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Outcastes in World History

Global History and Geography I Name: _______________________


E. Napp Date: _______________________

Part I: The Life of Untouchable


India's "Untouchables" Face Violence, Discrimination
BY Hillary Mayell

More than 160 million people in India are considered "Untouchable"—people


considered impure or less than human according to the Hindu caste system.

Abuses against these people, known as Dalits, are legion. A random sampling of
headlines in mainstream Indian newspapers tells their story: "Dalit boy beaten to
death for plucking flowers"; "Dalit tortured by cops for three days"; "Dalit 'witch'
paraded naked in Bihar"; "Dalit killed in lock-up at Kurnool"; "7 Dalits burnt
alive in caste clash"; "5 Dalits lynched in Haryana"; "Dalit woman gang-raped,
paraded naked"; "Police egged on mob to lynch Dalits".

"Dalits are not allowed to drink from the same wells, attend the same temples, wear
shoes in the presence of an upper caste, or drink from the same cups in tea stalls,"
said Smita Narula, a senior researcher with Human Rights Watch, and author of
Broken People: Caste Violence Against India's "Untouchables." Human Rights
Watch is a worldwide activist organization based in New York.

India's Untouchables are relegated to the lowest jobs, and live in constant fear of
being publicly humiliated, paraded naked, beaten, and raped with impunity by
upper-caste Hindus seeking to keep them in their place. Merely walking through an
upper-caste neighborhood is a life-threatening offense.

Nearly 90 percent of all the poor Indians and 95 percent of all the illiterate Indians
are Dalits, according to figures presented at the International Dalit Conference that
took place May 16 to 18 in Vancouver, Canada.

Enforcement of laws designed to protect Dalits is lax if not non-existent in many


regions of India. The practice of untouchability is strongest in rural areas, where 80
percent of the country's population resides. There, the underlying religious
principles of Hinduism dominate.

Hindus believe a person is born into one of four castes based on karma and
"purity"—how he or she lived their past lives. Those born as Brahmans are priests
and teachers; Kshatriyas are rulers and soldiers; Vaisyas are merchants and
traders; and Sudras are laborers. Within the four castes, there are thousands of sub-
castes, defined by profession, region, dialect, and other factors.

Untouchables are literally outcastes; a fifth group that is so unworthy it doesn't fall
within the caste system.
Questions:
1. What is another word for dalit?
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2. Provide two examples of abuses against dalits?
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3. What are dalits not allowed to do with or around other castes?
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4. What is the relationship between illiteracy and untouchability?
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5. Where is the practice of untouchability strongest?
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6. How many castes are in the Hindu caste system?
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7. Why are untouchables outcastes?
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8. What is the highest caste?
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9. Why does the Hindu caste system lack social mobility?
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10. What do untouchables live in fear of?
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11. What actions could the Indian government take to improve the lives of
untouchables?
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Outcastes in Japan

The largest minority group in Japan is known as the hisabetsu buraku or


"discriminated communities”. These “outcastes” are descendants of pre-modern,
hereditary occupational groups, such as butchers, leatherworkers, and certain
entertainers. Discrimination against these occupational groups arose historically
because of Buddhist prohibitions against killing and Shinto notions of pollution, as
well as governmental attempts at social control.

During the Tokugawa period, such people were required to live in special buraku or
villages. The Meiji government abolished the derogatory names applied to these
discriminated communities in 1871, but the new laws had little effect on the social
discrimination faced by the former outcasts and their descendants. Although
members of these discriminated communities are physically no different from other
Japanese, they often live in urban ghettoes or in the traditional special hamlets in
rural areas. Some attempt to pass as ordinary Japanese, but the checks on family
background that are often part of marriage arrangements and employment
applications make this difficult. Estimates of their number range from 2 million to 4
million, or about 2 to 3 percent of the national population.

Questions:
1: What occupations are associated with Japan’s outcastes?
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2: Why are these occupations considered impure or inferior?
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3: How do the Japanese discover if a person is an outcaste?
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4: What actions could the Japanese government take to end discrimination against
the outcastes of Japan?
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5: List similarities and differences between Japan’s outcastes and India’s outcastes:
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Mohandas Gandhi was the
leader of India’s independence
movement against the British.
Mohandas Gandhi was
nonviolent and believed that
people could change through
the force of truth and love.
Gandhi even asked his fellow
Indians to change and to end
prejudice against
untouchables.

Read the following Gandhi quotes and in your own words, explain the meaning of
the Mahatma’s words!

1: “I DO NOT want to be reborn. But if I have to be reborn, I should be born an


untouchable, so that I may share their sorrows, sufferings, and the affronts leveled
at them, in order that I may endeavor to free myself and them from that miserable
condition. I, therefore, prayed that, if I should be born again, I should do so not as a
Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya or Shudra, but as an Atishudra.” (YI, 4-5-1921, p144)
The meaning of the quote:
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2: “Love of the people brought the problem of untouchability early into my life.
My mother said. 'You must not touch this boy, he is an untouchable.' 'Why not?'
I questioned back, and from that day my revolt began.” (H, 24-12-1938, p393)
The meaning of the quote:
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3: “I would far rather that Hinduism died than that untouchability lived.”190
The meaning of the quote:
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Word Bank:
Dalit, Gandhi, Outcastes, Discrimination, Illiterate, Rural, Wells, Untouchable, Impure,
Japan, Buddhism, Shinto

Critical Thinking Question:


Has a kind of outcaste system ever existed in the United States? Explain your answer.
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“To say that a single human being, because of his birth, becomes an untouchable,
unapproachable, or invisible, is to deny God.” Gandhi
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