Prejudice and Discrimination in India Prejudice and Essay

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Prejudice and Discrimination in India

Prejudice and discrimination

Prejudice and discrimination in India of the Dalits and Adivasis

Prejudice and discrimination in India of the Dalits and Adivasis

Dalits and Untouchability

Prejudice and discrimination in India of the Dalits and Adivasis

"More than 160 million people in India are considered "Untouchable" -- people tainted by their birth into a caste system that deems them impure, less than human." (Hillary Mayell, 2003, p.1)

India is long for discrimination with lower casts since long. Social interactions have been restricted amongst people of different castes such as marriages are conducted within own castes. There are restrictions on the use of public places and temples for lower castes and even there are restrictions on sharing foods and water. Dalits the lowest of all castes that is referred to as "untouchables" has been defined in the Indian Constitution of 1950 as Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe. Though there have been efforts to minimize discrimination at government level. Policies have been formulated that mandate minimum levels of SC/ST representation in local and state governments, universities and public sector employment)

Caste System in India

In India, caste system is an exceptional social order. Different theories exist which define Caste. According to some theories caste system in India is the result of Hindu religious order called Varna, which literally means color. The other theories say that caste is in essential the endogamous group of people mostly called as Jati (Karve, 1961). Jati is a racial flock of a group of people. It is can be said equivalent to tribe or gotra.

Dalits and Untouchability

In Hindu caste system it is believed that if a member of upper caste touches a member of lower caste will become polluted. This term has its roots in the law of Manu. The laws of Manu usually known as Manusmriti are amongst the prehistoric scriptures of the Hindus. According to this belief it the persons who become polluted by touch of lower caste member goes through a ritual of purification before he/she has to contact his/her own caste members. In this caste system Dumont deals with purity and impurity between upper and lower castes. It has been pointed out that the means of separation of the lower Castes by the upper Castes and the Brahmins as untouchables "is to be found in the temporary impurity which the Hindu of good Caste contracts in relation to organic life… it is specialization in impure tasks, in practice or theory, which leads to the attribution of a massive and permanent impurity to some categories of people." (Dumont 1970, p. 47)

According to Dumont the impurity attributed to the lower castes has strong religious scope. These untouchable are deprived of many privileges and opportunities enjoyed by only upper castes including going inside the temples, using public wells, utilizing the roads in the presence of member of higher Castes, the accessibility of educational facilities. Yet, there is an interesting factor of untouchability identified by Dumont and that is the concept that impurity attributed to lower caste members is necessary for the purity of upper caste members. As has been pointed out in Dumont, "the execution of impure tasks by some is necessary to the maintenance of purity for others. The two poles are equally necessary, although unequal" (1970, p. 55).

The Dalits and Adivisis are facing problems due to this caste system, concept of impurity of lower castes and are treated less than human. This can be evidenced by new headlines in major Indian newspapers saying "Dalit boy beaten to death for plucking flowers"; "Dalit tortured by cops for three days" etc.

These Untouchables are facing many problems due to this caste system. They are given lowest jobs, are publically humiliated, beaten and raped by members of upper castes and this entire inhumane attitude is kept to keep them in their place. Even if a lower caste member walks through an upper class neighborhood results threatening the life of lower caste member. The number of these untouchables is 160 million. Dalits are amongst most non-privileged and living miserable life. It has been estimated that 90 to 95% of poor and uneducated people in India are Dalits. (Hillary Mayell, 2003)


Adivasis is the name given to many native peoples of India. The term Adivasis has been derived by "adi" meaning of earliest times and 'vasi' means inhabitant or resident. The term was coined in 1930 when a political movement emerged within native people to seek identity. Adivasis do not belong to one group with same language or caste rather there are almost 200 different groups speaking 100 languages and diverse in ethnicity and culture belong to this group of people. Adivasis are scattered all through India but usually live in the hill and mountain areas away from fertile land. It was in 1950 that both Adivasis and Dalits were considered to be safeguarded through constitution and protective laws were introduced. It was in 1951 that government allowed the states to make special provisions (Acharya, 2008)

Like Dalits, Adivasis also often face violence and prejudice by the upper castes as well as mainstream society. They are living in poorest conditions. The main discrimination that has been kept towards Adivasis is non-provision of land ownership right and they are doing minor jobs where they are less paid and are fighting for their economic and social identity.

To address this discrimination government has introduced Scheduled Tribes Bill 2005. According to this bill the scheduled tribes are legitimate stakeholder in managing forests. This legislation provides protections such as giving ownership rights for minor forest produce, rights of grazing, habitat and habitation for primitive tribes. (Jim Mason, 2005),


The caste discrimination in the area of education is rooted in the ancestral texts in which for each caste a code of conduct has been prescribed and even today there are many religious rituals performed according to these texts. According to these texts, the members of low castes are not allowed to listen to the words of Vedas or religious hymens.

It was during the period of British reign over India that Christian missionaries established separate schools for Dalits and Adivasis as they were not allowed to enter and take admission in public school (Jaffrelot, 2006). After independence in 1947, article 15 and 17 were created to prohibit discrimination on the basis of caste and in particular amendment was made to the constitution in 1951 which prohibited states to use reservation in schools and colleges on the caste base. Government has introduced SC/ST-specific policies that are related to primary and secondary education mostly consisting of subsidies for fees, uniforms, and books as well as providing mid-day meals (Department of Public Instruction, Karnataka, 2003)

Research has suggested that students from lower castes are discriminated in the schools and face problems. Though these students cannot be identified by face but management of the school does hold records and are aware of their caste. According to an informal survey it was found that students belonging to lower castes are not allowed to attend and take admission better quality schools and are forced to go to schools with poorer quality besides the fact that government schools are liable to admit all students applying for admissions regardless of their residence place and caste (Ramachandran, 2002).


Gender discrimination is present in almost all developing countries. There is evidence that girls are maltreated, have lower rates of inoculation against infectious disease and they are much likely to die by treatable childhood disease (Pande, 2003). In addition they are given less chances to attain education. This discrimination is mostly the result of poverty when a household cannot afford expenses of education for a child that child is usually a girl. (Burgess and Ahuang, 2003)

Caste Conflicts

Caste conflicts are present in India and there is awareness in particular among Dalits who are politically active. In 2001 at the World Conference Against Racism, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, a United Nations (UN) convention which held in Durban, South Africa Dalit activists as well as their supporters presented demand to include the Caste system of India into the deliberations asking United Nations to pass a resolution in which the inherent inequality and social gradation must be condemned. In 2007, Indian Government faced criticism from UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination due to its failure for taking action against discrimination on the basis of caste. The committee reported that above 165 million Dalits have been continuously facing isolation in accommodation, schooling as well as difficulties in accessing public services.

The members of low caste have also been facing violence and inhumane attitude. In June 2010, the brutal killing of a teenage couple in Delhi shocked the media and the world. This incident happened because the girl belonged to high caste while boy was member of lower caste. Police found that both were beaten and electrocuted to death. The family of the girl took this inhumane step as they had objection on their relationship…

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