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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?


Join The Conversation
terryt18 terryt18 9 years
The untouchables in our society are the service people with whom you won't even make eye contact but from whom you will accept a Big Mac.
bluemango bluemango 9 years
and the U.N. is sending an investigator to the U.S. for racism...GREAT set of priorities
stephley stephley 9 years
The lesson is good NYF, I was wondering how the caste system grew out of Hinduism, which has so many lovely elements.
NYFashionista NYFashionista 9 years
It's sad. The caste system does still exist even though it's outlawed. However, as Stephly pointed out, "caste systems" exist everywhere including America. India's process is more formal. The caste system was intially just a caste system to classify people according to their occupations (in ancient scriptures, such as the Vedas, there was no reference to so-called "untouchables". The four castes developed out of necessity, for with the evolution of society it was no longer possible for one person to assume the functions of priest, warrior, merchant, and artisan all rolled in one). Years later, Hinduism went through a "dark period" where priests became corrupt (not that some still aren't today...) and in order to secure their "superiority" transformed the caste system into a class system implementing the lowest "class" the untouchables. Anyway, I'm sorry for the history lesson. I'm really angered at how ignorantly the caste system and its history is taught in this country. I by NO means condone any such caste system, but it is Indian society that has evolved it into a disgraceful class system. Not Hinduism (which is what is taught here). Furthermore, I'd like to point out that India had a president back in the 90's who was from the so-called "untouchables" caste!! India is making progress, but they need to be more hard-handed. Everytime I visit, I see with my own eyes the discrimination "lower class" people face, and it's truly heart breaking.
raciccarone raciccarone 9 years
Racism exists everywhere but India has made it part of the culture. They've given it authenticity. I think racism should be rooted out and destroyed, not given a "system".
stephley stephley 9 years
It is a great article. It'll be interesting to watch what happens in India's society as more people there move up the economic ladder.
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 9 years
That dude in the picture is like a complete opposite/negative of John Oates.
CitizenSugar CitizenSugar 9 years
Though no claims were made about a majority practicing, (the original artical stuck to the state mentioned in this piece) I did find this. "Although officially it was banned by the Protection of Civil Rights Act of 1976, in many parts of India it is still practised." And "It is estimated that the majority of India's population hail from socially disadvantaged classes, living in basic villages strewn across the country." The article is great, check it out.
CitizenSugar CitizenSugar 9 years
Thank you! Slip of the "H". All fixed. :)
carmela83 carmela83 9 years
Agree completely with stephley ... also, it's spelled 'Gandhi'. Just a heads up.
ashguy77 ashguy77 9 years
Man, In west we still can't say or write "Gandhi" and have to screw up the name of the mahatma (great soul). Secondly, man saying "casteism exists in India" is just as true as saying "Racism exists in the US", just ask the black men and women around you. The main question is not whether it exists but whether majority practice it. Care to find answers for that and give us, author?
stephley stephley 9 years
I do think in one way or another, every culture has a group they kick to the curb and work to keep there - India's process just seems more formal.
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