Chamar/Dalit's Facts and Figure

"Untouchables" (Dalits) are generally defined as people belonging to castes that rank below the Sudra varna—the lowest of the four major castes (varnas): the Brahmins (priestly caste); Kshatriyas (warrior caste), the Vaisyas (farmer caste); and Sudras (laborers). Dalits have traditionally been regarded as having such low status they don't even register on the caste system. There are an estimated 200 million to 300 million of them, depending how different castes are counted, and they make up one sixth to one forth of India's population. [Source: Tom O’Neill, National Geographic, June 2003] 

Untouchables don't like the being called Untouchables. They prefer to be called Dalits, meaning “ground down” and "oppressed." Mahatma Gandhi called them "Harijans" which means "children of god." Many find this term patronizing. They and members of other lower castes are often described these days as "scheduled classes" (a term introduced by the British that means they are on the schedule of castes eligible for government aid). 

Other terms used to describe them include Depressed Classes, Avarna (outside the varna system), Antyaja (last-borne), Outcastes (inaccurate since they are in caste system), Adi-Dravida (meaning “original Dravidians”), external caste, backwards castes, Panchama (meaning fifth varna, a term developed to accommodate intercaste offspring into the caste system) and Pariah (a term used by the British based on the name of the major Untouchable group of Tamil Nadu).

Their low rank is based in on the general belief, often associated with Hinduism, that traditional occupations dealing with death, excrement, blood or dirt—such as butchers, leather workers, scavengers, latrine cleaners and street cleaners—are polluting to other castes and touching them should be avoided. Implicit in this construct is the belief that Dalits deserve their lot in life because they are in the position they are in because of karma and as a punishment for sins committed in earlier lives. Untouchability is not unique to South Asia. Dalit-like groups can be found in Japan (the Burakumin), Korea (the Paekching), Tibet (the Ragyappa) and Burma (Pagoda slaves). 

The term “Untouchable” was first used in 1909 in a lecture by the Maharaja Sayaji Rao III of Baroda to describe the primary features of the group’s relationship with other castes. Since 1935 "Untouchables" have officially been known as Scheduled Castes, referring to their listing on government rosters, or schedules. Although the term Untouchable appears in literature produced by these low-ranking castes, in the 1990s, many politically conscious members of these groups prefer to refer to themselves as Dalit , a Hindi word meaning oppressed or downtrodden. According to the 1991 census, there were 138 million Scheduled Caste members in India, approximately 16 percent of the total population. [Source: Library of Congress]

Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes

The Indian constitution created three broad categories of underprivileged groups as part of an effort to help these groups through welfare and administrative means. Three groups were named but not clearly defined: 1) Schedules castes (roughly comprising Dalits), 2) Scheduled Tribes (virtually all Aduvasus or tribes) and 3) Other Backward Classes (other economically disadvantaged groups not included on the lists of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. In 1981 it was estimated there were 105 million Scheduled Caste members and 52 million members of Scheduled Tribes. The Backward Class category is fuzzy and always changing and difficult to pin down on the basis on numbers. 

The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes comprise about 16.6 percent and 8.6 percent, 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 independence, the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes were given Reservation status, guaranteeing political representation. The Constitution lays down the general principles of affirmative action for SCs and Sts. [Source: Wikipedia +] 

The castes and tribes categorized as Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Backward Class are published on list or schedules, which have been revised several times, and are determined on the national and state level for the Scheduled Castes and Tribes but only on the tribal and provincial level for the Backward Classes. 

Groups defined as Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes receive special benefits and privileges such as subsidies, loans and job and university placements. Tribal and Harijan welfare departments have been set up in each state to administer benefits for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes legislation. It was originally intended that these benefits would only last for 20 years but they have been extended. To maintain these benefits existing groups fight hard not to lose their Scheduled Caste status and other groups have fought to be included. 

The greatest concentrations of Scheduled Caste members in 1991 lived in the states of Andhra Pradesh (10.5 million, or nearly 16 percent of the state's population), Tamil Nadu (10.7 million, or 19 percent), Bihar (12.5 million, or 14 percent), West Bengal (16 million, or 24 percent), and Uttar Pradesh (29.3 million, or 21 percent). Together, these and other Scheduled Caste members comprised about 139 million people, or more than 16 percent of the total population of India. [Source: Library of Congress, 1995 *]

Discrimination Against Dalits

Dalits have traditionally been forbidden from entering Hindu temples and schools, or touching members of other castes (hence the name untoucable). They have had to drink from separate wells and sit on separate benches. In some places Dalits are not allowed to use the same cups or utensils used by members of other castes at restaurants and food stalls. Sometimes they are served from coconut shells or have water poured into their hands rather than in a cup. 

In some cases higher castes have not even let the shadows of lower castes fall on them and Dalits have been required to wear bells to alert upper class Hindus that they were coming. If a member of a high caste touches an Dalit the are supposed to take a special bath and perform a ritual to regain their purity. 

Dalits in the countryside have traditionally lived in satellite hamlets, separated from main villages, or segregated neighborhoods. In the cities they often live in segregated slums. In many cases they use their own well and in some cases, their own roads, footpaths and bridges. In some places, Dalits live in hamlets downwind from villages with non-Dalits residents so their wind doesn't defile the higher caste people. Such segregations are regarded as necessary measures to protect others from the Dalit’s polluting presence. 

In some places Dalits are still prevented from reading or studying Hindu scriptures. Those that do are sometimes severely beaten as a punishment in accordance with village rules. Dalit children are often prohibited from attending classes with children from higher castes. Even educated Dalits with high level government jobs are forced at sit at the feet of Brahmins when they return to their villages. It has been said that some Dalits are so polluting that they could pollute a corpse, which itself is regarded as polluting. The discrimination against Dalits persists even though they generally have the same skin color and dress in the same clothes as other Indians.

Keeping Dalits in Their Place

In extreme cases lower castes are excluded from village wells and are expected to collect water from muddy pools or stagnant ponds near the boundaries of the village. Under these circumstances the water they collect makes their children sick. Sometimes upper caste members charitably draw water for them and give it to them. 

In the old days if an Dalit let his shadow touch a higher caste member he risked being severally beaten. Some carried buckets so their spit wouldn’t contaminate the ground. Until a century ago there were rules in Kerala that described distances, ranging from 12 to 96 paces, which Dalit were required to distance themselves from higher-status Hindus. These rules were in place in part to keep upper castes a safe distance away from Dalit shadows. In some places it was a custom for higher class landowners to deflower Dalit brides on their wedding in front of the helpless groom. 

Upper-class land landlord often enlist the help of local police to keep the Dalits down. One state official told TIME: "The condition of the Dalits in the villages is so bad that the concern for most is how to gain minimum self respect and security. What they want today is not jobs, but to be able to live without being humiliated and harassed." 

Upper caste members have tormented Dalits by stealing university acceptance letters from their mailboxes and attacking doctors that treat them. In one town, when Dalits attempted to claim land that was legally theirs upper caste members showed up with a diesel engine and drained all the water from their pond. 

Hindus use the idea of dharma to rationalize the treatment of dalits. Dharma is an important concept in Hinduism but is difficult to define. Some translate it as meaning “universal justice” or “natural law” but is best viewed as doing what is required based on one’s position and stage in life. Dharma is basically a code of moral conduct and duties and is regarded as one of the most important truths sought by individuals in their lifetime. It is linked with righteousness and responsibility and is sometimes viewed as living in accordance with one’s caste traditions. 

Dalit Life and Poverty
Dalits in the countryside have traditionally lived in satellite hamlets, separated from main villages, or segregated neighborhoods. They have their own shrines and wells because they are not allowed to use the ones used by upper castes. Local Dalit communities have traditionally been led by headmen. Disputes and caste-related problems have worked out by a panchayat (caste council). 

Many Dalits have only one name and live in extended families made of parents, married sons and their wives and grandchildren or in families composed of married brothers, their wives and their children. Marriages are mostly monogamous. Some polygamy still occurs. Dalit women have traditionally been married as adolescents, were subordinate to their husbands and rarely left their homes. Some Dalit women go veiled. 

Dalits are one of South Asia’s most backward and uneducated group. In the early 2000s, about two thirds of Dalits were illiterate, half were landless agricultural peasants and only seven percent had access to safe drinking water, electricity and toilets. 

Dalit have traditionally not been allowed to own land. One Dalit said, “We only have the for our houses. We have no land to grow food. We only work for them." Some buy discarded chicken scraps from a restaurants to eat. Many Dalits suffer from malnutrition, typhoid and tuberculosis.

Dalit Groups and Professions

Dalits are not homogeneous group. They are stratified into around 900 castes or castelike subdivisions that ranked in terms of superiority and inferiority like other castes. Among the higher ranking ones are Dalit priests who serve the other Dalits because members of other castes won’t serve them. Because contact with blood is considered polluting many midwives are Dalits. Dalits are their equivalents are found not just in India but throughout South Asia.

The Dalit castes and rankings are generally linked to occupation. Traditional Dalit professions include skinning carcasses, collecting garbage, leatherworking, cleaning latrines, collecting "night soil" ("human excrement"), cremating the dead, catching rats, brewing alcohol, cobbling, carpet making and cloth-weaving. Some Dalits have traditionally earned money by collecting coins from cremated bodies and selling meat from cattle slaughtered for leather to Muslims. Others have pounded leather washers used as seals in water pumps. 

Many Dalits have “clean” jobs such as menial laborers and farm workers. Their low caste rankings means they are often exploited. Some are sold as bonded laborers and work in larger farms owned by upper-class landowners who pay wages in terms a few kilos of rice. Other Dalits take jobs—such as carrying bricks produced by kilns or hauling rocks in a quarry—that are not necessarily restricted to Dalits but are so undesirable that other castes will not take them. Some Dalits have few options other than scavenging and begging. 

Castes made obsolete like the leatherworking Chamars have became field and factory workers. The birdcatcher caste used to catch birds in the forest and sold them in villages for their meat and feathers and as medicines. Today most birdcatchers are farmers.

Dalit Latrine Cleaners

Some Dalits work as sewer and latrine cleaners. If there is a clog they have to climb into the excrement and unclog it manually. The work is often done by a scavenger caste, known as Bhangis, Pakhis, Sikkaliars, depending on the region. They have traditionally cleaned sewers and gutters and removed dead animals without using any protective clothing. They have high incidents if stomach and lung infections. It is not unusual for dozens of them to die of gas poisoning in a single city. They are regarded as the lowest of the low even among Dalits, who will not take food or drink from them. Women often place their veils over their noses and mouths when they walk by. 

One latrine cleaner told the Financial Times, "I start at six and finish at three, cleaning latrines and unblocking drains. When I clean the latrines, the smell and dirt comes to my face and hands. I cannot do anything about it, I have to clean them. When there is a drainage problem, we have to go down into manholes to unclog the human waste." Among the things the latrine cleaner suffered from were skin allergies and breathing problems. Some of his workers suffer trachoma and have gone blind from bacterial conjunctivitis. 

Describing a latrine cleaner at work, Tom O’Neill wrote in National Geographic, “Dinesh Parmar, a lithe 25-year-old with a gold chain glittering around his neck, removed the cover. Cockroaches scurried from the darkness as the stench from below filed the street. Parmar hesitated for only an instant, then dropped into the hole with no gloves, no gas mask. His body hidden inside, he methodically lifted bucket after bucket of excrement over his head, upending them in the street. Flies clustered thickly, Then he stopped, dizzy from the carbon monoxide, seeping out of the sewer. The supervisor nodded, allowing Parmar to climb out...Parmat left brown footsteps as he led the way to a nearby lane, he climbed down into several more manholes to scoop up clots of sludge.” When he was finished he received some water and soap from a nearby resident and carefully washed himself and his clothes in the street.” 

Latrine cleaners also carry away feces from public latrines, clean the toilet holes in private houses, and clean up the droppings of animals in the streets. A woman Dalit latrine cleaner told the Financial Times, "I feel sick doing this dirty work. I have to pick up the night soil and clean latrines with my bare hands. The smell and gas burns my eyes. It is a sickening job, but nobody will give me another. My father and mother did the same work. I don't want my children to do this dirty work, but they might end up doing it out of desperation.”

Ratcatchers and Leatherworkers

The Musahars are an Dalit subcaste of fieldworkers whose major responsibility is ridding croplands of pests such as snails, insects and rats. Concentrated in the state of Bihar and regarded as the lowest of the low and the poorest of the poor, the Musahars are famed for not only catching rats but eating them as well. In the 19th century, the British asked the Musahars for help riding Indian cities of rats. 

The two million or so Musahars generally live in villages without safe drinking water and electricity. Their literacy rate is less than 5 percent. One Indian social scientist who has done research on the Musahars says that he has never come across a Musahar doctor, engineer, or lawyer. The most successful Musahar is Bhagwati Devi, a woman who became a parliamentarian in New Delhi even though she is illiterate. 

Early in the 20th is century the Vaddar caste were paid 1 rupee for every 100 rats caught. More than 13 million rat tails were turned in, roughly one for each human victim during worst years of the Great Plague in Europe. 

Chamars have traditionally dealt with leather and dead animals. They include leatherworkers, tanners and shoemakers. They also have the polluting tasks of removing dead cattle from villages. Their occupation is rooted in upper caste aversions to killing cattle, eating beef and handling animal hides. In the countryside they often are farmers who work for a landlord. 

The Jatav are either viewed as an Dalit group or a smidgen above the Dalits. Also known as the Jadav, Jatava and Jatu, Chamar and Harijan, they have traditionally been leather workers and soinces leather has traditionally been regarded as dirty crafts that s why they were relegated to Dalit status. They live mostly in Utter Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab and around Delhi. There are about 30 million of them in these states. They make up about 10 percent of the population there.

Mazhabis, Dhobis and Mahars

The Mazhabi caste gathers cattle droppings, makes dung cakes for cooking fuel, dances at weddings and hauls away dead mules and donkeys. Dhobis are a caste that wash clothes “polluted by blood or human waste.” Street sweepers are one of the lowest castes. Brooms have traditionally been a bunch of twigs bound together with no handle. The sweepers have to hunch over to sweep. 

The Mahars are an Dalit servant group found mostly in the Maranthi-speaking areas of the Maharashtra, and to a lesser extent Madhya Pradesh and Baroda. Many have converted from Hinduism to Buddhism (See Neo-Buddhists) and are great admirers of B.R. Ambedkar, who himself converted to Buddhism. Despite their conversion they still occupy their same position in the caste system and are treated by non-Dalits and Dalits. 

Mahars have traditionally been responsible for removing dead carcasses from villages. They also have brought wood to cremation grounds, carried messages to other villagers, acted as village watchmen, cared for horses, and fixed mud walls. They were expected to eat the flesh of the animals they dragged from the villages. The Mangs are a caste of ropemakers that are regarded as lower than Mahars. They keep pigs.


Because touching a corpse is regarded as a polluting act only Dalits cremate and bury the dead. The cremations in Varanasi and other places are preformed by the Doms, a subcaste that makes their living burning bodies for cremations for a fee that ranges considerably depending on the wealth of the family. The Doms are a Dalit caste. Touching a corpse after death is viewed as polluting. So terrible is their work that Doms are expected to weep when their children are born and party when death releases them from their macabre responsibilities. 

The Doms are an example of Dalits that earn quite a lot of money. In addition to charging money for performing the cremations the Doms also take a cut from the exorbitantly-priced wood sold near the ghats. The Doms in Varanasi have become very wealthy from their trade and some Indians have accused them of "extortion" because of the high prices they charge and the fact they often take money from poor families that struggle to pay for the cremations. Because they are the only ones allowed to perform the cremations, the Doms have established a monopoly that allows them to charge very high prices. When customers can't pay the full price the Doms hold back the supply of wood and bodies end up half-burned. 

In the 1980s the Dom Raja controlled the ghats and the supply of wood used to burn the 35,000 or so bodies brought to Ganges in Varanasi for cremations. The Raja did not perform a cremation unless he was paid in advance the $45 or so for the wood, and often he demanded an extra payment to guarantee the soul would be liberated. These payments, some claimed, made him the richest man in Varanasi. [Source:Geoffrey Ward, Smithsonian magazine, September 1985] 

Describing an encounter with the Dom Raja, Geoffrey Ward wrote in Smithsonian magazine: "The Dom Raja himself sat cross-legged on a string bed inside his darkened room. Eight hangers on sat at his feet around a little table on which rests a brass tumbler and half-empty bottle of clear homemade liquor. The Dom Raja was immensely fat, nearly naked and totally bald. His thick fingers were covered with big gold rings. When he spoke he slurred his words. I had not brought him a handsome gift, he finally mumbled, so he saw no reason to speak further with me." [Ibid]

Gandhi and Laws that Protect and Help Dalit

Legally there are no "Dalits." After independence, the Indian Constitution officially abolished "untouchability." and discrimination against "former" Dalits. Dalits are allowed to own law according to Indian law but often times they are relegated to living in compounds outside villages, towns and cities. Police rarely enforce the laws that ban Untouchability. 

Gandhi sympathized with he "untouchables," calling them haijana (people of God). He campaigned to get "untouchables" admitted to the lower classes. Early in his career as an activist he shocked fellow Hindus by allowing Untouchables into his ashram. His family adopted an Untouchable girl. He rejected the notion that some people were more impure than others and had everyone in his ashram participate in cleaning chores. In his Harijan tour in 1933 he traveled across India, encouraging temples to let untouchables in and tried to persuade Hindus to generally be more tolerant of untouchables. His effort attracted some attention to the issue but yielded few concrete results. Some have claimed Gandhi didn’t go far enough. He never formally renounced the caste system. 

Legislation, programs and reforms have gone a long way towards improving the health, education, political representation and economic opportunities of Dalits. There are laws that guarantee Dalits the right to enter temples and shops. After a fierce court battle Dalits won the right to claim land illegally occupied by upper castes. 

Dalits Improving Their Lives

Many Dalits have escaped their low status position by converting to Islam, Buddhism or Christianity in the past century. They have been attracted to these religions in part because of their egalitarian doctrines and partly because membership in these religions helps to hide their backgrounds. Dalits in Bihar who have been banned from temples have threatened to convert to a new religion. 

Following the example of their revered leader, Dr. Ambedkar, who converted to Buddhism four years before his death in 1956, millions of Dalits have embraced the faith of the Buddha. The Dalits who converted to Christianity and Islam have done so over the past few centuries often to raise their socioeconomic status. However, Christians, Muslims and Buddhists of Dalit origin still often suffer from discrimination by Christians, Muslims and Buddhists--and others--of higher caste backgrounds. 

Government-imposed quotas have helped Dalits. In Uttar Pradesh, for example, 150 positions are reserved for Dalits in the élite 540-member Indian Administrative Service. Nationwide, Dalits receive 15 percent of all government jobs and university places. Educated Dalits often infuriated when they return to their villages and are "feudally harassed" by members of the upper castes. 

Other Dalits have moved from the villages to the cities, where caste prejudice is less suffocating and castes mingle more freely. The advent of public transportation, which Dalits can ride on like everyone else, and other aspects of modern life have made the observances of Dalit separation almost impossible. In some neighborhoods Dalit live with other castes and share the same well. One Dalit told National Geographic, in Bombay, “I have freedom to whatever job I want and to live where I want.” 

The best way for an Dalit to really advance is to get a government job or university scholarship given through the quota system. Many have been propelled into the middle class. Some have even become quite rich in some cases by taking advantage of monopolies of unclean jobs only allowed Dalits (See Doms above).
Some Dalits have been educated at Catholic schools and Jesuit missions. The Kasturba Balika School in New Delhi provides education for 700 underprivileged girls, most of them Dalits. The school is named after the wife of Mahatma Gandhi.

