marginalized communities in the South Asian caste system

Dalit (from Sanskrit: दलित, romanized: dalita meaning "broken/scattered"), also known as untouchable, is a name for people belonging to the lowest stratum castes in India. 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, Christianity, Islam and various other belief systems. Scheduled Castes is the official term for Dalits as per the Constitution of India.

Quotes edit

  • [Dr. Ghurye’s anthropometric study of the different castes establishes] “that the Brahmin and the Untouchable belong to the same race. From this it follows that if the Brahmins are Aryans, the Untouchables are also Aryans. If the Brahmins are Dravidians, the Untouchables are also Dravidians. If the Brahmins are Nagas, the Untouchables are also Nagas.”
    • Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Writings and Speeches, Volume 7 edited by Vasant Moon, Education Department, Govt. of Maharashtra Publications, Mumbai, 1990. Quoted in Talageri, S. (2000). The Rigveda: A historical analysis. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan.
  • Another illustration would be the attitude of the Muslims towards the problem of the Untouchables. The Muslims have always been looking at the Depressed Classes with a sense of longing, and much of the jealousy between Hindus and Muslims arises out of the fear of the latter that the former might become stronger by assimilating the Depressed Classes. In 1909 the Muslims took the bold step of suggesting that the Depressed Classes should not be enrolled in the census as Hindus.
  • Let me just direct your attention once more upon these untouchables, fifty or sixty millions of them, that is to say more than the whole population of the British Isles; all living their lives in acceptance of the validity of the awful curse pronounced upon them by the Brahmins. A multitude as big as a nation, men, women and children deprived of hope and of the status of humanity. Their plight is worse than that of slaves, because they have been taught to consent not only to a physical but to a psychic servitude and prostration. I have asked myself whether if Christ came again into this world, it would not be to the untouchables of India that he would first go, to give them the tidings that not only are all men equal in the sight of God, but that for the weak and poor and downtrodden a double blessing is reserved.
  • It was well after the Vedic period, after even the period of the Mauryan empire, that the notion of untouchability came into being. In Satapatha Brahmana, the chief is advised to eat from the same vessel as the commoner. In the Rg Veda there is no mention of untouchable either. It was only around second century ad that the stratum of untouchables and the notion of untouchability became evident for instance in Apasthambha Dharmasutra.
  • Given the Hindu-tribal continuity, Guru Golwalkar proposed that for the integration of tribals and untouchables, one and the same formula applies: 'They can be given yajñopavîta (...) They should be given equal rights and footings in the matter of religious rights, in temple worship, in the study of Vedas, and in general, in all our social and religious affairs. This is the only right solution for all the problems of casteism found nowadays in our Hindu society.'
    • M.S. Golwalkar: Bunch of Thoughts, p.479. Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. ISBN 978-8185990743
  • "The first example of untouchability is seen after Islam came. It is seen when at Raja Dahir's household his queens were on the way to commit Johar. They mentioned the word 'Malechcha' and said they need to hurry for the Johar, else the 'Malechcha' would touch them and they will become impure. This is the first example of untouchability in Indian text."
    • Krishna Gopal, 2019. As quoted in ANI [1]. [2]
  • Before the coming of the Aryans […] the Tamils believed that any taking of life was dangerous, as it released the spirits of the things that were killed. Likewise, all who dealt with the dead or with dead substances from the body were considered to be charged with the power of death and were thought to be dangerous. Thus, long before the coming of the Aryans with their notion of varna, the Tamils had groups that were considered low and dangerous and with whom contact was closely regulated.
    • Hart (1983 117), Hart III, George L., 1983, ‘The Theory of Reincarnation among the Tamils’(dated 1980), in: Wendy Doniger (ed.), Karma and Rebirth in Classical Indian Traditions, Indian reprint Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, pp.116 – 133. quoted from Elst, Koenraad. Manu as a weapon against egalitarianism: Nietzsche and Hindu political philosophy in : Siemens & Vasti Roodt, eds.: Nietzsche, Power and Politics (Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 2008).
