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Quick Facts About the Dalit People

* There are more than 250 million Dalits in India.

* The Dalits are also known as the “untouchables”.

* Even though untouchability is outlawed by the Indian constitution, its practice still exists within society and Dalits suffer as a result.

* Most Dalit children have no access to education.

* The historical hero of the Dalit people is Dr. B.R. Ambedkar who sought their freedom 50 years ago.

* The Dalits made their most recent corporate quest for freedom in 2001.



Untouchables   (Dalits) Untouchables are considered so unworthy by the upper caste echelon that they are not part of the caste system. Untouchables are forbidden from physically touching any member of any caste. Doing so would render the latter unclean by Hindu scriptural law. Thus, Dalits are commonly known as untouchables. Other varieties of untouchability include unseeables (those who cannot be seen by a caste person) and unapproachables (those who cannot come near to a caste person).

Who are the Dalits?

Cultural Structure

One of the more confusing mysteries of India is her caste system. The caste system, which has existed for more than 3,000 years, was developed by the Brahmin (priest) caste in order to maintain their superiority. Eventually, the caste system became formalized into four distinct classes (Varna).

The Brahmins are the highest Varna and are the priests and arbiters of what is right and wrong in matters of religion and society. Below them are the Kshatriyas, who served traditionally as soldiers and administrators. The Vaisyas are the artisan and commercial class, while the Sudras are the farmers and the peasants. It is said that the Brahmin come from Brahma’s mouth, Kshatriyas from his arms, Vaisyas from his thighs, and Sudras from his feet.image

Beneath the four main castes is a fifth group, the Scheduled Castes. The people of the Scheduled Castes are not part of the Varna system. They are the untouchables, the Dalit.

A Dalit is not considered part of human society, but instead is considered something less than human. The Dalits generally perform the most menial and degrading jobs. Caste rules hold that Dalits pollute higher caste people with their presence. If higher caste Hindus touch an untouchable or even come within a Dalit’s shadow, they must undergo rigorous series of cleansing rituals (See gomutra).

Approximately 250 million Indians (a full 25% of the population), are Dalit. In a country where everybody is supposed to have equal rights and opportunities, one out of four people is condemned to be untouchable.

Although the Indian Constitution guarantees fundamental rights and freedoms for all Indians, Dalit are systematically abused.image Dalit are poor, deprived and socially backward. Their most basic needs of food, shelter, and safety are not fulfilled. They also cannot access decent education and employment. The systematic denial of their basic human rights results in a lack of education, food, healthcare, and economic opportunity, thereby keeping Dalit in perpetual bondage to the upper castes.


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The article below is linked back to the National Geographic magazine.
By Tom O'Neill

Discrimination against India's lowest Hindu castes is technically illegal. But try telling that to the 160 million Untouchables, who face violent reprisals if they forget their place.

The sins of Girdharilal Maurya are many, his attackers insisted. He has bad karma. Why else would he, like his ancestors, be born an Untouchable, if not to pay for his past lives? Look, he is a leatherworker, and Hindu law says that working with animal skins makes him unclean, someone to avoid and revile. And his unseemly prosperity is a sin. Who does this Untouchable think he is, buying a small plot of land outside the village? Then he dared speak up, to the police and other authorities, demanding to use the new village well. He got what Untouchables deserve.

One night, while Maurya was away in a nearby city, eight men from the higher Rajput caste came to his farm. They broke his fences, stole his tractor, beat his wife and daughter, and burned down his house. The message was clear: Stay at the bottom where you belong.

To be born a Hindu in India is to enter the caste system, one of the world's longest surviving forms of social stratification. Embedded in Indian culture for the past 1,500 years, the caste system follows a basic precept: All men are created unequal. The ranks in Hindu society come from a legend in which the main groupings, or varnas, emerge from a primordial being. From the mouth come the Brahmans—the priests and teachers. From the arms come the Kshatriyas—the rulers and soldiers. From the thighs come the Vaisyas—merchants and traders. From the feet come the Sudras—laborers. Each varna in turn contains hundreds of hereditary castes and subcastes with their own pecking orders.

A fifth group describes the people who are achuta, or untouchable. The primordial being does not claim them. Untouchables are outcasts—people considered too impure, too polluted, to rank as worthy beings. Prejudice defines their lives, particularly in the rural areas, where nearly three-quarters of India's people live. Untouchables are shunned, insulted, banned from temples and higher caste homes, made to eat and drink from separate utensils in public places, and, in extreme but not uncommon cases, are raped, burned, lynched, and gunned down.