Dalits Still Suffering Despite Improvements

Despite improvements in some aspects of Dalit status, 90 percent of them live in rural areas in the mid-1990s, where an increasing proportion--more than 50 percent--work as landless agricultural laborers. State and national governments have attempted to secure more just distribution of land by creating land ceilings and abolishing absentee landlordism, but evasive tactics by landowners have successfully prevented more than minimal redistribution of land to tenant farmers and laborers. In contemporary India, field hands face increased competition from tractors and harvesting machines. Similarly, artisans are being challenged by expanding commercial markets in mass-produced factory goods, undercutting traditional mutual obligations between patrons and clients. The spread of the Green Revolution has tended to increase the gap between the prosperous and the poor--most of whom are low-caste. [Source: Library of Congress *] 

Education and election to political office have advanced the status of many Dalits, but the overall picture remains one of great inequity. In recent decades, Dalit anger has been expressed in writings, demonstrations, strikes, and the activities of such groups as the Dalit Panthers, a radical political party demanding revolutionary change. A wider Dalit movement, including political parties, educational activities, self-help centers, and labor organizations, has spread to many areas of the country.* 

In a 1982 Dalit publication, Dilip Hiro wrote, "It is one of the great modern Indian tragedies and dangers that even well meaning Indians still find it so difficult to accept Dalit mobility as being legitimate in fact as well as in theory. . . ." Still, against all odds, a small intelligentsia has worked for many years toward the goal of freeing India of caste consciousness. 

Image Sources: 

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications. 

© 2008 Jeffrey Hays
Last updated June 2015 


Many Hindus find the idea of caste and caste discrimination abhorrent and regard those who look down on the lower classes as bigots and extremists. As is the case with Islam and militant jihadism, for every Hindu scripture that supports the caste system discrimination you can find one that refutes it. One scripture from the Bhagavad Gita reads: “The best person is one who feels the joy and suffering of others as his own because he sees the same soul in a Brahmin and in an eater-of-dogs.”
Studies of conflict in South Asian villages have shown that struggles and violence occur not only between different castes but also between factions within castes and between groups, each with members of various caste groups. Competition for land is a common source of conflict as well as rivalry between landowners for power in local, regional and state affairs The outcome of local council area and district elections are often influenced by factional conflict.
With the help of quotas and affirmative action, many Dalits now count themselves among India’s middle class and own televisions, cars and homes. Edward Gargan of the New York Times wrote: "Perhaps the strongest force that may be weakening caste is the economy...India has quickened its efforts to dismantle the socialist edifice of state planning and control, opening the economy to larger amounts of foreign investments, which has led to glimmers of sustained economic growth and new jobs...The process of economic liberalization cuts both ways. It makes it easier for upper castes to make use of privileges they have to advance themselves even further. But there is some evidence that the growing cracks in the economic bureaucratic structure are making it easier for some lower caste to improver their lot.” [Source: Edward Gargan, New York Times, February 7, 1994]

Efforts to Change Caste System

Throughout history, efforts have been to get rid of the caste system, or at least mitigate some its harsh and discriminatory elements. Buddhism and Jainsim won converts by outlawing caste distinctions, abolishing hereditary priesthoods, making poverty a precondition of spirituality and advocating the communion with the spiritual essence of the universe through contemplation and meditation.
Mahatma Gandhi tried to liberalize the caste system and he renamed the Untouchables "the children of God." Gandhi campaigned for rights for untouchables and lower castes and, to a lesser degree, for women. He opposed the caste system, child marriages and dowry payments. Gandhi was loved by peasant farmers, untouchables and the urban poor. He worked as hard to reform India's class system and caste system and unify Muslims and Hindus as he did to overcome British rule, however he did not advocate abolition of the caste system. In his land reform program he urged landlords to donate ones sixth of their land to the poor.
The caste system in India has begun to break down somewhat as a result of government-initiated quotas for lower castes and minorities, political power in the voting booth and economic liberalization. "Power was gradually slipping through the hands of the dominant castes for several decades," one social scientist told Time. "It has already slipped down to the lower castes and it is now reaching the Dalits."
Discrimination against Dalits and lower castes found its way on to agenda at a United Nations conference on racism. The Indian government has fought international efforts to reform the caste system on the grounds that the caste system is an internal matter and outside interference is not welcome. . One Dalit man told National Geographic, “The government refused to address problems like this business about the well because say the caste system does not exist. Well, look around you. People treat animals better than us,
One Indian sociologist told the Financial Times, "Change can not be achieved overnight. It will take a few generations. It should start in social areas. The government can abolish it by trying to encourage and give preference in housing and scholarship to people of mixed castes. The process has to be systematic and coherent." Many higher castes resent the privileges and power being achieved by the lower castes. In 1981, mobs rioted for 78 days in Gujarat state when a high-caste student was denied entry to a medical school to make a space for a Dalit.

Indian Constitution and Reforming the Caste System

The Indian constitution prohibits discrimination by caste and a number of laws have been passed outlawing discrimination on the basis of caste, but the system is so ingrained into society that it is difficult change of an societal level. Educated in the West, India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru tried to amend the constitution to make India "a casteless society with equal opportunity for all.”
The Fundamental Rights embodied in the constitution are guaranteed to all citizens. These civil liberties take precedence over any other law of the land. They include individual rights common to most liberal democracies, such as equality before the law, freedom of speech and expression. In addition, the Fundamental Rights are aimed at overturning the inequities of past social practices. They abolish "untouchability"; prohibit discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth; and forbid traffic in human beings and forced labor. They go beyond conventional civil liberties in protecting cultural and educational rights of minorities by ensuring that minorities may preserve their distinctive languages and establish and administer their own education institutions. Originally, the right to property was also included in the Fundamental Rights; however, the Forty-fourth Amendment, passed in 1978, revised the status of property rights by stating that "No person shall be deprived of his property save by authority of law." [Source: Library of Congress *]
The Directive Principles of the India constitution promote the educational and economic interests of Scheduled Castes (Dalits and lower castes), Scheduled Tribes (Indian tribal minorities), and other disadvantaged sectors of society. The Directive Principles also charge the state with the responsibility for providing free and compulsory education for children up to age fourteen. In addition to stressing the right of individuals as citizens, Part XVI of the constitution endeavors to promote social justice by elaborating a series of affirmative-action measures for disadvantaged groups. These "Special Provisions Relating to Certain Classes" include the reservation of seats in the Lok Sabha (House of the People) and in state legislative bodies for members of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. The number of seats set aside for them is proportional to their share of the national and respective state populations. *
Part XVI also reserves some government appointments for these disadvantaged groups insofar as they do not interfere with administrative efficiency. The section stipulates that a special officer for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes be appointed by the president to "investigate all matters relating to the safeguards provided" for them, as well as periodic commissions to investigate the conditions of the Backward Classes. The president, in consultation with state governors, designates those groups that meet the criteria of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Similar protections exist for the small Anglo-Indian community. *
The framers of the constitution provided that the special provisions would cease twenty years after the promulgation of the constitution, anticipating that the progress of the disadvantaged groups during that time would have removed significant disparities between them and other groups in society. However, in 1969 the Twenty-third Amendment extended the affirmative-action measures until 1980. The Forty-fifth Amendment of 1980 extended them again until 1990, and in 1989 the Sixty-second Amendment extended the provisions until 2000. The Seventy-seventh Amendment of 1995 further strengthened the states' authority to reserve government-service positions for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe members. *

Caste Quotas and Affirmative Action in India

India is regarded as the first country to use affirmative action. The 1950 constitution established quotas to help "scheduled tribes," "scheduled castes," and "backward castes”. In 1990, the Indian government expanded the affirmative action system. It set aside a high number of government jobs for 3,743 lower castes, or “Other Backward Classes” and positions in government schools for "Scheduled Tribes", "Scheduled Castes," and "Backward Castes”. The legislation was initiated by a short-lived government lead by the left-leaning National Front. In 1992, a Supreme Court decision greatly upheld the 1990s legislation and expanded the scope of affirmative action to include an additional 676 “social and educationally” disadvantaged cases.
A large portion of all government jobs, education slots and seats in village council and legislatures are reserved for members of lower castes. There is a Dalit Welfare Department. One third of all purchases and contracts are set aside for Dalit-owned businesses. In 2002, 4 million of the 20 million jobs in government-controlled institutions were held by Dalits and members of indigenous tribes. In the mid 2000s, the policy was extended to all departments.
The caste quota system has all been seriously abused. The Yadav caste, for example, took control of the state government in Uttar Pradesh and set aside a third of all state jobs for Yadavs even though they make up only 3 percent of the population. There is b real test for eligibility. In some cases individual that are well off qualify fore benefits because their group qualified. The daughter of rich Dalit may be awarded a spot in medical college over a better qualified poor Brahmin.
Quotas and affirmative action have divided India just as they have the United States. The rise of the Hindu nationalist BJP party has been closely linked with discontent over the quota issue. Members of upper classes claim reverse discrimination. Affirmative action legislation and court rulings have resulted in massive demonstrations by middle-class college students who felt their positions and future careers have been threatened. Some groups have agreed to be labeled as “Backward Classes” so they too can benefit from the quota system. Quotas and special programs have suffered as part of efforts to shrink the size of the socialist government.

Caste Politics in India

Caste is a very powerful force in democratic politics in India. When castes can be organized to vote as a block they can significantly affect the outcomes of elections. At a local level this can lead to monopoly of power for one caste where that caste is dominate. But no caste is large enough to wield the same kind of power on state or national level.
Caste parties can form some rather unusual alliances. It is not unusual for a Brahmin party to join forces with a Dalit party it has denounced to keep a Sudra party from gaining more power. Some alliances have been compared to Americans and Russians joining forces to fight the Germans.
In urban areas different castes often live together in the same villages and neighborhoods and belong to the same caste associations and work together for the same civic, religious and political purposes. The different castes sometimes join together to petition the government for certain benefits and do other things together to improve the welfare of their village or neighborhood group.
The BJP is committed to maintaining the caste system status quo and preserve the privileges of the upper classes. Lower castes have traditionally supported the Congress Party of Gandhi and Nehru but these days Lower castes parties generally lash out at both the Congress Party and the BJP. In the past, upper classes worked complex strategies to bring castes together to support certain candidates.

Lower Caste and Dalit Political Representation and Power

The 1950 constitution mandated a quota system that reserved seats in the national legislature in accordance with the total percentage of Dalits in the general population (around 15 percent). In these matters Dalits are referred to as the Scheduled Castes. In the mid-1990s, the constitution was amended so that elections for panchyats ("village councils") reserved a third of their seats for women and set quotas for lower castes. Seats are also reserved for lower castes in state legislatures.
According to the policy of “protective discrimination” elected positions are reserved for Schedule Caste candidates based on their population in the state and the nation. The multitudes of poor and lower caste members have made their wishes known through the ballot box. With the decline of the Congress Party, votes have increasingly been cast along caste lines, which has given a lot of power to the large lower castes and taken power away from Brahmins, who are relatively small in number compared to other castes.
In poor provinces such as Bihar, political parties are often divided along caste lines. In elections in Uttar Pradesh, where Muslims are more numerous, the caste parties have united with disaffected Muslims to elect their own state leader. In Uttar Pradesh, voting has been so divided along caste lines that no party can win a majority and parties have been forced into unique power-sharing arrangements. The upper-caste-supported BJP party and the lower-caste-supported BSP party have shared power, which each leading for six months out of the year.
In the 1990s, large numbers of poor and illiterate Indians and members of low castes, as well as women, have become increasingly active in politics. According to studies, poor people are more likely to vote than rich people. Many have joined local or caste-based parties. Politicians in some parts of India have promised to combat the caste system by offering quotas in schools to Muslims and members of lower castes. The move has more to do with an effort to win votes than to make social improvements.
In the past Dalits were forced to vote for candidates supported by their landlords or masters or they were showed away from the polling stations. Now Dalits have founded their own parties and politicians from India's broad-based parties have to make concessions and promises to win Dalit votes.
The number of Dalits who said they were members of political parties rose from 13 percent in 1971 to 19 percent in 1996 while the percentage among members of upper castes declined from 36 percent to 28 percent. Mayawait, a Dalit woman elected as Chief Minister in populous Uttar Pradesh state, told Time in the 1990s: "Earlier, I had thought it would take longer, but change now is so rapid that in a few years we will have a Dalit Prime Minister in New Delhi."

Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, the Great Dalit Statesman

India's most famous Dalit is Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (1891-1956) , the Law Minister and chairman of the drafting committee that drew up India's constitution after independence in 1947. He authored the article in the constitution that read, "Untouchability is abolished and its practice in any form is forbidden. The enforcement of any disability arising out of untouchability shall be an offense according to law."
In one of his most famous speeches, Ambedkar declared, "Nothing can emancipate the outcast except the destruction of the caste system. Nothing can help the Hindus and ensure their survival in the coming struggle to except the purging of the Hindu faith of this odious and viscous dogma." In another famous speech he blasted Hinduism. “The religion which allows one to touch a foul animal but not a man is not a religion but madness....That religion which says one class may not gain knowledge, may not acquire wealth, may not take up arms, is not a religion but a mockery of man’s life....The religion which teaches that the unlearned should remain unlearned, that the poor should remain poor, is not a religion but a punishment.
A short, bespeckled man, Ambedkar was born into a poor low Mahar (dalit) caste family in what is now Madhya Pradesh state. Brought up in an impoverished village, he was able to attend school but was required to sit apart from higher caste students. When he was older he studied abroad with the a scholarship from the Maharajah of Baroda. He eventually received several degrees, including ones from Columbia University and the London School of Economics. He served as a financial adviser to the Maharajah that patronized him. While working for him he had to endure servants throwing documents on his desk rather than handing them to him because they were worried about contamination.
Ambedkar made a name for himself as fiery and brilliant lawyer and politician. He was a leader in Dalit emancipation movements and once burned a copy of the Laws of Manu at a rally and called for outright abolition the caste system. At times he worked with Gandhi. Other times the two men battled each other on positions such as the place of Hinduism in a secular society. Gandhi ultimately kept Ambedkar from making radical changes.
Ambedkar worked with Gandhi and Nehru to forge the independent state of India. He escaped his low caste status by converting to Buddhism. Regarded as the founder of the Neo-Buddhist movement, he viewed Buddhism as a way for Dalits to escape Hinduism and the caste system, arguing it was a better way to achieve an egalitarian society than Communism. Ambedkar died in 1956 after forming the Republican Party of India. Many Dalits keep his picture in their homes today. He has been apotheosized as a Bodhisattva. His birthday is major festival in some places.

Other Successful Dalits

In 1996, a Kerala-born Dalit named Kocheril Raman Narayanan became India's first Dalit president (a largely ceremonial position). The forth of seven children born to an herbal healer, he overcame discrimination in school, where he sometimes had to stand on a bench in front of the entire class. He rose to became ambassador to the United States before entering politics.
Mayawati is a female Dalit and former school teacher elected as Chief Minister (governor) in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, with 180 million people. In term of the number of people she governed she for a time was the most powerful woman in the world. She is the head of the Majority Society Party. Hundreds of thousands of people show up at her rallies. Although she claims to be a champion of the poor she wear a $635,000 diamond necklace, commutes around in a helicopter and uses air conditioning even when she is outside. She made headlines when she called Mahatma Gandhi “the biggest enemy of the Dalits” and once urged her followers to beat members of upper castes with their shoes.
Other Dalit success stories include K. Ramaswamy, a former street urchin who rose to become a judge in India's Supreme Court; Ram Vilas Paswan, a member of the Janata Dal party who became a cabinet minister; and Narendra Jadhav, a bestselling author and head of a think tank that determined the direction of India's monetary and financial policy. Other lower caste members who found success in politics include a New Delhi parliamentarian from an illiterate cast of ratcatchers (See Ratcatchers under Dalits) and a defense minister who came from a backward class of milkmen who paid for his education with money earned from wrestling. Many Dalit politicians and activists have been women.

Bahujan Samaj Party and Dalit Political Parties

Dalits have been able to exert the power of their numbers in elections. No great unifying leader for the Dalits has emerged since Ambedkar but they do have their own political organizations. The Dalit political movement is largely fractured state by state. Often the greatest power is exerted by small grassroots movement scattered around India that take on Dalit challenges one village at a time. They are often involved in teaching skills and helping people to better their lives. “Barefoot lawyers” are helping victims of illegal discrimination. Important issues include bringing of roads, water pumps and electricity to villages with large numbers of Dalits.
The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is a lower caste party founded by and for Dalits. Powerful in the populous state of Uttar Pradesh, at one time controlled the government there, it prospered for a while using a system of “vote banks,” in which things like water pumps, free electricity and free school books were brought to poor communities in return for votes.. The BSP’s symbol is a blue elephant. The Janata Dal is a lower caste party in Bihar. Martin Macwan and the Gujarat Navsaran Trust has been active in getting anti-discrimination laws enforced and drawing international attention to the Dalit issue.
The Samajwadi (Socialist) Party represents lower caste and Muslim voters in Uttar Pradesh. It has led a coalition there and has won voters with slogans like “electricity, power, water, plus health” and promises to abolish hospital bed and senior high school fees and raise teacher salaries and civil service pensions.

Dalit Activism and Violence

Some Dalits believe that politics has not brought about change fast enough and some have turned to violent activism. A 75-year-old Dalit laborer told Time, "If you keep pouring water into a rat hole, the rats will come out fighting.”
Violent Dalit activism is particularly common in the states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. Some Dalits have joined leftist organization like the Maoist Communist Center and the People's War Group that terrorize and slaughter members of the upper castes.
One of the first groups of militant Dalits was the Dalit Panthers, an organization formed in 1972, demanding social and economic equality of Dalits. Their name was inspired by the American Black Panthers of the 1960s. Initially led by educated Mahars and Neo-Buddhists, the group broke up into several splinter groups and these were most active in urban slums.
Some Dalits have armed themselves with homemade guns and explosives made with chemicals pilfered from match factories and mines. Others have gone on strike, refusing to do their lowly jobs. Upper castes have fought back by forming patrols and militias. In some areas the Dalit groups have been better armed and organized than their enemies and upper caste class members have been driven from their villages or forced to perform humiliating tasks such as walking around with sandals on their heads. In Bangalore, leatherworkers have formed a union to combat police harassment and the razing of Dalit work stalls.
Dalit politicians have helped Dalits get more gun permits. One Dalit activist told the Washington Post, "Having a weapon, they can protect themselves, their land and their women. I believe conflict occurs between unequals. Balance of power neutralizes war."

Violence Against Dalits and Lowe Castes

Indian newspapers are filled with reports of violence and atrocities committed against lower castes. Some lower caste villagers say: The upper castes are like the elephant’s foot. If you come in their way, they will crush you." Many disputes over water, land and respect have quickly escalated into caste conflicts in which people have been butchered to death or burned alive.
Some upper caste Indians object to the quota system set up for Dalits and other lower caste members. Caste violations are supposed to be dealt with by panchayati, local councils set up for each caste but often caste members take the law into their own hands. Hindu nationalists led by Bal Thackery has attacked quotas that favor Dalits and the naming of a university after Ambedkar. Some lower caste members have joined Maoist groups fighting to take possession of land controlled by upper castes.
Dalits have been beaten, raped, burned, splattered with acid, lynched and murdered for being Dalits. Dalits have also been severely beaten for acting above their station for doing things like wearing a wrist watch or trousers instead of a traditional dhoti. Wives have been raped in front of their husbands for not keeping their place. Dalit women who challenge their landlords risk being beaten, sexually harassed or raped. In many parts of India if a Dalit man is caught sleeping with a higher caste woman, both are lynched.
Those committing violence against Dalits are generally not members of the highest classes such as Brahmins and Kshatriyas but rather are members of lower castes just a notch above the Dalits. They are often jealous and resentful of the success and material goods gained by Dalits and feel Dalits have been given too many advantages. One leader of an anti-Dalit militia told National Geographic, “people should live within the caste system...If provoked we will kill. For every one of us killed, we will kill ten Dalits.
Many crimes against Dalit are not reported. A 291-page Human Rights Watch report, published in 2000, called Broken People: Caste Violence Against India's Dalits described the caste system as a form of "hidden apartheid" and provided details on a number of horrible crimes committed against Dalits. It said Dalit have been lynched, raped and had their houses burned down for answering back to upper caste members. In Rajasthan one rebellious Dalit had the inside of his nose pierced and had string drawn though his nostrils so she could be led around and tied to a post like an oxen. In Tamul Nadu, a Dalit would who had the gall to wear shoes was paraded naked through her village.

