Untouchability, in its literal sense, is the practice of ostracising a minority group by segregating them from the mainstream by social custom or legal mandate. The term is most commonly associated with treatment of the Dalit communities in the Indian subcontinent who were considered "polluting", but the term has also been loosely used to refer to other groups, such as the Cagots in Europe, and the Al-Akhdam in Yemen. Traditionally, the groups characterized as untouchable were those whose occupations and habits of life involved ritually polluting activities, such as fishermen, manual scavengers, sweepers and washermen.
Untouchability has been outlawed in India, Nepal and Pakistan. However, "untouchability" has not been legally defined. The origin of untouchability and its historicity are still debated. B. R. Ambedkar believed that untouchability has existed at least as far back as 400 CE. A recent study of a sample of households in India concludes that "Notwithstanding the likelihood of under-reporting of the practice of untouchability, 70 percent of the population reported not indulging in this practice. This is an encouraging sign."
B. R. Ambedkar, an Indian social reformer and politician who came from a social group that was considered untouchable, theorized that untouchability originated because of the deliberate policy of the upper-caste Brahmanas. According to him, the Brahmanas despised the people who gave up the Brahmanism in favour of Buddhism. Later scholars such as Vivekanand Jha have successfully refuted this theory.
Nripendra Kumar Dutt, a professor of history, theorized that the concept of untouchability originated from the "pariah"-like treatment accorded to the aboriginies of India by the early Dravidians, and that the concept was borrowed by the Indo-Aryans from the Dravidians. Scholars such as R. S. Sharma have rejected this theory, arguing that there is no evidence that Dravidians practised untouchability before coming into contact with the Indo-Aryans.
Austrian ethnologist Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf theorized that untouchability originated as class stratification in urban areas of the Indus Valley Civilisation. According to this theory, the poorer workers involved in 'unclean' occupations such as sweeping or leather work were historically segregated and banished outside the city limits. Over time, personal cleanliness came to be identified "purity", and the concept of untouchability eventually spread to rural areas as well. After the decline of the Indus Valley towns, these untouchables probably spread to other parts of India. Scholars such as Suvira Jaiswal reject this theory, arguing that it lacks evidence, and does not explain why the concept of untouchability is more pronounced in rural areas.
American scholar George L. Hart, based on his interpretation of Old Tamil texts such as Purananuru, traced the origin of untouchability to ancient Tamil society. According to him, in this society, certain occupational groups were thought to be involved in controlling the malevolent supernatural forces; as an example, Hart mentions the Paraiyars, who played drums during battles and solemn events such as births and deaths. People from these occupational groups came to be avoided by others, who believed that they were "dangerous and had the power to pollute the others". Jaiswal dismisses the evidence produced by Hart as "extremely weak" and contradictory. Jaiswal points out that the authors of the ancient Tamil texts included several Brahmanas (a fact accepted by Hart); thus, the society described in these texts was already under Brahmanical influence, and could have borrowed the concept of untouchability from them.
British anthropologist John Henry Hutton traced the origin of untouchability to the taboo on accepting food cooked by a person from a different caste. This taboo presumably originated because of cleanliness concerns, and ultimately, led to other prejudices such as the taboo on marrying outside one's caste. Jaiswal argues that this theory cannot explain how various social groups were isolated as untouchable or accorded a social rank. Jaiswal also notes that several passages from the ancient Vedic texts indicate that there was no taboo against accepting food from people belonging to a different varna or tribe. For example, some Shrauta Sutras mandate that a performer of the Vishvajit sacrifice must live with the Nishadas (a tribe regarded as untouchable in later period) for three days, in their village, and eat their food.
Scholars such as Suvira Jaiswal, R. S. Sharma, and Vivekanand Jha characterize untouchability as a relatively later development after the establishment of the varna and caste system. Jha notes that the earliest Vedic text Rigveda makes no mention of untouchability, and even the later Vedic texts, which revile certain groups such as the Chandalas, do not suggest that untouchability existed in the contemporary society. According to Jha, in the later period, several groups began to be characterized as untouchable, a development which reached its peak during 600-1200 CE. Sharma theorizes that institution of untouchability arose when the aboriginal tribes with "low material culture" and "uncertain means of livelihood" came to be regarded as impure by the privileged classes who despised manual labour, and regarded associated impurity with "certain material objects". According to Jaiswal, when the members of aboriginal groups were assimilated into the Brahmanical society, the privileged among them may have tried to assert their higher status by disassociating themselves from their lower-status counterparts, who were gradually branded as untouchables.