Get the whole story in the pages of National Geographic magazine.
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Quotes to Remember

I measure the progress of a community by the degree of progress which women have achieved. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar

For a successful revolution it is not enough that there is discontent. What is required is a profound and thorough conviction of the justice, necessity and importance of political and social rights. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar

If you cross the path of tyranny, or incipient tyranny, I believe there is a duty to fight it …. If you achieve a voice that will be heard, you should use it to speak up for the voiceless and oppressed. If you possess any power or authority, you must strive to use it to help and to empower the powerless. Craig Murray, former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, in Murder in Samarkand: A British Ambassador’s Controversial Defiance of Tyranny in the War on Terror

The Romans had their slaves, the Spartans their helots, the Britishers their Villains, the Americans their Negroes, the Germans their Jews; so the Hindus their Untouchables. But none of these can be said to have called upon to face a fate which is worse than the fate which pursues the Untouchables. Slavery, Serfdom, Villeinage, all have vanished, but Untouchability still exists and bids fair to last as long as Hinduism will last Dr. B.R. Ambedkar.



Definition and  Meaning of Words

American Born Confused Desi. A derogatory term used for Indians who have grown up in the United States and who act “American” (as stupid as that sounds). 

Adivasis  (literally: first inhabitants), the indigenous tribal people of India. Because Adivasis are considered to be outside/beneath the Hindu caste system they are massively and systematically discriminated against and exploited by Hindu Indo-Aryan society. The Scheduled Tribes make up the Adivasis, whereas the Scheduled Castes are called the Dalits.
Agraharam  

Ambedkar Jayanti   14 April is Dr. Ambedkar’s birthday and is celebrated in many areas of India with great pomp and circumstance. He was born in 1891.

Ambedkar, Dr. Babasaheb   Hailing from central India in the early 1900s, Ambedkar is known as the champion of the Dalits. Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar was born into the Mahars one of the lowest sectors of the Dalit caste hierarchy. Overcoming the many educational obstacles facing Dalits, he received his m.A., Ph.D., D.Sc., and L.L.D. in Law from Colombia University, USA, and London. Additionally, he received a D.Lit. from Osmania University in Hyderabad, India. He is known as the “Father of the Indian Constitution”. The Dalit movement for socio-spiritual freedom began with him. He was driven from one school to another, was forced to take classes outside the classroom, and was thrown out of hotels in the dead of night because he was considered untouchable.

Anti-Conversion Law   India has anti-conversion laws in eight states (Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Chattisgarh, Arunachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Himachal Pradesh, and Rajasthan) but Tamil Nadu repealed as result of failure in General election in 2003. Out of seven, three states (Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh) have the law framed. Four states (Gujarat, Arunachal Pradesh and Rajasthan) are not framed the rule, which means the laws are not active so far. Himachal Pradesh most recently passed their law in December, 2006 and is the latest state where Bharatiya Janata Party passed the bill in state assembly.

The terms and condition of anti conversion bills are different from state to states e.g. In Orissa state conversion from one religion to another is prohibited without prior information to District collector, whereas in the state of Gujarat, prior permission is required for choosing any faith that one may like. One that is latest in the state of Rajasthan has very interesting clause. Conversion from Hinduism to totally ban but re-conversion meaning converting Christians or Muslims to Hinduism is allowed.

The consequences of breaking the law also differ from state to states. Like in the case of Rajasthan, anyone involved in the act of conversion, the case is to be at the hands of any police personnel not lower that Superintendent of Police.

The crystal clear motive of these anti conversion bills by Hindu Political party (BJP) is to stop the Dalits who want to leave Hinduism to find liberation now and forever from the clutches of dehumanizing caste system of Hinduism.

Anti-Hindu  A term used wrongly by Hindutva to inflame and incite.  The proper term should be anti-Brahminism. DFN’s stand is anti-Brahminism, not anti-Hindu.

Artha   Artha is a Sanskrit term referring to the idea of material prosperity. It is considered to be a noble goal as long as it follows the dictates of Vedic morality. The concept includes achieving widespread fame, garnering wealth and having an elevated social standing.
Article 17.

Abolition of Untouchability   Article 17. Abolition of Untouchability in the Indian Constitution -Untouchability is abolished and its practice in any form is forbidden. The enforcement of any disability arising out of Untouchability shall be an offense punishable in accordance with law.

Aryans  The word “Aryan” means “royal” or “noble”. The Aryan people are fair in complexion. When they arrived in India more than 3,000 years ago, they considered themselves racially superior to all others, including the original inhabitants of India (the Dravidians and the aboriginals). They were responsible for the present caste system and the practice of untouchability in India.

