Dalit is the now familiar term of the descendants of natives of India, who are often excluded by the religious- dogmatic distinction in Hinduism between ritually "pure" and " impure " social groups as "untouchables " in the caste system of the warlike Indo-Aryan immigrants or conquerors until today. The problem to the group of Dalits arranges itself in a larger context in the political discourse in South Asia to " Aryans " and " Dravidians " one. The term " Dalit " evolved from the Sanskrit word दल्, dal; it is translated as " broken ", " torn ", " crushed ", "distributed ", " depressed ", " destroyed " and " The - To - Look - Asked ". For the first time this Jyothirao of Phule, the father of Indian social revolution, used in the late 19th century. He had been associated with Sanskrit writings to find a word that adequately describes the underprivileged sections of society, the victims of the caste system.

In the Western world, especially in the German -speaking world, they are also sometimes referred to as a pariah; Gandhi called them Harijan (west inaccurately as " children of God " translated, actually: " Vishnu - born" ). This designation was always rejected by the Dalits, as they want to be seen as not worth protecting children, but as equal human beings. The often used in the West term " untouchables " is imprecise because the untouchables quite a caste ( jati ) belong, though none Varna.


The number of Hindu Dalits is estimated at over 160 million, along with Muslim, Buddhist, and Christian " untouchables " they are about 240 million, almost a quarter of the Indian population. To date, they experience from box - Indians often massive discrimination, sometimes persecution and violence. They are partly outside of the caste system or on its lowest levels and are therefore considered "unclean " or " untouchable". Especially in rural areas is this discrimination, which is often viewed in the West as a form of racism or slavery, to this day a reality. This can go so far that even avoids contact with her ​​shadow. Again and again, they are victims of violence and theft of land.

In 1995, a Dalit prime minister of a constituent state ( Uttar Pradesh ) was elected for the first time with Mayawati. In 1997, a Dalit was elected Indian President KR Narayanan with the first time. He also took initiatives to abolish the caste discrimination.

Contextualization in colonial and post- colonial times

During the British colonial rule in the 19th century, it developed a South Asian historiography, starting among others, that many centuries ago the " Aryans " had risen as immigrant people about the native " Dravidians ". Since these colonialist theory, as frequently observed not only by the colonizing, but also by the colonized was received, was a political discourse that is significant to the present day about the colonialism. This can be observed for example in scientific controversies on the subject, ranging from the denial of an Aryan immigration to the assertion of an indigenous Hinduism. Obviously, however, appear that immigration thesis coupled with the installation of the caste system, the British colonial rulers as the Indian elites was appropriate. Because " Ariersein " and belonging to one of the upper three castes were equated. With this came the contact and cooperation between the British and Indians, who, after all, the same "race " is heard more easily. In addition, could the current political and social injustice, had to suffer under the Sudras and outcastes, are historically interpreted.

One of the first who stood up for a reversal of the immigration hypothesis described above, was Jotirao Govind Phule ( 1827-1890 ). He went through the establishment of schools and orphanages deserve campaigned for improved education of women and engaged against social and political discrimination on the basis of caste. He stood for a non- Brahmanical and anti- Brahmin policy. A number of political parties, who collectively represent the Dravidian movement in general, such as the South Indian Liberal Foundation ( or Justice Party ) or the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. By the rejected but more progressive caste discrimination of Daltis despite industrialization and urbanization, the religious movements of the Adi Hindu emerged. In Punjab, the comparable organization of the Ad Dharm was born.

Relief efforts

The rescue attempt by converting to Buddhism, which was applied in parts of the Dalit movement, first appears in the context of C.Iyothee THASS ( 1845-1914 ). Due to the increasing influence of the Brahmin elites in the colonial social promotion prospects were for members of the middle class as Paraiyar THASS enormously restricted. He therefore converted with many like-minded people to Buddhism. In the thesis that Paraiyar were Buddhists of the past, he found his justification.

The Constitution of the Republic of India ( Bharat ) of 1949 prohibits any discrimination on grounds of caste. They wanted to rule out any form of " untouchability " from the beginning and guarantee human rights and democratic freedoms for Dalits. In practice, the steps taken by the Indian government steps to overcome the exclusion of Dalits, however, have not shown the expected results.

