting the history of Ambedkarite movement from dalit women's perspective. They also showcased the realities of dalit  movement which had been male dominated in tone. We Also Made History (2008) also brings out the patriarchal oppression within dalit communities in spite of dalit men and women being fellow victims of caste oppression and especially those datit males being the active members of Ambedkarite movement. "One of them said, "My husband used to beat me up. When the workers from the movement would come to call me, he would tell me that my husbands had come. 'Go have fun with them,' he would say."

The significance of the work done by Meenakshi Moon and Urmila Pawar lies in how even in the Ambedkarite movement the role of women had been marginalized in the mainstream history of the movement. Such works show how important it is to review the history and politics of dalits from a dalit feminist perspective. The political marginalization of datit women is more conspicuous in post-Ambedkarite daHt movement. Kamble says, "Women played a major role in Dr. Ambedkar's movement. But that doesn't seem to have happened later."

Marginalization of Dalit Women by Dalit (male dominant) Movement

It is not only the caste system and its inequalities that we need to address but also the male domination in daHt communities and in the datit movement. Male domination in the dalit communities can be understood as the result of the Indian social system but when it continues in the movement and in the reconstruction of the history of dalit movement it should be condemned. When the excluded history (since mainstream history neglects the dalits) of dalit movement is being excavated in retrospect, it should be done in a more egalitarian way. But dalil movement had never done so and eventually excluded the datit women's history. 

Gogu Shyamala pointed out that the biggest problem in working with the dalit movement is that men are so rigid to take women's decisions into consideration. She also says that male-dominance in the dalit movement is stronger than in the families. Dalit movement not only subsides dalit women in decision making process, it also oppresses their literary works.)

Dalit Women are the 'Dalits among Dalits'? 

Ruth Manorama said, "Dalit women are the 'Dalits among Dalits', because they are thrice alienated on the basis of caste, class and gender.,,)lpranjali Bandhu brings out various fonns of oppression such as the problem of minimum and unequal wages of dalit women, in spite of women also work equally hard and for the same length of time with men. The problems like lack of education, early marriages, and health problems are also severe among dalit women. There are many prejudices against education for dalit women in the society. Caste ism in the schools is also a deterrent factor for dalit girls that prevent them from aspiring for education. In datit community, it is economical to marry off a much younger girl to an older man and this results in too many pregnancies all the way up to menopause. These early marriages take place also for the fear of dalit girls falling prey to "upper-caste" sexual exploitation. 

All the factors I mentioned such as patriarchy in family, casteist patriarchy in the society and untouchability, sexual and labour exploitation of dalit women make them more oppressed even among outcastes. Dalit feminism is a comprehensive theory that theorizes caste and patriarchy keeping all those factors as important points to dalit women's experience. Theorization of experience and representation is the most significant tool of dalit feminism. 

When da!it community as a whole suffers untouchability, dalit women are more prone to be victimized by the same evil clIstom. Bela Malik has described the practices of untouchability in the Indian village system. She also points out how daht women suffer due to lack of access to water, fuel resources and sanction of facilities, which exposes them to humiliation and violence. Quite often caste Hindu women may discriminate against dalit women since any category in Indian society is not free from caste. Thus the concept of "universal sisterhood" is at stake in cases where upper-caste women become the oppressors.

Dalit Feminist Perspective

 The 1990's have been an important period in dalit women's theoretical and organizational politics. On August 11, 1995, an independent autonomous group was formed by dalit women under the name National Federation of Dalit Women (NFDW) at Delhi. J NFDW recognizes dalit women as thrice alienated on the basis of class, caste and gender. NFDC fights for concerns and aspirations of most marginalized sections called dalit women. 

Datit women writing has been published widely in various languages in this period. In Marathi, a number of dalit women such as Baby Tai Kamble the first dalit woman autobiographer in India, Kumud Pawde, Shantabai Kamble, Urmila Pawar published their biographies. In 1995, Barna, a dalil woman writer published Karukku and Sangati.  In 2003, Gogu Shyamala brought out the first compilation of dalit women writing in Telugu: Nallapoddu.  

Dalit feminism argues for identity and representation for dalit women and does not agree to be swept under the category of women which almost all the times implies only upper caste women. Caste Hindu women do enjoy the privilege of their caste position and cultural capital that is lacking for dalit women. To briefly summarize, dalit feminism foregrounds the relationship between the control over upper-caste women's sexuality by upper-caste males as against the exploitation of dalit women's sexuality and labour by the upper-caste men. It also critiques the internal patriarchy of dalit families and ways of imitating upper-caste nonns of control over the women (both among poor dalits and educated middle class dalits). The penetration of upper-caste nonns of 'virtue', 'beauty', 'morality' in the contemporary era is another factor that dalit feminism critiques. DaIit feminism conceptualizes caste system in relation to patriarchy both within the families and within the whole society.

DaIit feminist writing aims at bringing out the experiences of both physical violence and symbolic violence, which operate at two levels: upper-castes committing atrocities on daIits, patriarchal violence that daIit women suffer from within and outside the caste. It is important to understand the caste and gender dynamics of violence in the society to understand caste violence. 

Dalit women writing! autobiographies help to understand the different layers of caste and gender ideology that operates behind the physical and symbolic caste violence. I would like to look at dalit women autobiographies written by Barna, Kumud Pawde,  Meenakshi Moon, Baby Tai Kamble and so on to discuss the concept of caste violence within the caste and gender dynamics. 

Baby Kamble's first dalit woman autobiography points out various forms of patriarchal violence within the dalit society. She describes the life of Mahars in pre-Ambedkarite period and the influence of Ambedkar's ideology on dalits. It is an important document on the women's participation in Ambedkarite dalit movement and the condition of dalit women during this period. The autobiography aims to proclaim how dalit women lived as slaves in the families and suffered lack of food, medical facilities and so on.

Barna's Karnkku (1992) is the first autobiography that appeared in Tamil. Though a significant part of it critiques the caste inequalities entering Catholic church, it describes both the endemic violence on dalits within the villages (and grassroots level caste relations) and the symbolic violence that humiliates dalits in the educational institutions. Dalit women experience sexual and economic exploitation and the issue of patriarchy which makes dalit women victims of patriarchal control within the families is found only in a few contexts in Karnkku. Nevertheless, the issue of internal patriarchy, physical abuse of dalit women in the families, upper-caste men exploiting dalit women have been widely discussed in Sangati (2005). 

Urmila Pawar's The Weave of My Life (2008) is another significant autobiography written in Marathi. She describes her difficulty in the education system being modeled upon the upper-caste norms and notions of language, culture and values. She also discusses the internal patriarchy which makes dalit women victims of the patriarchal control by dalit men, physical abuse and economic exploitation. 

The autobiography  deals with how dalit movement is blind to the gender issues and how dalit movement is carried away by the notion of "all women being untouchables" which further makes them not consider the issues of dalit women.

Urmila Pawar and Meenakshi Moon's We Also Made History (2008) is a theoretical work of rewriting the history of Ambedkarite movement and the male dominance within the movement. The fact of dalit women's participation in the movement itself is not recognized by Ambedkarite movement. The history of dalit women's participation is brought out by the work. It also foregrounds the violence within the family system of dalits and dalit patriarchy that entered the dalit movement.

My understanding and analysis of various categories of caste violence will be presented in dalit feminist perspective. Caste violence is one of the important questions for dalit feminism. Datit women and men face caste violence and its manifestations at various levels in the society sometimes in the form of atrocities. Dalit women are often victimized and subjected to rape and sexual torture. 

Dalit women are also seen as "belonging" to the community in cases of caste violence, dalit women are targeted to "teach a lesson to the entire caste" or to emasculate the caste. DaHt women are also the victims of patriarchal control and dalit patriarchy. Another important question that 1 would like to look at in my thesis is the intra-caste violence that dalit women experience. Dalit women are the victims of physical violence, torture within the families. This point ha~ been ignored by various dalit and non-dalit and feminist scholars.Political and literary marginalization of dalit women, social stigma  that prevents daHt women from education or subjects them to humiliation are various forms of symbolic violence that I would like to discuss in the coming chapters.


Indian Legal Situation

Under the Indian constitution, discrimination on the basis of caste is illegal and in 1989 the Indian government enacted legislation to combat discrimination based on caste when it passed the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. The government has also enacted legislation which provides quotas for people from low castes in politics and government jobs.
The Indian constitution does reserve a proportion of seats in both Union and State assemblies for Scheduled Castes. Despite this, many Dalits are either unaware of their legal rights or don’t have the resources to seek redress. Dalits are now known by the Indian government as Scheduled Castes and make up 16% of the country’s population.
© Stan Thekaekara
© Stan Thekaekara

Signs of progress

In Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, the Dalits have a strong political presence and are a powerful influence in the forming of the state government. In May 2002, the leader of the low-caste dominated Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Mayawati Kumari, was sworn in as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. For the first 40 years of elected governments in Uttar Pradesh, every single chief minister belonged to upper-caste communities.

‘It was only with the election of a lower-caste chief minister, that these [Dalit] communities were able to see a link between power and decisions that directly benefited them.’ Ram Dutt Tripathi (BBC reporter, 2010)

Doms In Varanasi Seek Justice Through Honorable Rehabilitation

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat 18 March, 2015(
Hundreds of pilgrims seek to see the sunrise on the bank of Ganges in Varanasi and the boatmen go on live commentary of these ghats narrating the mythological details and the most poignant moment come when you see the Manikarnikaghat, Dashashwamegha Ghat and Harishchandraghat reminding you the stories of Raja Harishchandra’s loyalty to his ‘profession’. In an indirect reference, these are the same ‘preaching’ which ask you to do thy duty while ‘result’ is not thy concern. Secondly, Raja Harishchandra is ‘applauded’ because he remained defiant in ‘asking’ for ‘money’ amidst a great human tragedy in which a helpless woman does not have the money to ‘pay’ the charges for funeral which the Doms performs. It means that we should not show any human spirit and value to any one when situation warrants and just be ‘committed’ to our ‘profession’. I think that is the most dangerous aspect of a philosophy which justified discrimination based on caste and gender.
Living on the railway track near Manduadih railway station.. they are not allowed to fetch water from the railway station or nearby. Children and women too are engaged in cleaning the septic tanks as well as toilets. They face untouchability on a daily basis. With no ration cards, no identity cards they face severe discrimination
The references to Domraj often come in these mythologies and they continue to do the task of burning dead bodies at the Ghats and cleaning human excreta in the city. Most of the land meant for them is already occupied and big ghats have erupted on the bank. Nothing has changed for them. In fact, they reflect the criminal civilization which kept them subjugated for thousands of years and the independence that we got in 1947 has no meaning for them as the community remains untouchables among untouchables absolutely ostracized and thoroughly disenfranchised in the holy city.
Officials in Varanasi claim that manual scavenging is absolutely abolished in the city and that there is not a single manual scavenger to be rehabilitated. It is strange and ironical. One would ask a simple question as where have the ‘manual scavengers’ gone? Is there any honorable rehabilitation done to them? Has untouchability finished from the ‘holy city’ and where does the ‘holy shit’ go if the city has become totally sanitized. These are some of the questions which need answer and introspection on part of the city which proudly claims to be the oldest city and a civilized one. Sorry, this is a city of Kabir, Ravidas and Buddha who revolted against brahmanical rituals and untouchability. So, attempt to show greatness of ‘brahmanical rituals’ in Varanasi need questioning.
It was on March 10th that we had a gathering of Women Engaged in Manual Scavenging in Uttar Pradesh in Varanasi with the National Commission for Women. The local journalists had started coming in as one member of the Commission was visiting here. Some reporters had started coming before time and as usual show their ‘hurriedness’ to the organizers. Others started chatting with the women who had come from different parts of the state. One must realize that Women engaged in manual scavenging hail from Balmikis, Rawats, Helas, Bansfors, Halalkhors and Doms in Uttar Pradesh as well as Bihar. All these communities are the most marginalized and face the brunt of untouchability from within the Dalit communities too. Interestingly, so many of the civil society organisations, human rights groups sitting in Varanasi but none bothered about this issue. I was told by every one that manual scavenging is not prevalent in Varanasi. My only question to them is whether entire Varanasi is covered under the sewage system. If not then where does the entire filth go?
The fact is Varanasi has all forms of manual scavenging and we will come to the ‘original’ form of manual scavenging by hand later but first demythise the fact that there does not exist any manual scavenging. Most of the municipal areas now have flushed toilets with septic tanks which need to be ‘cleaned’ in a month, six months or a year. Now, who clean them? And how do they clean them? Is there mechanical cleaning? No none is available. These ‘flushed’ toilets are cleaned by hand manually and the human excreta is unloaded through buckets by these communities. There is bargain for the money and the behavior of the people is not just being rude but also humiliating. It seems they all think it is the job of these communities alone.
It was interesting to see journalist speaking to these women and then turned to me in an attempt to dress me down. ‘What are the organisations doing for them? You have called a meeting for ‘manual scavenging’ and ‘these’ people are asking for ‘houses’. ‘They earn a lot. They ask for Rs 500/- for cleaning one toilet. Can you imagine how big is it when people engaged in MNREGA do not get that much, he said. Do you have any figures of these people and then made a statement that these people just get everything and are not keen to do any other work.’
I was listening to him patiently but my temper was running out of control. ‘ If I am coming from Delhi to tell you and the people in Varanasi that this heinous practice is still prevailing in this city then whose fault is it ? You people claim that there is no ‘carrying night-soil overhead’ and hence no ‘manual scavenging’ but the new act of 2013 define Sewage work, gutter, cleaning of septic tanks, work on railway platform apart from cleaning toilets is ‘manual scavenging’ and on that viewpoint itself the municipal authorities in Varanasi and elsewhere are on the wrong side and must be made accountable and answerable.
Varanasi is being cleaned these days yet you can see filth and garbage everywhere. The roads are dusty and over-crowded with chaos and anarchy on the roads. Everywhere, it is those who have served the city for centuries they are facing the trouble. Their locations are under the threat of eviction. Doms and Hellas have no place to go. In the ‘holy’ city their only duty is to keep the city ‘clean’ but not to ask anything for them.
Basanti Devi is from Manduwadih and along with 70 Dom families they are living on the one side of the railway track. An oral notice has been given to them to evict the land. ‘We have been living here for over 40-50 years without any facilities. We have served people but we have no place to go? Where will our children go’, she says. Others like Mehangi says that the community is in deep trouble as alcoholism is killing the community youths and hence they are unable to speak of their rights.
“I am 20 years old but we have been staying here since my grand- parents’ period. I have no children. I do clean toilets, wash it, pick up the latrine, clean septic tanks etc. I have to get into the septic tank and supply the ‘maal’ i.e. garbage of human excreta upward to throw it away. It’s a kind of daily wage work which we do regularly though not really able to get it daily. We do all kind of work related to sanitation. If the latrine is choked then we have to do it manually by pushing through hands’, says Sanjay.
The work is tough, filthy, dangerous and not a single persons job. It takes 12 hours to clean a septic tank and threat perception is very high. The total number of people engaged could be as low as 5. When I asked them about how a reporter of a leading daily was mocking at them claiming that there charges were very high, Sanjay responded,’ Sir, it is full day work and if there are five persons engaged in it and sometime more than that, then how much one earn in a day. Most of the time, we get between Rs 50-100 and they claim it is too much. It is more humiliation. People don’t even want to pay money for the work we do’, he emphasized.
Initially, I thought that the work may be just of cleaning the septic tanks and of males alone but to my utter surprise and shock, Varanasi’s Doms children and female wards too are engaged in the work. Sehjanti and other women go to nearby areas to clean the latrines and get Rs 50/- for their work for a month from one family. They too are engaged in cleaning of septic tanks and big pits which fills in regular intervals in a month period to a year’s period but work is coming daily.
Look like we are talking in the 16th century when laws of Manu were prevalent and there was no constitution. Can you imagine people not getting access to water and being threatened with Rs 2000 fine for getting access to water? The people who clean the city, pick our garbage, cremate our dead ones are treated as untouchables and do not have a space to live. Can we imagine people not having access to water for a fortnight? Can we imagine people not able to take bath for a month? It is easier for us to claim that Doms or Mushahars or Bansfors are ‘dirty’ but have we asked a simple question as why do they remain unclean? They clean your city, burn your dead ones but have no right to life. No right to live in dignity. Moreover, we do not feel offended to see their condition. We assume that if it is their ‘fundamental’ duty to do this work. Isn’t it utterly disgraceful? When I asked Sanjay, a local youth as why they continue to do this work? ‘What do we do’? ‘Our parents did it, our grandparents did it. My mother did it. We never went to any school’, he reply. ‘We too want to see our children becoming officer but how do we do it? Unless government help it is difficult. At this moment, the untouchability and caste system is so powerful that none will give them any other ‘job’, Says Sanjay.
‘Who will give us job other than this? If we don’t do this than what is the source of our survival? Even this money does not come with respect. There are so many questions with contempt. For small money people think they are doing a great favor to us’ he says.
Doms face untouchability at all level. Their children are not allowed to enter in the school. The other caste children keep a distance from them. Vikki inform me that he went to school for a few days and then when they came to know about his father, work and caste he was sent back. ‘ you don’t need to study, he was told. A child who is not even 10 years of age, Vikky looks older than his age. He now help his family in the ‘work’. He clean the latrine and also goes into cleaning the septic tank. It is so painful to see the children being taken for the ‘work’.
The child here is Vikki. He is around 10 and go to clean toilets and septic tanks. Women too are engaged in all kind of manual scavenging work.
It is our combine failure. Whether it is Varanasi or Mumbai, Delhi or Hyderabad, Chennai or Banglore, Tirpuati or Madurai or Hawarh, manual scavenging is a shame, a blot on Indian nation. Unless, we are determined to abolish it from the root, it would not go away. It need strong and unambiguous national resolve as well as honorable rehabilitation of the communities engaged in manual scavenging, will ensure its complete elimination.
It is not that the Doms don’t want to come out of this filth but as a society we need to do make them feel that they are part of our society. We need a comprehensive package for them so that they are honorably rehabilitated and their children go to school.
Varanasi Municipal Corporation has denied that manual scavenging does not exists there and that they do not need to rehabilitate it. According to the 2014 Act, the government was supposed to identify people engaged in manual scavenging and honorably rehabilitate them. Through this note, I am asking a few things and hope authorities will respond to it and act on it.
1. If manual scavenging is absolutely abolished in Varanasi then where are the people who were engaged in it ? How many of them have been rehabilitated by the government. Is there any record of related to their honorable rehabilitation?
2. Can the government inform us the exact number of Hellas, Rawats, Bansfors, Doms, Halalkhors are living in Varanasi. They are living in slums, in the outskirts and what is the status of their citizenship? Do they have right to vote and identity cards etc.
3. If Varanasi is Manual scavenging free then I want to ask how many areas are covered under the sewage system. If the entire city is not covered under the sewage system then what happens to the other areas outside the sewage areas. Can we get some data regarding the same? Who clean the sewage lines in Varanasi? Does the municipality has any record of people being killed during cleaning process. If yes, how many and what was the compensation. Does the Corporation know that Sewage workers too come under the manual scavenging act after the definition was broadened?
4. There is a fact that most of Varanasi is not covered under Sewage system and hence people have made septic tanks and pit latrines which are cleaned by the people from these communities we have mentioned above. According to the Elimination of Manual Scavenging Act 2013, cleaning the septic tanks or pits etc too falls under the category of manual scavenging. Hence, we would like to know the exact number of persons engaged in this work and what action the municipal corporation plan to take in this regard? What will be your rehabilitation policy for these communities?
5. Doms are on the verge of eviction from Madudih and Sunderpur areas. There is a threat. They have not got any alternative place to live. None of them have identity cards and other facilities which government should have provided to them. We demand immediate action in this regard.
6. There is manual scavenging prevalent in Varanasi even according to old pattern of carrying nightsoil in buckets and baskets. When will government identity the exact number of people and rehabilitate them. Will it take action against people who are compelling people into it.
7. What is number of people employed by Varanasi Municiple Corporation ? How many of them hail from the manual scavenging communities? Are there any Hellas, Halalkhors and Doms in any of the Corporation’s public work ? If not then why? Which communities are ‘technically’ recruited for ‘sanitation work’ in the corporation?
These questions came in my mind when I glanced through government information that no manual scavenging exists in Varanasi. Social activists, organisations as well as media had no clue about it which is more than shameful. I was determined about it that it exists as the abovementioned questions were there in my mind. Being an old city, Varanasi could not have changed over night to become Scavenging free. Hence, I had send a team to investigate the matter and visit these busties who reported to me about septic tanks cleaning. None was clear about the manual scavenging act which includes all these practices into the definition of manual scavenging. That apart, all these people I mentioned spoke to me and as well as in the Conference called by the National Commission for Women on March 10th in Varanasi. Later, I visited the Manduadih basti and have recorded the statements of the people. Right now, we hope that Uttar Pradesh government will take immediate action on it and not through denying the very existence of it but by the honorable rehabilitation of the people and fix accountability of the officials who have no clue about it.
India’s Caste Culture is a Rape Culture