Atishudra   lit. “beyond shudra“. A synonym for Dalit

Backwards Caste  Collective term for castes which are economically and socially disadvantaged and face, or may have faced discrimination on account of birth. Most of them do not have any land ownership or economic independence and are dependent on Forward Castes for employment, mostly as farm hands or menial labour; or derive income from self employment on caste-dependent skills assignment. They typically include the Dalits, the Scheduled castes, and the Other Backward Classes (OBCs).

Bahujan   Bahujans are considered the oppressed communities within the caste system. They are known as the low or backward castes, and though theoretically higher in socio-spiritual status than the Dalits, they do not enjoy equal rights or privileges with the upper castes. See also Dalit-Bahujan

Bahujan Samaj Party   BSP, a political party in India with socialist leanings. It was formed to chiefly represent Dalits and claims to be inspired by the philosophy of Ambedkar. The BSP was founded by the high-profile charismatic leader Kanshi Ram in 1984. Mayawati is the President of the party and has been so for many years. The deep and mutual hostility between the BSP and the Samajwadi Party â“ the other leading state party in Uttar Pradesh, whose support is mainly obtained from the OBC or kshatriya classes â“ has led the BSP into allying itself many times with its erstwhile ideological enemies, the BJP. Currently the party supports a Congress led alliance called the UPA in the Indian Government

Bhagavad Gita   (Sanskrit: Bhagavad Gita) is revered as a sacred text of Hindu philosophy. The name ‘Bhagavad Gita’, when translated into English, literally means ‘Song of God’. Its written format is that of a poem which is 700 verses long, originating from the famous puranic epic Mahabharata (Bhishma Parva chapters 23 â“ 40).

Commonly referred to as The Gita, it is a conversation between Krishna and Arjuna which takes place on a battlefield, just prior to the start of a climactic war. During the conversation, Krishna proclaims that he is God Himself (Bhagavan), and at the request of Arjuna, displays his divine form, which is described as timeless, that leaves the latter awestruck. The conversation summarizes a number of different Yogic and Vedantic philosophies, explaining the meaning and purpose of life and existence. The Bhagavad Gita refers to itself as an ‘Upanishad’, and is sometimes called GÄ«topaniÅŸad. While technically, it is considered as Smá›iti text, it has singularly achieved the status of Å›ruti, or Revealed Knowledge.

It is not exactly clear when the Bhagavad Gita was written. Astronomical evidence cited in the Mahabharata place the incidents upon which the Gita is based around the time 3100-3150 BCE, while the Puranas suggest a date of c. 1924 BCE. Scholars place the actual writing of the Gita in the latter half of the 1st millennium BC (roughly 4th century BC), making it a contemporary of the older Upanishads.

Bhangi  Dalits that belong to the scavenger caste. Often thought to be the lowest of the Untouchables. Bhangis are traditionally restricted to the two job functions of cleaning latrines and handling dead bodies (both human and animal). Manual scavenging (cleaning of toilets by hands and carrying the excrement away on their heads) has been outlawed in India although there are still hundreds of thousands of manual scavengers, often employed by the government, still doing this distasteful task. Sometimes, the word bhangi refers to all Dalits or outcastes.

Brahma Brahma is the Hindu creator god, and one of the Trimurti, the others being Vishnu and Shiva. Not to be confused with Brahman, the Supreme Cosmic Spirit of Hindu philosophy

Brahman   Brahman is the Supreme Cosmic Spirit of Hindu philosophy. This Supreme Cosmic Spirit is regarded to be eternal, genderless, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent, yet indescribable. It can be at best described as infinite Being, infinite Consciousness and infinite Bliss.

Brahmin   Not to be confused with Brahma (one of the gods of Hinduism). The Brahmin people are the priestly class, the highest of the four divisions in ancient Hindu society. Strictly speaking, a Brahmin is one who knows and repeats the Vedas (Hindu scriptures). Brahmins conduct all the ritual affairs of Hindu society. Noteworthy Brahmins include former Prime Minister Jawharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi, Nobel laureates Rabindranath Tagore and V. S. Naipaul, and great mathematicians, Srinivasa Ramanujan and C. P. Ramanujam

Brahminism   The complex religion and social system which grew out of the polytheistic nature-worship of the ancient Aryan conquerors of northern India, and came, with the spread of their dominion, to be extended over the whole country, maintaining itself, not without profound modifications, down to the present day. In its intricate modern phases it is generally known as Hinduism. Brahminism is a privilege of Hindu birth.