Untouchability is believed to have been first mentioned in Dharmashastra. According to the text, untouchables were not considered a part of the varna system because of their grievous sins, barbaric or unethical acts such as murder, harassment etc. Therefore, they were not treated like the savarnas (Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras).
According to Sarah Pinto, an anthropologist, modern untouchability in India applies to people whose work relates to "meat, and bodily fluids". In the name of untouchability, Dalits have faced work and descent-based discrimination at the hands of the dominant castes. Based on the punishments prescribed in The Untouchability (Offences) Act, 1955 the following practices could be understood to have been associated with Untouchability in India:
At the time of Indian independence, Dalit activists began calling for separate electorates for untouchables in India to allow fair representation. Officially labeled the Minorities Act, it would guarantee representation for Sikhs, Muslims, Christians, and Untouchables in the newly formed Indian government. The Act was supported by British representatives such as Ramsay MacDonald. According to the textbook,Religions in the Modern World, B.R. Ambedkar, who was also a supporter of the Act, was considered to be the “untouchable leader” who made great efforts to eliminate caste system privileges that included participation in public festivals, access to temples, and wedding rituals. In 1932, Ambedkar proposed that the untouchables create a separate electorate that ultimately led Gandhi to fast until it was rejected.
A separation within Hindu society was opposed by national leaders at the time such as Gandhi, although he took no exception to the demands of the other minorities. He began a hunger strike to protest this type of affirmative action, citing that it would create an unhealthy divide within the religion. At the Round Table Conferences, he provided this explanation for his reasoning:
I don't mind untouchables if they so desire, being converted to Islam or Christianity. I should tolerate that, but I cannot possibly tolerate what is in store for Hinduism if there are two divisions set forth in the villages. Those who speak of the political rights of the untouchables don't know their India, don't know how Indian society is today constituted and therefore I want to say with all the emphasis that I can command that if I was the only person to resist this thing that I would resist it with my life.
Gandhi achieved some success through his hunger strike. Dalit activists faced pressure from the Hindu population at large to end his protest at the risk of his ailing health. The two sides eventually came to a compromise where the number of guaranteed seats for Untouchables would be reduced, but not totally eliminated.
The 1950 national constitution of India legally abolished the practice of untouchability and provided measures for positive discrimination in both educational institutions and public services for Dalits and other social groups who lie within the caste system. These are supplemented by official bodies such as the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
Despite this, instances of prejudice against Dalits still occur in some rural areas, as evidenced by events such as the Kherlanji massacre.
Tibet : Ragyabpa (see Social classes of Tibet)
Annihilation of Caste is an undelivered speech written in 1936 by B. R. Ambedkar who fought against the country's practice of untouchability. It was later self-published by the author.B. R. Ambedkar
Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (14 April 1891 – 6 December 1956), popularly known as Babasaheb Ambedkar, was an Indian jurist, economist, politician and social reformer who inspired the Dalit Buddhist movement and campaigned against social discrimination towards the untouchables (Dalits), while also supporting the rights of women and labour. He was independent India's first law and justice minister, the architect of the Constitution of India, and a founding father of the Republic of India. In India and elsewhere, he was often called Babasaheb, meaning "respected father" in Marathi and Hindi.
Ambedkar was a prolific student earning doctorates in economics from both Columbia University and the London School of Economics and gained a reputation as a scholar for his research in law, economics, and political science. In his early career, he was an economist, professor, and lawyer. His later life was marked by his political activities; he became involved in campaigning and negotiations for India's independence, publishing journals, advocating political rights and social freedom for Dalits, and contributing significantly to the establishment of the state of India. In 1956, he converted to Buddhism initiating mass conversions of Dalits.