A Dalit woman explains how the caste system is a lethal one where, according to India’s National Crime Records Bureau, four Dalit women are raped, two Dalits are murdered, and two Dalit homes are torched every day.
This past week, the world mourned with a town called Baduan in Uttar Pradesh, India.  There the raped bodies of two young girls were found hanging in a mango tree while behind them their grim families refused to leave until justice was done. And as the news cycle ran statements from International NGOs, UN Officials, and pundits, there was no denying that the rotting smell of India’s strange fruit had come front and center to the world stage.  
I am a Dalit woman, I’m here to tell you that this Strange Fruit has a name and its name is caste. Just as there is no way to understand sexual violence in the history of the United States without understanding racism, there is no way to understand the frequency and lack of punishment of violence against women in India right now without understanding caste.  
This system ranks human beings at birth, with your family’s caste determining the whole of your life—your job, your level of spiritual purity, and your social standing. Those at the bottom are branded “Untouchables”, untouchable because we are spiritually defiling to others and thus condemned to a life of exploitation.  
We are 200 million people struggling against this unjust system. We are not a small fringe group, we are a critical mass.  We reject this heinous system and call ourselves “Dalits.” Dalit meaning broken by oppression, but defined by struggle.    
Since independence there has been an affirmative action policy in India that has led to a first generation of Dalit doctors, scientists, lawyers, and public officials. Yet the great majority of Dalits are still condemned to the margins of life. We live in a caste apartheid with separate villages, places of worship, and even schools.  It is a lethal system where, according to India’s National Crime Records Bureau, four Dalit women are raped, two Dalits are murdered, and two Dalit homes are torched every day.  
Baduan has woken up the world to this reality. India’s culture of caste is a culture of rape. Both for oppression and opportunism, caste-based sexual violence is meant to silence our communities. Each attempt to achieve equality— going to school, getting a job, or voting—brings greater risk of reprisal.  Because at its heart, caste-based sexual violence is about creating a climate of terror so that Dalits will fear challenging this system. This reprisal violence though has now reached record numbers with a recent study by the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights reporting that over 67% of Dalit women have faced some form of sexual violence.
This culture of rape is also a culture of impunity where upper-caste Hindu perpetrators of these crimes are protected within India’s rape culture at all levels of the justice system. UN Special Rapporteur Ms. Rashida Manjoo relays in her recent report on the status of women in India that there is a “deeply entrenched patriarchal attitude of police officers, prosecutors, judicial officers.” This coupled with the unsavory reality that members of the police, judiciary, and public officials often collude with perpetrators to keep Dalit women from filing claims and receiving justice.    
That is why we must all break the silence about caste-based sexual violence. We must stop talking about this rape culture in terms of individual incidents. It is more than Baduan, Delhi, Bagahana, or Mumbai. It is in fact the India of today. We must look at this as a systemic, structural problem. We must look at the culpability of the Indian state, from the police to the courts. The shame intended for Dalits by these acts is actually the shame of a country that refuses to protect all its citizens. From the corrupt, rural police outpost to the politicians in Delhi, the culture of impunity protects perpetrators and denies justice for our women.  
With such a failure of the rule of law, the only legitimate response we have now is to fight. Dalit women in all spheres-- activists, thinkers, artists-- are leading historic movements all over South Asia to end caste and caste-based sexual violence. Because the world stood with the civil rights movement in the United Sates and the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, these movements succeeded. So too, we ask for the world to stand shoulder to shoulder with Dalit women and our families to end this violence. We do not fight only for ourselves, we fight for all who have suffered from this rape culture.  
So we ask you. Stand with us. For this is our final truth: Until Dalit women are free, no woman is free. 
Thenmozhi Soundararajan is a filmmaker and Transmedia artist. She is the co-founder of the international women’s media technology collective , Third World Majority. 

2014 Trafficking in Persons Report - India

PublisherUnited States Department of State
Publication Date20 June 2014
Cite asUnited States Department of State, 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report - India, 20 June 2014, available at: [accessed 10 August 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
INDIA (Tier 2)
India is a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. The forced labor of an estimated 20 to 65 million citizens constitutes India's largest trafficking problem; men, women, and children in debt bondage – sometimes inherited from previous generations – are forced to work in industries such as brick kilns, rice mills, agriculture, and embroidery factories. A common characteristic of bonded labor is the use of physical and sexual violence as coercive means. Ninety percent of India's trafficking problem is internal, and those from the most disadvantaged social strata – lowest caste Dalits, members of tribal communities, religious minorities, and women from excluded groups – are most vulnerable. Trafficking victims in India at times are injured or killed by their traffickers; for example, a labor contractor in the State of Odisha chopped off the hands of two bonded labor victims in 2013. Media reported instances of severe mistreatment of domestic servants in New Delhi, many of whom were victims of forced labor, including cases of rape, torture, and murder. NGOs observed that the majority of trafficking victims are recruited by agents known to them in their home villages with promises of work in urban or other rural areas. Trafficking between Indian states continues to rise due to increased mobility and growth in industries that use forced labor, such as construction, textiles, wire manufacturing for underground cables, biscuit factories, and floriculture. Thousands of unregulated work placement agencies reportedly engage in sex and labor trafficking but escape prosecution; some of these agents participate in the sexual abuse that approximately 20 percent of domestic workers reportedly experience. Placement agencies also provide child labor for domestic service, meeting a demand for cheap and docile workers and creating a group vulnerable to trafficking.
Children are subjected to forced labor as factory workers, beggars, agricultural workers, and, in some rural areas of Northern India, as carpet weavers. A 2013 study of India's hand-made carpet sector revealed 2,612 cases of forced labor and 2,010 cases of bonded labor of adults and children in nine Northern Indian states, including entire villages subjected to debt bondage in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. Begging ringmasters sometimes maim children as a means to earn more money. Boys from Nepal and Bangladesh continue to be subjected to forced labor in coal mines in the state of Meghalaya. Boys from the region of Kashmir are forced by insurgent separatists and terrorist groups to fight against the Indian government. Burmese Rohingya and Sri Lankan Tamil refugees continue to be vulnerable to forced labor in India. Boys from Bihar are subjected to forced labor in embroidery factories in Nepal.
Experts estimate that millions of women and children are victims of sex trafficking in India. Children continue to be subjected to sex trafficking in religious pilgrimage centers and tourist destinations. Girls from Assam state are kidnapped for domestic servitude. Around 90 percent of the girls who were from Jharkhand and were victimized work as domestic servants. A large number of Nepali, Afghan, and Bangladeshi females – the majority of whom are children aged nine to 14 years old – and women and girls from China, Russia, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, the Philippines, and Uganda are also subjected to sex trafficking in India. Female trafficking victims are frequently exploited in Kolkata, Mumbai, Delhi, Gujarat, and along the India-Nepal border. Newspapers contain advertisements promising full body massages, often by Afghan women, who are then forced to offer sexual services. Traffickers also pose as matchmakers, arranging sham marriages within India or to Gulf states, and then subject women and girls to sex trafficking. West Bengal continues to be a source for trafficking victims, with girls more frequently subjected to sex trafficking in small hotels, vehicles, huts, and private residences than traditional red light districts. Experts also reported increasing demand for women from smaller towns in North and Western India for sex and labor trafficking; until recently, victims have typically originated from Eastern India and Bangladesh.
Some Indian migrants who willingly seek work as construction workers, domestic servants, and other low-skilled laborers in the Middle East and, to a lesser extent, Afghanistan, Southeast Asia, Bhutan, the United States, Europe, Southern Africa, South America, the Caribbean, and other regions, subsequently face forced labor conditions initiated by recruitment fraud and usurious recruitment fees charged by Indian labor brokers. Some Bangladeshi migrants are subjected to forced labor in India through recruitment fraud and debt bondage. Trafficking victims – primarily girls – continue to be recruited from Bangladesh and Nepal and brought to Mumbai. An increasing number of foreign women, mostly from Central Asia and Bangladesh, were rescued from debt bondage within Hyderabad; labor trafficking, including bonded labor, reportedly continues in Odisha.
The Government of India does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Experts reported increased acknowledgement of India's trafficking problem by government officials and increased efforts to combat it. Despite these efforts, the protection of trafficking victims and the prosecution of their suspected exploiters were uneven among states and municipalities. While some courts in some states have secured serious penalties for convicted traffickers, continued complicity of government officials enabled traffickers to exploit additional men, women, and children. Officials facilitated trafficking by taking bribes, warning traffickers about raids, helping traffickers destroy evidence, handing victims back to traffickers, and physically and sexually assaulting victims. Lack of political will and sensitivity to victims' trauma continued, with one senior official stating that victims choose "that lifestyle;" another politician stated that victims were better off exploited than they would be otherwise.
Recommendations for India:
Prosecute officials allegedly complicit in trafficking, and convict and punish those found guilty; continue to sensitize law enforcement officials to human trafficking issues and educate them about changes to the law; cease the penalization of victims of human trafficking; integrate anti-trafficking procedures into natural disaster planning and training; establish additional Anti-Human Trafficking Units (AHTUs) in source areas; encourage AHTUs to address all forms of trafficking, including forced labor of adults and children; hire additional female police officers to work with trafficking victims; coordinate standard operating procedures (SOPs) among police and child welfare departments for the rescue, repatriation, and rehabilitation of trafficked children; prosecute suspected traffickers and punish those found guilty with sentences commensurate with those of other serious crimes; increase funding for shelters, regular training of staff working with victims, and the creation of a quality control board; through continued coordination with stakeholders, increase prevention efforts and services provided to victims of forced and bonded labor; increase prosecutions of all forms of trafficking, including bonded labor, respecting due process, and report on these law enforcement efforts; improve protections for trafficking victims who testify against their suspected traffickers; develop and implement SOPs to harmonize victim identification and repatriation, and prosecution of suspected traffickers when trafficking crimes cross state lines; provide funding for additional states to establish fast-track courts that respect due process and deal with all forms of human trafficking; promptly disburse government funding for anti-trafficking shelter homes and develop monitoring mechanisms to ensure quality of care; require state governments to comply with the October 2012 Supreme Court judgment to accurately report on the number of bonded labor victims; and fund more public awareness campaigns in informal settlements, schools, and colleges.
The Government of India did not provide adequate anti-trafficking law enforcement data; observers noted a lack of progress based on low rates of convictions, with most offenders receiving fines in lieu of imprisonment. Section 370 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) criminalizes government officials' involvement in human trafficking, prescribing sentences up to life imprisonment. It also prohibits most forms of sex trafficking and prescribes sufficiently stringent penalties ranging from seven years' to life imprisonment. These penalties are commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Section 370 does not, however, provide that the prostitution of a child under the age of 18 is an act of human trafficking in the absence of coercive means, the standard of the 2000 UN TIP Protocol, though the prostitution of minors is criminalized under other statutes. An April 2013 change in the criminal law, Section 166A of the IPC, holds police responsible for delays in registering a First Information Report (FIR) after a victim makes a complaint. Punishment for inaction ranges from six months to two years' imprisonment. India also prohibits many forms of forced labor through the Bonded Labor System Abolition Act (BLSA), the Child Labor (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, the Juvenile Justice Act, and other provisions of the IPC; however, these provisions were unevenly enforced, and their prescribed penalties are not sufficiently stringent. India prohibits most forms of sex trafficking under the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act (ITPA) and various provisions of the IPC. However, the ITPA also criminalizes other offenses, including prostitution, and is often used to prosecute sex trafficking victims.
The Government of India did not report comprehensive law enforcement data on human trafficking. Reported incidents of inaction by law enforcement and prosecutors reflected inconsistent application of the law across jurisdictions, corruption among officials, and a lack of awareness or capacity in some parts of the country. Information publicly released as human trafficking data by the National Crimes Record Bureau contained aggregated data under the ITPA (which included statistics on the government's penalization of trafficking victims), and a limited number of IPC provisions which only addressed sex trafficking of girls, rather than a broader range of human trafficking crimes; in addition, the data provided did not specify the number of investigations, prosecutions, or convictions carried out by the government. Some of the 28 states in India reported law enforcement data on human trafficking, but such information covers only a small portion of the country. Observers noted the need for more specialized courts in other states. Experts expressed concern about a lack of political will to combat trafficking and protect victims in West Bengal, which has no AHTUs, trafficking-specific law enforcement units that liaise with other agencies and refer victims to shelters, no rehabilitation services for victims, and no cases investigated or prosecuted in 2013 under the ITPA or the new trafficking laws, despite the area being a major source for trafficking.
Government officials' complicity in human trafficking remained prevalent and the Indian government made few efforts to bring them to justice; victims were sometimes arrested or targeted for investigation for reporting abuse. In May 2013, Hyderabad police arrested a government official for allegedly operating a brothel. In June 2013, 17 police officers, including two superintendents, were suspended in Kerala for their involvement in a sex trafficking ring run through two airports; several of the officers were arrested and their cases remained pending at the close of the reporting period. Despite cooperating with police, the victim who reported this case was arrested and charged with passport fraud. In June 2013, authorities arrested two police officers for running a brothel. In July 2013, disciplinary action was taken against three Kerala police officers for facilitating the transport of trafficking victims to Dubai. In August 2013, two New Delhi police officers were arrested for running an alleged prostitution and extortion racket. In November 2013, a Member of Parliament and his wife were arrested for the alleged torture and murder of their domestic servant. An Indian consular officer at the New York consulate was indicted in December 2013 for visa fraud related to her alleged exploitation of an Indian domestic worker. NGOs reported other cases of corrupt officials returning rescued and escaped bonded laborers back to their exploiters; government officials attempting to dissuade bonded labor victims from pressing charges, stating that there would be negative repercussions from superiors if reported; and the involvement in bonded labor of regional politicians who used influence to block prosecutions. Police also reportedly accepted bribes in the form of money and sexual services in exchange for ignoring or failing to pursue trafficking charges, sexually abused trafficking victims, tipped suspected traffickers off to raids, released suspected traffickers after their arrests, and helped suspected traffickers destroy evidence.
The Government of India collaborated with international organizations, NGOs, and state governments in its efforts to train police, judges, and lawyers on the handling of trafficking cases. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) reported that every district across India conducted training for prosecutors and judges on trafficking. The MHA continued to offer a human trafficking certificate course through a public university, continued a two-year project for training law enforcement officers in four states in association with an international organization, and supported the Bureau of Police Research and Development Initiatives by conducting government training programs with state police academies. State and local governments also conducted extensive training. The government encountered difficulties in conducting cooperative investigations with the Governments of Nepal and Bangladesh due to multiple layers of bureaucracy and lack of SOPs.
The Government of India made some improvements in the areas of victim care, rehabilitation, and compensation; however, the implementation of these services was inconsistent and their quality was frequently substandard. Experts observed that much of the focus of the government's victim protection activities was limited to sex trafficking victims, with inadequate care and services provided to victims of forced and bonded labor. Experts also reported that officials in many small towns and villages made minimal efforts to protect trafficking victims. NGOs cited the 2013 creation of child protection cells at major railway stations as a significant development in victim protection, even though they were not trafficking specific – child protection cells paired police and NGOs to identify exploited children and refer them to protective services. A 2009 MHA non-binding directive advises state government officials to use SOPs to identify trafficking victims proactively and refer them to protection services; however, there is no information that such SOPs were used during the year, and the government did not provide information on the number of trafficking victims it identified. Experts noted that funding for NGOs was insufficient to meet trafficking victims' needs and law enforcement officers were not appropriately trained to identify victims. NGOs relied primarily on donor contributions to provide victims services, though some received government funds. Both government- and NGO-run shelters faced shortages of financial resources and trained personnel, particularly the lack of counselors and medical staff. Disbursal of funding to NGOs that provided services to victims was delayed and corruption reportedly drained valuable resources that were intended for victim care. An NGO reported very poor conditions at one government-run shelter, with no running water and only one meal provided per day; desperate victims ran off or returned to prostitution rather than accept such conditions. The government referred victims it removed from exploitation to government-funded NGO care and rehabilitation shelters throughout India; services such as psychological counseling and medical treatment were scarce or of poor quality in some of these facilities. The government provided shelter to an unknown number of Indian and foreign victims; both had access to government hospitals for emergency medical services, although long waiting lists made it difficult to obtain surgery and other procedures and, at times, NGOs had to pay for victims' medical treatment. Funding for government programs is jointly shared between the central and state governments. Child victims were placed in private shelters or in government aftercare shelters known as juvenile justice homes and largely received the same government services as adults.
The government policy on foreign victims of trafficking was to repatriate them to their country of origin at the earliest possible time. Foreign sex trafficking victims were detained in government aftercare homes until transfer to their country of origin was possible. Due to a number of constraints, this process resulted in victims, especially those from Bangladesh, spending upwards of two to four years in these homes before being repatriated. Foreign trafficking victims are not permitted to work in the local economy. In a previous reporting period the MHA provided guidelines to all state governments on procedures to deal with foreign nationals detained in cases of human trafficking; the guidelines note that women and children who are declared victims should not be prosecuted under the Foreigners Act. It further advised states and union territories to refer the victims to government-run shelters until they are repatriated and encouraged use of video conferencing facilities for victims' testimony. It appears that in some states, MHA guidelines are systematically used; in others, services remained ad hoc at best. Officials from the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights noted a lack of SOPs among police and child welfare departments in source states to coordinate the rescue, repatriation, and rehabilitation of trafficked children. Victims had the right to file civil suits against traffickers for damages. Prosecutors may request special protections for victims during trial, including closing proceedings to the media and public, testifying behind screens, and the blocking of irrelevant and potentially harmful questions. Rescued bonded laborers are entitled to "release certificates" that entitle them to compensation, but victims in Odisha and other states experienced delays in excess of two years in receiving the certificates.
Some government-run shelters did not permit adult victims to leave the premises, purportedly for security reasons, contrary to international principles on the protection of victims. In some cases, traffickers continued to re-recruit victims by pretending to be family members and convincing shelter managers to release victims to them. During investigations, police sometimes treated victims as suspected criminals and subjected them to aggressive questioning. The Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA) claimed to provide discretionary funds to Indian embassies to help rehabilitate or repatriate Indian citizens who are victims of trafficking or domestic violence abroad, but officials noted very few embassies made use of the funds. There were many reports of trafficking victims being penalized for acts committed as a result of being trafficked: foreign victims were often detained under the Foreigners' Act for their undocumented status or for document fraud, and Section 8 of the ITPA (solicitation) and Section 294 of the IPC (obscenity in public places) were used to prosecute and convict sex trafficking victims.
The Government of India conducted numerous efforts to prevent human trafficking. NGOs noted a lack of awareness about trafficking in some informal settlements, schools, and colleges. Many government officials continued to conflate trafficking with smuggling and denied that bonded labor was a problem in India. There were significant improvements in coordination among concerned government offices, including police, Labor Ministry officials, state Women and Child Departments, and Child Welfare Committees in combating trafficking. An export council including the Indian Ministry of Textiles launched an initiative to help manufacturers in the textile industry follow proper labor practices and prevent forced labor. Despite India being a source and destination for sex tourism, the government did not take measures to reduce the participation of its nationals in child sex tourism. Indian military personnel must undergo a training program on trafficking conducted by the Indian military and certified by the UN before deploying to peacekeeping or similar missions. The government did not report any efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor.