Caste, or Caste System   According to Hinduism, people are innately divided into four groups called castes or varnas. The groups are Brahmin (the priestly caste); Kshatriya (the warrior caste and protectors of Hinduism); Vaishya (the business community); and Sudra (the supportive workers serving the three upper castes). Dalits do not belong to this pyramid of castes and are therefore known as outcastes. The Brahmins comprise less than five percent of the total population, but they have maintained domination of Indian power, politics and religion for thousands of years. This was true even during the British Raj.

Chaityabhoomi   The place in Mumbai where Dr. Ambedkar’s last rites were performed. Now a place of pilgrimage for Dalits.

Chura   Chura is a caste in India whose traditional occupation is sweeping. See bhangi
Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination  


Dalit   The root for the word “Dalit” is found both in Hebrew and in Sanskrit. It refers to people who are socially, religiously, economically and politically oppressed, deprived and exploited in India. The word “Dalit” is often used to describe a person who comes from any lower caste, even though technically authentic Dalits are kept outside the caste system as unworthy to enter the social and religious life of society. They are generally considered to be polluted socially, poor economically and powerless politically. They are not allowed to touch caste Hindus and are therefore treated as “untouchables”. Dalits are found spread throughout the nation of India, South Asia, and among the Indian diaspora around the world.

Dalit-Bahujan   The word “dalit” means ‘broken"” or “crushed” and the word “Bahujan” indicates membership in the majority people or the larger population. The Dalit-Bahujans make up what are known in India as the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and the Backward Castes. Together these groups are classically known as the Sudras or the slave / “vassal"Â castes. ("Scheduled" means they are listed in a special “index"” appended to the Constitution. “Backwards Castes” are those whose rank and occupational status are above that of Dalits, but who still remain socially and economically depressed.)

Desi   A term referring to something or someone who is from the Indian subcontinent. The Indian subcontinent is comprised of the following major countries: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, and the Maldives.

Plural form: desis. This term comes from the word Desh/Des from Sanskrit meaning “one from our country”; a national opposed to a foreign.. The term “desi” originally has historical roots from the Sanskrit word “Deshah,” which also means country or homeland.  Yo that guy must be desi, he’s brown and he’s speaking Punjabi! or Desi-American.

Devadasi   Devadasi (in Sanskrit “servant of god") is a religious practice still found in some Hindu communities, especially in southern India, whereby at young girls are “married” to a deity or a temple. Devadasi proper should not be confused with rajadasis and other types of dancers. The institution of devadasi-like professions are also known by various other local terms. Usually dalit women are forced by forward caste people to prostitute by name of god.

Dharma   Natural Law or Reality, and with respect to its significance for spirituality and religion might be considered the Way of the Higher Truths. Dharma forms the basis for philosophies, beliefs and practices originating in India. The oldest of these, widely known as Hinduism, is Sanatana Dharma or Eternal Dharma. Ayyavazhi, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism also retain the centrality of Dharma. In these traditions, beings that live in harmony with Dharma proceed more quickly towards Moksha, Dharma Yukam, Nirvana, or personal liberation. Dharma also refers to the teachings and doctrines of the various founders of the traditions, such as Gautama Buddha in Buddhism and Mahavira in Jainism. As the religious and moral doctrine of the rights and duties of each individual, Dharma can refer generally to religious duty, and also mean social order, right conduct, or simply virtue.

Dravidians   Dravidians are the original inhabitants of India, mainly dark in complexion. They lived in the northern part of India and were pushed southward by the Aryan invaders.

FIR   First Information Report

First Backward Classes Commission  Set up by a presidential order on January 29, 1953 under the chairmanship of Kaka Kalelkar. The commission submitted its report on March 30, 1955. It had prepared a list of 2,399 backward castes or communities for the entire country and of which 837 had been classified as the “most backward”. To read more, click here.

First Information Report, or FIR   A written document prepared by the police when they receive information about the commission of a cognizable offense. It is a report of information that reaches the police first in point of time and that is why it is called the First Information Report. It is generally a complaint lodged with the police by the victim of a cognizable offence orby someone on his/her behalf.


Forward Caste  Upper caste, or non-reserved caste. Brahmin, Vaishya, or Kshatriya

Ganges, or Ganga   The major river of northern India and Bangladesh. The river has a long history of reverence in India and is often called the ‘holy Ganga’. Its length is about 2,510 km (1,557 mi). In Hinduism, the river Ganga is personified as a goddess, who holds an important place in the Hindu pantheon. Folk belief holds that bathing in the river on certain occasions causes the remission of sins and facilitates the attainment of salvation. Many people believe that this effect obtains from bathing in Ganga at any time. People travel from distant places to immerse the ashes of their kin in the waters of the Ganga; this immersion also is believed to be meritorious. Several places sacred to Hindus lie along the banks of the river Ganga, including Haridwar and Kashi.