From disappointment came BR Ambedkar (1891-1956), for his followers Babasaheb, who campaigned as a lawyer, politician and educator for the abolition of the box and an important spokesman for the Dalits, was convinced that only a departure from the Hindu system the Dalits could open a path to social emancipation. However, he never spoke of " Dalits ", but from socially disadvantaged or oppressed box. The discrimination was practiced by Hindu believers, their religious system on the scriptures such as the Vedas, Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita, based. Among the religions which have the equality of all people as the basis, and thus the system of caste are opposed, Ambedkar finally appeared Buddhism is most suitable. So Ambedkar initiated in 1956 a mass conversion of Dalits to a self-developed political and he form of Buddhism. The Indian Christians to recruit a high proportion of Dalits. However, today many people see no solution to their problems in a conversion, as they found in other religious communities to the same traditional prejudices. But in October 2006, the 50th anniversary of the great conversion, kicked back thousands of the disadvantaged to Buddhism and Christianity, sometimes in joint ceremonies.

The Catholic Bishop Selvister Ponnumuthan currently one of the most prominent warriors for the rights of the Dalits in India. In this context, he leads a special commission of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Kerala. The majority of his flock among the Dalits. For a conversion from Hinduism to Christianity or Islam lose officially - but not in everyday life - their caste and thus at the same low social status of any state support, which is also a angeprangerter by Bishop Ponnumuthan maladministration.

Kancha Ilaiahs criticism of Hinduism

By published by Kancha Ilaiah in his 1996 work Why I am not a Hindu triggered criticism of Hindutva philosophy, culture and political economy, the tension between Hinduism and Dalit movement from the perspective of caste is illuminated. Kancha Ilaiah, who is from South India, grew up in the first post-colonial generation of India. In his work he distances himself expressly against the idea of ​​Hindutva from that explains every Indian who is not a Muslim, Christian or Sikh to a Hindu. He criticizes not only the negative front position, the representative of Hindutva against Muslims, Christians and Sikhs, but is fundamentally questioned whether the lower castes and the untouchables would have anything to do with Hinduism or Hindutva. "Hindu" he knew from his childhood days, as neither word nor as a term for a culture or a religion. Consistently, however, the following group designations were: "We heard about Turukoollu ( Muslims ), we heard about Kirastaanapoollu ( Christian ), we heard about Baapanoollu ( Brahmins ) and Koomatoollu ( Baniyas ) spoken of as people who were different from us. " The differences between the lower castes and untouchables and the latter two groups are most severe. With Christians and Muslims there were points of contact in everyday life; such as eating meat and the multi-touch. Kancha Ilaiah further argues that the Hindu culture, which he sees as a partial and elitist high culture box is closed and sealed for lower castes and caste lots.

Kancha Ilaiah compares the Brahmanical deities of Hindus and the deities of the Dalits together. The former is characterized as a war hero, keep the caste system repaired, are androcentric, only in Sanskrit can be addressed and require the mediation of a priest. The deities of the Dalits embody the opposite. There is no distance between people and the egalitarian gods. Culturally, they are rooted in the production, preservation of life and procreation of offspring. In addition, he feels the worlds in which Dalits and Hindus live as antagonistic opposed. A violent, hegemonic Brahmanical culture is blamed for the subjugation of the Dalits in the history and the post -colonial present. So the Dalits was granted, no development for equality. Their political, economic and cultural structures were destroyed. Straight line through the antikolononialen struggle and the independence of India in 1947, the higher castes had come to power. The modern Brahmanism claimed for themselves but to be democratic and egalitarian. Due to his opinion " ... Hinduism Has never been a humane philosophy. [ ... ] The Dalitbahujan castes of India are living evidence of its brutality. " rejects Kancha Ilaiah a ' Hinduization ' Strongly. In contrast, he proposes a ' Dalitisierung ' before. For while he, as shown above, dichotomous facing the deities of the Dalits and Hindus, he characterizes the cultures generally diametrically. Brahmanism incarnate thus, for example, capitalism and private property, and expresses his misogynist. The Dalitkultur was against antibrahmanisch, community-oriented, egalitarian and democratic. It takes exception to the workers. Their religion is egalitarian and they have gender- neutral deities.