Incidents of Violence Against Dalits

In one village, a Dalit man was hacked to death with a sword for the having the impertinence to walk over to the part of the village occupied by Thevars and watch the news on the village's only television. In retaliation, the Dalits in the village burned the houses of all the Thevars and slaughtered all their animals. A game of tag between Thevar and Dalit school children led to the beheading of Dalit and the revenge killing of 13 people. A dispute over a pack of cigarettes triggered a clash between Dalits and upper class Bhumihars that left 26 dead and dozens wounded.
In Bombay, a dozen people were killed in a riot that began when someone placed a garland of dirty sandals around a statute of the Dalit statesman Ambedkar. In Uttar Pradesh, two men were horribly disfigured by acid thrown on them by mob outraged that they would dare fish in a pond reserved for upper caste members. One man in Rajasthan lost both his legs after being beaten with steel rods by upper caste villagers for filing a complaint with police for not being paid wages that were owed him. . Another man had his tractor stolen, his house burned down and his wife and daughter beaten because he dared to buy land.
Violence against Dalits is rising particularly common in Bihar, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu. In Bihar, landowners have formed militias to battle wage and land reforms. One militia, the Ranvir Sena, has been linked to the murder of more than 500 Dalits, many of them women and children burned to death in their homes. Their acts of violence have most gone unpunished. In some cases victims have to face their attackers who walk the streets freely.
In June 2003, Dalits clashed with rich Sikh farmers with swords and metal rods at the mausoleum for a locally-revered holy man. Police fired on rioters, killing one person. In 1986 thugs working for an upper class landlord in Gujarat killed four Dalits and wounded 18 because the Dalits object to the landlords taking Dalit land for a threshing operation. The landlords and their thugs were brought to trial for murder. Ten people were sentenced to life in prison.

Incidents of Violence Against Lower Castes

In one northern Indian village an upper-caste gang ripped the clothes off a 45-year-old low caste woman and paraded her naked through the streets of the village because her son slapped an upper-caste boy for stealing peas from her garden. A university in Varanasi was shut down after upper-caste students rampaged through poor neighbors, setting on fire houses after lower-caste men murdered three upper-caste men who were involved in a killing that allegedly was not properly investigated by police. [Source: Molly Moore, Washington Post]
In 1995, 113 people were killed in the city of Nagpur in Maharashtra state after a riot broke over a comma. The Gond-Gowari caste was excluded from a quota system because of a printing error that listed them as "Gond, Gowari" (technically eliminating them). During a demonstration involving 40,000 Gowaris, police panicked and went after the crowd with bamboo bludgeons, setting off a stampede that killed mostly women and children.
Recalling a stick up by members of the politically powerful Yadav caste, one housewife told U.S. News and World Report, "The police stopped our bus at gunpoint. They dragged me away by the hair, beat me savagely, stole my jewelry and tossed me in a sugar cane field. They were Yadavs, so they knew they would never be punished."
In 1998 in Bihar, 34 lower caste people were killed in a single incident of caste violence in Bihar. The killings were believed to have been done by an upper class militia in retaliation for the murder of 12 upper caste farmers a few days before. This in turn was in retaliation for the murder of five low-caste Tadavs and 11 Dalits. According to local reports 15 men surrounded a village and shot at anything that moved, killing women and children. Men were forced to line up and then sprayed with bullets "below the belly." While they were shooting the killers reportedly shouted "long Live Ranvir Sena"—the name of one of the most well-known upper caste militias. 

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications. 

© 2008 Jeffrey Hays
Last updated June 2015

The Ugly Reality of Caste Violence and Discrimination in Urban India
Data on caste-based violence in metropolitan cities confirms the grim reality that sits at odds with the narrative of an aspiring global superpower.

by Ashwini Deshpande
A mention of violence against Dalits on account of their caste readily bring forth images from rural or small-town India; depending on our vintage these could be from late 1970s’ horrific Belchi and Pipra massacres, or of the more recent public flogging of Dalits in Una, Gujarat. We would rarely imagine metropolitan cities, supposedly melting pots, as being sites of caste-based crimes, as the urban arena is expected to dissolve and obliterate caste distinctions. Caste is prima facie anonymous in urban India; urban (upper-caste) Indians would forcefully insist that caste is either dead or dying, as forces of urbanisation, globalisation and modernisation are sweeping away antiquated social distinctions, and fostering a climate of meritocracy, which recognises and rewards individual merit or ability on a level playing field.
In this context, the 2016 report of the National Crimes Record Bureau (NCRB) which, for the first time, has released separate figures for 19 metropolitan cities on crimes against Scheduled Castes and Tribes (SC/ST), is enlightening. It provides data for three years (2014-2016) for these 19 cities. These are large cities, with populations of over 20 lakhs (two million), and if it were at all possible for caste to be anonymous, it would be in cities such as these. To clarify, the crimes against SC/ST are those registered under SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act (PoA Act). The original Act was passed in 1989, and was amended in 2015 to expand the scope of offences committed against Dalits and Adivasis specifically targeting their caste or tribal background.
We will return to what kinds of offences are included under this Act later; for now, let us focus a bit more on the crime numbers released by NCRB.

Crime figures: what can we understand from them?

The data released by NCRB is compiled from statistics given by the state/union territory police departments and central law enforcement agencies. In other words, these are crimes that are reported and recorded. Thus, any comparison of change or levels needs to be made with caution, as it might reflect differences in reporting, and not in the actual incidence of crime. Imagine a fictitious city, say Shahbad, notorious for atrocities against Dalits. If nobody filed a complaint, the police records of Shahbad would show zero atrocities, but that would be a reporting issue, not the actual absence of atrocities. And if one person filed a complaint with the police, the crime incidence in Shahbad would show an “increase” from zero to one, i.e. a 100% increase, but that would reflect an increase in reporting, rather than a worsening in Shahbad’s upper-castes’ proclivity to commit atrocities.
In this fictitious example, we can tell if the 100% rise indicates an actual increase in atrocities, or an increase in reporting. In the NCRB data, we cannot distinguish if the variation reflects differences in incidence or in reporting, or a bit of both. Does this mean then that these numbers are not indicative at all? Of course, not. We need to be aware of the caveats related to this data, of which there are several, and be very careful with interpretation.

Having said all this, we can actually note some inescapable conclusions. What is noteworthy about the caste violence data from the metropolitan cities is that it is not negligible, indicating very clearly that caste consciousness is far from dead in urban India. For instance, India’s “Silicon Valley” cities, poster children of modern, globalising India, temples of cutting-edge information technology, Bengaluru and Hyderabad, reported 207 and 139 incidents respectively in 2016. Accompanying these cities were the usual suspects, the BIMARU capitals, Lucknow and Patna, with 262 and 241 cases respectively, at number 1 and number 2 spots in the incidence/reporting ranking, respectively.
Second, it would reasonable to view these figures as the tip of the iceberg, which means that these numbers hide more than they reveal, as several caste-based crimes and atrocities would never get reported. The behemoth establishments of police and law enforcement appear daunting even to the well-heeled, and pose almost insurmountable multi-faceted challenges for the poor, poorly educated, stigmatised, marginalised and those without powerful and influential connections. Dalits and Adivasis combine all of these disadvantages and more. Additionally, given that crimes covered under PoA are specific caste-based hate crimes, victims often under-report because of fear or reprisal, and/or to avoid added humiliation that would invariably accompany a scrutiny of their complaints.

What kinds of crimes and atrocities do these numbers reveal?

To fully appreciate what these figures reveal about caste consciousness in urban India, it is useful to understand the kinds of crimes covered under the PoA Act.  The full list is too long to reproduce, and goes well beyond the obvious and routine crimes consisting of murders, assault and robberies. The crimes reported under PoA are those where the perpetrators are not Dalit-Adivasis, and the victims are. Some examples of such crimes are: forcing victims to eat or drink obnoxious substances; dump excreta, sewage, carcasses into their homes or compounds; land grabbing; humiliation; sexual abuse. These are glaring, flagrant and egregious actions. The Act also covers a series of actions, which might appear more benign, but are equally harmful, as these prevent Dalit-Adivasis from being able to carry on with their lives in a routine manner, such as preventing them entering temples, or hospitals, or contesting elections, take out wedding processions, wear nice clothes, attend school or college without being harassed and humiliated, work in an occupation of their choice and so on.

Keeping these examples in mind, we can now return to what these numbers tell us. Regardless of whether the inter-city and/or yearly differences in these numbers reflect a change reporting or actual incidence – in other words, whether Bengaluru and Hyderabad actually have a higher incidence of these offences, or have heightened awareness and consciousness – with possibly more responsive police – that gives Dalits-Adivasis the confidence to report such crimes – the fact remains that such horrific and often gruesome expressions of hatred, against those who are regarded as untouchable and marginalised, continue to happen in 2016, despite the existence of Article 17 of the Indian constitution forbidding untouchability explicitly, and punishable under the law.

It is tempting to suggest that the most vulnerable in any society are often targets of violence, and therefore, while the violence is abhorrent, it is a reflection of the victims’ marginalisation, i.e. if their conditions were better, they would be targeted less. Unfortunately, that is not true for India. In her comprehensive analysis of district-level crime data from NCRB covering the decade of 2001-2010, Smriti Sharma finds that a rise in crimes against Dalits and Adivasis is directly related to a lowering of gaps in their material standard-of-living (as measured by monthly per capita consumption expenditure) vis-à-vis upper castes. That is, districts with lower gaps between SC-ST and upper castes witness higher crimes against SC-ST, accounting for several other factors that might explain these crimes. This empirical analysis resonates with qualitative accounts of Dalits being attacked for their upward mobility, real or presumed. This is a clear indication of dominant castes wanting to protect their privilege over what they consider their turf.

Urban India: caste discrimination is alive and well
Underneath the twin myths of caste anonymity and meritocracy in urban India, lies the ugly reality of caste discrimination, which takes the form of residential segregation, discrimination in labour markets, educational disparities, overt and covert instances of untouchability, resulting in caste manifesting its vicious hold in all these arenas. The recent India Human Development Survey data for 2011-12 shows that over 27% of Indians admit to practicing untouchability, despite the practice being illegal. This proportion is highly likely to be an underestimate. The absolutely abhorrent and abominable practice of manual scavenging continues to be widespread, leaving more than 160 million individuals stigmatised for life.
The figures of caste-based violence in metropolitan cities further confirm the grim reality that sits at odds with the narrative of an aspiring global superpower, ready to forge ahead. For this narrative to turn real, India needs to break the shackles of prejudice, discrimination and violence that keep more than one-quarter of India’s population at the bottom of socio-economic hierarchy and targets of hate crimes.

Ashwini Deshpande is a professor of economics at the University of Delhi.


The word Caste, originates from the Portugese and Spanish Casta, meaning "race," "breed," or "lineage."  It was first applied to the jatis of Indian Society by the Portugese Travelers in the 16th Century.  This has a strong Racial base, Ethnic foundation and a Cultural bias.  Although, now the superstition and belief created by the Caste System appear to have started to deteriorate and change, the unjust social structure and unfair recognition of individuals groups and their contributions, that was created by the Castes is still very much in place, especially in Rural Areas.  There are about 3,000 jatis or Castes and more than 25,000 sub-Castes in India.  India's 3,000 Castes are grouped loosely into four varnas.

The word varna is Sankrit for colour, which later came to also mean classification and grouping.  The varnas or classes, traditionally determined the occupations of the People.  Those at the top had reserved for themselves the purest, most sanctified and lightest or easy occupations, and those at the bottom were coerced and forced to deal with things that were taxing, heavy, risky, dangerous, difficult, uncomfortable and impure.  Thus Classes based on varnas, do not depend upon any ones education, intelligence, occupation, suitability, capablities, achievements, income, wealth and potentials; but the varna determines the Class of a whole Segment of the Society, the Group, the People, and the education one born there in can have, the occupation one can take inspite of education intelligence knowledge suitability skill capacity capablity potential, the income they can have, the heights to which they can grow, and the wealth they can acquire retain hold and own.  Hence, in this Country, Caste is varna based determinant of Class, and Class in the Indian Society is dependant on the varna based Occupational Caste!  And it holds good even today, inspite of some exceptions.  Exceptions they are, not a measure of the changes taking place in the Indian Society.  This is true, not only in India, but anywhere in the World amongst the Indian Society, be it in USA or Canada, or Britain and Europe, Asustralia or Russia, South East or Middle East, Ceylon or Burma!

In traditional terms, the four main varnas and their occupations were, in descending order:

Brahmans:        priests and vedic scholars
Kshatriyas:        warriors and rulers
Vaisyas:             merchants and traders
Shudras:            artisans, labourers and servants

These are the visible mainstream, and hence recognised and acceptable part of the Indian Society, that is directly dominated by the brahmins.  The occupations indicated against each of them are what generally is attributed to them.  But don't ever ask what the brahmins as scholars were doing, why they were said to be scholars, whether they were students and teachers, what they were learning or teaching anything, what they were teaching, whom they were teaching!  And don't question as to what developments and progress did the prayers and scholarship of brahmins ever led this ancient Nation, large Society in this Country and the invariably hard working but poor people!!

A very very small Part of this mainstream Indian Society, is the exclsively closed small numbers of  brahmanic society, believing in their original god Brahma - with the brahmins his original followers!  They are at the Center, on an average only about 3 to 5% of any region in the Country!  But they always, even if poor or illiterate, are at the top of the visible Indian Society.

The immediate bigger circle, which is also relatively small - being only about 15% including the brahmins with a National presence of about of 3% of the Indian Society, is the core of the 'Sanathan Dharm'  of dominant caste hindus, the DCH - BKVs.  The larger outer circle, of the mainstream brahmin controlled Indian Society, is of the 'caste hindus' of the 'chatur varnas' or four varnas.  That is based on the Varnavavastha or Varnashram System of four basic castes of the Religion - Sanathana Dharma.  This is the fourfold 'hindu system' of the BKVSs.  It is slightly less than 50% of the total Indian Society.

Outside this brahmin controlled hindu system exist, a very large section of People, who are by and large still invisible or kept invisible.  They are the marginalised and neglected Indian Society.  They are the non-hindus.  They were originally the non-caste people or casteless people.  They were the original Indegenous People of the Country, of the Indus Valley Civilisation. They were the Ati-Shudras.  And these Ati-Shudras form the backbone of the Indian Society, and are the prime movers of the Nation's Economy! 

The Ati-Shudras were treated at different points of time of the Indian Social Evolution, as being the unseeables, unhearables, and Unapproachables of the Indian Society.  They were confined to exclusive areas outside the specific main hindu habitations.  Some of them remained totally unknown even to the rest of the Indian Society till British Times.  They were driven out and banished or distanced themselves safely that far, and hence were forgotten completely and totally.  The rest had to keep safe non-polluting distances.  Today they are still the Untouchables and or the unwanted Unacceptables!  All Social Assurances, Political Promises, Legal Safe Guards and Constitutional Guarantees to them have really no meanings!  The only difference is that most of them now have a new Constitutional Identity as the SCs and STs.  And they have their own identity, a single identity as Dalits, cutting across all Parties, Regions, Languages, Ideologies, philosophies, faiths, castes, sub-castes, tribes, sub-tribes and Religions!  That is the reason, why inspite of the great historic ancient Indus Valley Civilisation, temperate weather conditions suitable for agriculture, settled habitation, development and growth, India could not develop into a really vibrant and progressive society, or develop to be a great Nation.  Till today this Country could not evolve an Indian Society!  Even now the Indians, their Govts and Scholars are chasing the mirage of a hindu society, in a Nation of brahmins baniyas kshatriyas kayasths and shudras, surrounded from all sides by the SC&ST Dalits believing in Buddhism, Christianity and Islam! Then there are also others who are non SC&ST Buddhists, Christians, Jains, Jews, Muslims etc.

The Ati-Shudras are basically agricultural workers, miners and settled specilist skilled workers. For, tilling the land for agriculture and digging the earth for mining, were considered to be defiling mother goddess earth, and amounted to molestation, unforgivable and unpardonable grievious violation of her body, and was nothing but rape!  But there was never any prohibitary measure on the part of the caste hindus to prevent agriculture and mining, since they were necessary for the survival growth wealth and good living of the dominant caste hindus.  But they were used as one of the ploys to keep ot the Ati-Shudras, experts in agriculture and suitable for hard dangerous taxing work of mining, from the main stream society.  Therefore, tilling or mining the land was basically left to the Untouchables!  And anyone touching the plough even by mistake, would loose caste and declared an Untouchable and ex-communicated from the orthodox hindu society.

The Ati-Shudras, were and are, and hence will always be a different people!  They were and are still different racially, culturally, ethnically, and in their habitation and social practices.  They are generally strong stocky well-built black stub-nosed and curly haired, with the women having thick long curly hairs of immense personal value and to the jealousy of others.  The women are socially equal in almost all respects, enjoying nearly all the rights of their menfolk.  They are, in fact socially free and are equal partners with men - whether it is at the work place or in cooking at home, or drinking and smoking at home or in public, or marriage divorce and or remarriage.  Specifically, these are some of the charecteristics that set Ati-Shudras apart, ethnically and culturally as a class different, distinct and far away from the dominant caste hindus. 

The Ati-Shudras have their own gods and goddesses even today, starting from that Paraya god Shiva, and his consort that Parachi - the Jungli goddess Kali.  The gods of the Ati-Shudras have their own temples.  What is more, even their goddesses have their own independant and exclusive temples - free from their consorts.  These Temples have their own distinct but simple constructions, with bright colourful architecture, and with very little restrictions.  Ati-Shudras follow distinctly different but simple ritualistic practices of worship, that include offerings of meat, blood, and intoxicating home-made or community brewed liquor.  Ceremonial occassions, invariably involve serving of food in public to the whole community.  And the unique fact is that these Temples did not have any Priests.  Anyone and everyone praying and or making offerings is at that time a Priest himself or herself.  It is not that this is because the Ati-Shudras did not have the benefit of brahmin priests.

The brahmins and Ati-Shudras in a traditional society or in an orthodox setting,  never ever came anywhere near.  The only persons who came into contact with the Ati-Shudras were the Slaves of the brahmanic society - the Shudras, and the traders and merchants - the vaishyas or baniyas.  Hence the question of the brahmins and their priests serving the Ati-Shudras or Ati-Shudra Temples and the Ati-Shudra gods and godesses does not arise at all, even today in most parts of the Country.  Well, that becomes a problem in Ati-Shudra Christian Churches, where the dilema crops up as the Church as an International Institution or Theology or Ideology is a stranger to the Castes, and the Dangers Evils and Trauma of Castes; where is it is a reality in India, in the whole Indian Society including the Indian Christian Society; and very much exists and is practiced within the Church, along with the attendant dangers evils and trauma; even though the Official Church does not accept or discuss this that openly, and in reality does not know till date how to handle this.  So the Official Church does not accept the existance of castes within the Church, or the discriminations of the Ati-Shudras within the Church, and refuses to face the Castes squarely within the Church and Christian Communities.  Therefore, often the Problem arises today, as to which priest(s) will go to the Ati-Shudra Churches, when and at what cost to the Ati-Shudras Christians.  For, in the Indian Church, though there are no hierarchic Priesthood as amongst the caste hindus, most of the Christian Priests are by and large are of caste hindu origin, still carrying with them in their heart caste hindu biases, specifically the discrimination of the Ati-Shudras.