Bihar not alone in denying justice to dalits

NEW DELHI: The recent acquittal of all accused in the Laxmanpur Bathe massacre case is not an isolated example of justice denied to dalits. In terms of conviction rate in cases of crimes against Scheduled Castes, the national average is quite disappointing, with Bihar among the bottom rankers. 

According to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data, while the national conviction rate for overall IPC crimes stood at 38.5%, it was only 23.9% in case of crimes against SCs, suggesting Bihar is not an exception in denying justice to dalits

However, the eastern state is certainly among the worst. Conviction rate for crimes against SCs in Bihar stood at 12.4% even though conviction rate for overall IPC crimes in the state was 15.9%. Bihar is among the states with maximum number of crimes against dalits (4,821); next only to UP and Rajasthan. 

Interestingly, UP, which had maximum number of cases of crimes against SCs (6,202) in 2012 had the best conviction rate among big states. Its conviction rate in such cases was 51.4%, next only to Sikkim (66.7%) and Uttarakhand (54.5%). However, both states have low populations, very few such cases and hardly any caste conflicts in their society. 

Rajasthan, which had the second-highest number of crimes against SCs (5,559), had a conviction rate of 41%, more than three times that of Bihar. Even MP with 2,875 such cases had a conviction rate of 35.3%. Only Andhra Pradesh (9.1%), Odisha (6.3%) and Karnataka (4.8%) among states with more than 2,000 cases of crimes against SCs had a worse conviction rate than Bihar. In the category of crimes under Prevention of Atrocities against SCs and STs Act, the performance of the justice system was even worse. The national conviction rate in these cases was merely 18.8%, worse than the national average for overall crimes against SCs (23.9%). However, analysts said while the issue of justice denied to dalits was a serious one and the data on overall crimes against SCs in terms of conviction rate only proved the point, the corresponding numbers for Atrocities Act must be taken with a pinch of salt. "In this category, it has often been seen that a lot of false cases are registered which ultimately fall flat in court. Several times, dalits become pawns in the fight between two upper caste landlords in a village and file false cases," said a senior IPS officer. 

India: ‘Hidden Apartheid’ of Discrimination Against Dalits                  Government Fails to End Caste-Based Segregation and Attacks
FEBRUARY 14, 2007
Prime Minister Singh has rightly compared ‘untouchability’ to apartheid, and he should now turn his words into action to protect the rights of Dalits. The Indian government can no longer deny its collusion in maintaining a system of entrenched social and economic segregation.
Professor Smita Narula, faculty director of the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice (CHRGJ) at New York University School of Law, and co-author of the report
(New York) - India has systematically failed to uphold its international legal obligations to ensure the fundamental human rights of Dalits, or so-called untouchables, despite laws and policies against caste discrimination, the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice and Human Rights Watch said in a new report released today. More than 165 million Dalits in India are condemned to a lifetime of abuse simply because of their caste.
The 113-page report, “Hidden Apartheid: Caste Discrimination against India’s ‘Untouchables’,” was produced as a “shadow report” in response to India’s submission to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), which monitors implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD). The committee will review India’s compliance with the convention during hearings in Geneva on February 23 and 26.
On December 27, 2006 Manmohan Singh became the first sitting Indian prime minister to openly acknowledge the parallel between the practice of “untouchability” and the crime of apartheid. Singh described “untouchability” as a “blot on humanity” adding that “even after 60 years of constitutional and legal protection and state support, there is still social discrimination against Dalits in many parts of our country.”
“Prime Minister Singh has rightly compared ‘untouchability’ to apartheid, and he should now turn his words into action to protect the rights of Dalits,” said Professor Smita Narula, faculty director of the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice (CHRGJ) at New York University School of Law, and co-author of the report. “The Indian government can no longer deny its collusion in maintaining a system of entrenched social and economic segregation.”
Dalits endure segregation in housing, schools, and access to public services. They are denied access to land, forced to work in degrading conditions, and routinely abused at the hands of the police and upper-caste community members who enjoy the state’s protection. Entrenched discrimination violates Dalits’ rights to education, health, housing, property, freedom of religion, free choice of employment, and equal treatment before the law. Dalits also suffer routine violations of their right to life and security of person through state-sponsored or -sanctioned acts of violence, including torture.
Caste-motivated killings, rapes, and other abuses are a daily occurrence in India. Between 2001 and 2002 close to 58,000 cases were registered under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act – legislation that criminalizes particularly egregious abuses against Dalits and tribal community members. A 2005 government report states that a crime is committed against a Dalit every 20 minutes. Though staggering, these figures represent only a fraction of actual incidents since many Dalits do not register cases for fear of retaliation by the police and upper-caste individuals.
Both state and private actors commit these crimes with impunity. Even on the relatively rare occasions on which a case reaches court, the most likely outcome is acquittal. Indian government reports reveal that between 1999 and 2001 as many as 89 percent of trials involving offenses against Dalits resulted in acquittals.
A resolution passed by the European Parliament on February 1, 2007 found India’s efforts to enforce laws protecting Dalits to be “grossly inadequate,” adding that “atrocities, untouchability, illiteracy, [and] inequality of opportunity, continue to blight the lives of India’s Dalits.” The resolution called on the Indian government to engage with CERD in its efforts to end caste-based discrimination. Dalit leaders welcomed the resolution, but Indian officials dismissed it as lacking in “balance and perspective.”
“International scrutiny is growing and with it the condemnation of abuses resulting from the caste system and the government’s failure to protect Dalits,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “India needs to mobilize the entire government and make good on its paper commitments to end caste abuses. Otherwise, it risks pariah status for its homegrown brand of apartheid.”
Attempts by Dalits to defy the caste order, to demand their rights, or to lay claim to land that is legally theirs are consistently met with economic boycotts or retaliatory violence. For example, in Punjab on January 5, 2006 Dalit laborer and activist Bant Singh, seeking the prosecution of the people who gang-raped his daughter, was beaten so severely that both arms and one leg had to be amputated. On September 26, 2006 in Kherlanji village, Maharashtra, a Dalit family was killed by an upper-caste mob, after the mother and daughter were stripped, beaten and paraded through the village and the two brothers were brutally beaten. They were attacked because they refused to let upper-caste farmers take their land. After widespread protests at the police’s failure to arrest the perpetrators, some of those accused in the killing were finally arrested and police and medical officers who had failed to do their jobs were suspended from duty.
Exploitation of labor is at the very heart of the caste system. Dalits are forced to perform tasks deemed too “polluting” or degrading for non-Dalits to carry out. According to unofficial estimates, more than 1.3 million Dalits – mostly women – are employed as manual scavengers to clear human waste from dry pit latrines. In several cities, Dalits are lowered into manholes without protection to clear sewage blockages, resulting in more than 100 deaths each year from inhalation of toxic gases or from drowning in excrement. Dalits comprise the majority of agricultural, bonded, and child laborers in the country. Many survive on less than US$1 per day.
In January 2007 the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women concluded that Dalit women in India suffer from “deeply rooted structural discrimination.” “Hidden Apartheid” records the plight of Dalit women and the multiple forms of discrimination they face. Abuses documented in the report include sexual abuse by the police and upper-caste men, forced prostitution, and discrimination in employment and the payment of wages.
Dalit children face consistent hurdles in access to education. They are made to sit in the back of classrooms and endure verbal and physical harassment from teachers and students. The effect of such abuses is borne out by the low literacy and high drop-out rates for Dalits.
The Center for Human Rights and Global Justice and Human Rights Watch call on CERD to scrutinize the gap between India’s human rights commitments and the daily reality faced by Dalits. In particular, CERD should request that the Indian government:
  • Identify measures taken to ensure appropriate reforms to eliminate police abuses against Dalits and other marginalized communities;
  • Provide concrete plans to implement laws and government policies to protect Dalits, and Dalit women in particular, from physical and sexual violence;
  • Identify steps taken to eradicate caste-based segregation in residential areas and schools, and in access to public services; and,
  • Outline plans to ensure the effective eradication of exploitative labor arrangements and effective implementation of rehabilitation schemes for Dalit bonded and child laborers, manual scavengers, and for Dalit women forced into prostitution.
“International outrage over the treatment of Dalits is matched by growing national discontent,” Smita Narula said. “India can’t ignore the voices of 165 million citizens.”
“Hidden Apartheid” is based on in-depth investigations by CHRGJ, Human Rights Watch, Indian non-governmental organizations, and media sources. The pervasiveness of abuses against Dalits is corroborated by the reports of Indian governmental agencies, including the National Human Rights Commission, and the National Commission on Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. These and other sources were compiled, investigated, and analyzed under international law by NYU School of Law’s International Human Rights Clinic.
The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) is a body of independent experts responsible for monitoring states’ compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), ratified by India in 1968. It guarantees rights of non-discrimination on the basis of “race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin.” In 1996 CERD concluded that the plight of Dalits falls squarely under the prohibition of descent-based discrimination. As a state party to ICERD, India is obligated to submit periodic reports detailing its implementation of rights guaranteed under the convention. During the review session CERD examines these reports and engages in constructive dialogue with the state party, addressing its concerns and offering recommendations. CERD uses supplementary information contained in non-governmental organization “shadow reports” to evaluate states’ reports. India’s report to CERD, eight years overdue, covers compliance with the convention from 1996 to 2006 yet does not contain a single mention of abuses against Dalits – abuses that India’s own governmental agencies have documented and verified.

The Status of Dalits

International Humanist News
IHN 2005.4 November
Surepally Sujatha
The United Nations recently appointed two special rapporteurs to prepare a comprehensive study on discrimination based on work and descent. This note is based on a submission made by Surepally Sujatha to the 11th Session of the Working Group on Minorities of the UN Sub-Commission on Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in June 2005.
The Indian Constitution: Minorities in India have been recognised only on the basis of "religion or language". The Indian Constitution guarantees equality, freedom, justice and human dignity to every citizen and Article 14 specifically assures an Indian citizen's right to equality. While Article 15 prohibits any discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth, Article 17 of the Indian Constitution specifically takes into cognizance the practice of untouchability against the Dalits and forbids its practice. The constitutional safeguards are of course important, but Dalits continue to face multiple problems - in whichever religion they are.
Dalits in Hinduism: The Indian National Human Rights Commission noted that Dalits continue to live in segregated settlements, and work in bad conditions despite decades of attempts to redress the situation. Dalits are not allowed to enter temples, or to celebrate festivals like the other Hindus. They cannot drink or dine along with the caste Hindus. Most of the atrocities against Hindu Dalits are committed by members of the dominant castes, but not necessarily the upper-most ones. During communal conflicts Dalits always carry a double burden - they are discriminated against by caste Hindus, and at the same time they are easy targets of others who consider them Hindus!
Dalits in Christianity: Many Dalits converted to Christianity as a result of work by missionaries. In fact, more than 50% of India's Christian population is of Dalit origin. Unfortunately, the caste system and associated discriminatory practices exist in the Christian religion too. Almost everywhere Christian Dalits are forced to have separate churches, and untouchablity is practised within the religion.
Dalits in Islam: Indian Muslims are broadly divided along caste lines or into caste-like groups, despite Islam's claim to equitable treatment of all its members. Most of today's Muslims in India are Dalit in origin. 'Low caste' converts to Islam are called Ajlaf which means 'base' or 'lowly'. The group All India Backward Muslim Morcha raises the issue of Dalit Muslim Rights and leads the 'Dalit Muslim' movement in India. Muslims are not a homogenised lot and are not represented properly in the Government and other services.
Converts: In India religious conversion of Dalits into Christianity and Islam takes place due to discrimination and suffocation within the Hindu religion. Other factors like economic benefits as well as a genuine desire to find 'the true faith' play an important role too. But since a convert carries his or her social and economic disability into the new religion too, there is a case for recognising Dalits among all the religions equally.
In this context it must be noted that the Indian Constitution defines 'Scheduled Castes' under Article 366, and the Presidential Orders of 1950 provide Scheduled Caste status to the Dalits. Scheduled Caste status was further extended to Sikhs in 1956 and to Buddhists in 1990, giving them the right to avail special provisions in education, employment and other benefits from the Government. But the Dalits in Christianity and Islam were not given such status, for they are no-longer Hindus. This strategy of denying Scheduled Castes status to such groups not only denies rightful entitlements but also creates animosity within Dalit communities.
Considering the overall situation, the following needs to be done in the very least:
1. Government should encourage secular intellectuals and NGOs to provide training and information to people on Human Rights. People must be encouraged to examine religion from a Human Rights perspective. Through national Human Rights bodies, and through the National Commission on Minorities or the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes welfare departments, the Government should hold regional workshops and encourage Dalits to be aware of their rights.
2. Government must strictly implement the provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 and the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Rules, 1995.
3. Most school text books have lessons that teach dominant Hindu beliefs like Caste, Karma, rebirth etc. Some of the Dalit intellectuals are already initiating the process for reforming text books and this must be given a boost.
4. Reservations (positive discrimination in college admissions and in jobs) should be extended to all Dalits, which ever religion they are in. This action could help the Dalit communities in future to unite and to fight for their rights.
5. There is a need to strengthen the UN's Working Group on Minorities. It must set up a body to undertake studies on different religions and Government policies in different countries. The body thus created must pressurise Governments, inform activists, academicians, and NGOs monitoring the situation through regular meetings, reports and workshops.
6. The United Nations Commission on Human Rights must encourage the Working Group by providing sufficient funding to take up Minority related activities efficiently, and to take up studies regarding the status of Dalits in all the religions in the Indian sub- continent. Such a step will lead to equal treatment of all the disadvantaged, and help build a strong united Dalit alliance.
7. Govt must consult with civil society on ways to reduce discriminatory practices on the basis of birth and descent.
Surepally Sujatha is a Sociologist and a secular Dalit,  She has represented the Dalit cause at various forums both in India and abroad.

