Dalits and the Caste System

The Hindu caste system was created more than 3,000 years ago by invading Aryan tribes to prevent pollution of their race.

The Dalits fall beneath this structure and are considered less than human. Their position in Asian society is justified by ancient Hindu religious texts such as The Laws of Manu.

Caste System Facts

  • Dalits are expected to perform menial, degrading tasts that include unclogging sewers, disposing of dead bodies and cleaning latrines.
  • Dalits are forced to live in separate settlements, prohibited from worshipping in temples, barred from using the village wells, and their children often denied education or made to sit in the back of the classroom.
  • The Indian constitution outlaws the caste system and reserves nearly 25 percent of government jobs and university spots for Dalits. However, more than a million of these posts remain unfilled, or filled by dishonest non-Dalits.
  • Even simple Dalit assertions of their lawful rights and privileges have touched off hate crimes against them by members of the upper castes. These have included rape, harassment, violence and murder.
  • The average literacy rate among Dalits is approximately 37 percent. Among some Dalit communities it is a low as 10 percent.
  • Every hour, two Dalits are assaulted, three Dalit women raped, two Dalits murdered and two Dalit houses burned, according to the Human Rights Education Movement of India, yet only one percent of those who commit crimes against Dalits are ever convicted.
  • In India alone, the combined population of Dalits and other low-caste groups equals approximately 700 million people. While Brahmins comprise just 5 to 9 percent of India's 1 billion people, they control 78 percent of India's judicial posts, approximately half of the parliament and 89 percent of the nation's major media outlets.

Quotes About the Caste System

In a land where every animal is worshipped, these fellow humans are treated worse than any animal, even in [the] 21st century.

– Taken from

The Dalits may live in the world’s largest democracy, but their lives are shaped by a system of sanctified apartheid.

– Carla Power, Newsweek International

Education has been one of the only mechanisms of upward mobility for Dalits... Basic literacy is a fundamental right but also a means to empower deprived populations.

– Sukhadeo Thorat, Indian Institute of Dalit Studies,
Jawaharial Nehru University, New Delhi

Caste is a state of mind. It is a disease of mind. The teachings of the Hindu religion are the root cause of this disease. We practice casteism and we observe Untouchability because we are enjoined to do so by the Hindu religion. A bitter thing cannot be made sweet. The taste of anything can be changed. But poison cannot be changed into nectar.

– B.R. Ambedkar, Dalit Activist

"My precious brothers and sisters, I come to you today speaking on behalf of Christ, His love and His mercy for us all. Jesus came to set the captives free. And He Himself said that whoever the Son sets free, is free indeed . . . We love you with Christ's love, unconditionally and always."

– K.P. Yohannan, GFA Director, speaking to Dalits
at November 2001 rally