The Problem of a caste hindu Priest does not arise in the traditional Ati-Shudras' Temples, as there is generally no priestly-intervention or priest-intermediary between the praying Ati-Shudra and the god or goddess.  Every Ati-Shudra can by himself or herself directly communicate with his or her god or goddess, casually in passing; or seriously with offerings and sacrifices, touching his or her god and or goddess personally and physically.  But this does not mean that the Ati-Shudras did not or do not have any Priests.  They always had and even now have their own Priests, who step-in on special occassions.  But they were and still are uniquesly different and distinct from those of other Religions and Communities.  They were highly proffessional, great masters in their art and knowledge of rituals prayers and songs.  The prayers and prayer songs etc were and still are in local languages, but chaste and pure, within the knowledge understanding and grasp of the common man of the community.  These were professionals alright, but were not professional priests!  They were and still are, ordinary members of the Ati-Shudra Community, attending to normal household and professional works like anyother individual.  But they were and are called, in only for formal ceremonies - such as those associated with death and organised marriages.  This again, even though a man and a woman, on their own choice secretively by themselves, or exclusively with only their close friends and confidents, without others knowledge can go to any of their own or chosen god or goddess for the occassion - anywhere in the Village, or on the roadside, or in the fields, or even in the jungles - to get married as per the custom they know or choose to adopt.  This they may declare to the community, or may keep it as a secret till they choose to declare at a later date.  That is perfectly valid, as for as the Ati-Shudras are concerned with-in their communities, whether there were any witnesses for the marriage or not, or whether such a marriage proposal had the approval and sanction of the community, or was opposed by anyone else.

The Ati-Shudras as Untouchables were treated as special servants of the hindu society, meant for exclusively reserved unwanted tasks.  They were the Slaves of the Indian Society, freely available to anyone and everyone in the hindu society, for exploitation.  They were destined to do all difficult dangerous risky dirty or filthy works.  But no-one in the hindu society were responsible for their welfare and well being.  Manytimes, no one was responsible to even pay for the actual works done for the hindu society.  Often times, and even today, they are expected to work free, merely on getting a general information, without anyone calling any particular one of them specifically.  They were to work for the general good and public upkeep of the hindu society, just in return for some leftover food that someone may give, or manytimes not even that.  They are generally expected to fend for themselves, and be on their own.  But they should always be available, and be ready at the beg and call of the brahmanic society.

Today, for various historic and political reasons, particularly to keep the Scheduled Dalits away from the Muslims, and also the Christians and Sikhs, particularly the anti-hindu Sikhs otherwise referred to as militant Sikhs, they are being referred to as 'Panchamas' of the hindus or the fifth varna.  Thus they were never, and even today are not part of the hindu society.  Yet, today the Scheduled Dalits are considered an appendage or extension of the hindu society.  And in common parlance, they are loosely referred to as hindus, even when they are not, and are actualy outsiders, living outside and away from chaturvarna hindus of four-caste-brahmanic system!  The Scheduled Dalits are outside, and still not openly and publicly stated so, for political and intra-religious reasons today, as being outside!  The Scheduled Dalits are said to be inside, but really not treated so, and honestly not accepted as being inside.  This crude fact, has been repeatedly stated publicly by jagatguru (world teacher) Sankaracharya of Puri, and frequently reported in the Press - Print and Electronic Media, to the great discomfort and ebarassment of the Govts!  The Dalit being a hindu is great fraud and illusion played on the Dalits, created deliberately and sustained at a very big cost and social tension in the recent decades.  Affected are not only the SC&ST Dalits, but also the whole Church in India, Christianity in the World totally confused and not knowing what to do and how to deal with the double-dealing Indians and Indian Leadership, and the whole Indian Muslim Community that is

The Dalits were also called as the 'Mlechas' that means foreigners from beyond big turbulent rivers, seas and oceans, the hills, and the hill people.  Infact all Persians, Greeks, Romans, Afghans, Arabs, Burmese, Ceylonese, Chinese, Tibetans, Turks, Mongols, Moghuls, Europeans including the British Colonial Rulers, the Black Africans etc, irrespective of the fact whether they were just travellors, visitors, settlers, invaders, crude conquerors and all powerful rulers,  and even deciders or determinators of the destiny of all caste hindus, were referred to by the single term 'Mlechas'.  This, even when the foreignerswere infact were the deciders or determinators of the destiny of all caste hindus.  They were all considered actually as Untouchables only, irrespective of their position status and power!  The brahmins had a knack of treating and saying so, or making it clear to the lesser caste hindus without offending the foreigners and getting into trouble themselves.  The last publicly known case of such a discriminative treatment and public humiliation was that of Lord Mountbatten, the last and said to be the most influential and powerful Viceroy of India with plenipotent powers, after he visited a Temple in South India.  Today, the non-hindus of the Indian Society are actually in majority, but are mortally weakened by extreme fragmentations and mutual suspicions and distrust.  They are very badly divided and refuse to come together, even to face the crafty caste hindus for their own survival.  A good number of them are other Religious Settlers from outside the Country, converts to Islam and Christianity from mostly the Shudra and Ati-Shudra Communities, and perhaps a few outcasted caste hindu families.  In fact, the biggest punishment and fear or humiliation for a caste hindu, always had been being outcasted, loosing the caste, and ex-communication from the caste hindu society.

The division, differentiation, marginalisation or basic stratification of the Indian Society is as -

   brahmins and non-brahmins,
   dominant caste hindus and non-DCHs,
   caste hindus and casteless people,

and finally as,

   hindus and non-hindus.

The SC&ST Dalits always and everywhere were pushed down to the very bottom of the whole Indian Society - inclusive of the caste hindus and non-caste hindus.  The practices and methodologies may vary from place to place, but the end results remained always to be the same.  To the Dalits were left the occupations that involve the most undesirable and impure work and occupations, such as that of midwives, leatherwork, slaughter, scavenging, disposal of the dead, including the humans and the brahmins' own sacred cows, etc.  Even today there are not much changes, though the form and actuals jobs might have undergone some modifications, such as - nursing in addition to midwifery, and to work as poorly paid rural teachers in uknown places where no body wants to go, attendants in very dangerous places in mines, power plants, nuclear stations, etc.  They having been condemned to the bottom of the Indian Society, had to always remain there permanently at the bottom.  They are said to be impure, and always retain their impurities.  They could even transmit the impurities of their birth as Ati-Shudras, to others through physical contact, use of the same physical facilities, or even by having their shadow cast on any of the caste hindus, however dirty polluted and mean the latter might be!   This, even if their present occupatios may be modern, respectable, professional and much more superior to that of the brahmins and other caste hindus.  This lead to the literal practice of people being segregated as untouchables.  This happens, and such meaningless and thoughtless untouchability, much worse than Apartheid, is being practiced today at the end of the Twentieth Century in this Country, even in the highest Govt Offices Universities and other big and higher centers of learning - though such incidents are rarely reported in public and carried by the caste hindu press and electronic media, or investigated.  Officially, the practice of Untouchability was outlawed by Article 17 of the Indian Constitution, and made a punishable criminal offence.  In reality, however, it is still a very real debilitating painful practice that actully pulls down not only the Ati-Shudras, but also the progress and development of the entire Nation.

A Population, slightly larger than the entire size of the United States of America suffers daily from a level of discrimination, similar in many respects but more harmful and evil than the Racial Discriminations of the African-Americans in the United States, and the Blacks in South Africa under Apartheid.  These discriminations range from discriminations in admission to schools to being forbidden to share public facilities with caste hindus, to lethal violence.  The Violence against the Ati-Shudras are carried out by various hindu groups, the most well known being the hindu ultra-conservative RSS militia.  The later always attack the Muslims and others for liberating, by enmass Conversion, the Untouchable SC Dalits and invisible ST Dalits.  They have now specifically turned their fury against the Christian Missionaries for the past Conversions, particularly the distant still to be recognised Tribal Dalits.

The name Dalit, a self-adopted one, has come to replace the term “untouchable," and the derogatory term harijan of Gandhi, and the denigrating name girijans of the Govts.  Dalit, literally means “broken” or “crushed under foot.”  And this today is preferred to other terms, as it is thought to represent the true conditions of the people.  And what is important, it is not demeaning or condescending in any way.  Originally, the term Dalit applied only to those formerly Untouchables, but it has been expanded in many places today to include the Tribal Peoples, who being nature worshipping anemists like the SC Dalits, are also not a part of the hindu caste structure.  Other terminologies for peoples in this condition include Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, or simply SCs&STs, which derive their origin from the Indian Constitution’s “scheduling” of those castes and tribes that are disadvantaged.  All of these terminologies tend to be rather amorphous, and are used still interchangeably.  SCs&STs are still part of the overall group of Weaker Sections of the Indian Society.  Being non-hindus living outside the caste fold, they were also considered earlier as one of the non-hindu Minorities.  And being poor and backward, SCs&STs were part of the large number of Backward Classes.  But, with the Govt having specifically taken them out of the Backward Classes, away from the Shudra Backward Castes and other Minorities, and declared them to be the SCs&STs, the rest of the Backwards, minus those who follow major non-hindu Religious Minorities are now classified as the Other Backward Classes.

Today, some progress in upward mobility of Dalits appear to have been made in metropolitan areas.  However, most rural areas still remain mired in the social traditions of caste, which hold lower and non-caste peoples down.  It is also important to note that while casteism is declining in some areas, as a determinate of occupational and economic status; it remains a formidable tool in forming political groups and support.  Both the President of India and the recently appointed President of the governing coalition leader Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are Dalits. It should be however noted that both are largely symbolic appointments.  They are infact proving to be the uncomfortable cause of many legal political and social frictions, even at those highest levels.


As the experience of groups from around the World have shown, a major key to overcoming Oppression is access to Media, and uncontrolled mediums which allow free and open discussion of all issues.  This report provides an examination of whether or not this is true as for as the Dalit Community in India is concerned, and if not, what can be done to take steps in that direction. 


In India Media is reasonably well developed  And the Media today has a wider reach, in urban and semi-urban areas, and urbanised rural areas nearer to State Capitals, business centers etc.  It has a powerful role to play in business promotion, and political life of the Parties and their Leaders.  It is for these specific reasons that big industrial and business houses are running many of the News Papers, and are also branching off to the now powerful visual media.


apart from Paintings this includes Drawings, Line Sketches also.  The painters in early days were generally Dalits.  They used their artistic skills in paintings and drawings to show their resentments against the brahmins and brahmanic gods and goddesses.  Hence, they always included an unusual animal with various gods and goddesses to depict their inhuman nature and animal qualities!  They also invariably painted them with crude aggressive weapons in their hands and on their person, to tell their People, the Dalit Communities and the World that they are not godly but are cruel killers, and one has to keep away from them.  That is the reason that unlike the brahmins, Dalits as a People are not close to the exploitative demanding and bribe taking gods and goddesses, who act only on getting their considerations!  These gods and goddesses are that way worse than the corrupt caste hindu officials, both in the private and Govt Sectors.


Except for the modern day high flying caste hindu cultural ambassadors casually working as Sculpters to rake in money, the Sculpters who have produced millions and millions of innumerable statues in different media are the SC&ST Dalits.  For various reasons those who have been working on gods and goddesses have been included as some lowly caste hindus.  But the patterns and norms laid out by the Dalit Painters have struck, and they always followed them while producing the gods and goddesses, providing killer weapons in their hands.  Added to that, they often went one step ahead, showing these gods and goddesses as cheap perverted creatures indulging shamelessly in public fornication.  As result any rational unbiased analysis of these gods and goddesses, as done by Baba Saheb in his Riddles, or by Annadurai Karunanidhi etc in the South would show how third rate they were unfit toeven be considered as human beings!


The Folklore alive particularly in the Rural Areas is always of the Dalits.  They are in the form of Stories, Childrens Stories, Fairy Tales, Legends, Lullabies, Poems, Songs,  Bhajans etc.  They are rich with many interesting and useful anecdotes, historical accounts, witty sarcasm and sensible irony.  They effectively convey the seathing anger and silent protest of the Dalit People, against all the social cultural ritualistic and religious practices of the brahminic society.  They reflect the peoples animosity and general antagonism against the brahmins, other dominant caste hindus, their gods and goddesses.  They are clearly understood by the masses, unlike the ununderstandable meaningless Sanskritic Sloghas, which are not often clear to the brahmins themselves, who had only mugged them up blindly from oral recitations by some one else.  They are therefore varying, and are invariably not reliable hearsays! 

It is for the above reasons that the huge colossal white elephant of irrelevant Indian Education System in the brahminic hands, including the rare few Dalits who had managed to worm their way in, are very systematically consciously and carefully avoiding any collection compilation documentation preservation study and research of local and regional folklores.  Instead, the whole dominant caste hindu Govts and the brahminic controlled Media, are always working overtime to hoist the literatures beneficial to the brahmins like Ramayana and Maha-Baratha as National and Religious Indian Epics.  This inspite of many meaningless irrelevant immoral evil anti-people, anti-social, anti-development and pornographic references in them.  Studies and publication of the Folklore like the Kannada Grama-Devathalu or Village Deities and such other works by Siddha-Lingaiya in Karnataka had crudely shaken the brahmins.  And as usual they could effectively silence them by buying him out for his silence!  No such publicly known contributions to highlights the Works of our Dalit Forefathers specifically denied formal education by the brahmins and other DCHs had been done by any of the Dalits elsewhere in the Country.


Folk Songs and Bhajans are also infact part of the Folklore of the People.  Most of the Folklore are, except some of the the Folk Stories are in the form of Folk Songs and Bhajans composed and sung in praise of dalit gods and goddesses.  They were the easiest form of handing over socially relevant messages, particularly protests against the corrupt, evil and the wrong doers in the society, authority and at the higher levels of Govt and Religious Institutions like the Temples.  In fact these were the most popular form of Mass-Media of the People from time immemorial.  It is sad that today the Dalits have invariably lost their faith and their capacity to use these.  Instead the Dalits, particularly the educated urbanised ones even from the Rural Areas and Villages, have become more dependant on the evil brahmins, their advice, and their media, and have developed implicit and deep faith in all their doings.


Poems and artistic expressions are by deep thinkers, disturbed minds worried about the unfair and unjust happenings all around them in the Society, Educational Academic and Research Institutions, Govt Offices, Religious Bodies etc.  They quickly effectively and in short few sweet couplets could deliver their messages strongly and with due focus.  Poems by Great Dalit protest Poets like Joshua and other nameless millions of conscious and concerned Dalits can shake the berahmins and drive them to suicide and death if only they have any shame and conscience!  This is a powerful Media which the modern Dalits should again make use of.  Here is one great literary medium in which even illiterate unlettered Dalits have traditionally been masters.  And many great Poetic Literary Works are by such great immortal legendary Dalits, whose Dalit origins and backgrounds are systematically being concealed and denied even today!  This inspite of the facts that the existance name background and origins of many Dalit Authors, and even the Works of hundreds of Dalit Poets having been suppressed and destroyed by the highly destructive evil brahmins!  Like the Tamil brahmins who deliberately threw the Palm Leaf Writings of ancient Tamil Scholars in flooded Cauvery, saying that real good worth preserving works will flow against the current of the River in Spate and reach the banks, and that other useless works should left to get washed away!  What a scheming evil mindset the brahmins have!


This include the Street Dramas, Dramas in Street Corners and Melas, as well as the irony and sarcasm even in Bakthi Movements.  But Drama had not evolved into a big medium in this country except in some States, like Andhra Bengal Maharashtra Tamil Nadu etc, to refer a few.  The impact of Drama and also Cinema on the Society and Culture in awakening and throwing out, even the massive wide-spread oppressive yoke of the brahmins and their extreme social suppressive mechanisms and injustices, as well as the radical political changes they have brought in their wake in Tamil Nadu is very well known to recount here in any more detail.


This includes plain writings, novels, posters, hand-outs, hand-bills, wall writings publication of books, etc.  But with the all round massive illiteracy in the Society, and the specific denial of all Education to Dalits all through the history of this Nation, writing is not very popular amongst the Dalits.  But it is heartening to know that protest writings are showing up in a big way in States like Andhra, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.  But they are still a long way for these protest Dalit Literature to make an Impact on the Society in a real big way.  The problem is compounded by the lack of interest in buying books, and non-existant habbit of reading particularly others writings.  This situation is further hampered by the increasing cost of books, entry of brahmins and baniyas in printing and publishing, their poor quality and unattractive printing, effect of inflation, higher costs.  And the extent of reading particularly amongst the target groups of Ati-Shudra Dalits, Shudra OBCs and other poor is very poor because ofthe still prevailing massive illiteracy amongst these massive sections of society!


This is another special area where Dalits have not entered so far to make a mark.  But this a very convenient area to criticise castigate and send a quick message.


Radio is perhaps the oldest, and the most available and reliable form of media.  All India Radio (AIR) has 305 Transmitters.  AIR claims to provide Radio Coverage for 97.3% of the population(?) over 90% of the country.  AIR Stations are the only domestic Radio available, but there are foreign services such as the Voice of America, BBC World Service, Radio Ceylon once the most popular in South, Radio Pakistan, Voice of Bungladesh, Radio China etc from the surrounding Nations.  But their availability is not as wide spread as that of AIR.  Everyone with in the villages visited, had access to a radio and said that they listen to AIR.  It was the preferred source of media for very few people.


Cinema is the oldest largest most influential Media in the Country.  It has on any day the farthest reach and far-fetched reach to reach the unreachable if one desired so.  The potentials of Cinema have never been fully realised, nor have they been tapped and utilised for any positive development, in the real sense!  Ofcourse, Govts through their News Reals, Documentaries, Short Films, Clippings with the Media Units and Films Divisions, had been trying to reach the rural masses, educate the rural people children and students, and bring about changes in the rural societies.  This they have been doing through the compulsory screening of weekly and monthly News Reels screened in Cinema Theaters, or by screening them in special shows in schools, rural areas, festival times and in the fairs.  Missionaries and Church had also been using Cinema and Documantaries to carry the message of Peace, Life, Brotherhood and Fraternity, the Message of Jesus and the Spirit of Christianity amongst its folks in the Church and Church Compounds.  But sadly today the social and educational role of Cinema as an agent of change and medium of good meaningful and useful message had ceased in this Country long long ago.  But it still exercises a great influence in certain cercumstances particularly in Politics, specially in the Southern States.


This is again another area of contradictions.  While this is basically a foreign medium evolved as a result of scientific and technological developments elsewhere in the world, and millions of photographers and photographic workers are the Ati-Shudra Dalits and Shudras, those who actually use Photography as a Media of Professional Journalistic Value and rake in millions and names for themselves are again only the brahmins and other DCHs promoted patronised and projected by their own ruling classes in Govts and other offices of power authority and patronage!  Thus the Dalits have by and large could not make much of a mark, though it has very important and great potentials.  World would not have forgotten the cold blooded blood thirsty trigger happy Colonial Officer firing to kill a protesting Native in South-East Asia, with the small-arm right on the temple of the hapless victim.  There are many more such historic pictures, which had rudely shaken the conscience of the World and ultimately brougt down even even the crude criminal cruel heartless and mindless down to their knees.  Thus Cameras and Photography, particularly the very Small Detective Cameras, Movie-Cameras, Video Cameras, Digital Cameras etc have great potentials of capturing the cruelties real intentions scheming and planning of the brahmins and their petty backward agents, or the actions and doings of their cold-blooded blood thirsty RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal killer operators, against the helpless Dalit Women, Children, the aged etc etc.  These are yet to be realised and made use of by the Dalits in any effective way, because of their foreign high technolgy origin as said earlier, as well as lack of exposure, familiarity, knowledge, experience, confidence and the cost factor!