The Dalits

by Vikas Kamat

First Online: December 01, 2006

Page Last Updated: June 13, 2013

The Dalits are the collection of all the communities of India who were denied a status in the traditional Caste System of India. They were considered even lower that the lowest caste, namely the Shudras. Gandhi coined the word "Harijan" or "Children of God" to  collectively address this community, but over a period of time, even the word Harijan has been considered derogatory. The politically correct term to use is "Scheduled Castes" or "Dalits". Literally, a Dalit means an exploited person.

Untouchability and Exploitation

Although Hindu scholars dispute the relationship of untouchability  to Hindu codes, the rigid caste system prevalent in India denied social status and civil amenities to a class who were poor and took up menial professions such as cleaning, and washing.
In various parts of India, it was considered unholy to even touch the Dalits (hence the name asprushya or untouchable), and the Dalits could not use the same public facilities (such as well, or a restaurant) frequented by the upper-castes.
Mahatma Gandhi, during his leadership of India during the 20th century, made fight against untouchability as one of the top priorities of India and implemented many programs. Entry into temples, sharing meals with the Dalits, and voluntarily performing jobs (such as cleaning toilets) meant for the Dalits were some of these activities.

© K. L. Kamat

Cobblers are Looked Down Upon in India

Picture of a Dalit Cobbler (Chamar)

The Ugly Turn of Reservations

After India became independent (in 1947), the successive Governments implemented many plans to better the conditions of the Dalits. The most important of them are the "Reservations" or the "Quota System" (also called "Roaster System"), where many privileges of the Government were to be provided only for Dalits; privileges such as job quotas, admissions to universities, political appointments, political representation, and even promotions within the Government. 
This affirmative-action type of policy has led to a lot of controversy and social turmoil in India due to the following reasons.
  • Abuse of the system -- The rampantly corrupt system of India has been used by non-Dalits to enjoy the benefits meant for Dalits.
  • Repeat Beneficiaries -- The few Dalits who benefited from the reservations, keep reaping the benefits again and again, thus denying the opportunity to first time beneficiaries.
  • Reverse Discrimination -- Selecting candidates based on caste, rather than their merit or qualifications has caused a lot of anger and resentment.
  • Conflict with Scheduled Tribes -- The reservations for Dalits are often combined with reservations meant for aboriginals and other backward classes of India.

Religious Conversions and Conflict

Many Dalits who came in contact with Christian missionaries chose to abandon their Hindu roots and adopted the Christian faith. This religious conversion has given rise to two folded turmoil in India. First, due to conversion, the Dalits lost the privileges meant for Scheduled Castes -- Christianity is believed to be void of the caste discrimination, and the quotas were meant for people who otherwise were socially backward. Many laws were passed so that people thus converted could continue to enjoy the special quotas, after agitations and counter-agitations. Secondly, the Dalits are torn between retaining their cultural identity and adopting a new one.
Many Dalits are also converting to Buddhism, following the footsteps of Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, a great Dalit leader.

Dalits form 32% of Tamil Nadu slum dwellers

CHENNAI: Dalits account for nearly 32% (18.55 lakh) of the 58 lakh slum dwellers in Tamil Nadu, according to the slum census for 2011, released by the Census Commissioner on Monday. About 13.5 lakh slum dwellers in the state are in Chennai. In comparison, in Punjab, about 39% of slum dwellers are dalits, the report said.
Despite all efforts taken by the state government to rehabilitate slum dwellers, especially those living in Chennai city, there has been a decadal growth in the number of dalits living in slums because slum resettlement efforts have not matched the pace of migration of workers from rural to urban centres in the state. Also, in most places, the government has not been able to protect its own land retrieved from slum dwellers in past resettlement drives. While as per the 2001 census, about 25% of slum dwellers in the state were dalits, it has gone up by 7% since then.
A few other states and Union Territories also have similar track record. For instance, in Himachal Pradesh only 15% of slum dwellers were dalits a decade ago. But it has gone up to 30% now. Also, 30.7% of slum dwellers in Chandigarh are dalits. In Haryana it is 29.9% and in Tripura 28.8% of slum dwellers are dalits. Since 2001, across the country, there has been a 37% increase in the dalit population in slums. While there were only 96.73 lakh dalits living in slums in 2001, their numbers went up to 1.33 crore in 2011. The overall population of slum dwellers has also gone up by 25%, from 5.23 crore to 6.54 crore, in the last one decade.
However, there has been a slight improvement in the male-female ratio among dalits in slums. While there were 957 dalit women for every 1000 dalit men in 2001, the number of women has gone up to 985 going by the latest census. Sex ratio for dalits in slums is far better than other urban communities, the report says.
In Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Jammu and Kashmir, dalits comprise less than 15% of slum dwellers.
“Dalits are the worst affected lot among those who migrate from rural areas to urban centres,” said former MLA and dalit activist D Ravikumar. Dalits find housing in urban centres unaffordable. Many who have migrated from Perambalur and other central Tamil Nadu districts to Chennai to work as load men at Koyambedu market sleep in front of the shops they work in, said Ravikumar.
The census report says dalits living in slums are mostly unskilled or semi-skilled workers. Most of them work in the construction sector. They cannot hire a pucca house with the salaries they earn, said Ravikumar.
Maharashtra has the maximum number of slum households (24.99 lakh) as well as slum population (1.18 crore) in the country. Andhra Pradesh comes second with 24.31 lakh households and 1.01 crore population, followed by West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh. Tamil Nadu, has 14.63 lakh slum households.
Times of India

Dalits still in pitiable state: Ansari

 Dec 28, 2016, 06:40 AM IST
ansariBengaluru:-The ninth National Conference of the Indian Association of Lawyers was inaugurated by Vice President M Hamid Ansari on Tuesday.
Speaking on the occasion, Ansari said, “The Ministry of Human Resources Development has said that in 2014, some 6.064 million children remained out of school, and of these, a massive 4.6 million or 76% belonged to SC/ST and other religious minorities. Despite all the governmental and societal effort, the overall literacy rate in 2011 was 73% with female literacy at a dismal 64.8%.
“Data also shows that Dalits are prevented from entering the police station in 28% of Indian villages. Dalit children have been made to sit separately while eating in 39% of government schools,” Ansari added.
“National Human Rights Commission indicates that in 2012, 37% Dalits lived below the poverty line, 54% were undernourished, 83 per 1,000 children born in a Dalit household died before their first birthday, and 45% remained illiterate,” he said.
Chief Minister Siddaramaiah expressed the need to bring reservation in private sector. “Social Justice, Constitution and the Supreme Court” is the theme of the three-day conference.Courtesy- Deccan Herald

High Court judge faces probe for ‘ill-treating’ Dalit

NEW DELHI: A Supreme Court judge has held that there is prima facie case for an inquiry into a complaint against Justice CV Nagarjuna Reddy of Hyderabad high court for ill-treating a Dalit judge, S Ramakrishna, of the Andhra Pradesh subordinate judiciary.
| Dec 16, 2016, 04.51 AM IST
Justice CV Nagarjuna Reddy
After receiving two complaints a few months ago, the Chief Justice of India referred the case to a senior judge, legal sources said.
The senior SC judge recommended an in-house inquiry and the transfer of Justice Reddy from Hyderabad HC pending an inquiry into allegations against him. The recommendation of the judge will be placed before a five-member collegium of the Supreme Court in the first week of January, sources told TOI.
In 2012, Ramakrishna was posted as principal junior civil judge of Rayachoti in Kadapa, which is Justice Reddy’s native district. Justice Reddy’s younger brother, C Pavan Kumar Reddy, was working as an additional public prosecutor in Rayachoti court. Ramakrishna in his complaint to the CJI alleged Pavan was acting like a despot and also held sway over court staff. After his driver, Ramanjulu, refused to sign on a blank paper, Pavan Reddy doused him with petrol and burnt him alive, he alleged in his complaint. Ramakrishna also recorded the dying declaration of Ramanjulu, the complaint said. Following Ramakrishna’s refusal to remove Pavan’s name from the dying declaration, Justice Reddy bore a grudge and had him suspended. Earlier, Justice Reddy had called Ramakrishna to his Rayachoti residence.
Last year, the Hyderabad high court heard a writ petition by Ramakrishna on this issue. It removed the name of Justice Reddy from the list of respondents and admitted the plea against his brother and court staff in Rayachoti. The petition was dismissed after Ramakrishna’s counsel didn’t appear for a few hearings.
Ramakrishna then wrote to the CJI about his ordeal. Following his request, seven members of Parliament, it is learnt, separately sent a complaint to the CJI. CPI(M) MP Sitaram Yechury took active part when an impeachment motion was proposed and 61 MPs of various parties signed the motion. He sent it to Rajya Sabha chairman Hameed Ansari, who is currently examining the complaint. Soon after the impeachment move on December 5, the judge decided to voluntarily stay away from official duties till proven innocent.
Courtesy: The Times Of India-



Government policies from 1950 to 2000 indicate both positive change and continuity in deprivation. There has indeed been some improvement. In 2000 about 17 percent of dalits cultivated land, and about 12 percent of dalits in rural areas and 28 percent in urban areas owned small businesses. Literacy rates among dalits have risen from 10.27 percent in 1960 to 54.69 percent in 2001. The unemployment rate in rural areas has been reduced from 6.77 percent in 1978 to 5 percent in 2000, and from 7.37 percent to 5.20 percent in urban areas for the same periods. Lingering limitations in access to assets are the residue of a similar denial in the past.
Affirmative action policies have seen limited, yet positive, gains. The number of dalits employed in central government jobs increased in 2002, along with the number of dalit employees in public sector undertakings. The number of dalits employed in government banks also rose in 2004. In education, about a third of dalit students enrolled in universities and colleges were pursuing higher education in desirable programs because of reservation policies. As a consequence of such positive changes, poverty among dalits declined from 58 percent in 1984 to 37 percent in 2000 in rural areas, and from 56 percent in 1983 to 38 percent in 2000 in urban areas. Furthermore, caste discrimination against dalits in civil, cultural, and religious spheres has been reduced in some public spheres, although more so in urban than in rural areas.
Notwithstanding these gains, Indias dalits continue to suffer in terms of absolute levels of deprivation and indicators of human development. About 70 percent of dalits inhabit rural areas; in 2000 about two-thirds of dalit rural households were landless or near landless (the figure is one-third for nondalits). Less than one-third of the dalit population had access to capital assets (40% for nondalits); 60 percent of dalits were dependent upon wage labor (25% for nondalits); and the dalit unemployment and literacy rate was 5.5 percent and 54.69 percent respectively, compared to 3 percent and 58 percent for nondalits. In addition, the prevalence of anemia among dalit women and mortality among children was high.
Various studies indicate that dalits continue to face discrimination in market and nonmarket transactions, in social services (education, health, and housing), and in political participation. Thus, there remains a long way to go before Indias dalits can imagine a reasonable degree of dignity in their lives and livelihoods.

First "dalit'' (low caste) Archbishop 

Sources: Long Island Catholic Weekly, April 5th, 2000, New York, USA

HYDERABAD, India (CNS) -- The appointment of India's first "dalit'' (low caste) archbishop evoked mixed reactions among church people in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh. While some have criticized the Vatican for ignoring "ground realities'' in transferring Bishop Marampudi Joji of Vijayawada to Hyderabad, others said his promotion as the state's metropolitan archbishop will bring "new life'' to the 1-million-strong Andhra church. Expressing shock over the appointment, outgoing Archbishop Samineni Arulappa of Hyderabad said, "Rome is being taken for a ride. Rome does not know the ground realities,'' reported UCA News, an Asian church news agency based in Thailand.

The recently retired archbishop announced his successor's appointment at a press conference in the Andra Predesh capital of Hyderabad, March 18. He later attributed Archbishop Joji's promotion to propaganda. "If I say something, it will be interpreted as oppressing the oppressed, meaning the dalits" he told UCA News. Claiming that 95 percent of Hyderabad archdiocese's priests opposed the appointment, he gave his successor less than five years in his new post. Hyderabad's Chancellor, Father Henry D'Souza, however, described Archbishop Joji as a "good administrator," although he remained noncommittal about the new archbishop's efficiency as a pastor. He said he foresaw trouble if the new archbishop failed to adjust to Hyderabad's cosmopolitan community. In Vijayawada, "he deals mostly with villagers". Father D'Souza said.

Archbishop Joji told UCA News from Vijayawada that he was grateful to God for making him the first dalit archbishop "not only in India, but in the entire world." His priority, he said is to reorganize the archdiocese's pastoral setup so that development will reach the needy. Ensuring dalits' equal rights in education and women's development and empowerment are the new archbishop's other priorities. A Jesuit priest in Andra Predesh told UCA News that Archbishop Joji needs to be careful in Hyderabad, because its several linguistic groups and communities would try to pull him in different directions. Archbishop Arulappa expressed fear that the dalit prelate would work only for his own caste, while a priest in Hyderabad who asked not to be named accused Archbishop Joji of not treating fellow dalits with dignity. "When the oppressed becomes liberated, he turns oppressor. In fact, he adopts a divide and rule policy," the priest told UCA News. 

The Life and Days of (Dalit) Sweepers in Bangladesh

Dirtiness, garbage, bad smell and nasty bio-products are part of their lives

Muzibur Rahman Masud, Daily Jugantor, Bangladesh

About 3.5 million sweepers belonging to the Dalit (so called lower cast of the Hindus) community across the country including the capital have been passing an inhuman and sub-standard life amid unbearable pains, enormous sufferings, serious accommodation problem and deep uncertainty. The number of Dalit people only in the capital is about half million. The sweepers or Dalits, one of the 44 scheduled cast communities, is the most neglected section of the society.

No authority is there to look after the sweepers who passes their nights only to wake up in the morning to clean the dirties and city garbage. They have been working for 365 days of the year but their reserved colonies are being occupied one after another by musclemen. They have been deprived of all types of civil facilities including education and health care services. They have been passing their days in unbearable sorrows and sufferings without electricity, pure drinking water and supply of gas. The recruitment of sweepers in government jobs has also been decreased. The shanties in their colonies are not hygienic so that their children have been suffering from different type of diseases. The female sweepers are being raped and oppressed frequently during their work in the night. The City Corporations and police stations are not taking actions against the culprits despite repeated complaints, rather, they are being oppressed by the authorities.

