ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Continuing Practice of Untouchability in India

Patterns and Mitigating Influences

The caste (jati)-based practice of untouchability in India, shifting the focus from the victims of this practice, the ex-untouchables (Dalits), to the perpetrators, the non-Dalits is examined by identifying and disaggregating communities that continue to practise untouchability. The second wave of the India Human Development Survey data has been used to generate a socio-economic profile of those who practise untouchability in India, and check the hypothesis that households with a wider network outside the community than with one within the community are less likely to practise untouchability, and uses a logistic regression model to measure this effect at the all-India level.

The authors are grateful to their colleagues at the National Council of Applied Economic Research, New Delhi, and especially the India Human Development Survey team there, for helpful comments throughout the preparation of this article. An earlier version of this article was presented at the University of Brandeis, Massachusetts, Amherst; Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi; and the Populations Association of America conference at San Diego, where the authors received several useful suggestions. The data have been obtained from the IHDS, 2012. This survey was jointly organised by researchers at the University of Maryland, Washington, DC and NCAER. The data collection was funded by grants R01HD041455, R01HD046166, and R01HD061408 from the National Institutes of Health and by a supplementary grant from the Ford Foundation. The Government of United Kingdom funded data management as part of its Knowledge Partnership Program, while the analysis was carried out with the aid of a grant from the International Development Research Centre, Ottawa, Canada.

India, the largest democracy of the world and the second most populated nation (comprising 17.5% of the world’s population) (Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, India 2011), is also home to the largest concentration of Hindus in the world. According to the 2011 Census of India, the Hindu population is 79.8%. One of the defining features of the Hindu religion is the division of the Hindus into numerous jatis or castes. The Encyclopedia Britannica (2019) gives the following definition of the word jati:

Jati, also spelled “jat,” refers to caste in Hindu society. The term is derived from the Sanskrit jāta, “born” or “brought into existence,” and indicates a form of existence determined by birth. In Indian philosophy, jati (genus) describes any group of things that have generic characteristics in common. Sociologically, jati has come to be used universally to indicate a caste group among Hindus.

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Updated On : 24th Jan, 2020
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