Garijans  The name coined by Mathatma Gandhi for the tribal outcastes, now called Adivasis or Scheduled Tribes.

Gomutra   Cow’s urine, used by upper caste to perform a puja and to purify Dalits and drive away evil spirits. It is thought to be especially effective in warding off negative energies. THis degrading act is performed by sprinkling the urine on the Dalit and areas thought to be contaminated by Dalit presence.

Gujjar  Gujjar or Gurjar is a group or caste of the Indian subcontinent. Alternative spellings include Gurjara, Gujar, Goojar etc. Traditionally, the Gurjars belong to the Kshatriya varna in Hinduism, though a few Gurjar communities are classified under the Brahmin varna.

Guru   Guru is a teacher in Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism. In contemporary India and Indonesia, Guru is widely used within the general meaning of “teacher”. In Western usage, the original meaning of guru has been extended to cover anyone who acquires followers, though not necessarily in an established school of philosophy or religion

Harijans   Harijan means people of God, a name bestowed on the Untouchables by Mahatma Gandhi. Some contend that this label invokes pity rather than respect.

Jati   The subcastes in the Hindu caste system, of which there are thousands of jatis. Caste in India is divided into two systems: Varnas and Jati. Jati, the thousands of occupational guilds whose members follow a single profession. Jati members usually marry within their own jati and follow traditions associated with their jati. In urban areas they often enter other occupations, but still usually arrange marriages within the jati.

Kamadeva   Kamadeva is the Hindu god of love. The word, kama or pleasure, is derived. Also Kama Sutra, the standard Sanskrit text on love.

Karma  Karma is a Sanskrit word from the root kr, “to do”, meaning deed) meaning action, effect, destiny) is a term that comprises the entire cycle of cause and effect. Karma is a sum of all that an individual has done, is currently doing and will do. The effects of all deeds actively create present and future experiences, thus making one responsible for one’s own life, and the pain in others. In religions that incorporate reincarnation, karma extends through one’s present life and all past and future lives as well. Karma is central in Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, & Jainism; all four religions founded in India.

Konakuppakatil Gopinathan Balakrishnan   known as K. G. Balakrishnan, is the thirty-seventh Chief Justice of India. He is the only Dalit to become the Chief Justice of India

Kshatriya   This is the second most powerful caste in India. It is the ruling caste. Their welfare depends upon their respect for the priestly caste (Brahmins).

Kumbh Mela   A traditional Hindu pilgrimage/festival that takes place four times every twelve years and rotates across four set venues  Prayag (Uttar Pradesh), Haridwar (Uttar Pradesh), Ujjain (Madhya Pradesh) and Nasik (Maharashtra). (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kumbh_Mela)

Mahâtmâ Gandhi   The Father of the Indian Nation. Gandhi himself led one of the early and most brazen campaigns to eliminate Untouchability, though many educated Dalits scholars feel that the concrete results of his actions were few. He never actually renounced the Hindu caste system, thus maintaining its orthodoxy. His greatest perceived sin was in undermining B.R. Ambedkar by his fast unto death

Mahâtmâ Phule   Phule, like Gandhi, was given the title of “Mahatma” by his compatriots in recognition of his compassion for the oppressed masses of Indians. But in almost all other ways he contrasts with the more well-known Mahatma. One was a man of religious faith, a representative of the elite who sought to bring the masses into the movement for independence with a religious coloring; the other an iconoclast and an intellectual from the masses, who opposed the same elite which Gandhi represented and sought to build a society free from caste oppression.

Mandal Commission   The decision to set up a second backward classes commission was made official by the president on January 1, 1979. The commission popularly known as the Mandal Commisssion, its chairman being B. P. Mandal. It submitted the report in December 1980. The recommendations of the commission were: The population of OBCs which includes both Hindus and non-Hindus is around 52 per cent of the total population. However only 27 per cent of reservation was recommended owing to the legal constraint that the total quantum of reservation should not exceed 50 percent. States which have already introduced reservation for OBC exceeding 27 per cent will not be affected by this recommendation. More information


Mantra   In Hinduism, a sacred verbal formula repeated in prayer, meditation, or incantation, such as an invocation of a god, a magic spell, or a syllable or portion of scripture containing mystical potentialities. A religious poem or syllable, typically from Sanskrit, are primarily used as spiritual conduits, words or vibrations that instill one-pointed concentration in the devotee.  The literal translation is “instrument of thought”.  Chanting is the process of repeating the mantra.

