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Unbroken history of “Touch them not”

September 20, 2011

As coverage of India in the mainstream media has moved on from snake-charmers to Bollywood and now to its (fake) economic strengths; its own politicians and foreign journalists gloss over the fact that deep in the heartlands there remain serious social problems… 

On September 29, 2006, four members of a dalit family belonging to the Dalit under class were slaughtered in Khairlanji, a small village in Maharashtra. The women of the family were paraded naked in public, before being murdered. The Indian media did not cover this incident till the claims were picked up by Human Rights organisations and the international media. Later it was discovered that the criminal act was carried out by assailants from the politically powerful Kunbi caste for “opposing” the requisition of their field to have a road built over it. Initial reports suggested that the women were allegedly gang-raped before being murdered. Though CBI investigations revealed that the women were not raped, there are allegations of bribery of doctors who performed the post-mortem, and of corruption.

To call the bluff on “such” (and many more) sanitised official reports that feign ignorance about an ugly social truth, the Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front, an umbrella group comprising nearly 150 labour, Dalit and human rights movements, did a comprehensive survey three years ago. They started documenting all manifestations of untouchability, circa 2010. They visited 1,845 villages in 22 (of 32) districts in the state – exposing the rot of oppression and its myriad crippling ways.

Here is a list of astonishing 80-odd practices of untouchability and 22 atrocities committed against Dalits.


  • Not allowed to speak on the cell phone in the presence of caste Hindus. (A practice reported in the Nilgiri constituency)
  • Not allowed to keep male dogs. (Why? They might breed with female dogs from upper caste neighborhoods.)
  • Separate work timings under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme.
  • Refusal to rent houses to Dalits in certain neighbourhoods in urban areas. (Reported in Madurai, Tamil Nadu’s second largest city.)
  • No door delivery by postmen; postal department prevented from hiring Dalit postmen.
  • No access to the common crematorium, burial grounds.
  • Prevented from having their clothes washed or ironed, or assigned separate cupboards at the laundry for clothes of Dalits.
  • Refusal by barbers to cut their hair, or separate chairs for Dalits.
  • Separate ration shops, or queues, or timings for Dalits.
  • Offered tea in coconut shells which they can drink only by squatting on the ground.
  • Prevented from renting private marriage halls, public address systems.
  • Forced to cut out portion of the name that suggests respect (Madaswamy will be called Mada, Muniyaswamy Muniya).
  • Attacked if they call any caste Hindu as annan (brother).
  • Erecting walls (as was seen in Uthappuram) to deny Dalits access to common places.
  • Elderly members of the Dalit community addressed by children of the dominant caste as podavada (denoting lack of respect).
  • No access to temples, public streets, public taps (separate timings to collect water), public tanks, temples.
  • Sapparam (temple car) not driven through areas where Dalits reside.
  • Not allowed to participate in pookkuzhi (a ritual of walking on fire) during festivals.
  • Two, in some cases four, tumbler system in tea-shops, one set for Dalits and categories within them, another for caste Hindus.
  • Separate neighbourhoods for Dalits in villages.
  • Preventing the opening of milk dairy near Dalit neighbourhoods.
  • Dalit (Arunthathiyar) students compelled to clean bathrooms in schools.
  • Opposition to hiring Dalit cooks in mid-day meal school kitchens.
  • Engaging Dalits, Arunthathiyars especially, in conservancy work.
  • Dalit workers to bring their own food-plates while others need not.
  • Boycotting meetings held by Dalit Panchayat presidents.
  • Preventing the opening of panchayat office buildings in Dalit areas.

They are NOT allowed to –

  • Wear shoes or chappals
  • Wear polyester dhotis
  • Ride bicycles or travel in bullock carts
  • Sit under bus shelters at village bus stops
  • Wear a cloth headgear or carry a towel over the shoulder (as is the local practice)
  • Sport a mustache
  • Sit on benches in hotels and tea stalls
  • Burst crackers during festivals
  • Rear cattle
  • Sing or speak at village functions or participate in auctions
  • Dine with caste Hindus

They are OBLIGATED to –

  • Offer goats gratis to descendants of past andais (landlords in the feudal age) during festivals
  • Carry dead bodies
  • Work in crematoriums and at burial grounds
  • Sound the parai ( drums)
  • Carry message of death to people of the dominant caste (to be paid only bus fare, food only if offered)


  • Forced to eat faeces.
  • Urinating into the mouth.
  • Murdered if elected as Panchayat President against the wishes of the dominant caste.
  • Sexual assault on Dalit women.
  • Burning alive if a Dalit fights for rights.
  • Setting fire to Dalit huts.
  • Tied to a tree and beaten up.
  • Killing all dogs in a Dalit area if a dog of the Dalit area bites a dog that belongs to an upper caste community.
  • Obstructing the common passage (if won through struggle) with mortar, grindstone and washing utensils there.
  • Killing by poisoning one who inter-marries.
  • Ostracizing those Dalits who raise their voice for human rights.
  • Attacking Dalits if they insist on using community halls.
  • Making Dalits prostrate before members of the dominant caste and imposing fines on them.
  • Refusal by the state administration to enforce access to burial grounds.
  • Harassment and brutal attacks on Dalits by the police for fighting for their rights.
  • Dalits driven away by the police for trying to enter temples


Most of us would curse the backward, un-educated villages for such criminal acts, without realizing that the dirt from within ourselves has not been washed off. We can see the discrimination perpetuating in our homes.

I was in Mumbai, staying with a friend in one of the high-end society of Hiranandani. The maid-servant was not feeling well and so had not come to clean the house. In the morning, my friend asked the lady who used to come to collect Garbage, if she could help with cleaning of house (in case she had extra time). The lady asked, “Are you sure that you would have no problem in me cleaning your utensils and clothes?” “Why should we have any problem? You work, we will pay you.”, my friend replied. She said, “Let me tell you. I am an Untouchable. No one in this building or around lets me enter their house and despite several requests no one has offered me any work in their homes.”

Well it was year 2009 and at that time I believed that all so called high-end people, out from big schools and famous colleges, working for big MNCs are sensible and educated people. And so I was shocked too. Now as the reality dawns on me, it all seems to be painted in the same color.

One of the worst crimes on humanity have been running in India for last two thousand years ad nothing is being done (apart from using it to increase vote banks).

A real change, change from within is required. And it is not easy. It can not be taught using text books. It can be delivered from one person (who has changed him/her self) to another.. And for you that we need to change and live the change. And it has to begin somewhere… this unbroken history of Untouchability needs to done with and thrown out at least from your hearts…

Information taken from here


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