Untouchability in Rural India

Front Cover
This book is focused and systematic documentation of the incidence and extent of the practice of untouchability in contemporary India. Based on the results of a large survey covering 565 villages in 11 states, it reveals that untouchability continues to be widely prevalent and is practiced in one form or another in almost 80 per cent of the villages. Field data is supplemented by information about the forms of discrimination which Dalits face in everyday life, such as:

– The ‘unclean’ occupations open to them
– The double burden of Dalit women, who suffer both gender and caste discrimination
– The upper-caste violence with which any Dalit self-assertion is met

The authors also describe Dalit efforts to overcome deeply entrenched caste hierarchies and assert their right to live with dignity. While the evidence presented here suggests that the more blatant and extreme forms of untouchability appear to have declined, discrimination continues and is most prevalent in the religious and personal spheres. The authors show that the notion of untouchability continues to pervade the public sphere, including a host of state institutions and the interactions that occur within them.

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About the author (2006)

Ghanshyam Shah is currently Fellow, Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences, Wassenaar, The Netherlands. During a rich and distinguished career, he has been Director of the Centre for Social Studies, Surat (1976–85 and again from 1991 to 1996); Dr Ambedkar Chair Professor at the National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie (1996–97); and Professor in Social Sciences at the Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, (1997–2003).

Professor Shah has taught in the Department of Public Administration at South Gujarat University; and has been a Visiting Professor at the Department of Political Science at Banaras Hindu University and at the Department of Political Science, University of Chicago, among others. He was awarded the V.K.R.V. Rao prize in Political Science Research in 1979 and 1980, and the University Grants Commission National Award in Political Science in 1998. Ghanshyam Shah has authored, co-authored or edited more than 15 books, including Social Movements and the State (2002), Dalit Identity and Politics (2001) and Public Health and Urban Development: The Study of the Surat Plague (1997).

Sukhadeo Thorat is Chairman, Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR); former Chairman of University Grants Commission (UGC); and Professor of Economics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He has a BA (Milind College of Arts, Aurangabad, Maharashtra), MA in Economics (Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Marathwada University, Aurangabad), MPhil/PhD in Economics (Jawaharlal Nehru University) and Diploma in Economic Planning (Main School of Planning, Warsaw, Poland). His research areas include agricultural development, rural poverty, institution and economic growth, problems of marginalised groups, economics of caste system, caste discrimination and poverty. He was the Director of the Indian Institute of Dalit Studies, New Delhi from 2003 to 2006 and the Research Associate of International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington DC, USA, since 1992. In 2008 he was awarded the Padmashree in the field of literature and education.

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