The Telegu and Kanpuri speaking sweepers have no educational or health care service centre in their colonies. The pregnant sweepers have no maternity leave, even there is no maternity or mother care facilities in the colony. Some of these colonies have few numbers of primary schools but there is no adequate language teacher. Some of non-government organizations (NGO) have been collecting huge amount of money but it is not being used for their welfare.
The government slogan ‘Education for All’ carries little value there. For these reasons, some of the Dalit guardians have sent up their children to nearby schools and colleges by changing their identity and address. There is no space for walking, enough drainage system in the colonies. In this condition, the sweepers in deep frustration. They have submitted memorandums containing their various demands to the authorities even to the Prime Minister but no results came yet. They have also failed to the Mayor of Dhaka Sadek Hossain Khoka and Local Government and Co-operatives Minister Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan despite repeated attempts.
In earlier days, they used to enjoy life by drinking liquor, taking ganza and country-made liquor but it became a daydream for them today. They have no money to buy liquor. They have no money for colourful function during the marriage ceremonies. Even the members of the Shawtal community arrange pleasure-festival along with liquor and ganza after the death of a Shawtal to forget the pain. They join the function cheerfully and enjoy it. They consider that the death free detached the men from all types of sufferings and made him free from all hardships and problems. On the other hand, they arrange a weeklong .mourning programme after the birth of a child considering that the newborn baby would face enormous sufferings during his lifetime.
Shyama Proshad, a sweeper leader told this reporter that the secret meaning of the festival with the death is different. We do it to forget the sorrows. All these information here revealed after this journalist visited the Ganoktuli, Dayaganj, Dhalpur, Sutrapur, Agargaon and Mohammadpur sweeper colonies.
Dateline: Ganoktuli Sweeper Colony
Over one lakh sweepers live in the Ganoktuli Sweeper Colony located on a piece of 20 acres of land by the side of the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) Headquarters at Pilkhana. The people are living, among them 50 percent are sweepers. The colony was erected only for the sweepers but local terrorists, muscleman and drug traders and mostly heroin, liquor and ganza sellers have occupied a major portion of it. Local influential persons have already forcibly captured about two acres of colony land.
The condition of entire colony is nasty and unhygienic, discomfort environment. Life is here very difficult more than the imagination. The residents of the colony have been passing their days in inhuman condition live in their small shanties along with serious bad smell of dirt and garbage. Scarcity of pure drinking water all over the colony is so high. Water supply to the colony is dirty. There are only four to five water taps in the colony. Whole daylong queue surrounding these taps is a common scene. They bath here and collect their drinking water from these taps. There is no separate arrangement for the females. The dustbin is located in front of the slum house due to scarcity of land. The minor boys and girls used to respond the nature’s call on the roadside drains. The kids and band of pigs used to play together. They wash their dishes and other kitchen instruments by the drain water. The mosquitoes and flies gathered on the dirt. There is no scope to fresh breath because of the huge congested slum house in the colony. There are over 100 unauthorized make-shift centres of country made liquor, ganza, Phensidyl and heroin outside the colony. Terrorist and violent acts here centering the drug business are common phenomenon. The local musclemen under the direct shelter of law and order forces run the drug business, so that nobody dared to protest them.
Local people said that there is no health care centre in the colony. There is only a primary school but the scope of education of the sweepers children is limited. There is no teacher who has some expertise on their language. Lashkar, a member of the Dalit community alleged that their children are neglect and harassed in the school. So that they loss their interest in the school. The availability of drugs in the colony made the juveniles and teenagers drug addict. Even they have been becoming vagabond, terrorist and musclemen.
Dayaganj Sweeper Colony
Dayaganj Sweeper Colony is located in the old party of the capital. About 50,000 sweepers reside with fear and uncertainty. Most of the areas of the colony have already been occupied by the miscreants and rest part is now under threat of eviction. The Dhaka City Corporation (DCC) authorities have built a market there evicting the sweepers but they were not given even a single position. Local terrorists are threatening to capture the rest portion of the colony. Fearing terrorist attacks, some of the sweepers have already left the colony. Local influential groups have set up drug selling centres showing the sweepers.
Local police officials with a regular gap raid the drug spots and arrest the innocent sweepers but the culprits influential quarters remain untouched. There is no way to lead healthy life in the colony because of scarcity of electricity, supply of water and other basic facilities. The garbage and dirt is everywhere and huge congested slum houses made them helpless human being.
Agargaon PWD Sweeper Colony
About 1000 sweeper families have been passing their measurable days on a small land near Dhaka Orthopedic Hospital in the city’s Agargaon area. The normal breathing would be hampered seriously if any body enter into the colony. There is no room for walking inside the colony. They have been living here by erecting shanties by bamboo and sacks. The government recently circulated eviction notice on them without ascertaining any reason. They are counting days for more sufferings. They have been paying Taka 2 everyday to the local police to stay here. The musclemen of nearby BNP Basti are running a drug spot using the sweepers. The entire western side of the colony has already occupied by the miscreants. They have been collecting tolls for the cleaners for their staying in their own colonies.
Dhalpur Sweeper Colony
The situation is comparatively better here than the other sweeper colonies in the capital but the real sweepers are now under threat here. About 2000 families of Kanpuri speaking sweepers have been living in the colony on 6.7 acres of land. At least 200 slum houses of the colony have already been captured by local influential persons. The real sweepers are now under threat. The sweepers were allocated the colony after constructing eight rows of 10/10 feet houses. A good number sweeper have been already left the colony in the face of threat by the local terrorists and influential political leaders.
Local people alleged that most of the houses of this colony and nearby City Palli are now drug-selling centre. After evening, the gathering of drug addicts and anti-social elements with liquor, heroin, ganza and Phensidyl is a regular phenomenon here. The drug syndicate used to sell huge quantity of liquor worth about Tk seven to eight lakhs everyday. Scarcity of electricity and pure drinking water is a common picture. They pass their lives in between the light and darkness of the colony.
Spotlight-Mohammadpu Sweeper Colony
About 1000 sweepers are living in Mohammadpur Sweeper Colony with 200 houses of different shapes but the sweepers are not allowed to stay here. These houses have already been captured by miscreants and made it as dens of drug peddlers. Drugs like alcohol, ganza, heroin and Phensidyl worth about Tk four to five lakhs are being sold here everyday. Many sweepers were evicted from their house at gunpoint for selling drugs in their houses. Dirt and garbage cover the entire colony. It is very difficult to live here like a wet place. Not only in these colonies, there are a good number of lower cast Dalit people of the Hindu community have been passing their measurable days and lives in Mirpur, Shyampur, Gulshan, Islampur and Badda areas of the capital.
While visiting the colony, this reporter met the President of Bangladesh Dalitas Human Rights B G Murti who narrated the lives of the lowers of the lower cast Hindus. BG Murti said that the sweepers have been engaged in cleaning profession by birth and tradition. “We are the citizens of this country, we fought for the independence of the country, whereas we have been identified as untouched.” he said. He claimed that about 35 laks of sweepers and lower cast people like cobbler, shoe-maker, smith and kamars have been staying all over the country. Our people have been engaged throughout the day to clean up the government offices, hospitals, educational institutions, different private and non-government offices and roads under city corporations and tea gardens of the country, whereas we do not have enough food for feeding our children, BG added. The scope to enter into the government jobs has been shrinking day by day. In most of the cases, the non-professionals have been capturing the posts of sweepers by offering bribes.
The Dalit leader alleged that we have been deprived of the government jobs as the government has decided that no man would be appointed as sweeper without having a class eight-pass certificate. The present government so far recruited about 3500 sweepers in different offices but there is only a boy from the community. Not only that the boy from the sweeper community also paid a handsome amount of money to the employer for the job.
He alleged that we are being ousted from our colonies, the law and order agencies don’t hear to us. It seems we are not the citizens of this country. The sweepers have no permanent job, they have been working on daily basis. There is no leave for a day in a month. We have been forced to work even in the Eid Day and Puja-festivals, but our salary is maximum Taka 2000 to 2500.
BG Murti told that a large number of sweepers in different colonies are now infected by different critical diseases and became drug addicts. A good number of children have already died of different diseases. At least a male sweeper is being tortured or a female sweeper is being raped everyday by terrorists and musclemen.
Shamsul Huda, Executive Director of Alliance for Development Support & Cooperation, a rare organisation working with Dalit people told this reporter that the sweepers are deprived of all type of facilities from the government. As per the constitution of the country, a member of the sweeper community is granted all of his basic and citizens’ rights but they are far away from the constitutional rights.
According to the international convention on the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination (CERD) agreement, the government is bound to fulfill the basic needs of employment, housing, education and health care services of the lower cast people. But, only before the election, the ruling and the opposition parties come to them but after the election nobody inquired about them. The government and semi-government offices have been recruiting non-professional people as sweepers, though there are a clear-cut rule for recruitment of sweepers from the Dalits community. Even after liberation till 1975, they were allowed to enjoy three-month leave and had awarded money for drinking and other facilities but those are daydream for them.
B. Samuddram, a witness of over 100 years
B. Samuddram, a 125 years oldman of Agargaon Sweeper Colony told this reporter that during the British regime about 50 sweeper families sent to Pakisthan from Kanpur, Nagpur and Andhra provice of Indian when the toture and opression on the lower cast people were alamingly increased. They were initially appointed as sweeper to the Dhaka Samity. Later, more sweepers came to them from those provices. The migrated lower cast people had engaged in different sectors as sweepers as there was a few people to be appointed as sweeper. There are about 3.5 million sweepers in the country, he claimed adding that though their forefathers are from different countries but now they are all Bangladeshi citizens.


Dalits, a significant section of Tamilnadu: 

Dalits, as per the 1991 census, form 19.18 % of the total Tamilnadu population. This is surely much higher than the national average of 16.48%. In the whole country, the only States that have greater percentage of their population as dalits are Punjab (28.31%), Himachal Pradesh (25.34%), West Bengal (23.62%), Uttar Pradesh (21.05%),), and Haryana (19.75%). Dalits in Tamilnadu are surely a significant section of the people of Tamilnadu. 

Compared to the State average of 19.18 % in 1991, the districts which have greater than State average (of dalits as % of total population) are Nilgiris -30.22%, South Arcot 
(inclusive of Viluppuram & Cuddalore districts) -27.13%, Chengalpattu (inclusive of Tiruvallur & Kanchipuram) -25.97%, Thanjavur (inclusive of Thanjavur, Tiruvarur & Nagappattinam) -24.17%, Tiruvannamalai -21.46%, North Arcot -20.73% and Dindigul -19.41%. Kanyakumari District has the lowest (4.80 %) proportion of its population as dalits. 

The ever present and widening gap: 

Tamilnadu usually takes pride that it stands very high in the field of Social 

Development, vis-à-vis other States of the country. And, often, figures are cited to 
show how Tamilnadu is far better, in the field of social development, than many 
other States in the country. 

Leaving aside the legitimacy of such claims, what is significant is the 
increasingly tragic situation of the dalits in Tamilnadu as well as the continuing gaps 
of standards of social development between dalit and non-dalit sections of the 
Tamilnadu population. 

The great chamars of india

दोस्तों चमार जाति क्या थी और क्या बना दी गयी आज मैं इस बात पर लिखने वाला हूँ यकीन मानिये भारत के चमार मेरे इस लेख को पढ़ने के बाद गर्व से सीना चौड़ा करके कहेगा कि "हाँ मै चमार हूँ,मनुवादियों से ज्यादा होशियार हूँ"
दोस्तों तमाम किताबों जैसे बाबा साहब की लिखी शूद्र कौन है?,मनुस्मृति,ऋगवेद, दी चमार्स ( एच. डब्ल्यु. ब्रिंक्स), चमार जाति का गौरवशाली इतिहास (सतनाम सिंह) स्वतन्त्रता संग्राम मे चमार जाति का योग दान (सतनाम सिंह) आदि पढ़ने के बाद मेरे दिमाग मे कुछप्रश्न उठे और उन प्रश्नों का उत्तर भी मैने इन्ही किताबों मे पाया जो मै आपको आज बताउंगा जैसे-
1 - दलितों को अछूत क्यों माना गया
2 - दलितों मे चमार जाति ही हमेशा मनुवादियों के निशाने पर क्यों रही जबकि अन्य जातियाँ नही 
3 - आज भी ब्राहमण चमारों को ही क्यों टक्कर का मानता है 
4 - चमारों ने ऐसी कौन सी गलती की थी जो अन्य अछूत जातियाँ भी चमारों को अछूत कहती थी और शायद आज भी कहती हैं जबकि वो खुद भी अछूत थी 
5 - अछूत जातियों के लिये दलित शब्द क्यों इस्तेमाल किया गया और इसका क्या मतलब होता है 
दोस्तों इन सारे सवालों का जवाब ढूढ़ने के लिये हमे इतिहास में जाना होगा ।
शायद वेदों से भी पहले लेकिन फिलहाल हम वेदों की ही बात करेंगे ।ऋगवेद भाग 4 मे वर्णों की संख्या पाँच बतायी गयी है ब्राहमण क्षत्रिय वैश्य शूद्र और निषाद । तो चार वर्ण व्यवस्था का इतिहास क्यों पढ़ाया गया लोगों को ये समझ से परे है ।तो मजबूरन दूसरी तरफ रूख करना पड़ रहा है और वो है बाबा साहब की शूद्र कौन है ये किताब वेदों से ज्यादा विश्वसनीय है क्यों कि ये पुराणों और वेदों का निचोड़ है ।बाबा के अनुसार सिन्धु क्षेत्र मे दो तरह के आर्य पाये जाते थे एक अल्पाइन तथा दूसरा मेडिटेरियन। मेडिटेरियन आर्य ही आज का ब्राहमण जाति हैं ।और दोनो आर्य विदेशी हैं । अब इनसे थोड़ा और पीछे चलते हैं ।सवाल उठता है कि ये दोनो विदेशी है तो इनसे पहले किसका शासन था भारत मे ?इसके लिये उचित किताब है "दी चमार्स" । मैने निष्कर्ष निकाला कि इस किताब के अनुसार यदि देखा जाय तो इन दोनो के पहले यहाँ पर एक शक्तिशाली सम्राट चँवर का शासन चलता था । आज का जो नाम चमार पड़ा है वो इन्ही सम्राट के वंशज होने के कारण पड़ा है।

अब आगे सुनिये चमार जाति के बारे मे लेकिन अब तक जो आप ने पढ़ा उस पर मुझे यकीन है कि मेरा चमार भाई सीना चौड़ा कर चुका है ।विनय राज को गर्व हो रहा है आज अपने चमार भाइयों को अपना इतिहास बताते हुये ।

राजा चँवर जो कि भारत के उत्तर यानी कश्मीर क्षेत्र मे राज कर रहे थे वहाँ अल्पाइन आर्य सत्ता हथियाने की पुरजोर कोशिश मे थे । बाबा ने ये तो लिखा है कि अल्पाइन तथा मेडिटेरियन आर्यों का युद्ध हुआ था सिन्धु क्षेत्र मे सत्ता के लिये पर सत्ता थी किसके हाथ मे ये मात्र लिखा है कि यहाँ के मूल शासक से सत्ता लेने के लिये युद्ध हुआ था और बाबा ने उस मूल शासक का नाम नही बताया पर इसका समाधान दी चमार्स मे मिल जाता है ।अध्ययन के अनुसार उस समय शासन राजा चँवर के हाथ मे थी । जिसे बाद मे विष्णु नामक आर्य ने श्राप दिया था कि तुम्हारा शासन हमेशा के लिये समाप्त हो जायेगा ।पर राजा चँवर के काफी क्षमा-याचना करने पर विष्णु ने कहा कि कलयुग मे तुम्हारा उद्धार होगा । और फिर चँवर का शासन खत्म कर दिया गया ।(दी चमार्स तथा चमार जाति का गौरवशाली इतिहास मे इस घटना का उल्लेख मिलता है) और फिर आर्यों का शासन स्थापित हो जाता है । लोना और चमाइन वीरबालायें शायद चँवर के ही राज्य मे रहती थी क्यों कि इनका भी जिक्र हुआ है ।और साथियों लोना चमाइन का नाम लिये बिना आज भी आर्य मंत्रों को पढ़ा नही जाता है इस बात से आप अंदाजा लगा सकते हैं कि लोना चमाइन ने आर्यों के नाक मे कितना दम कर रखा था कि आज भी उनकी दहशत इनके मंत्रो मे दिखती है और चमार जाति के जो झाड़-फूँक करने वाले होते हैं उनका तो मंत्र इनका नाम लिये बगैर पूरा ही नही होता ।

तो साथियों कालान्तर मे अल्पाइन तथा मेडिटेरियन आर्य जातियाँ एक हो गयी ऐसा मुझे लगता है क्योंकि मेडिटेरियन तो ब्राहमण थे और अल्पाइन बाद मे क्षत्रिय और वैश्य बने जो चँवर की प्रजा को भड़का कर चँवर के खिलाफ खड़ा कर दिये और अकेला होने के कारण चँवर को बाद मे मार दिया गया तथा चँवर के परिवार को बाद मे दर दर की ठोकरें खानी पड़ी तथा उनके वंशज तब से लेकर आज तक इन आर्यों से लोहा ले रहे हैं । 

जब वर्ण व्यवस्था बनाई गयी तो जिस प्रजा को आर्यों ने भड़काया था उसे आर्यों ने शूद्र का दर्जा दिया और चँवर के वंशज जो आर्यों की गुलामी नही स्वीकार किये उनको वर्ण व्यवस्था मे कोई जगह नही मिली ।

इसलिये चमार तथा अन्य जातियाँ जो आर्यों की गुलामी नही स्वीकार किये वो दलित तथा अछूत कहलाये ।दलित इसलिये कि ये लोग हमेशा दल मे रहते थे और इनका नेतृत्व चमारों के हाथ मे होता था । चमार हमेशा अपनी शासन सत्ता पाने के लिये बुद्धि का उपयोग तथा चिन्तन करता रहता था जो बाद मे ब्राहमणो से भी ज्यादा बुद्धि लगाने लगा था इसलिये ब्राहमणों ने इन्हे धर्म से भी बाहर रखा था क्योंकि इन्हे डर था कि यदि चमार पास आये तो सबसे ज्यादा खतरा ब्राहमणों को होगा ।

तो दोस्तों अब तक तो आपने चमार जाति के बारे में पढ़ा आइये अब उन प्रश्नों का उत्तर बताता हूँ जो मेरे दिमाग मे आयी थी । पहला सवाल ये है कि

दलितों को अछूत क्यों माना गया?

इसके लिये शूद्र कौन है? मे बाबा साहब ने एक शब्द "अन्त्यज" का प्रयोग किया है और ये शब्द उन्हे शायद वेदों या पुराणों मे मिला था । इस शब्द का मतलब उन्होने निकाला कि अन्त्यज, गाँव या कबीले से बाहर रहते थे क्योंकि इन लोगों ने आर्यों के शासन प्रशासन का विरोध किया था और बाद मे ये आर्यों के सामाजिक नियमों से इतना दूर हो गये कि इनको छूना भी पाप समझा जाने लगा । कालान्तर मे ये अछूत और दल तथा संगठन मे रहने के कारण दलित कहलाये ।

दूसरा सवाल ये है कि दलितों मे चमार जाति ही हमेशा मनुवादियों के निशाने पर क्यों रही जबकि अन्य जातियाँ नही?

साथियों इसके लिये दी चमार्स और चमार जाति का स्वतन्त्रता संग्राम मे योगदान को उचित माना जा सकता है ।चमार जाति का स्वतन्त्रता संग्राम मे योगदान मे सतनाम लिंह ने लिखा है कि चमार जाति किसी की पिछलग्गू नही थी अगर चमार जाति स्वतन्त्रता संग्राम मे पिछलग्गू नही हो सकती तो आर्यों की पिछलग्गू कैसे हो सकती थी जिसने कि इनसे इनका शासन छीना था ।और समय समय पर इनसे युद्ध का भी वर्णन मिलता है कुछ किताबों मे । जो दल गाँव के बाहर रहता था तथा जिसे वर्ण ब्यवस्था मे जगह नही मिली थी उस दल का नेतृत्व चमारों के हाथ मे था और बाद मे दल टूटने की वजह से चमार जाति अलग-थलग पड़ गयी और खानाबदोश जिन्दगी बिताने लगी , चमर मँगता जाति इसका एक उत्कृष्ट उदाहरण है ।और शायद इन्ही सब कारणों से चमार हमेशा मनुवादियों के निशाने पर रहा और मनुवादियो हमेशा डर लगा रहता है कि यदि ये समाज जिसे अछूत कहते यदि उठ खड़ा हुआ तो आर्य ब्राहमणों का विनाश निश्चित है ।


अब अगला सवाल है कि आज भी ब्राहमण चमार जाति को ही टक्कर का क्यों मानते हैं ?

