Dancing and singing on their way, protesters celebrated their vision for social justice in the streets of Mumbai last summer. These “untouchable” people were outside the four castes (varnas) when ancient texts were written at the dawn of India’s iron age. Constrained to do humanity’s insufferable tasks for millennia, it wasn’t until the 19th century they found their own name; “Dalit” which means “oppressed” in Sanskrit. Today, by both legal edict and cultural norms, the term is generally avoided in favor of broader references to underprivileged peoples. But, centuries of prejudice have left a salient vulnerability for these at the bottom of India’s mosaic of tongues, tribes, and sub-cultures.
· Dalits make up 16.6% of India's population, but hold less than 1% of India’s jobs
· Mid 20th century reforms have allowed some to rise to affluence, but widespread inequalities linger in access to healthcare, education, and other basic needs
· A 2016 UN report found that caste-affected groups still suffer dehumanization and societal exclusion
· Vigilante attacks on minorities like the Dalit are on the rise
What One Person Can Do...
· Make a contribution today to an organization dedicated to defending and protecting human rights, such as Human Rights Watch
· Celebrate India’s 2016 government campaign to ensure greater access to financial services and broaden availability to modern sanitation for the marginalized
· Pray that those of more privilege would break the norm and allow Dalits access to temples, public wells, and other services
· Avoid buying sweatshop-origin clothes and durable products – the Fair Trade Federation offers an online guide