Exhibitions of Paintings, Wall Writings and Posters etc etc that bring out the suppressed and hidden anger and simmering dissent and under the surface protest,


Television is the most favored form of media.   Television includes shooting and filming TV Programmes Messages News etc, either in professional well-equipped Studios, make shift places, in the open field or even in remote and wild araeas.  The opportunities for the Dalits to enter these areas are very limited, even though some break is available to learn the skills formally in Govt run Film and TV Institutes, thanks to the much criticised and run down Reservations in admissions.

Through Antenna Reception, only one or two Channels of Doordarshan, the Government of India’s National TV network, is now available to the common man, though earlier almost all Channels of Doordarshan were available for the average TV Viewer without a Cable Connection.  This is so, because for reasons unexplained, Doordarshan had handed over most of its Channels to local private cable operators.  Thus the common man, with-out personal Satelite Dish Antena Reception, or the ones accessed through cable connections, can not access most of the Channels of even Govt run Doordarshan.  Yet, Doordarshan claims to have a reach of about 87% of India’s Population; which given the inaccessible backwardness, poverty and endless miserable routine in the rural areas and of the massive large sections of Weaker Sections of the Indian Society, is definitely a doubtful bogus tall official claim.

In most areas, Doordarshan’s National Programming is supplemented by State and Regional content from the State Capitals.  What can be received through cable and satellite is an entirely different story.  As said earlier most of Doordarshan's Channelsn are also available on Satelite Cable.  These Multiple Channels come with more diverse programming.  And Satellite Channels such as CNN, BBC World Service, and StarTV are also available.  These deliver a wide variety of American, Australian, British, and other Nations' TVs, as well as Indian programming, to those households able to afford Dish, or have access to Satellite Cable Television.  Inspite of these, most Dalits only have access to Doordarshan through Antenna Reception, though access to Satellite Cable TV is expanding steadily. 

A recent quick small study by some scholars showed that -

In Gangoh, the largest Village near Delhi, with a Population of 50,000(?) nearly 80% of all People have access to TV, but only one percent has colour TV. Only 1100 of the TVs in the Gangoh have a Satellite Connection.  And of these, only 10 or 12 of them are owned by Dalits, providing access to Cable Satellite Channels for at most 200 Dalits.

In the smaller Villages, with populations below 3000, about 50% of the villagers have access to TV.  But probably only 10% watch the News on a regular basis.  Access is generally restricted to Antenna Reception, as ownership of Satellite Dishes is limited by cost.  Some of the small Villages have no Satellite Dish, and in those Villages where one exists, the owner is invariably a dominant caste hindu, who generally does not allow others to come anywhere near by.  Thus the Dalits do not have access to Satellite Cannels.

The most popular programmes on TV are reported to be religious serials, cricket, movies, and cinema songs.  Appearance of Dalits on TV, even as News Readers is for the most part unknown, and not seen.  Rarely do any Dalit Star appear, or is allowed to come on the TV.  Hardly are there any, for these are profitable and highly paying businesses.  Hence, carefully and meticulously Dalits are being kept out.  Hence they are not being seen.  Recently, it was said that a serial on Doordarshan had a few Dalit Characters in it, though the actors were not actually the Dalits!  The Dalits in this serial were portrayed to be very submisive subserviant supportive and working in favour of the  caste hindus.  And when one of the Dalits made a mistake of some kind, the punishment by the caste hindus was quite severe.  This in a TV Serial, a story!  That is the type of Message, a Value-System the TVs want to build up, sustain and uphold in the Society even today.

When it comes to TV News Focuses on the issues of Rural Areas and the happenings there-in, where the most oppressed Dalits live, the News generally does not deal with them, and skirts them out very skillfully, unless there had been some grievious or serious sensational issue. But these days, some other private programmes do take some interest, but even these are limited to issues of crops and the like.  And where Dalit Issues had to be discussed, they bring in co-opted or co-optable elements, who do all their best to whitewash the harm being done to the Dalits by others.  Otherwise the TVs project some half-backed upstarts, and even drop-outs from some colleges and universities, only because they are the hand maidens of those who matter in the ruling circles.  Thus, the Dalit Issues fall by default, or are thearetiacally as an abstract matter casually and indifferently discussed, by those not at all concerned but make a living out of Dalit Sufferings, like the Professors and Officials dealing casually with Dalit Matters as their Profession, or are handling them for the time being as a matter of course.


News Papers being in private hands, have remained the exclusive terrain of the dominant communities of the country.  Most of them ofcourse are the dominant caste hindus, specifically the brahmins.  They systematically keep out SC&ST Dalits, and hound out any SC or ST Dalit who may manage to stray in.   That is all to their credibility and charecteristic merrit and honesty!

News Papers in this Country are not well developed.  And People do not have an attitude to News Gathering and decimation of the right actual facts and happenings.  That is part of hindu characteristic of untruth and deciet!

News Papers and Journalistic practices like writing, editing, proof reading, publication of Journals and News Letters in Schools, local and neighbourhood Communities are all unknown and strange to this Country!  Hence handwritten, cyclostyled mimeograph or photocopied publications, private circulations, informations amongst friends circles, in family or extended families all do not almost exist in this Country.

Hence Dalits are nowhere near News Papers and in the business of bringing out Magazines News Letters Journals etc.

News Papers are the only form of media that Dalits generally have an easy and reasonable access to, that are able to present a diversity of opinions.  Even in the smallest Villages, there reach copies of atleast a couple of different Newspapers.  And in larger Villages, nearer to metropolitan cities and State Capitals, local, regional, and national Papers could be found.

A small Survey by some Dalit Friends and Sympathisers showed the following -

In Gangoh, approximately 1900 copies of Newspapers are distributed daily.  Many of the Papers are national and regional.  An, there also reach three other local Papers.  The local Papers do have a good focus on local issues, but not on the issues of Dalits.  About 40% of People in town read a Newspaper, but of that 40% only 3-4% are women, even though they are approximately 50% of the population.   Of the Dalit Population, only 20% read any Newspaper.

When considering circulation and readership, it is helpful to remember that while many people read one copy of a Newspaper, the Newspapers are often read out to many who don't get a Paper and to those who are illiterate.  So in both cases, numbers tend to be larger than reported.  Taking these factors into account, 90% of all of People near the State Capitals have access to Newspapers.  This percentage of readership seemed to hold true for even the smaller Villages near by, even though fewer copies of Newspapers reach them.

Mainstream News Papers do some coverage of Dalit Issues, especially when there are atrocities like murder, etc.  And sometimes, they will run pieces which consider the situations and lives of Dalits, as The Hindu and The Pioneer have recently done.  However, the truly controversial stands are left to the Dalit's Alternative Media, which consists of many informal private circulations, some local regional language tabloids and journals - the most popular one being one English Journal named The Dalit Voice, run by a rich dominant caste hindu.


The Inter-Net, Web Pages and Web-Sites are still in infant stages even in the cities.  They are accessible only by the well to do, well connected and well placed, better educated, and highly paid employed sections of the society.  Hence, understandably, Dalits hardly have any access to them.  And strangely enough, those well-off and well-placed Dalits who can afford them, hardly take any interest in general Dalit Issues, unless that hurts them the most.  Otherwise, they tend to be indifferent, and neglect Dalit Issues of even their own concern or having a direct impact on them also, leaving them all to the Govts to resolve, or expect someone else just someone else to comeforward and take up the task, and to those non-interested Dalit Leaders who are not even affected by the Problem to deal with!  In the Rural Areas, these are not even heard off!  Thus, these are practically inaccessible to the Dalits and most other Weaker Sections.  And the poor Literacy Rates, lack of Computer Literacy, prohibitive cost of Computer Education, poor Knowledge of Inter-Net, non-availability of Computers, very high cost of the Computers and Lap-Tops, unaffordable cost of Inter-Net Connections, poor quality of the Connections and Inter-Net Services, too high a cost of Telephone and other interlinkages, non-appreciation of the Potentials and Uses of Inter-Net in Dalit Development are not only big obstacles, but even keeps this out of the focus of the Dalits as an useful tool.

A Western Scholar on Dalit Issues had recently reported -

After extensive searching, only one Dalit specific Web Site of Indian Origin could be found, though other Sites set up by advocacy groups operating from West and OECD Countries could be found!  All parties interviewed or visited, regarded the Inter-Net as a tool with no reach to the Dalit Community itself, although One Group stated that it was an effective way to bring out Information on Dalit Issues in the first place.  And, naturally, it is that group that operates the one Indian-based Dalit-Issue Web-Site.

Inter-Net, Web-Pages and Web-Sites are potentially very useful spheres, where Dalits have to be brought-in large numbers, and they need to be watched and encouraged carefully steadily and monitored closely.  This then will become a very great and powerful tool amongst the large Dalit People, particularly if they are properly guided and appropriately helped and encouraged from time to time till they take-off by themselves.


Dalit involvement in the local media in Gangoh is relatively weak compared to the rest of the Nation.  Of the 10 Journalists based there, 3 were from Backwards Classes, and only one was an “untouchable” Dalit.  Generally the coverage of Dalits in the News is always rare, as even Dalit Journalists tend not to report on Dalit issues.  The Reasons given for this are  -

i)       The Dalit Journalists are afraid that if they cover Dalit Issues, they might lose their jobs
ii)      Such Reportings unless sensational to be of commercial news value are generally dumped out
iii)     The Dalit Journalists are simply not interested in covering the issues.

Conversations with local Leaders of a Dalit Party, which had incidentally emerged as the third largest All India Party after BJP and Congress, advocating the Rights of Dalits and other disadvantaged peoples also revealed dissatisfaction with the present Indian Media.  They noted that the Media adequately covers issues such as the murders and sexual harassment of Dalit individuals - perhaps because of their shock value and sensationalism, does not do any analysis as to why these Atrocities occur.  In regards to bias, he thought that Dalit Participation in the ownership of mainstream media would have to happen, before biases of the mainstream media started to disappear.   Many others, were in agreement with thes.  Caste hindu ownership and control of media exists very very strongly.  It actually prevent the entry of formally qualified dalit journalists, even while accomodating a lrge number of dominant caste hindus of known dubious values and fraudulent experiences.  These all together create, at best, a negative bias against the Dalits, the real facts behind Dalit Issues and the truths of the caste hindu dominated Indian Society, that is still poor and backward in many respects.

Members of the Villages are also concerned about the geographic bias towards regional centers.  Also, if something happens in a village, the information may pass through several hands before a reporter gets a hold of it, and this in turn can increase the biases and inaccuracy of the information.  One of the small villages recently held elections, and no media organization covered in any form.  When asked if they would be more interested in the News, if it showed information about events in their village like the election, the answer was resoundingly in the affirmative.

When asked whether more channels and competition would help to alleviate biases, many said that it was difficult to say because of a lack of anything for comparison, especially for TV and Radio.  However, they did say that ownership or management of Media, if not direct control probably influenced bias, and said that ownership by Dalits would be a great help.  One Dalit gentleman mentioned that, ownership by well to do members of the Backward Classes, many of whom are very very better off, would be much more helpful.  He felt that they being as Shudras basically working classes like the Ati-Shudra Dalits, but being acceptable and recognised members of the caste hindu society, might be able to bridge many of the differences between the Dalits and the rest of the society.  Though this is an odd comment, may be influenced by some personal considerations, there still is some truth and merrit in this, however small that may be.

Dalit alternative Newspapers, play a crucial role.  But that is “not well ventilated” and it often does not consider issues in their entirety.  Its role in transforming the mainstream Media is limited.  Hence it is necessary that Dalits must become players in the mainstream media, to remove the biases that exist against the Dalits there-in.


As one can see, the Channels of Information that Dalits have access to are limited, especially in the Rural Areas.  Television, Radio, and Newspapers, as well as Cinema, Photography still and movie, Exhibitions etc - organised and or managed through Govt, Community and other public and private efforts - suffer from little involvement of the lower castes, and practically no involvement from “untouchable” and "invisible" Dalits.  In addition, there are limitations to what can be expressed and discussed on TV and Radio, since they are centrally controlled by the government and caste hindu officials, with some form of under-the-surface active vigilant Censorship or agenda which is currently set by the hands of the hindu-conservative BJP and Sangh Parivar.

Given the overall constraints of the situation, as well as the living standards of the Dalits, there are two specific short-term recommendations and two long-term possible solutions, that could redeem the Dalits in this Country, and Develop them with the help of the Media.

A.   The Short-Term

i)   First - The only form of Media, that has the ability to express varied opinions to the Dalit Population is the Local Indian Press, both the English and Language Press.  The Big  Industrial Business House and Politically Controlled Press can hardly recognise or appreciate the aspirations and needs of the large mass of poor Rural Dalits and the poor Urban Dalits.  But the Reporters of small newspapers are very poorly paid.  Hence, they are open to persuasion through the purchase of meals and other small favors.  It would be to the advantage of all concerned and those interested in the Development of a large Continental Size Community of 260 million plus SC&ST Dalits, to organise a Systematic Program and  also set up very Specilised Formal Institutions, to introduce debate and deal with issues that are of concern to Dalits.  Those who own and edit Indian News Papers, particularly the regional language papers, should actively be involved in these activities and exercises, that they in turn can themselves look into and organise their own special programmes to involve more and more SC&ST Dalits and Dalit Journalists in News Gathering, News Reporting, News Writing, News Editing and Presentations.  Meetings accompanied by materials and means in Regional and State Centers with regional and also popular Dalit Leaders could be appropriate.  It is important to remember that many of those involved with Indian Language Papers have some political ambitions, and Dalits can be politically powerful because of their large population. 

ii)   Second - The second short-term solution is to identify issues of concern to Dalits, and encourage Indian language media outlets to discuss them.  One example for this would be, discussion about Economic Liberalisation.  While the Governments now strongly support Economic Liberalisation, most Dali Leaders Activists, and by and large the entire Dalit Communities, save for some odd exceptions, are fiercely opposed to it, because of the short-term negative impact it is having on the poor rural populations, who are mostly the Dalits.  Open discussions about the differences in opinion in this area, could lead to better understandings, and in turn, constructive action on both sides of the issue.  After all what will the SC&ST Dalits loose by the evils of Economic Liberalisation if at all there is any, as the Dalit Activists fear?  Only their bondage to the most oppressive caste hindus!  The economy was never in the hands of Dalits, or within their reach, even though as the labouring working classes, it is only their labour hardwork sweat and blood built up this Nation and its Economy so far!  They were never recognised.  Their hard work labour and fruits of value addition were always taken away by their caste hindu supervisors managers senior-officers bureaucrats and politicians.  Let this unfair structure be torn apart - and rebuilt afresh on the basis of competition, hardwork, skills, intelligence, creative strength, mental and physical stamina, constructive capablities, and productive capacities.  It is here that many Western Nations, Capitalistic Countries, and even Foreign Multi-National-Corporations can chip in liberally, and deal with the Dalits directly through the New Institutions and Special Programmes.  Even in Global Terms, 260 million plus Dalits is a big force and power.  And if they could be educated, woken-up, honestly employed, and reasonably-paid, oh then it is going to be real big market.  For the SC&ST Dalits, unless like the caste hindus practically need anything and everything for a decent life.  The caste hindu society over the millenniums have vertually left them naked and without any means!

B.   The Long Term

i)   First - There is nothing more imperative than education.  The Govts and Foreign Missions in India, UN Agencies and International Aid, Donor Organisations must enter this sphere to unflinchingly advocate access to free public education to all Indian citizens, particularly the Dalits.  Education is key not only to Literacy but also tp Knowledge, and therefore is the portal to access to the Press and other Media, but also in broadening of worldview.  These, in turn would help in weakening, if not in breaking down the caste system, that had historically served all along, the dominant caste hindus well.  Of course, Mass Education will also result in many other benefits, including economic improvement and better self-governance.  Hence the Govts in the Country, right from the Local Govts and also the Voluntary Organisations, real NGOs and local Peoples' Organisations should explore the possibilities of entering into some sort of bilateral understandings and exchange programmes, to bring in open free liberal thoughts for the benefit and use of the whole local community, as well as build and establish good Centers of Learning and Knowledge open and actually accessible to the common man

ii)   Second - Finally, the Govt, foreign Missions in India, UN and Aid-Agencies must continue to advocate the improvement of access to information technologies to Dalits in the rural areas and other oppressed peoples.  Both cable/satellite television and the Internet represent opportunities for people to make themselves heard, without being subject to the control of a controlling authority that might be opposed to their ideas.

Although progress in this area will likely be slow, all gains that can be made are significant.   For an oppressed people like the Dalits, expression of their views to their own Population and their Nation is paramount in improving their condition.  As such, the UN and Govts of the World, should actively encourage media organisations to consider and involve the Dalit people and their views.

There emerged numerous questions while discussing Dalit Studies during the workshop, but most of the discussion centred around two central questions—what should be the focus of Dalit Studies and what should be the reference point of such studies. This was the pivot around which most of the discussions and debates moved around. The discussants supporting and vying for the establishment of Dalit Studies as an independent mode of knowledge, an autonomous discipline within the larger framework of social science, argued that the very resistance of establishment of Dalit Studies is a kind of politics from above within the field of social science. This argument finds reflection in the papers presented at the workshop, particularly while critiquing the existing boundaries and rules of disciplines like History, Sociology and Literature.

In the discipline of Sociology, there had been always a tendency to naturalise critical issues like caste system because of Western and Brahmanic dominance of knowledge. The same is the case of History. The way historiography is developed in India is replete with mere historicism. One finds total absence of critical issues like caste in the Indian historiography. Caste seemed to be a gift to the discipline of Sociology. Besides, one finds subaltern knowledge (e.g. the knowledge about different views on Indian nationhood) in the field of History being subjugated and marginalised under dominant discourses. In the field of Literature also the dominant knowledge had been the western classics rather than Indian writings, which has always remained in the margins of English literature in India.

On the other hand, there had been arguments supporting for the establishment of Dalit Studies as a new perspective. From this point of view, Dalit Studies should not be treated as a mere body of knowledge, rather there is a need to construct a new perspective that cuts across all disciplines in the Social Sciences and Humanities to comprehend the Indian reality. In the present context, Dalit Studies poses imminent danger of ghettoisation and appropriation. The demise of Gandhian Studies and Women Studies initiated in the field of Social Science were put forward as burning examples. The post-colonial condition characterised by Western dominance of knowledge leaves almost no space to establish Dalit Studies as a separate discipline.

Social Science has a different historical trajectory in the Third World countries. When the West was developing its cities, economy, democracy, liberalism and bourgeois freedom, the Third World was loosing everything. Enlightenment for one half of the globe was imprisonment for the other half. In this context we can neither condemn the West nor keep our innocence intact. This criticality of the post-colonial condition offers possibilities for developing a new perspective, a new lens through which we can look at different disciplines within the Social Science field rather than the establishment of Dalit Studies as a separate discipline. Besides, to establish as a separate discipline within the wider framework one needs identify, define and develop the very structure of knowledge. What is the dalit structure of knowledge? Are we in a position to answer this question? Since the very dalit point of view is coming under different contestation it will be premature to imagine the establishment of Dalit Studies as a separate discipline.

The question of methodology, i.e. how one goes about understanding the dalit structure of knowledge, also dominated the debates and discussions throughout the workshops. One strong opinion in this regard was the recovery of history and culture of dalits by undoing the hegemony of the dominant knowledge system and preparing enough ground for understanding the history of suffering of marginalised groups and from this point critiquing the dominant system. One effort in this regard will be looking critically at the anti-colonial movement as a kind of instrument to appropriate the movements from below. This rereading of the text needs to capture the inter-subjectivity of the concrete. In terms of praxis, Dalit Studies needs to focus on teaching the students by promoting critical thinking and self-reliance (Apna Deepak Khud Bano/Satya Ki Talash Karo) as an alternative to the destructive ‘guru tradition’ which leaders such as Ambedkar and Phule had criticised so thoroughly.