In 1990, the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian award, was posthumously conferred upon Ambedkar. Ambedkar's legacy includes numerous memorials and depictions in popular culture.Bal Gangadhar Tilak
Bal Gangadhar Tilak (or Lokmanya Tilak, pronunciation ; 23 July 1856 – 1 August 1920), born as Keshav Gangadhar Tilak, was an Indian nationalist, teacher, lawyer and an independence activist. He was the first leader of the Indian Independence Movement. The British colonial authorities called him "The father of the Indian unrest." He was also conferred with the title of "Lokmanya", which means "accepted by the people (as their leader)".Tilak was one of the first and strongest advocates of Swaraj ("self-rule") and a strong radical in Indian consciousness. He is known for his quote in Marathi: "Swarajya is my birthright and I shall have it!". He formed a close alliance with many Indian National Congress leaders including Bipin Chandra Pal, Lala Lajpat Rai, Aurobindo Ghose, V. O. Chidambaram Pillai and Muhammad Ali Jinnah.Dalit
Dalit, meaning "broken/scattered" in Sanskrit and Hindi, is a term mostly used for the ethnic groups in India that have been kept depressed by subjecting them to untouchability (often termed backward castes). Dalits were excluded from the four-fold varna system of Hinduism and were seen as forming a fifth varna, also known by the name of Panchama. Dalits now profess various religious beliefs, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Christianity. As per the latest census, they comprise 16% of India's population (200 million people).The term dalits was in use as a translation for the British Raj census classification of Depressed Classes prior to 1935. It was popularised by the economist and reformer B. R. Ambedkar (1891–1956), who included all depressed people irrespective of their caste into the definition of dalits. Hence the first group he made was called the "Labour Party" and included as its members all people of the society who were kept depressed, including women, small scale farmers and people from backward castes. In the 1970s, the use of the word "dalit" was invigorated when it was adopted by the Dalit Panthers activist group. Gradually, political parties used it to gain mileage.
India's National Commission for Scheduled Castes considers official use of dalit as a label to be "unconstitutional" because modern legislation prefers Scheduled Castes; however, some sources say that Dalit has encompassed more communities than the official term of Scheduled Castes and is sometimes used to refer to all of India's oppressed peoples. A similar all-encompassing situation prevails in Nepal.
Scheduled Caste communities exist across India, although they are mostly concentrated in four states; they do not share a single language or religion. They comprise 16.6 per cent of India's population, according to the 2011 Census of India. Similar communities are found throughout the rest of South Asia, in Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, and are part of the global Indian diaspora.
In 1932, the British Raj recommended separate electorates to select leaders for Dalits in the Communal Award. This was favoured by Ambedkar but when Mahatma Gandhi opposed the proposal it resulted in the Poona Pact. That in turn influenced the Government of India Act, 1935, which introduced the reservation of seats for the Depressed Classes, now renamed as Scheduled Castes.
From soon after its independence in 1947, India introduced a reservation system to enhance the ability of Dalits to have political representation and to obtain government jobs and education. In 1997, India elected its first Dalit President, K. R. Narayanan. Many social organisations have promoted better conditions for Dalits through education, healthcare and employment. Nonetheless, while caste-based discrimination was prohibited and untouchability abolished by the Constitution of India, such practices are still widespread. To prevent harassment, assault, discrimination and similar acts against these groups, the Government of India enacted the Prevention of Atrocities Act, also called the SC/ST Act, on 31 March 1995.
In accordance with the order of the Bombay High Court, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry (I&B Ministry) of the Government of India issued an advisory to all media channels in September 2018, asking them to use "Scheduled Castes" instead of the word "Dalit".Dravidar Kazhagam
Dravidar Kazhagam (Dravidian Conference) is a social movement, that was founded by E. V. Ramasamy, also called Thanthai Periyar. Its original goals were to eradicate the ills of the existing caste system including untouchability and on a grander scale to obtain a "Dravida Nadu" (Dravidian nation) from the Madras Presidency. Dravidar Kazhagam would in turn give birth to many other political parties including Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.Fundamental Rights and Duties in Nepal
Part III of Constitution of Nepal describes about Fundamental rights and Duties of Nepalese citizens.
Article 16 to Article 47 of the Nepalese constitution guarantees 31 fundamental rights to Nepalese people. These include freedom to live with dignity, freedom of speech and expression, religious and cultural freedom, right against untouchability and discrimination etc. Article 48 describes duties of every Nepalese. It says safeguard the nationality, sovereignty and
integrity of Nepal.Fundamental rights in India
Fundamental rights are a group of rights that have been recognized by the Supreme Court as requiring a high degree of protection from government encroachment. These rights are specifically identified in the Constitution
(i.e. in the Bill of Rights), or have been found under Due Process.
Fundamental rights, the basic civil liberties of the people, are protected under the charter of rights contained in Part III (Article 12 to 35) of the Constitution of India.
Fundamental rights apply universally to all citizens, irrespective of race, place of birth, religion, caste or gender. The Indian Penal Code and other laws prescribe punishments for the violation of these rights, subject to the discretion of the judiciary. Though the rights conferred by the constitution other than fundamental rights are also valid rights protected by the judiciary, in case of fundamental rights violations, the Supreme Court of India can be approached directly for ultimate justice per Article 32.
