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

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Delhi’s Mohalla Clinics Hold the Potential to Significantly Improve Access to Quality Healthcare

In 2015, the Aam Aadmi Party-led Delhi government introduced “Aam Aadmi Mohalla Clinics” to provide affordable basic healthcare to marginalised sections of society at their “doorsteps.” This paper evaluates the effectiveness of the programme based on a survey of 493 respondents. We found that while AAMCs partially meet their stated objectives, several areas need urgent attention including lack of information about clinics, casteism by doctors and property owners, and availability of services.

Research Radio Ep 8: Do Indians Still Practice Untouchability?

In this episode, we speak to Amit Thorat and Omkar Joshi about the prevalence of untouchability in India today.

From Balmikis to Bengalis

The reorganisation of informal household garbage collection work in Delhi is analysed, as migrants from eastern states like West Bengal have begun doing manual waste work, even as their Balmikis deal only with monthly cash payments. Drawing on fieldwork, the effect on the Balmiki jamadars is noted, and the Bengali Muslims, who newly contend with the practices of untouchability in their neighbourhoods of work, are focused on. These newer migrants come to justify the shame they experience by focusing on the equivalence of scrap with money, which has redemptive potential. This reveals a dynamic process through which caste differences are being remade—”casteification”—in relation to economic life.

Touch, Untouch, and the Depositions of Ucchishta

Complex sensory and linguistic underpinnings of caste come into play when touchables, with all their senses, touch objects made by untouchables. Here, ethnographic insights have been used about the devotional percussion instrument, khol , which is made by untouchables, but touched, heard, relished, and understood, by all castes.

Socio-spatial Stigma and Segregation

Caste-based spatial segregation, largely assumed to be a characteristic of rural societies, is reproduced in urban spaces as well, and a large population of Dalits continue to inhabit segregated settlements in the metropolitan cities of the country. Fieldwork conducted in one such segregated neighbourhood of Balmikis in central Delhi is drawn upon to explore how they perceive the urban space and how they think they are perceived by others.

Religious Identity at the Crossroads

​ The religious identity of the Hindu fisherfolk of Kerala—the Dheevaras—has been a site of multiple and contradictory interpretations by agents and institutions with varied interests. While their caste association—the Akhila Kerala Dheevara Sabha—is urging them towards Sanskritisation and allegiance to Hindutva, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is engaging them in their communal propaganda. At stake is a host of religious practices and philosophies evolved by the Dheevaras through their occupation of fishing, and the contribution of early Dheevara reformers in critiquing the Brahminic domination of Hinduism and the caste system.

Ethics in Ambedkar’s Critique of Gandhi

Among the political thinkers of modern India, Gandhi and Ambedkar have elicited an intellectual enthusiasm among scholars who remain arrested in debates on the pre-eminence of one thinker over the other. The Ambedkarite critique of Gandhi is centred on the latter’s fast unto death in opposition to the MacDonald Award of separate electorates for Dalits. Formalistic readings of Gandhi are not in the interest of the robust, associative and inclusive intellectual tradition at the core of Ambedkar’s emancipatory project. Ambedkar was a pathfinder who chose critique as a method of ethical persuasion to gently pull in and retain members of caste society in the interlocutory framework of conversation.

Social Stratification among Muslims

The article "Does Untouchability Exist among Muslims? Evidence from Uttar Pradesh" (EPW, 9 April 2016) fails at both the methodological and policy levels.

Clean India, Unclean Indians Beyond the Bhim Yatra

The Safai Karamchari Andolan traversed 500 districts of the country with the message "stop killing us." The participants, manual scavengers who clean dry latrines, sewers and septic tanks, are forced to carry on this dehumanising work despite laws against it. Will the Swachh Bharat campaign succeed in addressing the issues connected with manual scavenging?

Baluta and Joothan amid Humiliation

Self-expression in the form of autobiographies by Dalits endeavours to expose the hierarchical sociocultural space that subjugates Dalits to the margins, in the literal as well as metaphorical sense. As injustice and violence are endemic in Dalit life, contestation and confrontation are synchronous in the Dalits' response to the same.

Does Untouchability Exist among Muslims?

Untouchability forms a crucial criterion for inclusion in the list of Scheduled Castes. It is rarely discussed with reference to Muslims. A household survey was conducted in 14 districts of Uttar Pradesh to examine contradictory claims about the practice of untouchability by non-Dalit Muslims and Hindus towards Dalit Muslims in Uttar Pradesh. A section of Dalit Muslim respondents report existence of untouchability in dining relations, habitation, social interaction and access to religious places. Surprisingly, a higher proportion of non-Dalit Muslims corroborate these claims.

Oppression and Denial

Progressive legislation and constitutional safeguards have done little to rid the social order of the widespread evil of caste discrimination. As this paper argues, taboos imposed by tradition and belief still exert their stranglehold across most of India, impose social obligations and economic deprivation on several of those in the dalit category, and as borne out in surveys conducted across four Indian states.
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