Another point of view in this regard is creating a universal that will subsume all the knowledge systems from below. If the objective of the proposed Dalit Studies is to inscribe the multiple and at times even contesting concerns of the worst victims of caste, there is a need to go about it differently than the current practice. Updating colonial ethnography would only serve to reinforce existing untouchability and ghettoisation. One needs to put together anew elements of what potentially could constitute an emanicipatory epistemology, ethnography that simultaneously an empowerment. However, there is a danger in pitting this reconstructed knowledge against culture and aesthetics, leading to sharp differentiation between questions of identity and interests. If caste has crept into History it can go from it. There is a need to correct this pitfall which could be teased out from the emanicipatory struggles of the dalit castes themselves and ideological articulation and its leadership in recent history.

Besides these two points there had been another view points based on the immediate material upliftment of the marginal communities since in their everyday life poverty looms large beyond which the marginal communities fail to see. They become a commodity in terms of their labour power in the eyes of the masses and bodies in circulation in a capitalist system. Therefore, any effort vying for their effective participation in the reconstruction of their knowledge system needs to liberate them first from the clasps of poverty. Under the capitalistic system they have undergone painful separation of them from their means of production. They have lost their lands and crafts, the pivot of their life. Within this view point another version calls for inspiring the marginal communities to develop the desire to accumulate and develop entrepreneurship which will increase the social mobility of these communities to rise up the ladder of social hierarchy.

There was major concern with regard to linking Dalit Studies to employment generation. Most of the questions asked in this regard were:

  • Who is going to study Dalit Studies in the globalization era where there is a rat race for management and IT-oriented courses.
  • How will Dalit Studies ensure employment generation of the future youths?
  • Why Dalit Studies in higher education why not at the primary level?
  • Won’t Dalit Studies face the same fate as Gandhian Studies?

The arguments against weak linkages between the proposed Dalit Studies and the demand of modern education in the age of competition is that the course is not made exclusively for dalit students, but is to be universally integrated within all the disciplines of Social Sciences to encourage critical thinking by decolonisation of the mind. It is not to be a mere academic exercise but is to be directly linked to the issues of society, culture and politics. Dalit Studies alone cannot take the responsibility of improving material condition of the dalits. The question of employment generation is one that Social Science itself faces in the present era of globalisation. There are various efforts being undertaken in the government and non-governmental fronts to uplift the material conditions of the dalits. However, dalit upliftment or dalit empowerment cannot be a linear and static process since the question is also related to the psyche of the mainstream. Another viewpoint along the same lines is that there is politics behind resisting Dalit Studies by dangling with all these impossibilities. The post-Independent Indian government initially introduced the concept of vocational studies at the school and secondary level for all the marginal communities to hone their technical expertise and in the process generating employment. This very project of Brahmanic division of labour in knowledge production left no space for marginal communities to learn their history, art and culture.

There had been exchanges of views and comments on experiments done towards establishing a dalit studies or dalit perspective in various disciplines of social sciences. One prominent view in this regard is that since the marginal people are the frontier people, the making of frontier curriculum needs to be a carefully balanced process building theoretical and practical skills. This would include a combination of fieldwork, lectures, discussions, seminars, presentations and library work; a regular interaction with the larger social context, which includes the community and institutions of civil society; a system for critical reflections in place of assessment and evaluations; and a network of libraries. It was opined that while building up curriculum for Dalit Studies there is need to emphasise upon the development of organic link between academics, intellectuals, student communities, organizations working at the grassroots level and communities.

Some suggestions made during the discussion on development of curriculum were:

  • Open University curriculum since IGNOU introduces new courses ever year.  

Other than History and Sociology, 

  • To introduce Dalit Studies as an innovative project through a step-wise process;
  • There is ample scope to introduce Dalit Studies in the 

Economics as a positivistic science has always been in the margin when it comes to critical theory building. However, today’s Economics is more open, free from neo-classical grips. Economics in terms of political economy can insert an element of Dalit Studies. There had been no effort offer a theoretical platform for the economic thought. Ambedkar, Phule and others who offered alternative economic insights were scattered in their thoughts. The development of economic history of the Dalits will help add new dimensions to Dalit Studies.

  • Dalit Studies should focus not simply on the Scheduled Castes but on the entire system of exploitation and on providing an alternative to this.
  • There is a need for serious thinking in understanding the dalit structure of knowledge. One way to do this will be keeping different vantage points to see the reality in totality.
  • The debate between establishment of Dalit Studies as a separate discipline and as a new perspective needs critical evaluation in the perspective of lessons learnt from Black Studies, Women’s Studies and Gandhian Studies.
  • The establishment of a new discipline needs to address not only inspiring of critical thinking and developing scientific temperament but also its linkage with employment generation to be sustainable in the future.

There is a greater need for exchanges of ideas and views, discussions and debates to concretise the dalit perspective of Social Sciences between academicians, bureaucrats, planners, non-governmental organisations working at grassroots levels, students and communities to further the effort in this regard.

Goal and accomplishments

We engaged in developing a new perspective called Dalit Studies—both as an autonomous discipline and as a critique-cum-restructuring of existing disciplines in Social Sciences and Humanities. It is a struggle against the inherent tendency in liberal education in India to erase, or at least gloss over, caste experiences from subjects of study in colleges and universities. This, needless to say, has resulted in our increasing inability to participate in contemporary politics as academicians and students, just as it has rendered voiceless large sections of our society which our Social Sciences claim to speak of and for.

Our purpose has, therefore, been to intervene in the system of higher studies in order to sensitise it to the dalit issue. The main principle on the basis of which we try to function is that of ‘de-normalising’ caste as a lasting category of Indian society.  On the one hand, we have tried to deconstruct many of the familiar and accepted categories of Indian Social Sciences as categories which primarily work to conceal a caste statement and parade instead as either universal or national.  On the other hand, we have tried to emphasise significant anti- and non-caste locations in Indian society, which prove that caste has not necessarily always been the defining trait of India in the way that it has been presumed to be since the nineteenth century. We have worked with the principle that the meanings and experiences of caste have fundamentally changed in history—and that to study ‘Dalit Studies’ is, therefore, primarily to engage with this imperative to change the very history and definition of the nation. Briefly, we have evolved a programme of Dalit Studies that aspires to be emancipatory, seeks to challenge and change the very edifice of Social Sciences.

We feel that our effort has yielded satisfying results. One and half years ago when we undertook this programme, our assertion was that the state of Bihar was the place to begin research, mobilise opinion, produce syllabi in social sciences and try to get it introduced in the universities. Today, we have reasons to suggest that our initiative was not misplaced. Our reading of the socio-political ground realities in the state has been proven correct. The responses we received for this work from various quarters, both in our workshops/seminars and outside are encouraging.

  • More than 200 university teachers from Bihar actively participated in our discussions; nearly 50 made presentations and submitted papers in the seminar and workshops that we had organised. Today we have a rich pool of intellectual resources from the state working with us on the programme. This network has started taking shape as a directory and has led to continuous discussion amongst scholars and policy makers. 
  • We also brought together intellectuals and practising academicians, both freelance and affiliated to universities, from Delhi University, Jamia Millia University, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Central University of Hyderabad and so on to a common platform. Today there is better cohesion and dissemination of ideas among people working in the field of dalit studies. 
  • The participation of three vice-chancellors and several pro-vice chancellors, along with noted academicians with experience in syllabi making and their introduction in university courses is a strong indication of the fact Deshkal has successfully mobilised educational institutions and policy-makers of the state
  • Based on the workshops, seminars, papers and discussions, Deshkal developed an M.A.-level syllabi of Ancient Indian History, Modern Indian History and Hindi. For the last two courses, it also prepared detailed reading materials. It is an extension of this effort that five research scholars have enrolled for Ph.D. in these universities on dalit issues. 
  • The courses of Modern Indian History and Hindi have been introduced in the curriculum of B. R. Ambedkar University, Muzaffarpur, Bihar. The vice-chancellors of Patna University, Magadh University and Vir Kunwar Singh University have expressed strong commitment to do the same in their respective universities. 
  • Deshkal Society has given concrete shape to these in its policy report titled Dalit Studies: Problems, Potentials and Challenges in Higher Education and a book titled "Dalit Studies in Higher Education: Vision and Challenges" which contains papers presented in the seminar and workshops. The policy report and book are soon to be published.

Our workshops, seminars and discussions received support from the media, both the print and the electronic, in Hindi and English. Nearly 30 stories were carried in different dailies. The Economic and Political Weekly also published an article titled ‘Dalit Studies: Exploring Criteria for a New Discipline’ (24-30 April 2004, vol. XXXIX, no. 17). We can assume that our intervention has succeeded in generating interest, awareness and support for Dalit Studies in higher education in the mainstream public space in Bihar and outside of Bihar.

  • It is a struggle against the inherent tendency in liberal education in India to erase, or at least gloss over, caste experiences from subjects of study in colleges and universities. Till now, Dalit Studies is often linked to Ambedkar Studies only.
  • Dalit intelligensia is still not very influential at the level of policy.
  • Reading materials in Social Sciences and Literature are not available in Hindi language.
  • Teachers are not prepared for Dalit Studies at the level of approach and training.
  • There is lack of enthusiasm even among young dalit scholars regarding the scope of Dalit Studies in terms of livelihood.
  • Not only academic groups but the dominant group outside university show antipathy towards such initiatives.      

With this in mind, we have tried to do two things simultaneously.  First, we have tried to develop an autonomous area of study called Dalit Studies, where the dalit perspective can set forward its own terms.  Or, in other words, Dalit Studies as an independent form and mode of knowledge can critique and redefine existing boundaries and rules of existing disciplines like History, Sociology or Literature.  However, and second, since creating an autonomous discipline also runs the risk of leading to ghettoisation and boycott of Dalit Studies itself by mainstream academics—which defeats our purpose entirely—we have also tried to subtly reorient the general study of the existing disciplines, both thematically and methodologically, in order to make them more receptive to serious engagement with the politics of caste.  We have tried to identify possible spaces within existing curricula where we could intervene and tried to work out how far this can be done through suggesting additional topics and additional readings and also how far by alternative formulations of existing themes.

We have undertaken a series of activities in this line:

  1. We have held a number of workshops, both in Delhi and in Bihar, in order to work out, with the help of dalit intellectuals, from all over India, an alternative vision of higher studies, of teaching and content materials, of pedagogical methods and so on.
  2. We have also tried to interact and coordinate with other groups and individuals who have been working on the same lines as us.  We have shared materials, experiences and problems.
  3. We have also tried to collect all official documents and policy statements which express the Indian State’s agenda about caste identity and national development. We have developed a sense of the changing role of our governments vis-a-vis the caste issue and set forth a critique of the Indian State’s education and culture policy. 
  4.  Additionally, we have undertaken a study of the institutional structure of our higher education bodies, be it the UGC or individual universities, in order to formulate the issues and challenges we must face when trying to intervene in the higher education system.
  • Course development and preparation of reading materials that require research, writing, translation and compilation should be taken up on a much larger and rigorous basis than what has been the case so far. It may be an independent project in itself. 
  • A lackadaisical approach will not be of much use. Discontinuation of the intervention at this juncture will prove disastrous, as it has the potential to discredit the social relevance of the effort and issue both. 
  • Simultaneous works in the field of preparing the syllabi and their implementation. Since this was our first year we first prepared the syllabi and than tried its induction into the universities. 
  • The experience of undertaking this work makes it clear that this is not merely an academic exercise. Social and political nature of the work should always be kept in mind.

Given the nature of work we realized that it generates strong reaction among traditionally dominant sections. To offset such reactions, extra care and preparation are needed in the form of social diversity in undertaking strategy and implementation of such work.


The workshop began with a plenary session on the first day, with speeches not only by eminent intellectuals who had traveled from Delhi, but also by civil servants and university vice-chancellors.  A consensus seemed to operate, without any prior discussion, that an urgent restructuring of our education system is necessary in order to sensitise our students to the dalit question.  There was a pledge of support by government representatives as well as by university heads to our efforts at including ‘Dalit Studies’ in the existing education system in Bihar.

On this encouraging note, the workshop began with the introductory session on Who is a Dalit? An overview of dalit studies.  G. Aloysius’ presentation argued that a critical dalit studies curriculum should primarily aim at undoing the ‘normalisation’ of caste as a characteristic of Indian society and history.  He said that while on the one hand, there is need to deconstruct many of the categories of Indian social sciences as categories which conceal a caste statement and parade as either universal or national, there is also on the other hand, a need to emphasise anti- and non-caste movements in Indian history which has sought to go beyond caste paradigms altogether.  He also emphasized that a dalit studies curriculum should reflect on the entirety of social sciences rather than identify specifically caste-related issues. Prof Anand Kumar, chairing the session, brought the discussion round to some specific suggestions – viz., the need to form an Indian Association of Dalit Studies, an umbrella organization which could bring different kinds of people together on the lines of History Congress or Science Congress; the publication of a bibliographic overview of dalit literature; and the starting of a Dalit Studies Journal.

In the rather intense discussion that followed this session, the question that repeatedly came up set the tone, in a way, for the rest of the workshop – whether ‘dalit studies’ should assert itself as an autonomous, if not separatist agenda, and thus risk ghettoisation within our education system or should it try to pervade all themes and problematics of social science study, and thus risk a dilution of the issue.

Following this introductory session, came a series of papers which effectively offered critiques, from the dalit standpoint, of all the existing disciplines of social sciences as they are taught today. 

Sociology, evidently the discipline which defined from early twentieth century, the parameters of caste study, came under heavy criticism.  The papers by Ritambhara and Ramaiah both questioned the basic unit of Indian sociological study – the Indian village – by arguing that villages in India are actually multiple and antagonistic settlements divided on caste lines.  The argument was that to make the study of sociology sensitive to dalit issues required a whole shift in the fundamental locus of Indian sociology.

Political science came under a double criticism.  On the one hand, the issue of the creation of political symbols was raised and it was argued that political studies, as it is taught today, is unable to offer tools for demystifying the ways in which nationalist icons have been created, at the exclusion of even names like Ambedkar as P. Jogdand argued.  On the other hand, the issue of caste and democracy was also raised and it was argued that contemporary political science merely analyses caste in terms of vote bank politics and fails to question existing parameters of representation, both political and literary.  A more basic debate came to pass through Anand Chakravarty’s study of Bihar peasant movements and Bela Bhatia’s study of Bihar Naxalite movement about how much of Dalit Studies was purely a story of oppression and how can we reclaim moments of resistance, criticism and even laughter out of dalit politics in contemporary times.  Also the session on Muslims and dalits corrected our common sense understanding of Islam as an egalitarian and Hinduism as a caste-based religion, an easy binary which so often allows the Hindu right to defend caste as an essentially Hindu and anti-Islam Indian trait.

The discipline of history came under fundamental questioning, especially through the session on dalit literature.  The basic point which came across was about the historical status of dalit autobiographies, oral traditions and literary works.  Many participants argued that history’s rules of evidence necessarily excluded marginalized voices which either fail to or refuse to claim academic parameters of historical truth.  A history sensitive to the dalit issues must therefore be refracted through the prism of fiction and imagination.  The other difficult question that came out of this discussion was that of authorship, particularly sharply presented by U R Ananthmurthy – viz., what is dalit literature or dalit history?  Is it that produced by dalits alone or can it also include works produced by non-dalits?

All through these sessions, however, the reminder came repeatedly that the ‘dalit’ itself is not a unitary category.  The session on gender especially demonstrated this, with presentations by Suguna Ramanathan, Jyotsna Macwan, Smita Patil and Nandita Bajaj who talked of caste oppression as deeply gendered – especially given that control of women’s sexuality and circulation of women’s bodies and reproductive power were basic to the politics of caste power.  (An interesting presentation by S. K. Biswas also foregrounded the notion of heredity as basic to the caste system and its relation therefore to primary property structures of society.)

The workshop ended with an open session, which invited suggestions from participants and local audience on how to go about instituting a dalit studies agenda.  Suggestions and advice were many – including the need to advocate dalit studies curriculum to the UGC, the need to participate in Academic Staff Colleges for the sensitization of college teachers, the need to create a central pool of reading materials also translated in Hindi, the need to start a web site and create a pool of resource personnel who could also act as visiting lecturers on certain themes and so on and so forth.

April 28, 2010

Dalit in India Facts and Figures

Every 18 minutes:
A crime is committed against a Dalit
Every day:
  • 3 Dalit women are raped
  • 2 Dalits are murdered & 2 Dalits Houses are burnt in India
  • 11 Dalits are beaten
Every week:
  • 13 Dalits are murdered
  • 5 Dalits home or possessions are burnt
  • 6 Dalits are kidnapped or abducted
Social and Economic condition of Dalits:
  • 37 percent of Dalits living below poverty in India
  • More than half (54%) of their children are undernourished in India
  • 83 per 1000 live birth children born in Dalit community are probability of dying before the first birthday
  • 45 percent of Dalits do not know read and write in India
  • Dalits women burden double discrimination (gender and caste) in India
  • Only 27 percent of Dalits women give institutional deliveries in India
  • About one third of Dalit households do not have basic facilities
  • Public health workers refused to visit Dalit homes in 33% of villages
  • Dalits were prevented from entering police station in 27.6% of villages
  • Dalit children had to sit separately while eating in 37.8% of Govt. schools
  • Dalits didn’t get mail delivered to their homes in 23.5% of villages
  • Dalits were denied access to water sources in 48.4% of villages because of segregation & untouchabilty practices
  • Half of India’s Dalit children are undernourished, 21% are severely underweight & 12% DIE before their 5th birthday
  • Literacy rates for Dalit women are as low as 37.8% In Rural India
Status of Prevention of Atrocities Act:
  • 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 strict provisions aimed as a deterrent. By contrast, conviction rate under IPC is over 40%
  • many cases of atrocity are not registered in police stations,because upper caste area officers are there and they want to compromise the cases out of police station for many reasons ..
    1.they are partial their caste,because casteism exists evennow.
    2.Supriority complex is highly prevalent..
    3.There is lack of awareness of legal protection, legal process and safeguards among dalits.
On actual crime committed against Dalits
“Even the reports prepared by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and placed before Parliament contain merely factual information received from States about registration and disposal of cases; various administrative arrangements made for the function of the Act and funds spent, without any meaningful analysis of the performance of the States which could form the basis for making corrective interventions.” “Under-reporting of Atrocities Act cases is a very common phenomenon and therefore the decline in the number of registered cases does not provide a true picture of the incidence of atrocities.”
“A large number of cases which deserve to be registered under Protection of Civil Rights Act or the SCs & STs (Prevention of Atrocities) Act are not actually registered under these Acts, either due to ignorance of law or under pressure from the interested parties. Investigations in even those limited number of cases is often earned out in a slipshod manner and with considerable delay.”
Source: National Human Rights Commission Report on the Prevention and Atrocities against Scheduled Castes

  1. Most of the dalit employees officers working better than their counterparts still they are not given due share in their promotion and placement. So all should involve to bring up the dalit people who earn lowest.

    To draft a new Constitution involving self-rule for the native Indians, the British invited various leaders for Round Table Conferences in 1930-32. Mahatma Gandhi did not attend the first and last but attended the second of the Conferences. The concept of separate electorates for the Untouchables was raised by Dr. Ambedkar. Similar provisions were already available for other minorities, including Muslims, Christians, Anglo-Indians and Sikhs. The British government agreed with Ambedkar's contention, and British Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald's Communal Award to the depressed classes was to be incorporated into the constitution for governance of British India. Gandhi strongly opposed it on the grounds that it would disintegrate Hindu society. He began an indefinite hunger strike at Yerwada Central Jail from September 20, 1932 to protest this Award.A compromise, was reached on September 24, 1932.

