Unlike Eliot Ness’s squad of prohibition cops, the untouchables of India are a far far more fearsome proposition.
The dalits or harijans are people who were part of the castes who were associated with the traditionally unclean work. Leather work (hindus still wear leather despite not consuming cows), slaughter house work (the crime is in the killing not in the consumption), removal of rubbish and in one of the most abusive aspects of human existence, in the removal of human waste from latrines. The practice has died out in most of the cities but in rural areas it still persists. Which means its wide spread. Remember nearly 70 percent of India lives rural. Much like the 1950s and america, there is segregation in India. The idea is that uncleanliness is contagious and that contact with the dalit means that you are tarnished by association. Still many places have a practice where they refuse to let the dalit touch the same wells or even drink from the same cup. They will pour out water for you and you sip from the stream rather than a cup. Different temples, schools and funeral areas. They stay in their own ghettoes. [Read more…]