Manu Smriti   Manusmriti is translated “Laws of Manu” or “Institutions of Manu”. It is regarded as a foundational work of Hindu law and ancient Indian society. Smriti means “what is remembered”. Manusmriti was quoted, especially by the British Colonial rulers in India as “the law book” of the Hindus. Some people over the ages have quoted or interpreted the Manusmriti to justify Brahmin supremacy, the sanctity of the caste system and the lower status given to the Dalits.

Manual Scavenging  also known as “carrying the night soil”, the practice of removing human and animal excreta using hands, brooms, small tin plates, and baskets from dry latrines and carrying it - on the head - to disposal grounds some distance away from the latrines

Mayawati  The first Dalit woman to be elected Chief Minister of any India’s states, she was elected in a landslide in May, 2007. One of the many colorful characters in Indian politics, Mayawati is leader of the Bahujan Samaj Party and a prominent politician in India’s most populous state Uttar Pradesh. Born in 1956 to Prabhu Das and his wife Ram Rathi, Mayawati has been in active politics for well over two decades. Well educated, Mayawati holds multiple degrees including a law degree. Mayawati belongs to the Dalit community, the lowest caste in the Hindu social hierarchy. She is a Jatav (Chamar), a sub-caste within Dalits. A pugnacious personality, Mayawati owes her political career to her mentor Kanshi Ram, the founder of the BSP.

Meenas   Meenas, Meena or Mina is a cast/community mainly found in Rajasthan, India. Originally they were a ruling cast, and were ruler of Matsya, i.e., Rajasthan, but their slow downfall began with the rise of the Rajputs and was completed when the British government declared them a âœCriminal Tribeâ. This very action was taken to support their alliance with Rajput kingdom in Rajasthan, and Meenas were still in war with Rajputs, doing gorilla attacks to retain their lost kingdoms. In the book âœCulture and Integration of India Tribesâ by R.S.Mann it is clearly mentioned that Meenas are considered as a Kshatriya cast equally as Rajpu

Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment   The Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment is entrusted with the welfare, social justice & empowerment of disadvantaged and marginalised section of the society viz, Scheduled Caste, Backward Classes, Persons with Disabilities, Aged Persons, and victims of Drug Abuse etc.

Basic objective of the policies, programmes, law and institution of the Indian welfare system is to bring the target groups into the main stream of development by making them self-reliant


Misra Commission   A five-member commission under the chairmanship of Justice Ranganath Misra, was set up in March 2005 as the National Commission for Religious & Linguistic Minorities. Its mandate was to examine the criteria for defining backwardness among people of Scheduled Caste origin who had converted to other religions besides Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism. See http://www.ncrlm.com

Moksha or Mukti   Refers, in general, to liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth, i.e. heaven. In higher Hindu philosophy, it is seen as a transcendence of phenomenal being, of any sense of consciousness of time, space, and causation (karma).

Narayanan, Dr. K. R.   Dr. Kocheril Raman Narayanan. 4 February 1921 - 9 November 2005, a Dalit and 10th President of India. He is the only Dalit and the only Malayali to have held the Presidency. In India, where the office of the President is largely ceremonial without executive powers, Narayanan was regarded as an independent and assertive President who set several precedents and enlarged the scope of the highest constitutional office. When the Australian missionary and social worker Graham Staines and his two minor sons were burned alive (22 January 1999), President Narayanan condemned it as a barbarous crime belonging to the world’s inventory of black deeds. He felt that Ambedkar’s exhortation to “educate, organise, agitate” continued to be relevant; with the Dalits forming a quarter of the population in a democracy with universal adult franchise, he felt that the ultimate destiny of the backward sections lay in the hands of the backward sections themselves, organised socially and politically

National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights   The National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR) is part of a wider struggle to abolish “untouchability“ and to “cast out caste“. “Untouchability” and caste discrimination continue to be a brutal reality for more than 160 million Dalits living in India today, despite the fact that more than half a century has passed since India was born as a “democratic” and independent state.

NRI   1. Non-resident Indian. 2. Non-reliable Indian. Used by residents of India to describe Indians who have immigrated abroad and thus cannot be expected to behave as permanent residents of India. See related: Desi, ABCD

OBC or Other Backward Castes   The Other Backward Classes (or OBCs) in India are a group of castes officially recognized as having been traditionally subject to exclusion. The Constitution of India recognizes the need to extend positive discrimination to this section. For example, the OBCs are entitled to 27% reservations in public sector employment and higher education. In the constitution, OBCs are described as “socially and educationally backward classes”, and government is enjoined to ensure their social and educational development.

Puja  A Hindu ceremony. During puja, the officiant (pujari) recites various chants praising the God and beseeching His blessings, while making numerous offerings in accordance with established traditions. These include water, sandalpaste, holy ash, flowers, unbroken rice, incense, light (the flame of oil, ghee or camphor lamps) and special food preparations.