    1. Ambedkar failures 
      1. 80% Indians are surviving on 20 rupees/day. How can these people vote as per their ‘conscience’ in elections?
      2. How can SC/ST children go to schools when their stomachs are empty?
      3. 80% SC/ST children who’re living in rural India are dropping out of schools before they can complete 10th class because forward caste parents brainwash their children to praticise untouchability on SC/ST children.
      4. Only 1% people can be employed in Govt sector. Why Ambedkar didn’t recommend ‘reservations’ in private sector jobs?
      5. Ambedkar’s failed to comprehend social mobility in Indian society
      6. Ambedkar didn’t define roadmap to end Casteism in Indian society e.g. number of inter-caste marriages /religious conversions/autonomy
      7. Why hasn’t Ambedkar recommended Govt to issue licensed pistols to SC/ST communities to prevent atrocities on them?
      8. Why India is not a ‘direct’ democracy instead of the dummy ‘representative’ democracy?
      9. American President retires after 8 years. Ambekar failed to define a term-limit for Indian Prime Minister.
      10. British gave autonomy to SC/ST communities in 4th August 1932 Round Table Conference. Ambedkar foiled it.
      11. Muslims under the leadership of Jinnah ‘refused’ reservations and accomplished ‘autonomy’ via Pakistan in 1947. But Ambedkar jeopardized the future of SC/ST communities with ‘reservations’.

    The Facts behind the Incidents of violence at Chennai Dr. Ambedkar Law College

    Source: Sakya Group
    Dear Friends,

    This is a fact finding report into the current caste conflict in Chennai. 

    The purpose is to muster quick support to the Dalit students involved because they are just feeling helpless. If any of you (including organizations) wish to come forward, you may contact me. My contact is +91 9820216146.

    - Anand Teltumbde

    The Facts behind the Incidents of violence at Chennai
    Dr. Ambedkar Law College.
    The incident of violence on 12.11.2008 at Dr.Ambedkar Law College has shaken the conscience of every body. This incident surely needs to be condemned. The reason behind the submission of details herein is to bring out the facts behind the incidents of violence at a law college that we all believe is to produce future judges and socially conscious lawyer.

    That clashes take place in the law college is not a new phenomena. We are shaken thoroughly to know the details of the brewing tension over the past four years that has broken out violently today. “Thevar Peravai” that functions with its headquarters at Chennai has been concentrating, specifically targeting the Thevar community students from the southern districts of Tamilnadu. It functions primarily in whipping up the passions

    and utilizes them for their vested parochial goals. With these students a casteist organization named ‘ Mukkulothor Student’s Federation” has already been formed. The main objective of this organization is to target and attack the Dalits. And they also raise queries like while all other 4 govt. law colleges are named as college, why should the Chennai law college be named after Dr.Ambedkar and called Dr.Ambedkar law college. Since Dr.Ambedkar is a Dalit this name should be changed. This is their contention for their past 4 years. They do not use Ambedkar’s name in any of their advertisement and mention it only as ‘Chennai Law College’. Such activities has raised unnecessary discomfiture amonsgtthe dalit students and raised a sense of hatred between the communities. In all these issues Bharathi Kannan, belonging to Mukkulathor Student Federation is the prime culprit. In the recent past,( in 6 months duration) Bharathi

    Kannan was waiting with five of his friends with swords in hand prowling to kill atleast tow Dalit boys. Police came to know of this and arrested him red handed with 3 long swords in their possession. But they were released without any complaints been filed against them. Though the college authorities were in the know of his activities it did not make any efforts to curb him. In the same manner he with his friends went and attacked the students of Dr.Ambedkar Law college residing in hostel at Millers road, Kilpauk. The Principal did not take any action. At least there are 17 cases including attempt to murder, pending on Bharathi Kannan. 

    In this circumstance on ‘30th October’ during the Thevar Jayanthi the passion were whipped up. The poster prepared by Mukkulothor Students Federation expressed the re assertion of its casteist hierarchy, with usages avoiding Dr. Ambedkar’s name. Also they teased the Dalit students on that day. The Dalits who questioned this were beaten up and with the law college students having exams from 3 rd of November, Mukkulothor Students Federation declared that any Dalit entering the college would be thrashed and killed. They were roaming around in the college complex with logs, iron rod, dagger and swords. Dalit boys could not enter the hall. Some Dalit boys came sneaking through and wrote the exams. Police or college authority did not take any action even though they were in the know of things. Only on such a condition they came on 12.11.2008with logs, sticks etc for self protection. College authorities insisted that the students should avoid precipitating the issue. The Dalit students retorted stating that when the college authorities did not take any action when they were being prevented from attending exams, and they had come there for giving protection for Dalits and not attacking the Mukkulathor. Since some Dalit students have come for exams and Mukkulathors have identified and planned to attack them, they came for their defence. In such a situation Bharathikannan, Arumugam and Ayyadurai with daggers 2 ft. long, jumped in  shouting that they shall kill at least 5 or so and moved towards the Dalit students. The Dalit students ran helter- shelter for their safety. When Bharathi Kannan and Arumugam ran and caught hold of Chithraiselvan, a Dalit student and tried to stab him down through the head. When he turned and saved his head his ears were torn off by the dagger. Other students joined in to save Chithrai Selvan and hit Bharathi kannan and Arumugam.

    The sole responsibility for this callous approach rests entirely with the college authorities. For the last 4years when in the name of celebrating Thevar Jayanthi, efforts to assert caste hierarchy were being made, specifically failing to address Dr.Ambedkar Law college as such and naming it only as Chennai law college, threatening of the Dalit students, issuing threat to life for those Dalit students who opposed bringing caste conflict into the campus etc were brought to the notice of the college authorities no action was taken. Especially, for the last three days when it was brought to their notice of the magnitude and massive proportion of the brewing trouble, police or the college authorities made no action was taken to prevent the same.

    In this situation Bharathi Kannan came in with daggers in hand to attack Dalit students. If the college authorities had acted in time this incident of violence could have been prevented.

    • Quelle:
      IRB - Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
    • Titel:
      India: Treatment of Dalits by society and government authorities, including the state response to mistreatment (2010-March 2012) [IND104063.E]
    • Veröffentlichungsdatum:
      07. Mai 2012
    • Anfragebeantwortung zur Behandlung von Dalits von 2012 - März 2012 (Kastenwesen; Lebensbedingungen für Dalits; Diskriminierung; Verbreitung von Praktiken der Unberührbarkeit; Gewalt; Gesetzeslage; staatlicher Schutz; Polizei und Weigerung, Verbrechen gegen Dalits aufzunehmen; Justiz) [ID 218413]
    • Länder:
    • Originallink
    Empfohlene Zitation:
    IRB - Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada: India: Treatment of Dalits by society and government authorities, including the state response to mistreatment (2010-March 2012) [IND104063.E], 07. Mai 2012 (verfügbar auf (Zugriff am 02. Dezember 2012)

    India: Treatment of Dalits by society and government authorities, including the state response to mistreatment (2010-March 2012) 

    Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa

    1. About the Dalits

    The term Dalit means "'broken'" (NCDHR n.d.a; Dalit Foundation n.d.; Navsarjan n.d.b), "'oppressed'" (ibid.; Dalit Foundation n.d.a; US 8 Apr. 2011, 58), or "'crushed'" (ibid.). Dalits are officially referred to by Indian state authorities as "Scheduled Castes" (India n.d.a; Dalit Foundation n.d.a; Rao 1 July 2011), a group of people "suffering from extreme social, educational and economic backwardness" because of the "age-old practice of untouchability" (India n.d.a).
    Sources estimate that there are approximately 164.8 million (Navsarjan and RFK Center 2010, 3) to 170 million Dalits in India (NCDHR n.d.a). Dalits account for 16 percent of India's total population (Navsarjan n.d.b; US 8 Apr. 2011, 58), or one out of every six Indians (NCDHR n.d.b; The Hindu 19 July 2011). According to the Dalit Foundation, a New Delhi-based NGO (n.d.b), 80 percent of Dalits live in rural areas (n.d.a).

    1.1 India's Caste System and the Dalits

    The hierarchical caste system in India is described as an "ancient historical legacy" related to Hinduism (Policy Perspectives 30 June 2011). In the caste system, the differences between castes are "defined in terms of pollution and purity, with the higher caste regarded as 'pure' compared to the lower caste" (ibid.). The National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR), which is led by Dalit men and women and supported by "organizations, academics, individuals … and institutions" from across India (n.d.c), explains that the caste system divides people into "unequal social groups" determined by birth (n.d.a). A Dalit activist at the Centre for Social Equity and Inclusion in New Delhi noted, in a 2011 Globe and Mail article, that Indians can identify the caste of another person based on "surname, family and village connections, food habits, rituals and ceremonies and general enquiry into one's family and background" (2 Dec. 2011).
    As what were formerly known as the "'untouchables'," Dalits fall outside India's traditional four-fold caste system, which restricts the occupation of members and their association with people of other castes (NCDHR n.d.b; Navsarjan n.d.b; The Globe and Mail 2 Dec. 2011). They are the lowest ranking group in society (US 8 Apr. 2011, 58; Navsarjan n.d.b; The Hindu 19 July 2011). Associated with certain jobs or occupations, Dalits are defined as "impure" (The Nation 24 Apr. 2011; NCDHR n.d.a) and "polluting" (ibid.; The Globe and Mail 2 Dec. 2011). Navsarjan, a Dalit rights group based in the state of Gujarat (n.d.d), explains that Dalits are divided into sub-castes that assign them such occupations as leather worker, street sweeper, cobbler and agricultural worker (Navsarjan n.d.b). The lowest sub-caste of Dalits, estimated to be approximately 1 million (ibid.) to 1.3 million people (The Nation 24 Apr. 2011), work as "manual scavengers," with duties that include cleaning human excrement (ibid.; Navsarjan n.d.b). According to the Pakistani newspaper the Nation, some Dalits who work in cities clean sewage drains without protective gear, resulting in 100 deaths annually "from inhalation of toxic gases or from drowning in human excrement" (24 Apr. 2011). The US Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2010 similarly notes that Dalit workers cleaned sewers and drains of human excrement "without proper equipment and under extremely unsanitary conditions" (US 8 Apr. 2011, 70).

    1.2 Living Conditions for Dalits

    Sources indicate that many Dalits suffer from malnutrition (ibid., 58; ALRC 24 Feb. 2011, 2) and live in "extreme poverty" (NCDHR n.d.a), unable to earn enough money to "feed their families or send their children to school" (Navsarjan n.d.b). In 2010, the Hindustan Times reported on a "recent" study, entitled "Untouchability in Rural India," that surveyed 565 villages in 11 Indian states (23 Nov. 2010). According to the study, half of Dalit children are undernourished and the literacy rate among Dalit women is 37.8 percent (Hindustan Times 23 Nov. 2010). According to Navsarjan, less than 10 percent of Dalit families can afford drinking water, electricity or toilets (n.d.b).

    2. Reports of Discrimination

    A range of sources maintain that Dalits continue to suffer discrimination -- described as "deep" (The Guardian 8 Feb. 2012), "widespread" (Hindustan Times 23 Nov. 2010) and "prevalent" (US 8 Apr. 2011, 58) -- based on caste and the practice of untouchability, even though it is illegal (ibid.; Hindustan Times 23 Nov. 2010). Untouchability, a "direct product of the caste system" (Navsarjan n.d.c), means that Dalits often live segregated from the caste communities (ibid.; The Guardian 8 Feb. 2012; Hindustan Times 23 Nov. 2010). They are reported to be typically denied access to public wells, must use separate cups for drinking, and are denied entrance into temples, among other restrictions (Navsarjan n.d.c; NCDHR n.d.a).
    Dalit rights groups indicate that the practice of untouchability also affects Dalits in schools (Navsarjan n.d.c; NCDHR n.d.a). For example, Dalit children may be required to clean toilets, eat separately from the other children (Navsarjan n.d.c), or sit in the back of the classroom (NCDHR n.d.a). As well, Dalits attending higher educational institutions have reportedly been subject to "caste-based discrimination," driving some Dalit students to suicide (The Globe and Mail 2 Dec. 2011; The Chronicle of Higher Education 11 Dec. 2011).
    Sources report that even when Dalits convert to another religion, they are not free from caste-based discrimination (Afternoon Voice 26 Mar. 2012; Navsarjan n.d.b). As an example of this, Navsarjan notes that Christian Dalits are allotted separate burial grounds from non-Dalit Christians (ibid.).

    2.1 Prevalence of Untouchability Practices

    The previously mentioned "Untouchability in Rural India" study revealed that
    • in 33 percent of the 565 villages surveyed (in 11 states), public health workers refused to visit Dalit homes;
    • in 37.8 percent of the villages, Dalit children at government schools had to eat apart from the other children;
    • in 23.5 percent of villages, Dalits were denied postal service to their homes; and
    • in 48.4 percent of villages surveyed, Dalits were denied access to water sources (Hindustan Times 23 Nov. 2010).
    In addition, a survey of 5,462 people from 1,589 villages in Gujarat state, in western India, which was carried out over four years by Navsarjan and the Robert F. Kennedy (RFK) Center for Justice and Human Rights to determine untouchability practices, revealed the following:
    • In 98.1% of villages surveyed, a Dalit cannot rent a house in a non-Dalit community.
    • In 97.6% of villages, Dalits must not touch the water pots or utensils of non-Dalits [because] such contact is considered defilement.
    • In 97.2% of villages surveyed, Dalit religious leaders will never be asked to celebrate a religious ceremony in a non-Dalit area. (Navsarjan and RFK Center 2010, i, v, 17)
    The Navsarjan and RFK Center survey also showed that Dalits face the following restrictions:
    • In 87 percent of villages surveyed, Dalits were not allowed to rent pots for weddings;
    • In 73 percent of villages surveyed, Dalits were not allowed to use the services of the barber
    • In 61 percent of villages surveyed, Dalits were not allowed to use the services of potters;
    • In 33 percent of villages surveyed, Dalits were not allowed to use the services of tailors;
    • In 29 percent of villages surveyed, Dalits were denied access to the drinking supply (and 71 percent of the villages do not have a drinking tap in the Dalit section); and
    • In 10 percent of the villages surveyed, Dalits were not allowed to use the services of the village's private doctor (Navsarjan and RFK Center 2010, 19).
    According to authors Navsarjan and the RFK Center, their data indicates that "there is systematic underestimation of the practice of untouchability within modern India," and that "the daily life of many Dalits is unchanged from the time before … prohibitions against the practice of untouchability existed" (ibid., v, 1). In addition, they note the presence of a considerable amount of "horizontal discrimination, the practice of untouchability by certain Dalit sub-castes against other Dalit sub-castes" (ibid., 22-23).

    3. Violence

    A variety of sources indicate that Dalits are subject to violence by upper-caste members (Navsarjan n.d.a; ACHR 2011, 66; Policy Perspectives 30 June 2011). Freedom House writes that Dalits face "routine" violence (2011). The Nation similarly states that killings, rape and other abuses related to caste are a "daily occurrence" affecting Dalits (24 Apr. 2011). Sources report that Dalits have been attacked for actions such as riding a motorcycle (The Chronicle of Higher Education 11 Dec. 2011; The Times of India 3 May 2011), talking on a cell phone (The Chronicle of Higher Education 11 Dec. 2011), or taking water from a well not designated for their use (ibid.; CDR [Mar. 2011], 25).

    3.1 Statistics on Violent Crimes

    India's National Crime Records Bureau has documented incidents and rates of crime committed against Scheduled Castes in 2010 (India 2010, 423). According to their statistics, there were 32,712 incidences of crime against Scheduled Castes reported throughout the country, which included 570 murders, 1,349 rapes, 511 kidnappings and abductions, 4,376 cases of "hurt," 143 cases of Protection of Civil Rights Act, and 10,513 cases of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act (ibid., 423-426). The five Indian states with the highest level of reported incidents committed against Scheduled Castes are Uttar Pradesh (6,272), Rajasthan (4,979), Andhra Pradesh (4,321), Bihar (3,516) and Madhya Pradesh (3,374) (ibid., 423). However, sources also indicate that most cases of violence against Dalits go unreported (The Nation 24 Apr. 2011; Navsarjan n.d.b).

    3.2 Incidences of Violent Crimes

    The New Delhi-based Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) has documented media reports from 2010 that allege or identify upper-caste persons as responsible for beating Dalit people, at times to death, setting them on fire, subjecting them to humiliating treatment, and raping and sexually abusing Dalit women (ACHR 2011, 66-71). The record of murders listed by the ACHR include incidences of a student dying as a result of a beating by upper-caste teachers when he objected to his teacher's abuse; a Dalit man killed for intervening in the beating of a Dalit boy found in a place restricted from Dalits; a Dalit man killed for demanding his wages; and a Dalit youth killed for defying a village dictate against attending a wedding (ibid., 66-67). The beatings include cases in which Dalit women were beaten and paraded naked through the street (ibid., 69). The reports of sexual violence include one in which a Dalit teenager was attacked, molested, and had a finger chopped off after she filed a complaint with the police about another incident; and another in which a Dalit woman was raped by two upper-caste men after she spoke out against their refusal to let her enter a temple (ibid., 71). The ACHR compendium also notes a case in which 25 Dalit families from a village in Chitradurga district, Karnataka, fled the community after being subjected to "rape, torture and socio-economic boycott" by upper-caste communities; the families alleged that the men were forced to work as bonded labourers and the women were routinely visited in their homes and sexually assaulted by the landlords (ibid.).
    The Centre for Dalit Rights (CDR), which monitors caste-based human rights violations in Rajasthan state (n.d.), has documented 814 "atrocities" committed against Dalits in Rajasthan between 1 April 2010 and March 2011, including 40 murders, 80 rapes, 290 cases of beatings and abuse, 10 cases of arson and 34 cases of "mass violence" ([Mar. 2011], 1). Some of the cases of mass violence include instances in which upper-caste members forced Dalit communities and families off their land or out of their homes, while some of the rape cases involve minors and instances of gang rape (ibid., 90, 91, 93, 113, 121).

    3.3 Violence Based on Triggers Other than Caste

    Sources also note that Dalits are particularly vulnerable to violence when they assert their rights (Policy Perspectives 30 June 2011; Navsarjan n.d.a; Hindustan Times 23 Nov. 2010). Navsarjan explains that, in reaction to Dalit protests and political organization, both upper castes and "Other Backward Castes" (lower castes) have inflicted "violent repressive measures to silence any form of dissent among the Dalits" (n.d.a). These measures include gang rape, arson, and murder, such as stabbing people to death or burning them alive (n.d.a). The UN's Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, reporting on her mission to India from 10 to 21 January 2011, indicated that upper-caste people have subjected Dalit rights defenders to "threats, beatings and caste-based insults in public places, direct and indirect destruction of their property/belongings; and filing of false charges against them" (UN 6 Feb. 2012, para. 112).
    The NCDHR notes that, in addition to caste, Dalit women are vulnerable to violence because of their "class and gender," and that landlords and police sometimes sexually abuse them as a means of suppressing dissent within Dalit communities (n.d.a). In addition, the rights group reports that some Dalit girls have been forced into prostitution for upper-caste members and priests (NCDHR n.d.a).
    Sources also indicate that many Dalit children are put into bonded labour (The Nation 24 Apr. 2011; ALRC 1 Sept. 2010, 2). According to the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), an NGO with general consultative status to the UN's Economic and Social Council, although bonded labour is prohibited in India, the practice continues, and children from Dalit communities are the "worst" affected (ibid., i, 2). The NGO explains that Dalit families and communities in rural areas, particularly in Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, that have been forced to work for landlords may end up in "perpetual debt traps," resulting in "entire families and villages ending up as bonded to the landlord for generations" (ibid., 2). Children from families forced to migrate to cities because of a lack of income opportunities may end up working as bonded labourers in small-scale manufacturing industries or restaurants, or as bonded beggars or sex workers (ibid.).