तो इसका उत्तर मैने कुछ इस तरह से निकाला कि -

हमारे गुरू जी संत शिरो मणि स्वामी रैदास जो कि चमार जाति के थे तथा जिन्होने ब्राहमणवादी व्यवस्था का खंडन किया था उन्होने कहा था कि ''बिन देखे उपजे नही आशा, जो देखू सो होय विनाशा '' अर्थात जो दिखाई नही देता उसके प्रति भावना पैदा नही होती तथा जो दिखाई देता है वह नश्वर है, उसका अन्त होना निश्चित है, गुरू रैदास का यह श्लोक उन्हे भगवान बुद्ध के नजदीक ला देता है । उनकी हत्या के ढेरों सबूत मौजूद है जैसे-लेखक सतनाम सिंह ने अपनी पुस्तक मे प्रमाणिक दस्तावेजो के साथ उल्लेख करते हुए कुछ महत्वपूर्ण कारण बताये है जिसमे गुरू रैदास द्वारा ब्राह्मणवादी व्यवस्था को चुनोती देना, मीरा को दीक्षा देना, वेदो का खण्डन करना, दलितो मे राजनैतिक चेतना जाग्रत करना, राजमहल मे ब्राह्मणो के वर्चस्व को चुनोती देना आदि प्रमुख कारण रहे थे । साथ ही लेखक सतनाम सिंह ने गुरू रैदास की हत्या के घटनाक्रम का विस्तार से वर्णन किया है । 

तो साथियों ब्राहमण को उसी समय आभास हो गया था कि जो चमार जाति उच्च कोटि का नेतृत्व क्षमता रखता है, चिन्तनशील विचारधारा रखता है, किसी का पिछलग्गू नही है , वो कभी भी ब्राहमणवाद का विनाश कर सकता है । इसलिये ब्राहमण आज भी चमार जाति को ही अपने टक्कर का मानता है
5 वाँ सवाल कि अछूत जातियों के लिये दलित शब्द क्यों इस्तेमाल किये गये और इसका क्या मतलब होता है ?
तो साथियों अगर दलित का अर्थ दबा कुचला लगाते हैं तो ये सरासर गलत है ।दलित का अर्थ होता है दल मे अथवा संगठन मे रहने वाले । इतिहास गवाह है कि चमार तथा अन्य दलित जातियों ने कभी भी किसी की गुलामी नही स्वीकार की यहाँ तक कि आर्यों की भी नही ।ये जातियाँ हमेशा दल मे रहकर आर्यों से लोहा लेती रही और परिस्थितियाँ बदलने के कारण ये घुमन्तू हो गई । चमर मंगता, बंजारा,थारू,मुसहर आदि जातियाँ इसका सर्वश्रेष्ठ उदाहरण हैं जो आज भी कबीले जैसे संगठन मे रहती हैं और सोंचने वाली बात है कि ये मजदूरी नही करती किसी की क्योंकि मेरे गाँव के बगल मे चमर मंगता भाई लोग रहते हैं और एक दिन मैने उनसे मजदूरी करने की सलाह दे डाली तो उन लोगों ने मना कर दिया ।बाद मे पापा ने बताया कि क्षत्रिय और ब्राहमण की हिम्मत नही होती कि इनसे मजदूरी करवा लें तो वो हमारी मजदूरी कैसे करेंगे हम तो उऩ्ही के समाज से हैं ।
तो शायद अब आप लोगों को दलितों और चमार जाति के बारे मे पता चल ही गया होगा अतः आप लोगों से निवेदन है कि इस सच्चाई को हमारे समाज को अवगत करायें । जय भीम जय रैदास
आपका अपना विनय राज

What it means to be a ‘Brahmin Dalit’

December 7, 2012 

Anjali Rajori
Just in case you all are wondering what a ‘Brahmin Dalit’ means, let me clarify at the very outset that I proclaim to be a Brahmin Dalit because I was born with the label “Lower Caste” [Infact that label is given even before one is born but lets keep that aside for a while.] However, today I am a relatively well off, educated, accomplished dalit and therefore the title ‘Brahmin Dalit’. So do you think that I am trying to gain your sympathy by deliberately posing as a victim of the evil caste system despite being in a much better position than the majority of my fellow dalit brethren?
The answer, in clear and unequivocal terms, is a big NO !!! My purpose here is only to help my friends understand what it really means to be a dalit & how it is so difficult for us to get rid of our caste identity, even in the present scenario. I writhe in distress and agony as I give the title of ‘Brahmin Dalit’ to myself. The day I realized that it is my religion which is impelling me to live forever under the shadow of a degraded status, I decided to abdicate my religion.I am no longer a Hindu. When I look back, I feel so proud of having taken that decision few years back.
But the stark reality is, even if a dalit turns into a non-hindu in her quest for liberation, her caste status continues to haunt her. Her identity continues to be shaped by her caste & she continues to grapple with it every single day. Her society forces her to bear the burden of bondage. It is this bondage that we wish to break. We wish to be freed from slavery.
Perhaps the title ‘Brahmin Dalit’ is not appropriate. Because a dalit hindu can get converted into a muslim or a christian or a buddhist but she can never turn into a Brahmin. “Dalit” is a lifelong rigid label that refuses to erode. It is a label that reminds us constantly of who we are. We stand at the end of centuries of injustice & oppression. And even today, we are treated as second class humans. We are presumed to be unequal in possibly all aspects – less intelligent, less capable, less hygienic, less civilized and what not. The inequality meted out to us is justified on these counts. It wouldn’t take the study of rocket science to grasp the reality that caste system exists even today, a fact that no well-reasoned person can brush off. A look at the website of National Commission For SCs and National Commission For STs would easily give you an insight into the horrendous proportions of continued maltreatment of dalits. Perhaps it would take an encyclopedia to make a mention of all the atrocities that have been perpetrated and continue to be perpetrated in the name of Caste.
So even if a dalit accomplishes something in his life, he is secretly brushed off as an exception. He is not granted his place of respect. Very few people realize how much he would have struggled to achieve what he has. Very few people take the pain to empathize with him. Yet, publicly his example is used to criticize the positive discrimination extended by the government to the dalits. It is not uncommon to see such hypocritical attitude of casteists around. Perhaps they will never understand what it means to be a dalit. But then there are well-intentioned people also who are sincere about the goal of real annihilation of the caste system. It is these people who continue to give us hope – hope of ushering in a new era – a casteless and classless society.
I don’t know how many more decades or perhaps centuries it will take for India to get rid of Casteism. I am sure it is not going to happen anytime soon. I am gripped by pessimism because I have realized that Caste is not just a social reality. It exists in our minds. It continues to manifest itself in ugly forms. It pervades each & every aspect of our life. But we are still hopeful that one day we will liberate ourselves from this system.
Martin Luther King Jr had once remarked, “A person who cannot die for a cause is not fit to live.” We are ‘Chosen’ to fight & We will continue fighting. That is our only option. We will shape a better tomorrow & we will leave behind footprints for others to follow. Amen


According to the 2001 census, scheduled castes comprise 16.2 per cent of the total population of India, that is, they number over 17 crore. Scheduled tribes comprise 8.2 per cent of the population, that is, they number over 8 crore. Both together constitute 24.4 per cent of the Indian population, that is, they together number over 25 crore.

The six states that have the highest percentage of scheduled caste population are Punjab (28.9), Himachal Pradesh (24.7), West Bengal (23.0), Uttar Pradesh (21.1), Haryana (19.3) and Tamil Nadu (19.0). The twelve states that have the largest number of scheduled castes are Uttar Pradesh (351.5 lakhs), West Bengal (184.5 lakhs), Bihar (130.5 lakhs), Andhra Pradesh (123.4 lakhs), Tamil Nadu (118.6 lakhs), Maharashtra (98.8 lakhs), Rajasthan (96.9 lakhs), Madhya Pradesh (91.6 lakhs), Karnataka (85.6 lakhs), Punjab (70.3 lakhs), Orissa (60.8 lakhs) and Haryana (40.9 lakhs).

Almost every socio-economic indicator shows that the position of scheduled caste families is awful. In many cases their plight is getting worse. Let us have a look at some of the major indicators.

LAND: In 1991 70% of the total SC households were landless or near landless (owning less than one acre). This increased to 75% in 2000. In 1991, 13% of the rural SC households were landless. However, in 2000 this saw a decline and was 10%. As per the Agricultural Census of 1995-96, the bottom 61.6% of operational holdings accounted for only 17.2% of the total operated land area. As against this, the top 7.3% of operational holdings accounted for 40.1% of the total operated area. This gives an indication of land concentration in the hands of a few.

FIXED CAPITAL ASSETS: In 2000, about 28 % of SC households in rural areas had acquired some access to fixed capital assets (agricultural land and non-land assets). This was only half compared to 56 % for other non-SC/ST households who had some access to fixed capital assets. In the urban areas, the proportion was 27 % for SCs and 35.5 % for others.

AGRICULTURAL LABOUR: In 2000, 49.06 % of the working SC population were agricultural labourers, as compared to 32.69 % for the STs and only 19.66 % for the others. This shows the preponderance of dalits in agricultural labour. Between 1991 and 2001, the number of agricultural labourers in India increased from 7.46 crore to 10.74 crore, and a large proportion of them were dalits. On the other hand, the average number of workdays available to an agricultural labourer slumped from 123 in 1981 to 70 in 2005.

CHILD LABOUR: It is reported that out of the 60 million child labour in India, 40 % come from SC families. Moreover, it is estimated that 80 % of child labour engaged in carpet, matchstick and firecracker industries come from scheduled caste backgrounds. The tanning, colouring and leather processing, lifting dead animals, clearing human excreta, cleaning soiled clothes, collection of waste in slaughter houses and sale of toddy are some of the hereditary jobs generally pursued by Dalit children.

PER CAPITA INCOME: In 2000, as against the national average of Rs. 4485, the per capita income of SCs was Rs. 3,237. The average weekly wage earning of an SC worker was Rs. 174.50 compared to Rs. 197.05 for other non- SC/ST workers.

POVERTY: In 2000, 35.4 % of the SC population was below the poverty line in rural areas as against 21 % among others (‘Others’ everywhere means non-SC/ST); in urban areas the gap was larger – 39 % of SC as against only 15 % among others. The largest incidence of poverty in rural areas was among agricultural labour followed by non-agricultural labour, whereas in urban areas the largest incidence of poverty was among casual labour followed by self-employed households. The monthly per capita expenditure (MPCE) for all household types was lower for SCs than others.

EMPLOYMENT: In 2000, the unemployment rate based on current daily status was 5 % for SCs as compared to 3.5 % for others in rural and urban areas. The wage labour households accounted for 61.4 % of all SC households in rural areas and 26 % in urban areas, as compared to 25.5 % and 7.45 % for other households.

RESERVATIONS: 15 % and 7.5 % of central government posts are reserved for SCs and STs respectively. For SCs, in Group A, only 10.15 % posts were filled, in Group B it was 12.67 %, in Group C it was 16.15 % and in Group D it was 21.26 %. The figures for STs were even lower, at 2.89 %, 2.68 %, 5.69 % and 6.48 % for the four groups respectively. Of the 544 judges in the High Courts, only 13 were SC and 4 were ST. Among school teachers all over the country, only 6.7 % were SC/STs, while among college and university teachers, only 2.6 % were SC/STs.

EDUCATION: In 2001, the literacy rate among SCs was 54.7 % and among STs it was 47.1 %, as against 68.8 % for others. Among women, the literacy rate for SCs was 41.9 %, for STs it was 34.8 % and for others it was 58.2 %. School attendance was about 10 % less among SC boys than other boys, and about 5 % less among SC girls than other girls. Several studies have observed discrimination against SCs in schools in various forms.

HEALTH: In 2000, the Infant Mortality Rate (child death before the age of 1) in SCs was 83 per 1000 live births as against 61.8 for the others, and the Child Mortality Rate (child death before the age of 5) was 119.3 for 1000 live births as against 82.6 for the others. These high rates among the SCs are closely linked with poverty, low educational status and discrimination in access to health services. In 1999, at least 75 % of SC women suffered from anaemia and more than 70 % SC womens’ deliveries took place at home. More than 75 % of SC children were anaemic and more than 50 % suffered from various degrees of malnutrition.

WOMEN: While dalit women share common problems of gender discrimination with their high caste counterparts, they also suffer from problems specific to them. Dalit women are the worst affected and suffer the three forms oppression -- caste, class and gender. As some of the above figures show, these relate to extremely low literacy and education levels, heavy dependence on wage labour, discrimination in employment and wages, heavy concentration in unskilled, low-paid and hazardous manual jobs, violence and sexual exploitation, being the victims of various forms of superstitions (like the devadasi system) etc.

SANITATION: Only 11 % of SC households and 7 % of ST households had access to sanitary facilities as against the national average of 29 %.

ELECTRICITY: Only 28 % of the SC population and 22 % of the ST population were users of electricity as against the national average of 48 %.

ATROCITIES, UNTOUCHABILITY AND DISCRIMINATION: During 16 years between 1981 to 2000 for which records are available, a total of 3,57,945 cases of crime and atrocities were committed against the SCs. This comes to an annual average of about 22,371 crimes and atrocities per year. The break-up of the atrocities and violence for the year 2000 is as follows: 486 cases of murder, 3298 grievous hurt, 260 of arson, 1034 cases of rape and 18,664 cases of other offences. The practice of untouchability and social discrimination in the matter of use of public water bodies, water taps, temples, tea stalls, restaurants, community bath, roads and other social services continues to be of high magnitude.

Dalit Catholics continue to battle

 upper caste aggression

Aug 02, 2015 


Why do Dalits convert to Christianity? To break out of the Hindu caste system, you might say. Not completely true, as we found out in Harobele, just 60 km from Bengaluru. Christianity entered the region centuries ago. The Catholic mission here, one of the oldest in Karnataka, was established in 1675; 980 of the 1,000 families here are Catholics. 

Catholicism, however, has offered no escape from untouchability for Dalits like Arogya Swamy (37), whose family left Hinduism and settled in Harobele three centuries ago. For proof, we enter an untidy little tea shop pretending as if we don't know each other. I am served in a steel tumbler like everybody else and offered a chair. Swamy is served his tea in a disposable plastic cup. He hesitates to sit along with the other customers; he stands outside. As we sip our tea in silence, he gestures toward the barber shop next door. The barber flings a tennis ball into the distance and shoos away a group of boys with a stick. "Those boys were Dalit Catholics. The barber didn't want them to pollute his shop with their ball," says Swamy later. 

The Dalits | Still untouchable

After Independence, political rhetoric and Constitutional protection have failed to end atrocities against Dalits. Is Ambedkar's dream of social and economic equality a bridge too far?

Tamil Brahmins vs Dalits: This Quora thread explains why the two communities struggle with each otherP Staff

Current issues

Matanga History

Ancient History







Music,Culture & Arts

by dhunisoren

Globalisation and Indigenous people

Adivasi and Development, Is It Time For Change?

Dr.Dhuni Soren


33 Longmeadow Road, Liverpool L34 OHN
India became Independent in 1947 after years of struggle and sacrifices by all Indians including Adibasi people. We welcomed the occasion with pomp and pageantry with high hopes and aspirations as a free nation. Late Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of Independent India gave a famous clarion call on the eve of the Independence. “At the stroke of midnight when the whole world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom…………………………………………”

63 years have passed by and the country has moved on to the modern age of technology and globalization. Most people have made some progress with the time and are enjoying the fruits of the struggle of their parents and grand parents.

