The demon called untouchability

The Indian constitution guarantees equality for all, but the deep-rooted caste system in the society has never allowed the Dalits to be treated on par with the "upper castes."

Authors Sukhdev Thorat and Harsh Mandar in Untouchability in Rural India argue that not much had changed in terms of “social mixing or relations across caste barriers.” Atrocities like rapes, murder, and physical assualt against Dalits are reported by the mainstream media, but social and emotional boycott largely go unnoticed.

Here are some heirarchical practices still being followed, especially in rural India, that stands as a proof that lots need to be done to eliminate untouchablity and bring true social equality in the society.

Twin-tumbler system

In some tea shops, Dalits are served in cheaper glass, plastic or aluminum tumblers contrary to stainless steel tumblers used for dominant caste groups. Eateries, especially in rural areas have separate bowls, plates and even entrance for Dalits.

Also read: >Dalits have tough time in Panampatti

Fetching of water

Dalits are not allowed to fetch water from common wells or water bodies. They have to wait until dominant caste people come and fetch the water for them.

Also read: >Drinking water out of bounds for Dalit hamlets

Discrimination in Schools

Most government and aided schools do not have a separate person to clean toilets. It is the responsibilitiy of teachers and students to keep the toilets clean. Hence, complaints of compelling >Dalit students to clean the toilets is not uncommon as it is easier to coerce them into doing what other children will refuse to do.

Also read: >Teachers held for forcing Dalit students to clean toilets

Forced Services

Certain jobs are still reserved to Dalits, especially the ones that hurt the dignity — like manual scavenging, sweeping, cremation, and grave digging.

Also read: >Gujarat turns a blind eye to manual scavenging

Denial of services

Hair cuts are >refused to Dalits in Tumakuru districts. Traditionally, Dalits in most of these villages have been getting their hair cut within the community. More recently, however, educated youth of the community are questioning this norm, which is resented by the traditional powers in the village.

Also read: >The unkindest cut of all


During celebrations Dalits are offered food separately. Non-Ddalits avoid participating in functions organised by Dalits. Politicians like Rahul Gandi and Nitin Gadkari did their bit by dining at Dalit homes.

Photo shows Collector Smita Sabharwal setting an example by having lunch prepared by Dalits.

Also read: >Pravin Togadia's recipe to fight untouchability

Temple entry

Recently, the 75th anniversary of the historic event of Dalits making an entry to the Sri Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple in Madurai was celebrated with much fan fare. Dalits are still forbidden from entering into temples in many places. Dalit houses are given a miss when deities are taken out for procession.

Also read: >When the gods can't come home

The ugly wall

Remember the >Uthapuram wall? Caste Hindus had built an electrified a 600-metre-long wall, which passes through pockets that were meant to be for common use by people of all castes to prevent Dalits from entering "caste Hindu areas." It was demolished after the issue was highlighted by CPI(M).

Also read: >“Uthapuram wall is no Berlin wall"


Dalit grooms were beaten-up for riding in horses as a part of pre-wedding ritual. In a village in Rajasthan, a Dalit groom took a ride in decorated horse, with police protection because the upper caste claim it is only their "previlege" to have fanfare in weddings.

Also read: > Dalit wedding fetes face feudal rage in Rajasthan

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2021 12:04:20 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/specials/the-demon-called-untouchability/article7179972.ece

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