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Untouchability:

Untouchability is an extreme and vicious aspect of caste system wherein strict s


ocial sanctions are prescribed against the members of the caste located at the b
ottom of the purity-pollution scale.
There are 3 main dimensions of untouchability, namely,
1). Exclusion
2). Humiliation
subordination
3). Exploitation
Other low caste members also face discrimination and humiliation but the worst k
ind of humiliation is reserved for Dalits.
For example: Being prohibited from sharing drinking water sources or participati
ng in collective religious worship, social ceremonies and festivals.
The performance of publicly visible acts of (self-) humiliation and subordinatio
n is an important part of the practice of untouchability.
For example: Common instances include the imposition of gestures of deference (s
uch as taking off headgear, carrying footwear in the hand, standing with bowed h
ead, not wearing clean or bright clothes, and so on) as well as routinised abuse a
nd humiliation.
Untouchability also includes economic exploitation mainly in the form of unpaid
or under-paid labour or confiscation of the property.
Untouchables have been referred to by very derogatory names over the past centur
ies. There use today is a criminal offence. Mahatma Gandhi had popularised the t
erm Harijan (literally, children
of God) in the 1930s to counter the pejorative (means expressing disapproval) ch
arge carried by caste names.
However, the ex-untouchable communities and their leaders have coined another te
rm, Dalit , which is now the generally accepted term for referring to these groups.
In Indian languages, the term Dalit literally means downtrodden and conveys the s
ense of an oppressed people.
State and Non-State initiatives against caste and tribe discrimination:
The Indian state has had special programmes for the Scheduled Tribes and Schedul
ed Castes since even before Independence. The Schedules listing the castes and tri
bes recognised as deserving of special treatment because of the massive discrimi
nation practiced against them were drawn up in 1935, by the British Indian gover
nment. After Independence, the same policies have been continued and many new on
es added. Among the most significant additions is the extension of special progr
ammes to the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) since the early 1990s.
Reservations have been introduced to compensate for past and present caste discr
imination. It involves setting aside of some seats in different spheres of publi
c life like Govt jobs, educational institutions, PSUs, Central and State legisla
tures etc
Number of laws have been passed to end, prohibit and punish caste discrimination
especially untouchability.
1). Caste Disabilities Removal Act of 1850- It disallowed the curtailment of rig
hts of citizens due solely to change of religion or caste. The 1850 Act was used
to allow entry of Dalits to government schools.
2). Constitution of India adopted in 1950 contained Article 17 which abolished u
ntouchability.
3). Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act of 1989
- This Act revised and strengthened the legal provisions punishing acts of viol
ence or humiliation against Dalits and adivasis.
4). Constitution Amendment (Ninety Third Amendment) Act of 2005
It became a law
on 23rd Jan 2006. This amendment is for introducing reservation for the Other Ba

ckward Classes in institutions of higher education.


Despite of above acts, untouchability has still not ceased to exist and is very
much a part of our society. Discrimination against tribals, Dalits, adivasis is
prevalent even today which proves that state action alone cannot usher in a soci
al change.
Dalits themselves have been increasingly active on the political, agitational, a
nd cultural fronts.
From the pre-Independence struggles and movements launched by people like Jotiba
Phule, Iyotheedas, Periyar, Ambedkar and others to contemporary political organ
isations like the Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh or the Dalit Sangharsh Sa
miti of Karnataka, Dalit political assertion has come a long way. Dalits have al
so made significant contributions to literature in several Indian languages espe
cially Marathi, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu and Hindi.
The Other Backward Classes (OBCs)
Certain castes were not subjected to untouchability but had to face discriminati
on. These were the service and artisanal castes occupying the lower rungs of the
caste hierarchy. Such castes other than STs and SCs who suffered or continue to
suffer from social disadvantages have been categorised as Other Backward Classe
s or OBCs.
OBCs form a much diverse group. Why?
Like Tribe OBCs are also defined by what they are not. They are neither part of
the forward castes at the upper end of the status spectrum, nor of the Dalits at t
he lower end. Since caste has penetrated into other religions as well so there a
re members of other religions too that belong to backward class and have same tr
aditional occupational identification and worse socio-economic status.
First Backward Classes Commission headed by Kaka Kalelkar: It was appointed by f
irst govt of independent India to look into the issue of welfare of OBCs. It sub
mitted its report in 1953
The Second Backward Classes Commission headed by B.P. Mandal was appointed in 19
70s. In 1990, central government decided to implement the ten-year old Mandal Co
mmission report.
The large disparities between the upper OBCs (who are largely landed castes and
enjoy dominance in rural society in many regions of India) and the lower OBCs (w
ho are very poor and disadvantaged, and are often not very different from Dalits
in socio-economic terms) make this a difficult political category to work with.
However, the OBCs are severely under-represented in all spheres except landhold
ing and political representation (they have a large number of MLAs and MPs). Alt
hough the upper OBCs are dominant in the rural sector, the situation of urban OB
Cs is much worse, being much closer to that of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes t
han to the upper castes.
Adivasi Struggles
Adivasis - literal meaning is original inhabitants . The term was coined in 1930s a
s a part of struggle against the outside forces such as colonial govt, moneylend
ers and outside-settlers.
They are categorised under Scheduled tribes and are recognised by Indian Constit
ution as specially marked by poverty, social stigma and powerlessness.
Where are Adivasis located?
Today only NE states have large tribal populations. In other Indian states there
are only pockets of tribal concentration.
Historical overview of situation of Adivasis
The current situation of Adivasis in which they live in abject poverty can be tr
aced to the patterns of resources extraction started by British government and f

