MRG Visit a Dalit community in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu

Dalits, or Harijans, are a caste within India that are regularly alienated and ostracized as a result of their low status in society. There are currently more than 166.6 million Dalits living in India, the majority of whom live in extreme poverty. Within this minority, Dalit women are in particular danger as they occupy the lowest wrung of the socioeconomic ladder in terms of representation and autonomy. Such social status is in part due to Dalit’s exclusion from mainstream politics and lack of representation on both the local and national scale. Almost 90 per cent of Dalits live in rural areas and earn meager incomes as either marginal farmers or landless laborers. In some areas many high-caste landlords pay their Dalit laborers minimum wages in cash or food, or nothing at all; resistance is frequently met by violence, sometimes resulting in the death or injury of the victim. Mob violence against Dalit communities is frequently reported, sometimes led by landlords, and has been especially noticeable in situations where Dalit workers have joined labor unions or made progress in gaining education and economic mobility. In lieu of this, many Dalits have emigrated to urban areas in search of work and often times find themselves pushed into the worst slums and lowest paid positions.

An MRG visit to the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu in March 2009 exemplified the marginalized and subordinated status that Dalits suffer throughout India. MRG staff member Emma Eastwood documented the challenges facing Dalit communities in a series of pictures from two rural villages.

Contact

For more information contact Jared Ferrie, MRG's Asia Regional Information Officer, via the Contact page.

Gallery

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Dalit women pose for a photograph taken in the south-east region of Tamil Nadu. The woman pictured in a white sari is a local council leader, one of few women who hold such a position in their community.
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Group photograph of representatives of the Dalit community at a meeting with MRG staff
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Housing for Dalits is often of a poorer standard than their non-Dalit neighbours
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Such Dalit communities are often times far removed from amenities such as schools and hospital
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Members of one of several villages visited by MRG staff. The man in the white kurta standing second to the right is the village council leader and community representative
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Local Dalit children: Such children had previously attended school more than a 5 km walk away with the aid of a local charity’s donation of a school bus for the community. However, when the bus broke down and could not be repaired, these children were fo
 MRG-GAL-789
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Dalit village elder
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Typical Dalit housing in Tamil Nadu.
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Sign at entrance to Dalit community proudly declaring their caste. Dalit leader, Dr. Ambedkar is seen as a hero in the community and was responsible for writing a constitution ensuring protection and representation for Dalits
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Date: 28/02/2009

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