Sunday, October 11, 2009


These are just the answers from my mid-sem paper....posting them here...hope it is of some use...I don't have the question paper so I do not know what the question was - just putting the question number...

I. 2.
The untouchables are believed to constitute the bottom-most position of the Hindu social structure, which is dictated by the caste system.
The caste system is based on the concept of purity and pollution, according to Louis Dumont's 'Homo Hierarchichus'. The 'pure' and 'polluting' groups must be kept separate from one another so that ritual purity of certain groups is maintained. The Brahmans are at the top of this hierarchical ladder, followed by the Kshatriyas, the Vaishyas and the Shudras. Based on Dumont's principle of purity and pollution, the Brahmins are the ideal representation of the 'pure' and the untouchables of the 'polluting'.
There are certain groups who are considered to be permanently polluting owing to their choice of life-style and occupation - these groups are called the 'Untouchables'.
There are many speculations regarding who actually are the untouchables. Since they have no place in the Varna-model, there are a few scholars who believe that the untouchables were probably the Dravidians - since they did not fit in the societal structure created by the Aryans, they became the out-castes or the untouchables.
Other theorists like Dipankar Gupta state that the untouchables were originally members of one of the 'varnas' of the caste system but they were thrown out owing to violation of certain rules such as inter-caste marriage, or inter-dining with members of the low caste.
Though untouchability is a punishable offense, it still continues to be practiced in many parts of the country. It refers to those people who are considered to be so lw that merely by touching them, of if their shadows fall on one, that person will become ritually impure.

II. 2.
There have been several names suggested for referring to the Untouchables, down the years.
In 1933, Mahatma Gandhi selected the term 'Harijan' for the untouchables - this term was selected in the competition conducted by Gandhi for a suitable alternative to the term 'achuta' or 'untouchable'. The term 'Harijan' means 'people of God'. Over time, this term ceased to be popular as it was considered to be rather vague - what exactly was meant by 'people of God' was not clear. The Harijans, themselves, rejected this term, especially the militant groups, as it indicated that they had accepted the fact that they were the bottom-most part of the Hindu caste system.
Another term that is very popular today is 'Dalit' which was suggested by the Marathi Mahar community. As per the Sanskrit dictionary of 1873, the term 'Dalit' means 'broken' or 'fallen'. This term is also not preferred as the areas of Bihar, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh do not refer to the untouchables in those areas as 'Dalits'.
The British bureaucratic systems and census operations came up with a number of terms to denote the untouchables - the 'outcastes', 'depressed castes', 'exterior castes'. The final term they came up with was 'Scheduled Castes' and this is how untouchables are known as in the Indian Constitution. This term has legal and political implications but it is not used for referring to the untouchables.
'Ex-untouchables' is the least popular term used for referring to untouchables. While it has legal implications as untouchability is legally banned in India, it is still not very popular because in several parts of India, untouchability is still practiced.
This term 'untouchable' is the most preferred as it can be understood even by those not from India - unlike the terms 'Dalit' or 'Harijan'. Also, the word denotes the kind of treatment meted out to the untouchables and therefore, has a very practical implication.


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