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For other uses, see Untouchable (disambiguation).

Untouchables are people like

According to Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, untouchability was born about 400 AD, due to the struggle for supremacy between Buddhism and Brahmanism (an ancient term for Brahmanical Hinduism).[1] The term is commonly associated with treatment of the Dalit communities, who are considered "polluting" among the people of South Asia, but the term has been used for other groups as well, such as the Burakumin of Japan, Cagots in Europe, or the Al-Akhdam in Yemen. However Hinduism has no clear position on untouchability. The Bhagavad Gita, a central text in Hinduism, often challenged the caste system, stating for example that ‘The wise looks with an equal eye upon a noble brahmin, a cow, an elephant, a dog and an outcast (chandala)’.[2]

Untouchability has been made illegal in post-independence India, and Dalits substantially empowered, although some prejudice against them continues.[3]

Diverse ethnicities population in South Asia[edit]

Untouchables of Malabar, Kerala (1906)

According to Sarah Pinto, an anthropologist, untouchability in India applies to people whose work relates to "death, bodies, meat, and bodily fluids".[4] In the name of untouchability, Dalits have faced work and descent-based discrimination at the hands of the dominant castes. Instances of caste discrimination at different places and times included:[5]

  • Prohibition from eating with other members
  • Provision of separate cups in village tea stalls
  • Separate seating arrangements and utensils in restaurants
  • Segregation in seating and food arrangements in village functions and festivals
  • Prohibition from entering into village temples
  • Prohibition from wearing sandals or holding umbrellas in front of higher caste members
  • Prohibition from entering other caste homes
  • Prohibition from using common village path
  • Separate burial grounds
  • No access to village's common/public properties and resources (wells, ponds, temples, etc.)
  • Segregation (separate seating area) of children in schools
  • Bonded labour
  • Social boycotts by other castes for refusing to perform their "duties"

Government action in India[edit]

The 1950 national constitution of India legally abolished the practice of untouchability and provided measures for positive discrimination in both educational institutions and public services for Dalits and other social groups who lie within the caste system. These are supplemented by official bodies such as the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

Despite this, instances of prejudice against Dalits still occur in some rural areas, as evidenced by events such as the Kherlanji massacre.

In recent times, there have been some radical reforms in the social sector of India. The famous Vithoba Temple, Pandharpur became the first temple in India to allow priests from backward classes.[6]

Untouchable groups[edit]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]