Untouchability in Rural India

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SAGE, Aug 4, 2006 - Social Science - 216 pages
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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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List of Tables
Caste Untouchability and
Forms and Sites
Savaged by Tradition
Violence against Dalits

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About the author (2006)

Ghanshyam Shah is Professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He has edited and written numerous books and essays on the subject of caste, class and politics in India.

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