    4. Legislation

    Sources indicate that, in 1950, the practice of "untouchability" was outlawed in India's constitution (Navsarjan n.d.c; NCDHR n.d.a; The Chronicle of Higher Education 11 Dec. 2011). According to India's Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 makes it illegal to prevent a person on the grounds of untouchability from such things as entering a place of worship; using water from any public source; accessing shops, restaurants, hotels, and other public places; using utensils for the general public; accessing public hospitals, schools, and hostels; and buying goods and services (India n.d.b).
    In addition, the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act of 1989, deeming such acts as "atrocities," makes it illegal for an upper-caste person to force a person from a Scheduled Caste or Tribe to commit any of the following acts:
    [T]o drink or eat any inedible or obnoxious substance;
    [T]o cause injury, insult or annoyance by dumping excreta, waste matter, carcasses or any other obnoxious substance in his premises or neighbourhood;
    [F]orcibly removes clothes or parades him naked or with painted face or body or commits any similar act which is derogatory to human dignity;
    [W]rongfully occupies or cultivates any land owned by, or allotted to, or notified by any competent authority to be allotted to him transferred;
    [W]rongfully dispossesses from his land or premises or interferes with the enjoyment of his rights over any land, premises or water;
    [C]ompels or entices to do "begar" or other similar forms of forced or bonded labour other than any compulsory service for public purposes imposed by Government;
    [F]orces or intimidates not to vote or to vote a particular candidate or to vote in a manner other than that provided by law;
    [I]nstitutes false, malicious or vexatious suit or criminal or other legal proceedings;
    [G]ives any false or frivolous information to any public servant and thereby causes such as public servant to use his lawful power to the injury or annoyance;
    [I]ntentionally insults or intimidates with intent to humiliate any place with in public view;
    [A]ssaults or uses force to any woman with intent to dishonour or outrage her modesty;
    [B]eing in a position to dominate the will of a woman and uses that position to exploit her sexually to which she would not have otherwise agreed;
    [C]orrupts or fouls the water of any spring, reservoir or any other source ordinarily used so as to render it less fit for the purpose for which it is ordinarily used;
    [D]enies any customary right of passage to place of public resort or obstructs such member so as to prevent him from using or having access to a place of public resort to which other members of public or any section thereof have a right to use or access to;
    [F]orces or causes to leave his house, village or other place of residence. (India n.d.b)
    The law includes the possibility of punishment with a prison term of six months to five years (ibid.). However, sources indicate that officials do not properly implement the Act (Navsarjan n.d.a; The Hindu 1 Apr. 2011). Amnesty International states that authorities failed to use India's "special laws" to prosecute those who perpetrated "attacks and discrimination" against Dalits (2011). According to Navsarjan, the protections offered by Indian laws "are seldom enforced as caste hierarchy is mirrored in the bureaucratic, police and court systems" (n.d.a).

    5. State Protection

    The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment is tasked with overseeing issues related to Scheduled Castes and monitoring the efforts of federal and state ministries to "protect and promote" the well-being of Scheduled Castes (India n.d.c). The Ministry is also responsible for the implementation of the Protection of Civil Rights Act and the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (ibid.).

    5.1 State Welfare Programs

    Sources indicate that the government has set quotas to reserve government jobs and places at higher education institutions for Dalits (India n.d.a; USCIRF May 2011, 252; The Chronicle of Higher Education 11 Dec. 2011). The media reports that some Dalits have been able to access educational opportunities and obtain professional occupations in cities through such affirmative action measures (The Globe and Mail 2 Dec. 2011; The Sunday Independent 17 Apr. 2011). However, the NCDHR maintains that these quotas only benefit a "small percentage" of Dalits (n.d.a). Dalits who convert to Islam or Christianity do not benefit from them (USCIRF May 2011, 252; India n.d.b).
    Country Reports 2010 notes that many of the state and federal programs designed to assist Dalits suffer from "poor implementation and corruption" (US 8 Apr. 2011, 59). According to Navsarjan, government authorities often "deny" Dalit families such basic services as electricity and water, while they provide them to non-Dalits (n.d.a). The ALRC, in a report to the UN Human Rights Council, criticized state authorities for failing to address child malnutrition among Dalits and tribal groups (24 Feb. 2011, 2).

    5. 2 Police

    Several sources report that the police often refuse to register crimes committed against Dalits (NCDHR n.d.a; The Hindu 20 Feb. 2011; Hindustan Times 23 Nov. 2010). Country Reports 2010 notes that crimes against Dalits often went unpunished either because state authorities did not prosecute or because victims did not report the crime "for fear of retaliation" (US 8 Apr. 2011, 58). According to the previously mentioned study on untouchability practices in 565 villages in 11 states, Dalits were not allowed to enter police stations in 27.6 percent of the villages surveyed (Hindustan Times 23 Nov. 2010). Navsarjan notes that police officers, influenced by "caste allegiance and bribery," immediately arrest suspects accused of violence only rarely (Navsarjan n.d.a).
    In addition, Dalits suffer abuse by the police (NCDHR n.d.a; Freedom House 2011). The CDR recorded several cases of abuse by police in Rajasthan between 1 April 2010 and March 2011 ([Mar. 2011], 2, 3, 23, 26, 27, 54, 288). These included instances in which police officers beat, "tortured," and gang raped Dalit persons (CDR [Mar. 2011], 2, 3, 23, 26, 27, 54, 288). The report also demonstrated cases of police inaction to crimes against Dalits (ibid., 90, 107). The BBC reports that, in September 2011, the police opened fire on a crowd of Dalit protesters in Paramakudi town, Tamil Nadu, killing five people (12 Sept. 2011).
    The UN Special Rapporteur, reporting on the situation of human rights defenders when in India in January 2011, said that
    [w]ith regard to the police and state officials, Dalits' rights defenders reportedly have often seen their complaints not taken up and instead have been charged in false cases and filed counter cases, in collusion with the dominant caste community. They have also been summarily executed, forcibly disappeared, physically assaulted, arbitrary detained, named rowdy sheeters [someone with a criminal record], branded as Naxalites and anti-nationals, and had their privacy invaded, including by being placed under surveillance. (UN 6 Feb. 2012, para. 113)
    The CDR monitoring report likewise notes a case in which the police demolished the home of a Dalit human rights defender, and another in which the police filed a false report and "torture[d]" a Dalit activist (21, 74). The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a program created by the International Federation for Human Rights and the World Organisation Against Torture in 1997 (World Organisation n.d.), reports of a case in which five members of the Dalit Foundation were arrested and detained at the Veeravanallur police station in the Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu when they were inquiring about a case in which a Dalit youth was allegedly tortured by the police (Observatory 25 Jan. 2012, 3).

    5.3 Judiciary

    Navsarjan describes the legal procedures involved in prosecuting crimes against Dalits as "unbearably slow" and as "lengthy and costly" (n.d.a). The rights group also notes that the alleged perpetrators, who often live near the victims, frequently threaten the victims and their relatives if legal actions are in progress (Navsarjan n.d.a). The Nation reports that crimes against Dalits rarely make it to court, but that, when they do, the defendant is usually acquitted (24 Aug. 2011). The NCDHR similarly states that crimes against Dalits, including murder, rape, exploitative labour and forced displacement, are rarely prosecuted (n.d.a). It also indicates that less than one percent of those accused of crimes against Dalit women are convicted (n.d.a).

    5.3.1 Statistics on Cases Before the Courts

    India's National Crime Records Bureau provides statistics on the number of cases before the courts, as well as the number of convictions and acquittals, for the following crimes against Scheduled Castes:
    Crime 2010 Cases, including those pending from previous year Cases pending at end of 2010 Cases compounded or withdrawn Convictions Acquittals or Discharges
    Murder 3,012 2,387 1 303 321
    Rape 5,014 4,006 12 358 638
    Kidnapping/ Abduction 1,398 1,080 2 141 175
    Dacoity [robbery by an armed gang] 134 113 0 4 17
    Robbery 317 261 1 16 39
    Arson 862 722 3 49 88
    Hurt 14,566 11,370 126 783 2,287
    Protection of Civil Rights Act for SC 1,376 1,127 5 53 191
    Prevention of Atrocity Act for SCs 40,481 31,932 143 3,225 5,181
    Other Crimes against SC 40,598 31,857 431 2,837 5,474
    Total 107,758 84,855 724 7,769 14,411
    (India 2010, 430)
    Of the 22,180 crimes against Scheduled Castes that were tried in 2010, there was a 35 percent conviction rate; this rate varied from 3.9 percent in Maharashtra to 64.5 percent in Uttar Pradesh (ibid., 431). At the end of 2010, 78.7 percent of the total number of cases remained pending (ibid.).
    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.


    Afternoon Voice [Mumbai]. 26 March 2012. "Casteism Tend to Evaporate." (Factiva)
    Amnesty International (AI). 2011. "India." Amnesty International Report 2011:The State of the World's Human Rights. <> [Accessed 20 Apr. 2012]
    Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR). 2011. Torture in India 2011. <> [Accessed 27 Mar. 2012]
    Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC). 24 February 2011. Written Statement Submitted by the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), a Non-governmental Organization in General Consultative Status. (A/HRC/16/NGO/62) <> [Accessed 27 Mar. 2012]
    _____. 1 September 2010. Written Statement Submitted by the Asian Legal Resource Centre, a Non-governmental Organization in General Consultative Status. (A/HRC/15/NGO/30) <> [Accessed 27 Mar. 2012]
    British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). 12 September 2011. "India: Seven Killed as Police Open Fire on Protesters." <> [Accessed 27 Mar. 2012]
    Centre for Dalit Rights (CDR). [March 2011]. Monitoring Report, 1 April 2010 to March 2011. <> [Accesed Apr. 2012]
    _____. N.d. "About Us." <> [Accessed 25 Apr. 2012]
    The Chronicle of Higher Education [Washington, DC]. 11 December 2011. Shailaja Neelakantan. "In India, Caste Discrimination Still Plagues University Campuses." (Factiva)
    Dalit Foundation. N.d.a. "Struggle for Equality." <> [Accessed 20 Apr. 2012]
    _____. N.d.b. "Contact Us." <> [Accessed 26 Apr. 2012]
    Freedom House. 2011. "India." Freedom in the World 2011. <> [Accessed 26 Mar. 2012]
    The Globe and Mail [Toronto]. 2 December 2011. "Q&A: Annie Namala Takes Your Questions about Caste; Indian Social Activist Annie Namala Fights for the Rights of Dalit People, the Lowest Caste in India." (Factiva)
    The Guardian [London]. 8 February 2012. Jason Burke. "Mayawati Kumari: Can Mayawati, Idol of the Indian Poor, Stay True to Her Untouchable Roots?" (Factiva)
    The Hindu [Chennai]. 19 July 2011. Bhupendra Yadav. "Much to Worry about Violence on Dalits." (Factiva)
    _____. 1 April 2011. "'Dalit Women Sarpanches a Harassed Lot'." (Factiva)
    _____. 20 February 2011. "Dalits Testify to Atrocities Against Them." (Factiva)
    Hindustan Times [New Delhi]. 23 November 2010. "Dalits' Plight Unveils Indian Democracy." (Factiva)
    India. 2010. Ministry of Home Affairs, National Crime Records Bureau. Crime in India: 2010 Statistics. <> [Accessed 16 Apr. 2012]
    _____. N.d.a. National Commission for Scheduled Castes. "Genesis." <> [Accessed 4 Apr. 2012]
    _____. N.d.b. Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. "Scheduled Caste Welfare: Frequently Asked Questions." <> [Accessed 4 Apr. 2012]
    _____. N.d.c. Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. "Scheduled Caste Welfare: About the Division." <> [Accessed 4 Apr. 2012]
    The Nation [Lahore]. 24 April 2011. Mamoona Ali Kazmi. "Dalits: Suffer in Silence and Submission." (Factiva)
    National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR). N.d.a. "Overview of Dalit Human Rights Situation." <> [Accessed 30 Mar. 2012]
    _____. N.d.b. "Who Are Dalits? and What Is Untouchability?" <> [Accessed 30 Mar. 2012]
    _____. N.d.c. "About NCDHR." <> [Accessed 26 Apr. 2012]
    Navsarjan. N.d.a. "Atrocities and Interventions." <> [Accessed 12 Apr. 2012]
    _____. N.d.b. "Who Are Dalits?" <> [Accessed 12 Apr. 2012]
    _____. N.d.c. "What Is 'Untouchability'?" <> [Accessed 12 Apr. 2012]
    _____. N.d.d. "Contact Us." <> [Accessed 12 Apr. 2012]
    Navsarjan and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights (RFK Center). 2010. Understanding Untouchability: A Comprehensive Study of Practices and Conditions in 1589 Villages. <> [Accessed 11 Apr. 2012]
    The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (Observatory). 25 January 2012. "India." Steadfast in Protest: Annual Report 2011. <> [Accessed 20 Apr. 2012]
    Policy Perspectives. 30 June 2011. Vol. 8, No. 1. Iqtidar Karamat Cheema. "Sociocultural Stratification of India." (Factiva)
    Rao, Anupama. 1 July 2011. "Violence and Humanity: Or, Vulnerability as Political Subjectivity." Social Research. Vol. 78, No. 2. (Factiva)
    The Sunday Independent [Cape Town]. 17 April 2011. Makhudu Sefara. "Years of Affirmative Action Are Paying Off for India's Lowest Caste." (Factiva)
    The Times of India [Delhi]. 3 May 2011. V. Mayilvaganan. "A Village Where Dalits Can't Wear Footwear or Ride Bikes." <> [Accessed 11 Apr. 2012]
    United Nations (UN). 6 February 2012. Human Rights Council. Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, Margaret Sekaggya. Addendum: Mission to India (10-21 January 2011). (A/HRC/19/55/Add.1) <> [Accessed 26 Mar. 2012]
    United States (US). 8 April 2011. Department of State. "India." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2010. <> [Accessed 4 Apr. 2012]
    United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). May 2011. Annual Report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (Covering April 1, 2010-March 31, 2011). <> [Accessed 26 Mar. 2012]
    World Organisation Against Torture. N.d. "The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders." <> [Accessed 27 Apr. 2012]

    Additional Sources Consulted

    Internet sites, including: Asian Human Rights Commission, Christian Solidarity Worldwide,, Human Rights Watch, India National Human Rights Commission, International Crisis Group, Minority Rights Group International, United Nations Refworld.

Why We Need To Depoliticize The Dalit Cause

 | Updated 03/08/2016 

Dalit issues, ranging from atrocities to representation to empowerment, have strongly influenced the contemporary political narrative. However, social issues have often been obscured by passionate rhetoric and emotional platitudes. Let us try and understand the Dalit problem from a dispassionate perspective. A perspective that transcends vilification and vindications, and one which is based on sound data and logical arguments.
The assault on Dalit youths in Una by "cow protectors" has embarrassed India. It has for good reason put a question mark on the progressive and forward-looking trajectory of our nation. When incidents like this happen, it is difficult to believe that we are the same nation that sent a satellite to Mars. It is beyond doubt and accepted across the spectrum that the culprits need to be punished.
It is not a herculean task to find out that the problem of caste is more social than political in nature.
The problem occurs when motivated perspectives shadow socially sensitive issues like the present one. In the name of social justice or for that matter standing up for the cause of the subaltern, opinionated reportage and columns are building up a case against the government in power at the Centre. It is not a herculean task to find out that the problem of caste is more social than political in nature. Needless to say, politics does have a role since to effect a change you need resolute political will. However, I believe that depoliticizing the Dalit issue will prove to be more beneficial and more pragmatic.
Now, data from the National Crime Records Bureau clearly indicates that the number of registered cases of atrocities against Dalits have been embarrassingly higher under the Congress dispensation. This is unsurprising because the Congress has been in power more than any other political party in the entire administrative history of India. The data for the number of registered crimes in the category suggests that UP has topped the list with 8075 cases in the year 2014, followed by Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Karnataka with 7893, 4114, 2266 and 2138 cases respectively. The BJP is not in power in any of these states. The decadal data analysis is also important to be noted here. The number of crime recorded in this category during 1991-2001 was 17731, with an average of 1612 atrocities per year. The growing assertion of Dalits through affirmative action and opening up of markets resulted in drastic reduction of cases of atrocities in the following decade -- 14634 cases of atrocities were registered in the period 2002-2015 with an average of 1045 offences every year. If we delve deep into specific data such as the number of rapes, murders and other criminal offences against Scheduled Castes, one can infer that politics or the party in power has got little to do with cases of caste-related atrocities.
In Tamil Nadu, caste-related violence -- often involving OBCs attacking Dalits -- made the news a few months ago. Bihar is another example of violence by intermediate caste groups like the Yadavs and Kurmis against Dalits, spurred perhaps by their growing assertiveness.
As members of civil society, the least we can do is to avoid looking at cases like Una with prejudicial and ideological lenses.
Politics is a dirty game of construction and manipulation of identities -- especially social identities that are electorally advantageous and beneficial for political parties. As members of civil society, the least we can do is to avoid looking at cases like Una with prejudicial and ideological lenses. The central government which is just two-and-a-half years old has taken steps to integrate subaltern social groups into the mainstream. On 8 September, 2014, the government paid tribute to one of Kerala's visionary Dalit leaders, Mahatma Ayyankali. On the economic front, the government is working closely in cohesion with the Dalit Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (DICCI) in order to promote entrepreneurship as a tool of emancipation. Towards this, Standup India was launched on the birth anniversary of Babu Jagjivan Ram, late deputy Prime Minister and great Dalit leader. In days to come we are likely to witness more positive stories of assertiveness and the emergence of Dalit-led empowerment. A case in point is the spirit in which Mr. Milind Kamble is steering DICCI. Last year on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of DICCI, more than 1000 Dalit entrepreneurs assembled in New Delhi and dared to proclaim that they are equal and relevant stakeholders in the growth story of India. In this meeting he had famously said that, "We don't want to be job seekers but job givers". This one line will serve as a definite tool of emancipation for those who have been marginalized for decades.
However, the situation demands that more needs to be done. A Prime Minister or a Chief Minister or an MLA or an MP cannot do this. It needs the intervention of several key stakeholders such as the media, civil society, judiciary, spiritual organizations and -- especially -- the younger generation of India.
The need of the hour is integration not confrontation; this is the key to social justice and the rise of the subaltern.
I am not arguing that the Dalit scenario is good; it is still far from that. But there is hope. The Dalit narrative is replete with agonies, victimhood and protest. Ignoring the positive side, and the accomplishments of those who are rising to the top echelons purely on the basis of effort and merit, would be a great disservice to the Dalit cause. What we forgot in the case of Una is that the enlightened citizenry of Una decried the attempts of the "vigilantes" and initiated a social boycott in clear terms that no social interaction (marriage etc.) would be done with the families of the accused.
As a proud citizen of India and a socially conscious Dalit youth, I'd like to urge opinion makers, thought leaders and the intelligentsia to not be swayed by opinions but to go on facts. The need of the hour, therefore, is integration not confrontation; this is the key to social justice and the rise of the subaltern.


POVERTY – There is more POVERTY in INDIA than in entire continent of AFRICA; 30% of the entire population earn less $1 a day.
TRAFFICKING – India is the epicenter of HUMAN TRAFFICKING with 100,000 MEN, WOMEN, and CHILDREN trafficked each year.
SLAVERY – It is the epicenter of Global SLAVERY; 15 million Indians are held as slaves – Half of the world’s slaves are in INDIA.
CASTE SYSTEM – According to National Geographic:
  • “Embedded in Indian culture for the last 1,500 years, the caste system follows a basic precept: ALL MEN ARE CREATED UNEQUAL.
  • “Untouchables are outcasts—people considered too impure, too polluted, to rank as worthy beings.”


Social and Economic condition of Dalits:

  • 37% of Dalits live below poverty in India
  •  54% of Dalit children are undernourished
  • 45% of Dalits do not know how read and write


  • 3 Dalit women are raped
  • 2 Dalits Houses are burnt in India
  • 11 Dalits are beaten