But, alas the majority of Adibasi are still not awake to life and freedom. They are far behind the rest of the people of India in spite of special provisions for them in the Constitution of the country.
This is a matter of great concern for the planners, governments and well wishers of Adibasi people. But it ought to be of greater concern for the Adibasi people themselves, their community and political leaders.
  • First and foremost Adibasi people have not moved with the time and taken advantage of all that are genuinely and rightfully theirs.
  • Most of them are still confined to their traditional, cultural and social habits and practices.
  • By nature, they are simple, straight forward, honest and non- mixing with the mainstream non tribal people.
  • They are conservative in their thoughts and beliefs and reluctant to change their traditional life styles of basic needs.
  • Lack of realization of their economic plight and general wellbeing in spite of the fact that most of them have land.
  • Still using age old primitive ways of cultivation and livelihood.
  • Lack of empowerment and awareness of the changes taking place around them in other communities and beyond in the fast moving world.
  • They are voiceless and there is no one to speak for them in spite of so many political leaders coming out of their community.
  • Lack of elementary education and appreciation of the benefit of the basic amenities of the modern life e.g. clean drinking water, sanitation, good housing, education, health care and healthy sustenance.
  • Lack of self confidence, reassurance, motivation, ambition, and foresight due to long subjugation.
  • Lack of appreciation of the importance of the infrastructures, power supply and transportation to enable mobility of work force.
  • Easily met simple needs of life have prevented development, innovation and entrepreneurship in Adibasi.
  • Erosion of traditional tribal systems and values by introduction of alien systems by the authorities without the informed consent of the Adibasi.
  • Misuse of traditional alcohol HARIA in the name of the rituals of the tribal culture and traditions.
  • Late appreciation of the planners, governments and other agencies to the specific needs and remedies for the development of Adibasi.
  • The Adibasi people need to open their eyes and ears and see and hear what’s taking place around them and try to board the passing trains of modern world with fellow neighbors and young men and women of the country.
  • Relax some of the constraints of the customs and traditions of the tribal systems without loosing the core values of the Adibasi.
  • Inter act and learn from the mainstream communities some of the skills and trade of livelihood.
  • Not to segregate young Adibasi students in the schools and colleges by keeping them in separate hostels of their own but to have certain seats earmarked for them in general hostels to enable them to inter act with students from other communities and learn some of the skills of survival in the modern competetative world.
  • Adibasi people need to change some of their life styles and moderate the use of traditional HARIA which has proved to be harmful to their health, wealth and well being of their families and hindrance to the progress of the community.
  • They should take advantage of the universal rights of education and send all their children to schools to help bring about awareness and understanding. This will enable them to stand up and fight for their rights.
  • Once educated, they can become innovative and ambitious to better their lives.
  • Once empowered, they can demand for the access to better education, clean drinking water, sanitation, health care, housing and all other amenities of modern life and prevent exploitation from others.
  • Governments need to provide better infrastructures of roads and communication to enable better mobility of workforce to the nearest market places and towns.
  • Local job opportunities need to be expanded by providing small and medium scale industries, electricity supply, irrigation facilities and vocational training to the Adibasi young men and women.
  • Government need to acquire some lands for other industries by negotiation with the tribal people and with their informed consent on the basis of long term lease and offer them comprehensive and better compensation and rehabilitation with stake holder rights in the industries. The land should be redeveloped and returned to the owners or their dependents, once the land is no longer required for the industries
  • Governments need to improve capital investment and subsidies to the Adibasi people for their traditional means of livelihood like agriculture, animal husbandry, pig, goat and chicken  keeping and to provide technical know-how and management skill and expertise.
  • Self help groups in particular women’s to be encouraged and supported as they are the people who care most for the welfare of their children, families and communities at large.
  • They should be helped to form small scale co-operatives at the village level and advised on packaging and marketing of their products.
  • The govt. need to provide support for the traditional knowledge and expertise of other livelihood of Adibasi people.
Perhaps, it’s time that the Adibasi people awake to life and take fair share of the rewards of the freedom of the country. It’s not going to be easy and they have to make concerted efforts and initiatives in all aspects of their lives to develop and progress in the 21st century and beyond. The problems are vast and their needs are varied. They need to be prioritized according to their essential needs of livelihood, clean drinking water, sanitation, health care, good housing, education and empowerment. Apart from these they need to change their mindset of helplessness and develop a positive attitude to life and ambitions and aspirations for future generation. They also need to change their life styles and moderate the use of Haria which has proved detrimental to their physical and mental wellbeing and hindrance to the development and progress of their community over the centuries.
But above all they should preserve and promote their languages and good things about their customs, traditions and culture. They should be proud of their identity and heritage and walk with the rest of the people of India with their heads held high.
Current economical and social status of scheduled castes and tribes in India

Economic Status

According to a 2014 report to the Ministry of Minority Affairs by Amitabh Kundu, over 44.8% of Scheduled Tribe (ST) and 33.8% of Scheduled Caste (SC)populations in rural India were living below the poverty line in 2011-12, compared to 30.8% of Muslims. In urban areas, 27.3% of ST and 21.8% of SC populations were poor, versus 26.5% of Muslims.

Some Hindu Dalits achieved affluence, although most remain poor. In particular, some Dalit intellectuals such as Chandrabhan Prasad have argued that the living standards of many Dalits have improved since the economic liberalisation in 1991 and have supported their claims through large surveys.

According to Socio Economic and Caste Census 2011, nearly 79 percent of rural Adivasi households and 73 percent for Dalit households were most deprived among rural households in India. While 45 percent of scheduled caste households are landless and earn by manual casual labour for their living and same is for 30 percent for adivasis.

A 2012 survey by Mangalore University in Karnataka stated that 93% of dalit families still live below the poverty line.

According to a 2014 report by The. IndiaGoverns Research Institute, Dalits constitute nearly half of primary school dropouts. In Karnataka State, 48% of school dropouts are Dalits.
In NepalScheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe students have the highest dropout rates at the primary school level.
Dalit students are given scholarships only after they produce photographs of family members working in traditional occupations.
Among state schools, 88% discriminated against Dalit children, while 79% required Dalit students to sit in the back of the classroom.
In 79% of schools, Dalit children are forbidden from touching mid-day meals. They are required to sit separately at lunch in 35% of schools, and are required to eat with specially marked plates in 28%.
In high schools, higher caste students are often advised not to mingle with Dalits.
There have been incidents of Dalit teachers and professors being discriminated against and harassed by authorities, upper castes colleagues as well as upper caste students in different education institutes of India.

Maharashtra is the only state where they(dalits:SC and ST) are in good position as others(high caste people) are. It's the only state where people face less discrimination as they are highly developed compared to other dalits living in india. most of them have converted to buddhism and are very proud of being buddhists and are followers of Dr. Ambedkar's ideology. Sadly, the state of states like Up, bihar, Tamil nadu, kerala is much much worse as most of them are still the followers of hinduism, being subjected to discrimination, outcast to the society. They are still being suppressed and not given the chance to rise, it's the reason why dalits are still poor among all the communities even after more than 60 years of independence(dalits contribute to about 25% of india's population).

Dalit atrocity cases: Just 15% convictions
Dalits after even so many years of independence continue to face discrimination and atrocities at the hands of upper castes. Even the redress mechanism is failing to deliver. The conviction rate under SC/ST prevention of Atrocities Act is 15.71% and pendency is as high as 85.37%.This when the Act has a strict provisions aimed as a deterrent. By contrast, conviction rate under IPC is over 40%.
The high acquittal rate appears to be direct fallout of police delay in booking the guilty. A study on POA Act by National Law School has given reasons behind the low conviction while also revealing how ground is prepared for acquittal at the investigation stage itself. Of the 646 cases studied by the NLS team from POA courts of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, 578 were disposed of and 68 are pending. Just 27 of the decided cases resulted in conviction; 551 in acquittals. On the whole 13 acquittals were reported from AP and TN each and one from Karnataka.
The study notes that while POA cases are disposed of possibly as fast as those under IPC with an average period of two and a half years the police all along appeared to facilitate acquittal rather then conviction. While an average six days were taken to file an FIR it took as many as 260 days on average to file charge sheets in cases of atrocities against dalits.Maximum period for charge sheeting under CrPC is 90 days.
Southern states have set up exclusive courts to deal with POA offences besides designating certain courts like district sessions courts as special courts to facilitate Dalit cases. These exclusive courts have improved the situation to an extent but on the whole conviction rates remain abysmally low. On the average, the study found that arrest of the main accused took 25 days in exclusive courts and 98 days in designated courts. They are neither given top priority nor are investigations completed within the shortest possible time. Also more than 450 days are taken by the two types of courts to start the hearing after the submission of charge sheet.
The report says huge intervals between various stages of case processing need some serious attention because they are working against the whole idea of justice to Dalits. The nature of offences too is an eye-opener. The second most common offence under the POA Act after atrocities to humiliate is outraging of modesty of SC/ST women. The study notes ,it indicates a tendency to use the dominant caste position to sexually exploit Dalit women.

Teacher Canes Dalit Student

Alert icon
 Loaded by VideoVolunteers on Jul 29, 2010

Discrimination and atrocities on Dalit communities is one of the ugly realities of India that refuses to decrease. In fact the number of registered cases of atrocities on Dalits in last 1 decade (1981-2000) was 31171. According to a National Human Rights Commission report, the conviction rate under SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, which was introduced to curb violence and crime against Dalits, is only 15.71% and pendency rate (cases filed, but not yet dealt with) is as high as 85.37%. By contrast, conviction rate under Indian Penal Code is over 40% Discrimination against students, both in schools and in colleges is very common too. According to statistics, 37.8% of students in govt run schools are made to eat their lunch/mid-day meal separately, sitting away from upper caste students. Physical torture, beatings are rampant in schools, especially in the rural areas. Haryana has been one of the states with a history of high crime rate against Dalits. The National Crime Records Bureau records show that on an average 374 cases of crimes against children are registered in the state, including 38 murder cases, 131 rape cases, 101 kidnapping cases. Amit Kumar, our correspondent is a Valmiki -- one of the most oppressed Dalit communities - and has personally experienced discrimination and injustice. As he says in the video, as a school student, he was often beaten up by upper caste teachers, but such beatings are then played down as minor incidents. But such physical assaults leave a deep mark on the child's mind, slowly pushing him to trauma. Education can't be free and fair, until children are not freed of such traumatic experiences of caste discrimination and violence, feels Amit.

Historical context of DALIT

The roots of Dalit oppression go back to the origins of the caste system in Hindu religion. The philosophy of caste is contained in the Manusmriti, a sacred Hindu text dating from the second century BCE. ‘Untouchable' outcast communities were forbidden to join in the religious and social life of the community and were confined to menial polluting tasks such as animal slaughter and leather-working. The introduction of Islam to India from about the thirteenth century AD led to widespread conversions by many low-caste and ‘untouchable' groups, and by the mid-nineteenth century about one quarter of the population was Muslim.

During the struggle for Indian independence two different approaches emerged for the improvement of the situation of the people now known as Dalits. The first was led by Mahatma Gandhi, who believed in raising the status of Dalit people (or, as he preferred to call them, Harijans) while retaining elements of the traditional caste system but removing the degrading stigma and manifestations of ‘untouchability'. The other approach was led by Dr Ambedkar, a lawyer and himself an ‘untouchable', who believed that only by destroying the caste system could ‘untouchability' be destroyed. Ambedkar became the chief spokesperson for those ‘untouchables' who demanded separate legal and constitutional recognition similar in status to that accorded to Muslims, Sikhs and Christians. However, this was opposed by Gandhi and Ambedkar eventually gave up the demand. After rejecting Hindu values, in 1956 he converted to Buddhism and was later followed by a large number of converts.

After independence the Indian constitution abolished untouchability in law. Today Dalit politics largely centres around the just dispensation of the affirmative action benefits (in employment, education and electoral representation) granted to them under the constitution. However, the Protection of Civil Rights Act 1955/1976 and the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989, both derived from the constitution, remain largely ineffective in their implementation. Many reasons lie behind this, including a lack of political will on the part of both central and state governments, a lack of commitment of upper-caste and class bureaucrats to social justice, the absence of vigilance committees of citizens to monitor the implementation process, and a lack of statutory power on the part of the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe Commission (Mandal Commission) to directly punish the perpetrators of crimes against Dalits. Affirmative government action, with regard to Dalits, is all directed at amelioration of their economic status, without liberating them from the dehumanizing effects of caste and ‘untouchability'. Caste and poverty are inseparably joined together and are at the root of the Dalit socioeconomic predicament.

Dalit women have been particularly badly affected in recent times. They are discriminated against not only because of their sex but also because of religious, social and cultural structures which have given them the lowest position in the social hierarchy. The stigma of untouchability makes them especially vulnerable victims of all kinds of discriminations and atrocities. In areas of health, education, housing, employment and wages, application of legal rights, decision-making and political participation, and rural development, Dalit women have been almost entirely excluded from development policies and programmes. The national population policy, which is geared to population control and in the process targets Dalit and women for family planning programmes, does so on the grounds that they are the cause of the population ‘explosion' and of poverty. No change has been made in the attitudes of society towards these women and they continue to be oppressed, marginalized, violated and all but forgotten. In the expression used often in development policies and plans they are: ‘women in extreme poverty'.

Politically Dalits have not been able to break into mainstream debates and discussions despite the system of reservations that works at both national and state levels. The main reason for this has been the co-option of the Dalit agenda into that of the mainstream political parties, which are usually led by upper-caste men, with a consequent neglect of the primary demands of Dalits. In the last few years the rise of the Bhahujan Samaj Party has for the first time given Dalits a vehicle for bringing Dalit issues into the wider political arena. The success of this party in the northern states especially has given rise to hopes that the old upper-caste domination of Indian politics may finally be on the verge of giving way. Particularly significant was the experiment with a minority government led by a Dalit woman in the largest Indian state, Uttar Pradesh. Although the experiment collapsed in October 1995, with the larger coalition partner withdrawing support for the government, for the first time a Dalit party led by a Dalit woman was able to gain political control of a state government. This trend, if repeated in other states, and if eventually transferred to the national scene, would bring Dalit politics and the Dalit agenda for social transformation into the national mainstream.

Almost 90 per cent of Dalits live in rural areas. Economic exploitation remains their most acute problem. They are almost all marginal farmers or landless labourers. Large numbers migrate to cities or to labour-scarce rural areas in different parts of India. Many are in debt and are obliged to work off their debts as bonded labour, despite the fact that this practice was abolished by law in 1976. In these cases a labourer takes a loan from a landlord or moneylender and in return agrees to work for that person until the debt has been repaid. In practice such debts are difficult to repay as interest rates are high and poverty forces the labourer into deeper debt. The debt can then be passed on to the next generation and it is almost impossible to escape the cycle of bondage. In some areas many high-caste landlords pay their Dalit labourers minimum wages in cash or food, or nothing at all; resistance is frequently met by violence, sometimes resulting in the death or injury of the victim. Mob violence against Dalit communities is frequently reported, sometimes led by landlords, and has been especially noticeable in situations where Dalit workers have joined labour unions or made progress in gaining education and economic mobility.

Many Dalit families have left rural areas to live in slums and on the pavements of the rapidly growing cities. Here they also tend to do the worst jobs for the lowest wages. However, in some cities traditional occupations such as sweepers have been organized in municipal unions and have the advantage of regular work and wages. Many Dalits work as casual day labourers, in small factories, quarries, brick kilns or on construction sites, as cycle rickshaw drivers or in petty trade. There are, however, growing numbers employed in relatively secure jobs in areas such as public service, banking and the railways, and sometimes in private industry. Those resident in the cities have some access to secondary and higher education, and a growing middle class has evolved within the Dalit community. As opportunities for education increase and aspirations rise, Dalits should become a strong and positive force for change in India in the coming decades, especially if they are able to organize themselves across barriers of language and religion.

Current issues

The constitutionally guaranteed affirmative action policies have had some positive impact in increasing the representation of the Dalit in educational institutions, governmental jobs and elected position. Notwithstanding this improvement, Dalit continue to remain the most underprivileged class of the India society: the stigma and unacceptability of Dalits in India society remains evident to this day. Dalit continue to be discriminated against. They are marginalised and socially ostracised. A telling example of the social exclusion even in the face substantial national disaster was witnessed in the immediate aftermath of the 26 December 2004 tsunami. The tsunami brought a substantial amount of devastation for the Dalits of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It is estimated that well over 10,000 died while 650,000 were displaced. More tragic and shameful was the fact that in the aftermath of the Tsunami, the Dalits of Tamil Nadu were made to suffer from worst forms of discrimination and humiliation. Notwithstanding the substantial losses, many Dalit victims have not been paid compensation - a consequence of their exclusion from the initial lists drawn up on the 27 and 28 December 2005. Dalits were excluded from making use of (and in some cases even entering into) makeshift relief camps; the untouchablity syndrome dominated the upper Hindu caste mentality even at this time of dire human crises. The limited shelter that was provided to Dalits was close to what are regarded as less desirable areas, for example near graveyards or garbage dumps lacking in proper sanitation or other facilities. In these shelters there was no regular supply of water. After the Tsunami, several international agencies donated large portable water-tanks for the general consumption of all those who were affected by the Tsunami. In several instances, the Dalits were prevented from drawing water from these taps, because of the fears of the upper caste Hindus of the ‘pollution' of water at the hands of Dalits, ‘the untouchables'.

The Dalit people in general continue to survive under sub-human, degrading conditions. The suffer from abuse and violence. Dalit women have been made a target of rapes, and Dalit men and women physically abused. Several example of such violence can be found; one recent example was provided when in 2006 Belchi, Bihar a Dalit family of six was burnt alive. Dalits were victims of social ostracism, having inadequate access to health care and poor working conditions. Dalit women continued to face ‘double discrimination' on the basis of their caste as well as gender-deprived of education and basic health care they were frequently subjected into forced slave-like practices and menial labour. In the light of the egregious and systematic denial of the fundamental rights of the Dalits, the United Nations on 19th April 2005 (in an unprecedented move) decided to appoint two Special Rapporteurs to examine the substantial and deep-rooted problem of caste-based discrimination. The Special Rapporteurs are mandated to study all issues surrounding the discrimination against Dalits and report to the United Nations Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights. The three-year process will lead to the drafting of a set of Principles and Guidelines aimed at eliminating caste-based discrimination. Whilst by no means insignificant, the report and the ultimate Principles and Guidelines are not legally binding. In a ceremony (and as a sign of protest against the oppressive Hindu caste-system) during October 2006, hundreds of Dalits converted to Christianity and Bhuddism. Repression and violation of fundamental rights of Dalits nevertheless continue. A study published in 2006 makes the observation that ‘Dalit continue to be barred from entering Hindu temples or other holy places. Dalit men are beaten up for daring to cycle through the centre of a village. The women are banned from wearing shoes in the presence of caste Hindus. Dalit children often suffer a form of apartheid at school by being made to sit at the back of classroom and eat in segregated spaces'. - See more at:

The Dalit Situation in India Today 
by John C. B. Webster 

John C. B. Webster is editor of the Dalit International Newsletter. 

The subscription address is P. O. Box 932, Waterford, CT 06385. His latest book is Religion and Dalit Liberation, which is available from Witnessing Ministries for Christ, 4717 N. Barton Ave., Fresno, CA 93726.

According to the 1991 Census there were about 138,200,000 Dalits in India a nd they constituted about 16.5% of the entire population of India. The 2001 Census has now been completed. The total population as risen to over one billion, but we do not know yet what the Dalit total is; however, if past trends continue, we may safely assume not only that the Dalit population will also have increased but also that the Dalit proportion of the total population has risen as well. 

“Dalit” (Oppressed) is the name which the people belonging to those castes at the very bottom of India’s caste hierarchy have given themselves. Formerly, they were known as Untouchables, because their presence was considered to be so polluting that contact with them was to be avoided at all costs. The offi cial label for them has been Scheduled Castes, because if their caste is listed on the government schedule, caste members become eligible for a number of affi rmative action benefi ts and protections. Dalits have chosen the “Dalit” label for themselves for at least three important reasons. First, the label indicates that the condition of the Dalits has not been of their own making or choosing; it is something which has been infl icted upon them by others. Thus, secondly, there is an element of militancy built into the label; Dalits seek to overcome the injustices and indignities forced upon them so as to gain the equality and respect hitherto denied them. “Dalit” also indicates that all these castes (Pariahs, Chamars, Mahars, Bhangis, etc.) share a common condition and should therefore unite in a common struggle for dignity, equality, justice and respect under a common name. 

