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March 30, 2009
India’s “untouchables” trudge through sewers

For all the progress seen in India’s transformation into a modern global economy, the country remains strongly tied to the traditions of its caste system, which largely governs where Indians work and in what jobs.

Worldfocus special correspondent Martin Himel reports on the lowest form of work, for members of India’s lowest class.

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14 comments

#14

My own family is Mixed Irish Catholic – Indian Hindu – & a Muslim. We all get along well, & easily, having learned tolerance unconsciously, by simply treating each other as what we are, – the same family. Fairness and equality then just happens.
Here, in Australia, education is offered equally to Indians/Hindus of any caste. Recently some young rich Indian students were robbed and beaten. Police said they would walk in known dangerous areas openly displaying gold necklaces & the latest in electronic goods. No one of a “lower caste system” has yet been robbed and beaten. It appears the robbers are truly discriminating. At universities here the birth & background of a fellow Indian student still cause them to be shunned by other Hindus, if they are of a lower caste. This system seems ingrained. Australia is a place where politics and race discrimination can be beaten. Our anti discrimination laws are improving daily. Each culture, which seeks to escape discrimination, common in their homeland, by coming here, has to see/use this country as a place to start anew. The responsibility to act in a non discriminatory manner is on all, not just the current residents, but immigrants and visitors too. It is so much harder when the feelings of superior/inferior birth are imported, and then continued to be practised in our back yard.
We can’t change the caste system in other countries. We can make a difference here, with just a little courage, to object to caste practice. If people are to live/study/visit Australia, then practising the cultural adaptation of, “everyone is entitled to a fair go” attitude, – which has been the cornerstone of acceptable Australian behaviour for ever, may help. Its never perfect here, but allways, evolving, most persons striving toward that gaol.

#13

The Caste system should not be so relevant in industrial times. As for oppression and slavery, that has existed in “christian” nations for thousands of years with brutal infighting, conversions and the suppression of [not only scientists, scholars] pagans, atheists, other followers of abraham, etc. Democracy itself is inherently corrupt and it always will be, the founding fathers of the US argued against it. The problem has to do with education, economics, land, etc. The Hindu religion goes back much further than 400bc. Hardly, the Indian government post-independence has been actually secular and appeasing abrahamic faiths to the point of where it might even be considered that Hinduism is actually oppressed. India did nothing for the slaughters of millions of hindus in bangladesh and pakistan, both of which had massive hindu populations and continue to antagonize India. Dalits do not have african in them, more or less people of different castes are the same “racially”, caste does not have a racial connotation. As for India being an ally of the US, hardly the ISLAMIC REPUBLIC of Pakistan is given just as much if not more support by the US government.

#12

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#11

Yes we are all responsible for this and we need to move past this. I’d love to go to India and serve. To move beyond the spiral of ignorance that prevails so much of this world. Are we lost in a time warp? Concious catastrophes, I have them everyday. It’s not so fun to see other people have them. I can’t even understand the ones I am having. Where do we go from here? Can I stop the planets from spinning or the world from revolving? That would be nice. Show me how!

#10

i am so upset that india treat dalits, which are also their relatives, in this manner. most dalits have african in them. my question is, who doesn’t i wish i could save them, but i am not god. someday god will give them justice. does human kindness exist over there? karma? the only thing i believe is that someday the wrongdoers will get theirs. their punishment should be… born in their next lives to a group 10x lower than dalits; and the best part? dalits will be their masters. i can’t believe these savages are our ally. i wonder what our president has to say about this. i honestly thought that they were on the road to fairness and equality like south africa. with all the groups that have conquered India in the past, and treated them worse than horse manure, how on earth can any of them think or believe that their race or caste group is pure or that they are better than anyone?

#9

How can India be called or considered a democracy? They are a disgrace of a nation to allow this form of opression and slavery. They remain Hindu fanatics, regardless of their economic growth, they remain provincial and brutal to these people, to their fellow indians. Those that remain in the cities and call themselves cosmopolitans do absolutely nothing about this. And trust me, it is way worse in the rural areas.

#8

How can one fight agaist a religion that has been around since 400 bc. The best way to change this is through education. Educate people that if you don’t treat others like you would like to be treated, they will come back in their next lives as an Untouchable.

#7

Unionanization of these labourers will enable their situation. This is absolutely human rights violation. The basic cause is the dreadful caste system of India. We need to fight the caste system and the rights of the labourers are to be protected.

#6

The work done in the sewers of India is a necessary service and those working on the municipal sewer collection systems should be respected for their contributions to the society. The problem is that India’s ethics are in the sewer when it comes to thinking that humans should be divided into higher and lower castes. India is considered to be a place of spiritual knowledge, but apparently their spiritual knowledge has been forgotten or flushed down the toilet. The last time I checked into the teachings of Shiva or Krsna, they proclaimed that all are the progeny of one supreme source and that social equality is just a matter facing up to reality. I think the caste system is based on something much nastier that what can be found in sewers, namely, ignorance, greed and exploitation.

#5

Human beings do not come from monkeys. We do all however come from the same two people, Adam and Eve. In that sense you are correct, and all the same this sort of treatment is wrong.

#4

Is there someway I can help the lady that is the center of the
news segment. Her name & can I help her with some money
towards her work? To encourage her in her work. It is all so
terribly sad for her & what she does for others so important.
Gail Reitzel

#3

If only Human Thought could crawl out of the Sewers of the Confinements of Circular Thinking as this Person/Human/Man is crawling out from the Circular Space of a Previous Thought into a more Present Thought as to where he need not remain
for any Indefinite Duration when these more undefined Durations continue to remain in modes of parallells to Time’s periodic miscomprehended yet concious catastrophes which spill out as Ink Uncontrolled upon various Pages of the Sketchbooks in which all our Lives our worked out to find more useful respresentations by their daily and nightly annotated and hence reviewed interpretations of ongoing subconcious Paginations
to the sum of all our Actions undertaken in an Existence which is presently understood only finitely…on a Sphere rotating on an Axis of a Single Subconcious Language which animates all currently understood concious Communications.

#2

When addressing the “untouchables” in India I love the quote by a leading Indian thinker (P. R. Sarkar): “I often say that the caste system is hypocrisy – unreal. If you analyze the caste of human beings you will find that the ancestors of every human being were monkeys. In that case everybody’s caste is monkey caste. All this hypocrisy is to be given up. Is it that the ancestor of a Brahman-caste human being was a Brahman-caste monkey and that of a Rajput-caste person a Rajput-caste monkey?” (P.R. Sarkar, 1980)

#1

Good work to focus on this outrage.

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