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Feeling Walled In? India's Untouchables Actually Are

Feeling Walled In? India's Untouchables Actually Are

It's been a while since I've Netflixed Gandhi, but this story snagged my attention: The caste system in India is still alive and well. Studies have shown that shunning members of society and labeling them "untouchables" — behaviors like banning them from temples and bathing areas, refusing to share drinking glasses or barbers with those of the lowest class — are still very common. In fact, 45 different forms of "untouchability" are still being carried out by the upper caste of Hindus on the Dalits.

How serious are they about restricting contact with the untouchables? In Tamil Nadu (the most developed part of India that prides itself on being politically progressive and educationally advanced) they built a wall keeping the Dalit out of the main part of the village. To see why,


The higher caste says they're justified in this behavior, having won the right to barricade following inter-caste violence in the 1980s. Authorities have begun to demolish the barrier, and 800 of the higher caste have left, protesting the decision. It's not just a handful of unfortunate untouchables relegated to the bottom end of the income scale. The Dalit make up 19 percent of the area's population of almost 63 million, and 60 percent of Christians in the area are put in the lowest caste, giving the humiliation a religious face.

Do these kinds of actions actually happen namelessly all over? Does the Indian caste system get attention because it's in the open? Are there untouchables in every culture?


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