The Dalit Political Strategy Both historically and currently Dalits have adopted four strategies, singly or in combination, in order to attain these ends. The fi rst and most dominant has been the political strategy of gaining power either as an end in itself (if you have power, others come to you and you do not have to go begging to them) or as a means to other ends (e.g., greater economic and educational opportunities). International Journal of Frontier Missions However, Dalits have been divided over whether to pursue political power independently of other castes or in alliance with those members of other castes and communities whose interests and ideals are close to their own. 

For example, there are at present Dalit members of Parliament and of State Legislative Assemblies, as well as Dalit party workers, in virtually all the major political parties, including the Prime Minister’s Bharatiya Janata Party, which in its traditionalist Hindu ideology, is quite anti-Dalit. There are also exclusively Dalit political parties at the regional level and two Dalit-led political parties, the Bahujan Samaj Party of Kanshi Ram and Ms. Mayawati as well as the Republican Party of India, have members of Parliament as well. The Dalit debate within and between the various parties over whether to get whatever share of power Dalits can through whatever alliances are most expedient or to maintain pressure from outside on those in power by maintaining some ideological and programmatic unity, at least among Dalits themselves if not with other disadvantaged groups (tribals, religious minorities, women, the poor in general) as well, has yet to be resolved. As this brief description suggests, there is little political unity among Dalits at the present time and many are wondering out loud whether the political process can deliver what Dalits have every right to expect from it. 

Their Economic Strategy 

The second strategy has been economic. Not only are Dalits extremely poor (almost half of them living below the poverty line as compared to less than one-third of the rest of the population) but they are also almost totally dependent upon the dominant castes for their livelihoods as agricultural or urban labor. Thus many Dalits have sought greater economic independence, both as an end in itself and as a means to other ends (e.g., political power, educational opportunity). During the past decade a good number of international development agencies, both religious and secular, have also adopted this strategy by funding a variety of grassroots Dalit organizations engaged in a range of community development activities. These activities focus on such things as small-scale industries, teaching new skills, educating Dalits on how to take advantage of government development assistance, developing cooperatives. The task is enormous. Over 75% of the Dalit population is still rural and so these activities have to be carried out village by village. They also face opposition within each village from members of the dominant castes who want to keep Dalits as an impoverished and dependent source of cheap labor. 

The Social Strategy
 A third strategy, which can be described as social, has two components. Education is one. If Dalits become literate (10.2% in 1961, 37.4% in 1991) or even educated, they can move beyond unskilled labor, earn more money, and so gain greater respect. The other is making life-style changes which get rid of those practices considered especially “low” or “polluting” and substituting those of the “higher” castes instead. For example, they should give up eating certain meats and cease working at certain jobs (e.g., cleaning latrines). The aim of education and life-style change has been to remove some of the more obvious reasons for anti-Dalit prejudice. The social strategy was adopted by the Christian missions over a century ago and it still dominates the churches’ thinking about improving the Dalits’ lot. Today there are churches which are not only giving special priority to Dalits in some of their institutions of formal education, but are also developing joboriented, nonformal educational projects to enhance skill development. The social strategy has also undergirded much of the affi rmative action policy built into India’s constitution. The assumption is that if Dalits get educated, get better jobs, and earn more money so as to raise their class status, then their caste status (measured in terms of mutually respectful and friendly relations with members of “higher” castes) would improve also. The problem has been that the government (controlled by the dominant “higher” castes) has never fully implemented all the progressive affi rmative action legislation it has passed into law. This is a source of great resentment, especially among educated Dalits. 

The Religious Strategy

 The fourth strategy has been religious in nature. Its moderate form involves reform from within one’s own religious tradition. For example, some Hindu sects have renounced caste hierarchy and some Hindu reformers, Gandhi being the best known, have sought to “uplift” the Untouchables. The more radical religious option, however, has 16 The Dalit Situation in India Today Over the past 125 years, so many Dalits have converted to Christianity that today the majority of the Christian population of India is Dalit! 17 18:1 Spring 2001 been conversion to another, more egalitarian religion. For example, over the past 125 years, so many Dalits have converted to Christianity that today the majority of the Christian population of India is Dalit! Following the induction of their great leader, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, into the Buddhist Sangha in 1956, several million Dalits have become Buddhists. What a new religion offered to the Dalits was a new identity defi ned by religion rather than by caste, as well as a more egalitarian religious counterculture. This has been only partially successful. No matter what goes on in Christian or Buddhist circles, most Indians still think in terms of caste and so simply assume that anyone who is a Christian or Buddhist is a Dalit. Moreover, both Christian and Buddhist Dalits were denied the affi rmative action benefi ts and protections granted to other Dalits; in 1990 the Buddhist Dalits became eligible and Dalit Christians are still ineligible. By denying these to Christian (and Muslim) Dalits the government is in fact providing strong economic disincentives to conversion and strong economic incentives to Christian Dalits to return to the Hindu fold. 

The Christian Dalits 

As this brief analysis suggests, the present situation of Dalits in India is complex and confusing. There are no obvious, agreed upon solutions to the problems which the Dalits face; the way forward in the Dalit struggle is by no means clear. However, there are a few trends visible among Christian Dalits which are quite important for Christian thinking on this subject. First and foremost among these is a growing acknowledgement that they are Dalits and that conversion to Christianity has not really changed that signifi cant fact of their lives, despite hopes and promises to the contrary. Most Christian Dalits thus have a dual social and psychological identity, Christian as well as Dalit, and have to live with the tensions built into that dual identity. A second trend is an increasing assertion of Dalit identity as a positive thing, a source of pride rather than of shame. In this they (rightly) challenge pervasive cultural norms. One expression of this assertiveness is Dalit Theology; another is a harsh critique of those missionary and Indian Church leaders who, in their efforts to “Indianize” the Church, have equated “Indian” culture with Brahmanic instead of Dalit culture. (One reason why Dalit Christians have resisted a lot of efforts to “Indianize” the theology and liturgy of the Church is because they are fed up with the Brahmanic culture which they converted to get away from!) Perhaps most obvious of all are the persistent efforts to “raise the caste issue” and exorcise the demon of caste discrimination (which is “Legion” and takes many forms) within the churches themselves. Until this is done, the churches cannot embody much “good news” for their own Dalit members, let alone for other Dalits. Finally, there are Christian Dalits who are staunch advocates of each of the four Dalit strategies described above and are working hard at implementing those strategies. I see no evidence that one strategy, or even one combination of strategies, has become clearly predominant in Dalit Christian circles. What does seem evident, however, is that over the past two decades Christian Dalits are working more closely with other Dalits to achieve common aims and objectives than was true earlier. “Dalit Solidarity” is an end and means much desired but diffi cult to achieve; yet many Dalit Christian leaders have come to the conclusion that their Christian hopes for their own people cannot be realized in isolation from the realization of the hopes of all the Dalit people. IJFM 

Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Scheduled castes distribution map in India by state and union territory according to 2011 Census. Punjab had the highest % of its population as SC (~32%), while India's island territories and three northeastern states had 0%.

Scheduled Tribes distribution map in India by state and union territory according to 2011 Census. Mizoram and Lakshadweep had the highest % of its population as ST (~95%), while Punjab and Haryana had 0%.
The Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) are various officially designated groups of historically disadvantaged people in India. The terms are recognised in the Constitution of India and the various groups are designated in one or other of the categories. For much of the period of British rule in the Indian subcontinent, they were known as the Depressed Classes. The combined percentage of people in scheduled castes and scheduled tribes is essentially the official percentage of people in the lowest part of Indian society.
In modern literature, the Scheduled Castes/Tribes are sometimes referred to as untouchables; in Tamil Nadu they are referred as Adi Dravida or Paraiyar; and in other states mostly referred as Dalits.
The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes comprise about 16.6 % and 8.6 %, respectively, of India's population (according to the 2011 census). The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950 lists 1,108 castes across 29 states in its First Schedule, and the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950 lists 744 tribes across 22 states in its First Schedule.
Since the independence of India, the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes were given Reservation status, guaranteeing political representation. The Constitution lays down the general principles of positive discrimination for SCs and STs.
Since the 1850s these communities were loosely referred to as Depressed Classes, with the Schedule Caste and Scheduled Tribes also being known as "Dalits" or Adivasi (or "original inhabitants"). The early 20th century saw a flurry of activity in the British authorities assessing the feasibility of responsible self-government for India. The Morley–Minto Reforms Report, Montagu–Chelmsford Reforms Report and the Simon Commission were several initiatives in this context. A highly contested issue in the proposed reforms was the reservation of seats for representation of the Depressed Classes in provincial and central legislatures.
In 1935, Parliament passed the Government of India Act 1935, designed to give Indian provinces greater self-rule and set up a national federal structure. The reservation of seats for the Depressed Classes was incorporated into the act, which came into force in 1937. The Act introduced the term "Scheduled Castes", defining the group as "such castes, races or tribes or parts of groups within castes, races or tribes, which appear to His Majesty in Council to correspond to the classes of persons formerly known as the 'Depressed Classes', as His Majesty in Council may prefer". This discretionary definition was clarified in The Government of India (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1936, which contained a list (or Schedule) of castes throughout the British-administered provinces.
After independence the Constituent Assembly continued the prevailing definition of Scheduled Castes and Tribes, giving (via articles 341 and 342) the president of India and governors of the states a mandate to compile a full listing of castes and tribes (with the power to edit it later, as required). The complete list of castes and tribes was made via two orders: The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950 and The Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950,respectively. Furthermore, independent India's quest for inclusivity was incident through the appointment of B.R Ambedkar as the chair of the drafting committee for the Constitution. Ambedkar was a Dalit constitutional lawyer, a member of the low regarded Untouchables.

Steps taken by the government to improve the situation of SC and ST

The Constitution provides a three-pronged strategy to improve the situation of SCs and STs:
  • Protective arrangements: Such measures as are required to enforce equality, to provide punitive measures for transgressions, to eliminate established practices that perpetuate inequities, etc. A number of laws were enacted to implement the provisions in the Constitution. Examples of such laws include The Untouchability Practices Act, 1955, Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, The Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993, etc. Despite legislation, social discrimination and atrocities against the backward castes continued to persist.
  • Affirmative action: Provide positive treatment in allotment of jobs and access to higher education as a means to accelerate the integration of the SCs and STs with mainstream society. Affirmative action is popularly known as reservation. Article 16 of the Constitution states "nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any provisions for the reservation of appointments or posts in favor of any backward class of citizens, which, in the opinion of the state, is not adequately represented in the services under the State". The Supreme Court upheld the legality of affirmative action and the Mandal Commission (a report that recommended that affirmative action not only apply to the Untouchables, but the other backward castes as well). However, the reservations from affirmative action were only allotted in the public sector, not the private.
  • Development: Provide resources and benefits to bridge the socioeconomic gap between the SCs and STs and other communities. Major part played by the Hidayatullah National Law University. Legislation to improve the socioeconomic situation of SCs and STs because twenty-seven percent of SC and thirty-seven percent of ST households lived below the poverty line, compared to the mere eleven percent among other households. Additionally, not only were backward castes poorer than other groups in Indian society, but they also suffered from higher morbidity and mortality rates.

National commissions

To effectively implement the various safeguards built into the Constitution and other legislation, the Constitution under Articles 338 and 338A provides for two statutory commissions: the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, and the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes. The chairpersons of both commissions sit ex officio on the National Human Rights Commission.

Constitutional history

In the original Constitution, Article 338 provided for a special officer (the Commissioner for SCs and STs) responsible for monitoring the implementation of constitutional and legislative safeguards for SCs and STs and reporting to the president. Seventeen regional offices of the Commissioner were established throughout the country.
There was an initiative to replace the Commissioner with a committee in the 48th Amendment to the Constitution, changing Article 338. While the amendment was being debated, the Ministry of Welfare established the first committee for SCs and STs (with the functions of the Commissioner) in August 1978. These functions were modified in September 1987 to include advising the government on broad policy issues and the development levels of SCs and STs. Now it is included in Article 342.
In 1990, Article 338 was amended for the National Commission for SCs and STs with the Constitution (Sixty fifth Amendment) Bill, 1990. The first commission under the 65th Amendment was constituted in March 1992, replacing the Commissioner for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and the commission established by the Ministry of Welfare's Resolution of 1989. In 2003, the Constitution was again amended to divide the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes into two commissions: the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes. Due to the spread of Christianity and Islam among schedule caste/Tribe community converted are not protected as castes under Indian Reservation policy. Hence, these societies usually forge their community certificate as Hindus and practice Christianity or Islam afraid for their loss of reservation.

Scheduled Castes Sub-Plan

The Scheduled Castes Sub-Plan (SCSP) of 1979 mandated a planning process for the social, economic and educational development of Scheduled Castes and improvement in their working and living conditions. It was an umbrella strategy, ensuring the flow of targeted financial and physical benefits from the general sector of development to the Scheduled Castes. It entailed a targeted flow of funds and associated benefits from the annual plan of states and Union Territories (UTs) in at least a proportion to the national SC population. Twenty-seven states and UTs with sizable SC populations are implementing the plan. Although the Scheduled Castes population according to the 2001 Census was 16.66 crores(16.23 % of the total population), the allocations made through SCSP have been lower than the proportional population. A strange factor has emerged of extremely lowered fertility of scheduled castes in Kerala, due to land reform, migrating Kerala Gulf diaspora and democratization of education.

The Dalits | Still untouchable

Illustration by Saurabh Singh
Illustration by Saurabh Singh
"The State shall promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker section of the people, and in particular, of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation."
-Article 46 of the Indian Constitution.
Today, 68 years after Independence, as Dalits continue to bear the brunt of violence and discrimination-highlighted in recent weeks by the tragic suicide of Rohith Vemula, a Ph.D student in the Hyderabad Central University who hanged himself, blaming his birth as a "fatal accident" in a chilling final note-we could not be any further away from what the Constitution had demanded from a free and fair India.
Students protesting against the death of doctoral student Rohith Vemula. Students protesting against the death of doctoral student Rohith Vemula. Photo: M Zhazo

Rohith's is not the lone tragedy. A spectre of suicide deaths by several Dalit students is haunting India. Out of 25 students who committed suicide only in north India and Hyderabad since 2007, 23 were Dalits. This included two in the prestigious All-India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, and 11 in Hyderabad city alone. Systematic data does not exist for such suicides, but the problem runs far deeper than a few students deciding to end their own lives after being defeated by the system.

Dalit dilemma in India reads like an entire data sheet of tragedies. According to a 2010 report by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on the Prevention of Atrocities against Scheduled Castes, a crime is committed against a Dalit every 18 minutes. Every day, on average, three Dalit women are raped, two Dalits murdered, and two Dalit houses burnt. According to the NHRC statistics put together by K.B. Saxena, a former additional chief secretary of Bihar, 37 per cent Dalits live below the poverty line, 54 per cent are undernourished, 83 per 1,000 children born in a Dalit household die before their first birthday, 12 per cent before their fifth birthday, and 45 per cent remain illiterate. The data also shows that Dalits are prevented from entering the police station in 28 per cent of Indian villages. Dalit children have been made to sit separately while eating in 39 per cent government schools. Dalits do not get mail delivered to their homes in 24 per cent of villages. And they are denied access to water sources in 48 per cent of our villages because untouchability remains a stark reality even though it was abolished in 1955.
We may be a democratic republic, but justice, equality, liberty and fraternity-the four basic tenets promised in the Preamble of our Constitution-are clearly not available to all. Dalits continue to be oppressed and discriminated against in villages, in educational institutions, in the job market, and on the political battlefront, leaving them with little respite in any sphere or at any juncture of their lives.

All this even while there has been no dearth of political rhetoric, or creation of laws, to pronounce that Dalits must not get a raw deal. The Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955, and the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, prescribe punishments from crimes against Dalits that are much more stringent than corresponding offences under the IPC. Special courts have been established in major states for speedy trial of cases registered exclusively under these Acts. In 2006, former prime minister Manmohan Singh even equated the practice of "untouchability" to that of "apartheid" and racial segregation in South Africa.

In December 2015, the SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill, passed by Parliament, made several critical changes. New activities were added to the list of offences. Among them were preventing SCs/STs from using common property resources, from entering any places of public worship, and from entering an education or health institution. In case of any violation, the new law said that the courts would presume unless proved otherwise that the accused non-SC/ST person was aware of the caste or tribal identity of the victim.
So why have violent incidents against Dalits increased, rather than decreased over the years, in spite of Constitutional protection and legal safeguards? "Caste is not simply a law and order problem but a social problem. Caste violence can only be eradicated with the birth of a new social order," says Chandra Bhan Prasad, co-author of Defying the Odds: The Rise of Dalit Entrepreneurs. He argues that the upward mobility of some Dalits caused by market reforms post-1991, ironically leads to higher incidence of atrocities in the form of a backlash.
Education, the hotbed

Protest is starting to brew in institutions of higher education. At Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University, hundreds of students gathered at the Ganga dhaba on the eve of Vemula's 27th birthday on January 29 to organise a candlelight vigil. Slogans sliced the silence of the winter night: "Tum kitne Rohithon ko maroge? Har ghar se Rohith niklega (How many Rohiths will you murder? A Rohith will rise from every household)", and "Jaativaad pe halla bol, Brahminvaad pe halla bol, Hindutva pe halla bol, Manuvaad pe halla bol (Raise you voice against casteism, Brahminism, Hindutva, and discrimination)!" Next afternoon, the students held a protest rally at the city's RSS headquarters in Jhandewalan to celebrate Rohith's birthday. The police retaliated with batons.