Puranas   A body of Indian sacred writings (18 in number) which followed the Vedas, containing legendary account of the creation, destruction and re-creation of the universe, the genealogy, the gods, besides a mass of encyclopaedic information mostly in the form of parables. Of these, the Bhagvat and the Vishnu Purana are the most venerated

Reincarnation   The belief that one has lived before in another lifetime, and that one will live again after physical death

Rig Veda   Oldest of the four Veda Samhitas (collections): Rig, Sama, Yajur and Atharva. Organized into ten mandalas (group patterns) of salutary and prayerful hymns, the Rig portrays a monistic Supreme Being-as-Cause-and-Lord-of-all cosmology, describes a pattern of dharma towards righteous and prosperous living in tune with the Gods. This scripture also details yogic disciplines leading to realization of the Absolute

RSS   Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (National Volunteer Corps or Union). This is a Hindu extremist organization with a wide Hindu network. They have appointed themselves the guardians of India and the Hindu religion. They vehemently oppose Christianity and other minority religions in India. They are responsible for the false propaganda and hate campaign against minorities in India. They believe in violence as a divine necessity. Therefore, they distribute weapons openly and freely. In 1925, Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, a Nagpur doctor influenced by recent Hindu-Muslim riots in his town, formed the Rashtriya Swayemsevak Sangh with a vow to transform India into a Hindu nation and so that Hindus could, in effect, protect themselves by organizing together.

Sadhu   In Hinduism, sadhu is a common term for an ascetic or practitioner of yoga (yogi) who has given up pursuit of the first three Hindu goals of life: kama (pleasure), artha (wealth and power) and even dharma (duty). The sadhu is solely dedicated to achieving moksha (liberation) through meditation and contemplation of God. The most famous non-Hindu sadhu was the Christian Sadhu Sadhu Sundar Singh and there are Sadhus in Sikhism as well.

Sadhu Sundar Singh Sadhu Sundar Singh (September 3, 1889 Patiala State, India) is believed to have disappeared in the foothills of the Himalayas in 1929. As a Christian witness he had been rejected as well as welcomed, persecuted, and even left for dead. By many missionaries and even Indian Christian leaders he had been regarded as a highly eccentric convert, totally out of step with contemporary Christianity as he wandered the roads in his yellow robe and turban. Some of his biographers estimate that, even though he never heard the later vogue-word “indigenisation,” he had done more than any man in the first half of the twentieth century to establish that “Jesus belongs to India.” He made it clear that Christianity is not an imported, alien, foreign religion but is indigenous to Indian needs, aspirations, and faith. He remains one of the permanently significant figures of Indian Christianity.


Samajwadi Party SP or Socialist Party, is a political party in India. It describes itself as a democratic socialist and anti-English language party. SP is led by Mulayam Singh Yadav, the former Chief Minister of UP. It is primarily based in Uttar Pradesh, where it bases its support largely on OBCs (Other Backward Castes) and Muslims, particularly Mulayam Singh Yadav’s own Yadav caste. The S.P. has been also known to be friendly with the BJP, mostly because their primary enemy is common: Sister Mayawati, a Dalit and leader of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), who has emerged as a major political force in the state and was elected on 11 May 2007 as the new Chief Minister of UP

Sangh Parivar   The umbrella body dedicated to the advancement of Hindutva. The Sangh Parivar is a loose “family” of organizations, including political parties, which promote the ideology of Hindutva.

Sanskrit   Sanskrit is the historical language of the Hindu religion. It is the language of the elite and high caste Brahmins. Most of the Hindu scriptures were written in Sanskrit. The language is generally learned only by the priestly caste. According to Manu, the law giver, Dalits should not even hear the reading of the scripture in Sanskrit. If this happens, boiled lead should be poured into the offending Dalit’s ears.

SC/ST or Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribes  Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes are communities that are accorded special status by the Constitution of India. These communities were considered ‘outcastes’ and were excluded from the Chaturvarna system that was the social superstructure of Hindu society in the Indian subcontinent for thousands of years. These castes and tribes have traditionally been relegated to the most menial labour with no possibility of upward mobility, and are subject to extensive social disadvantage and discrimination, in comparison to the wider community. The Scheduled Caste people are also known as Dalits; Scheduled Tribe people are also referred to as Adivasis. SC/ST make up upwards of 25% of India’s population, over 250 million people. Full List of Scheduled Tribes