  • It is useless to talk of a democracy as long as this kind of prejudice (untouchability) sways our mind and influences our conduct towards those from whom we differ in religion or whose forms of occupation we dislike. … The process of building a nation is a moral process. You cannot engage in work of this kind with success by practicing duplicity. … It is sufficiently humiliating that we should have to mention untouchability at all in our programme; but to have avoided it for fear of offending the sensibilities of some classes of our countrymen would have been even worse. It would have been immoral.
  • Reformers like Swami Vivekananda, like Gandhiji, like Narayan Guru had had no difficulty in showing that Untouchability had no sanction in our scriptures, that, on the contrary, the conclusive doctrinal argument lay in the central proposition of the scriptures themselves: namely, that all was Brahman, that the same soul inhered in all. There was also the historical fact that whatever might have been the excrescences which had grown around or in the name of Hinduism, the entire and long history of the religion showed that it was uniquely receptive to new ideas, that it was uniquely responsive to reformers, that it was adaptable as no other religion was, and therefore there was no reason to believe that it would not reform itself out of this evil also.
    • Arun Shourie: Worshipping False Gods, p.230.
  • No one in the twentieth century has done as much to rid us of untouchability as Gandhiji. He attached more importance to ridding Hinduism of this accretion than to attaining swaraj. He brought upon himself the hostility of orthodox opinion all over India by his uncompromising stand on the matter. But the other day, speaking during the commemorative session of Parliament, Kanshi Ram asserted that abolishing untouchability was never on Gandhiji’s agenda. Not one person stood up to contradict him, not one stood up to point to the record of forty years of our country’s recent history.
    • Shourie, Arun (2014). Eminent historians: Their technology, their line, their fraud. Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India : HarperCollins Publishers.
  • If God is put up with untouchability, I will not call him God.
    • BG Tilak. quoted in Hunt, Frazier (1931). Great Personalities. New York Life Insurance Company. pp. 153–. 
  • In short, the avalanche of Turco- Mughal invaders, and the policy of their Government turned many settled agriculturists into tribals of the jungles....For example, many Parihars and Parmars, once upon a time belonging to the proud Rajput castes, are now included in lower castes. So are the “Rajputs” counted in Backward Classes in South India. ... in course of time many of these Jats and Khokhars were pushed into belonging to low castes of to-day. For the later times is the example of the Satnamis. This sect was an offshoot of the Raidasis.....At last Aurangzeb crushed them by sending 10,000 troops (March, 1672) and facing a most obstinate battle in which two thousand Satnamis fell on the field and many more were slain during the pursuit. Those who escaped spread out into small units so that today there are about 15 million Satnami Harijans....
    • K. S. Lal (1992). The legacy of Muslim rule in India. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan.
  • The practice of untouchability is a sin, a blot on humanity, and nothing can justify it. Consider only that untouchable which is injurious to one’s health, not fellow human beings. Unshackling this one foolish fetter would bring crores of our Hindu brethren into the mainstream. They would serve the country in various capacities and defend her honour.
    • V. D. Savarkar, quoted in Vikram Sampath - Savarkar, Echoes from a Forgotten Past, 1883–1924 (2019)
  • When I invited a Dalit girl to place a Kumbh at my residence on the occasion of ‘Vijay Dashami’, it is not because someone asked me to do so. It is because I believe it is the collective responsibility of all of us to change this mindset. This disease is so deep rooted in our society that the mindset of even those who are well-educated, smart, and converse in English has not really changed on this issue.
    • Narendra Modi quoted in Madhu Purnima Kishwar: Modi, Muslims and Media. Voices from Narendra Modi’s Gujarat, Manushi Publications, Delhi 2014.
  • Abolition of untouchability should be enforced by a very ruthless law... to refuse to give treatment of equality to members of the Scheduled Castes should be declared by Parliament a cognizable offence. If they did so, then all the states would be bound by it. The police would then be authorized to take legal action against the offenders and bring them to book. Police protection should be given to members of the Scheduled Castes... the Scheduled Castes should abolish untouchability among themselves, as between Mahars and Mangs and others... the backward classes should be given assistance on the basis of their poverty and illiteracy.
    • V.D. Savarkar, quoted in Savarkar (Part 2): A Contested Legacy, 1924-1966. Vikram Sampath. Penguin Viking. 712 pages. Rs. 729 (Hard cover). As quoted from [4]

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