Caste Violence Against India’s “Untouchables”
March 1, 1999

Some 160 million people in India live a precarious existence, shunned by much of society because of their rank as "untouchables" or Dalits—literally meaning "broken" people—at the bottom of India's caste system. Dalits are discriminated against, denied access to land, forced to work in degrading conditions, and routinely abused, even killed, at the hands of the police and of higher-caste groups that enjoy the state's protection. Dalit women are frequent victims of sexual abuse. In what has been called India's "hidden apartheid," entire villages in many Indian states remain completely segregated by caste. National legislation and constitutional protections serve only to mask the social realities of discrimination and violence. Caste clashes, particularly in the states of Bihar and Tamil Nadu, but also in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Gujarat, reflect patterns which are common to many parts of the country: a loss of faith in the state machinery and increasing intolerance of their abusive treatment have led many Dalit communities into movements to claim their rights. In response, state and private actors have engaged in a pattern of repression to preserve the status quo. The report also documents the government's attempts to criminalize peaceful social activism through the arbitrary arrest and detention of Dalit activists, and its failure to abolish exploitative labor practices and implement relevant legislation.

Read the Report
ISBN: 1-56432-228-9