There are six fundamental rights recognised by the Indian constitution:
Right to equality
Right to freedom
Right against exploitation
Right to freedom of religion
Cultural and Educational Right, and
Right to constitutional remedies1. The right to equality includes equality before law, prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, gender or place of birth, and equality of opportunity in matters of employment, abolition of untouchability and abolition of titles.
2. Cultural and Educational Rights are given to the Citizens of India to conserve their cultural practices and that they must have access to education.
3. The right to freedom includes freedom of speech and expression, assembly, association or union or cooperatives, movement, residence, and right to practice any profession or occupation.
4. The right against exploitation prohibits all forms of forced labour, child labour and trafficking of human beings.
5. The right to freedom of religion includes freedom of conscience and free profession, practice, and propagation of religion, freedom to manage religious affairs, freedom from certain taxes and freedom from religious instructions in certain educational institutes. Cultural and educational rights preserve the right of any section of citizens to conserve their culture, language or script, and right of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.
6. The right to constitutional remedies is present for enforcement of Fundamental Rights. The right to privacy is an intrinsic part of Article 21 (the Right to Freedom) that protects life and liberty of the citizens.
Fundamental rights for Indians have also been aimed at overturning the inequalities of pre-independence social practices. Specifically, they have also been used to abolish untouchability and thus prohibit discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth. They also forbid trafficking of human beings and forced labour (a crime). They also protect cultural and educational rights of religious and linguistic minorities by allowing them to preserve their languages and also establish and administer their own education institutions. They are covered in Part III (Articles 12 to 35) of the Indian constitution.
Some features of the Indian Constitution :
1. It provides safeguard if any political leader misuses his power.
2. It also provides safeguard against discrimination.
3. It says "all people are equal before law."
4. It provides fundamental rights.Gaekwad
Gaekwad (also spelled as Gaikwar and Gaikwad) (Marathi: गायकवाड Gāyǎkǎvāḍǎ) is a surname native to Indian state of Maharashtra. The surname is found among Maratha Kolis caste and Scheduled caste people. It is also a common surname among Bharadis, Dhor Kakkayya, and Mahar communities of Maharashtra.Harijan Sevak Sangh
Harijan Sevak Sangh is a non-profit organisation founded by Gandhi in 1932 to eradicate untouchability in India, working for Harijan or Dalit people and upliftment of scheduled castes of India. It is headquartered at Kingsway Camp in Delhi, with branches in 26 states across India. Prof. Sankar Kumar Sanyal is its present president.Former MLC Mohan Joshi is Special Invitee to Organization and He is Maharashtra State President of Harijan Sevak Sangh.Kalam Marindi
Kaalam Marindi (Telugu: కాలం మారింది; English Translation: Times Have Changed) is a 1972 Telugu film directed by K. Viswanath and produced by Bommisetty .Hanumantha Rao & Vasiraju Prakasam. The story is based on the concept of Untouchability and Casteism and is dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi.Lavanam
Goparaju Ramachandra Lavanam (10 October 1930 – 14 August 2015), known popularly as G. Lavanam or Lavanam, was an Indian social reformer and Gandhian. He worked to remove untouchability in Indian society. He was an atheist and co-founded the Samskar institution with his wife Hemalatha Lavanam.List of fasts undertaken by Mahatma Gandhi
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, popularly known as Mahatma Gandhi or The Father of the Nation in India, undertook 17 fasts during India's freedom movement. His longest fasts lasted 21 days. Fasting was a weapon used by Gandhi as part of his philosophy of Ahimsa (non-violence) as well as satyagraha.Mohanlal Pandya
Mohanlal Pandya was an Indian freedom fighter, social reformer and one of the earliest followers of Mahatma Gandhi. Along with fellow Gandhians like Narhari Parikh and Ravi Shankar Vyas, Pandya was a key organizer of nationalist revolts in Gujarat, and a leading figure in the fight against alcoholism, illiteracy, untouchability, and a major proponent of women's freedoms and Gandhian values.Pandya was a close associate of both Gandhi and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel during the Indian Independence Movement.Mohanlal Pandya was nicknamed as "Onion Thief" ("Dungli Chor") by Gandhi because he had harvested onion from the land which was taken away by the British Government.Mudiyanaya Puthran