ollowed on subsequently by the Indian government.


From the late 19th century British govt imposed restrictions on the usage of for
est resources by the adivasis population by reserving the tracts of forest land
for its own use. This lead to impoverishment of adivasis as they were solely dep
endent on forests for their sustenance forcing them to either use forest resourc
es illegally (for which they were prosecuted as thieves and encroachers) or migr
ate in search of labour.
After independence, the situation didn t become any better. Why?
1). the government monopoly over forests continued. If anything, the exploitatio
n of forests accelerated.
2). the policy of capital-intensive industrialisation adopted by the Indian gove
rnment required mineral resources and power-generation capacities which were con
centrated in Adivasi areas.
Adivasi lands were rapidly acquired for new minin
g and dam projects and millions of adivasis were displaced without any proper co
mpensation or rehabilitation.
In post-Independence India, the most significant achievements of Adivasi movemen
ts include the attainment of statehood for Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, which wer
e originally part of Bihar and Madhya Pradesh respectively. In this respect adiv
asis and their struggles are different from the
Dalit struggle because, unlike Dalits, adivasis were concentrated in contiguous
areas and could demand states of their own.
Environmental conflict sites: Narmada, Singrauli, Tehri, Hirakud, Koel Karo, Suv
arnarekha, Nagarhole, Plachimada, Kalinganagar
Struggle for Women s Equality and Rights
Apart from the obvious physical and biological differences between men and women
, social differences also exist between them.
Women today are discriminated on the basis of their gender in every field today.
Despite having matrilineal societies like Khasis of Meghalaya that have existed
for centuries, women are seen as being unfit to be designated as inheritors and
heads of the families. In many African countries, women have shown themselves t
o be successful traders and farmers but still after all these examples before us
, women discrimination exists.
What will we learn here?
How gender inequality came to be recognised as inequality in the Indian context,
and the kinds of responses that this recognition produced.
The women s question arose in India due to Middle class reform movements in the 19
th century.
Why these reform movements were termed as Middle Class reform movements?
They were termed so because of being lead by the leaders from the newly emerging
western educated middle class.
These leaders were inspired by,
the democratic ideals of the modern West
By the deep pride in their own democratic traditions of the past.
Examples:
Anti-sati campaign led by Raja Rammohun Roy (middle class social reformer) in Be
ngal. Rammohun Roy s ideas represented a curious mixture of Western rationality an
d an assertion of Indian traditionality.
The widow remarriage movement in the Bombay Presidency where Ranade was one of t
he leading reformers. Ranade (upper caste reformer) used the writings of scholar
s such as Bishop Joseph Butler. At the same time, M.G. Ranade s writings entitled
the The Texts of the Hindu Law on the Lawfulness of the Remarriage of Widows and
Vedic Authorities for Widow Marriage elaborated the shastric sanction for remar
riage of widows.
Jyotiba Phule (he was from a socially excluded caste) attacked on caste and gend
er oppression. He founded Satyashodhak Samaj. His first social reform efforts we
re for women and untouchables

The social reform movement in Islam was led by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan. He wanted gi
rls to be educated, but within the precincts of their homes. Like Dayanand Saras
wati of the Arya Samaj, he stood for women s education but sought for a curriculum
that included instruction in religious principles, training in the arts of hous
ekeeping and handicrafts and rearing of children