Mudiyanaya Puthran is a 1961 Malayalam-language film, directed by Ramu Kariat. It stars Sathyan, Ambika Sukumaran, Kottayam Chellappan, P. J. Antony, J. A. R. Anand, Miss Kumari, Adoor Bhavani, Kedamangalam Ali, PA Thomas, Kambisseri Karunakaran, Thoppil Krishna Pillai and Adoor Bhasi. It was the film adaptation of the popular stage play written by Thoppil Bhasi in 1957. The film was shot at Vijaya and Vauhini Studios. It is one of the best social movies in Malayalam, which told boldly the real life struggles of workers, projected social evils like untouchability etc. It won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Malayalam.Periyar E. V. Ramasamy
Erode Venkatappa Ramasamy (17 September 1879 – 24 December 1973), commonly known as Periyar, also referred to as Thanthai Periyar, was an Indian social activist, and politician who started the Self-Respect Movement and Dravidar Kazhagam. He is known as the 'Father of Dravidian Movement'. He has done exemplary works against Brahminical dominance, caste prevalence and women oppression in Tamilnadu.E.V. Ramasamy joined the Indian National Congress in 1919, but resigned in 1925 when he felt that the party was only serving the interests of Brahmins. He questioned the subjugation of non-Brahmin Dravidians as Brahmins enjoyed gifts and donations from non-Brahmins but opposed and discriminated non-Brahmins in cultural and religious matters. In 1924, E.V. Ramasamy participated in a non-violent agitation (satyagraha) in Vaikom, Kerala. From 1929 to 1932 Ramasamy made a tour of British Malaya, Europe, and Russia which influenced him. In 1939, E.V. Ramasamy became the head of the Justice Party, and in 1944, he changed its name to Dravidar Kazhagam. The party later split with one group led by C. N. Annadurai forming the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) in 1949. While continuing the Self-Respect Movement, he advocated for an independent Dravida Nadu (land of the Dravidians).E.V. Ramasamy promoted the principles of rationalism, self-respect, women’s rights and eradication of caste. He opposed the exploitation and marginalisation of the non-Brahmin Dravidian people of South India and the imposition of what he considered Indo-Aryan India.Raghunath Narasinha Mudholkar
Rao Bahadur Raghunath Narasinha Mudholkar CIE was an Indian politician who served as the President of the Indian National Congress for one term, succeeding Pandit Bishan Narayan Dar. He presided over 27th session of Indian National Congress at Bankipore (Patna) in 1912.Raghunath Mudholkar was born in Dhulia, Khandesh, in a respectable middle-class family on 16 May 1857. He had his education partly at Dhulia and partly in Vidarbha. Then he went to Bombay and graduated from Elphinstone College where he was granted a Fellowship.
He was leading Lawyer practising at Amravati along with G. S. Khaparde and Moropant V Joshi. He was invested as a Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire in January 1914, in recognition of his public services.He was a devout Hindu, advocated social reforms like female education, widow remarriage and removal of Untouchability. As a follower of Gokhale, he believed that developing nationalism required British cooperation and therefore the national movement should be constitutional and nonviolent. He was in the Congress from 1888 to 1917, and thereafter joined the Liberals. He was in the Congress delegation of 1890 sent to England to voice the grievances of the Indians. He was President of the Indian National Congress held at Bankipur in 1912.
He admired Parliamentary democracy but opposed British bureaucracy. He criticised the economic policy of the Government, helped to establish a number of industries in Vidarbha and advocated technical education. He founded several social organisations and worked for the uplift of the poor. He died on 13 January 1921.His son Janardhan became Judge at Supreme Court of India during 1960-1966.T. K. Madhavan
T. K. Madhavan (2 September 1885 – 27 April 1930) was an Indian social reformer, journalist and revolutionary who was involved with the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana (SNDP). He came from Kerala and led the struggle against untouchability which was known as Vaikom Satyagraha.Vaikom Satyagraha
Vaikom Satyagraha (1924–25) was a satyagraha (social protest) in Travancore, India (now part of Kerala) against untouchability in Hindu society. The movement was centered at the Shiva temple at Vaikom, near (present district) Kottayam. The Satyagraha aimed at securing freedom to all sections of society through the public roads leading to the Sri Mahadeva Temple at Vaikom.Vitthal Ramji Shinde
Mahrshi Vitthal Ramji Shinde (23 April 1873 – 2 January 1944) was one of the most important social and religious reformers in Maharashtra, India. He was prominent among the liberal thinkers and reformists in India, prior to his independence. His greatest contribution was to attempt to remove the practice of untouchability and bring about equality to the depressed classes in Indian society.