Secondary School Leaving Certificate   Or SSLC. The Secondary School Leaving Certificate (SSLC) follows pattern of 10+2+3. It means ten years of school education ( primary and secondary ), two years of intermediate or pre-university education and three years of university education. Ten years of schooling is basis for selection of higher education in India. Ten years of schooling means ten standards or ten class or ten levels in schooling. At standard ten (Class tenth), a public examination is conducted by secondary education board to asses the students of whole state. The marks obtained in this examination forms basis for entry into higher examination. Hence it is first important examination of student. The Karnataka state secondary education board conducts public examination at the end of class ten or standard ten. Students studying in schools affiliated with this board are required to pass this examination to get SSLC certificate. This certificate indicates marks obtained by the student in each subject studied, his date of birth and school in which he or she studied. SSLC (Secondary School Leaving Certificate) is an important document in one’s life. Later the students go to Higher Secondary or Pre-University. Cited from Wikipedia

Sheddu   Derogatory slang for Scheduled Caste student. Dalit students, who are rightfully given spots in institutes of higher education in Indian according to the affirmative action (see Reservation) provided by the Indian government, are often ridiculed and abused by upper caste fellow students. See article at http://www.ibnlive.com/news/sheddu-the-sideeffect-of-quota/22564-3.html

Shudra or Sudra  Shudra or Sudra is the fourth varna in the Hindu caste system. Their role is that of artisan, servants, and labourers. Manu Smriti declares that Shudra must serve the other “twice-born” castes.

Sikhism  Sikhism is a monotheistic religion based on the teachings of ten Gurus who lived in northern India during the 16th and 17th centuries. It is one of the world’s major organised religions with over 23 million followers. The Guru Granth Sahib is the eternal Guru of the Sikhs, is held in the highest regard by the Sikhs and is treated as the Eternal Guru, as instructed by Guru Gobind Singh. It is perhaps the only scripture of its kind, in that it was written by the founders of the religion directly, whereas most other religious texts have been written after the time of the original founder of the religion.

Thakur  translated as “lord,” the relatively lower-ranking Hindi title (below Raja) for the hereditary ruler of a (usually minor) princely state, usually born of rajput clan bloodlines, particularly in Western India

Trimurti   In Hinduism, Trimurti are three aspects of God, or “Parabrahman,” in God’s personae as Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. The Trimurti itself is conceived of as a deity and artistically represented as a three-faced human figure

Unseeables  Unseeables are those that cannot even be seen by a caste person. They come out and work only at night

Untouchables   (Dalits) Untouchables are considered so unworthy by the upper caste echelon that they are not part of the caste system. Untouchables are forbidden from physically touching any member of any caste. Doing so would render the latter unclean by Hindu scriptural law. Thus, Dalits are commonly known as untouchables. Other varieties of untouchability include unseeables (those who cannot be seen by a caste person) and unapproachables (those who cannot come near to a caste person).

Upanayana   Hindu initiation ritual, restricted to the three upper varnas. It marks a male’s entrance into the life of a student and his acceptance as a full member of the religious community. After a ritual bath, the boy, aged 5 to 24, is dressed as an ascetic and brought before his guru, who invests him with various symbolic articles. The initiate receives a sacred thread, worn throughout his life, that identifies him as twice-born, the second birth being effected by receipt of a mantra. Observance of upanayana is decreasing and is now largely confined to the Brahmin class.

Upanishads   The inspired teachings, visions, and mystical experiences of the ancient sages of India; the concluding portion of the Vedas and the basis for Vedantic philosophy. With immense variety of form and style, all of these scriptures (exceeding one hundred texts) give the same essential teaching: that the individual soul and God are one

Vaishya, also called Aryas   Vaishyas, or vaisyas, are third in the order of the upper caste hierarchy. They are responsible for business within Hindu society. Mahatma Gandhi belonged to this caste.

Vanvasis   (literally: forest dwellers) the Sangh’s hinduised name for Adivasis whom the Sangh does not recognise as indigenous.

Varanasi   A city in the state of Uttar Pradesh, India, picturesquely situated on the crescent shaped left bank of the holy Ganga. A great religious center for Hindus and one of their most sacred places of pilgrimage, being visited by millions of people every year. Also known as Benares, Banaras, or Benaras.

Varnas   Varna is a Sanskrit word meaning “to choose” from a group. The varna system is one form of functional hierarchy system.  See caste system. The caste system is based on the four varnas; Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Sudras. Membership in the varna group based on birth by default.

Vedas   The vedas collectively refers to a corpus of ancient Indo-Aryan religious literature that are associated with the Vedic civilization and are considered by adherents of Hinduism to be revealed knowledge. Many Hindus believe that the Vedas were not written by anyone (including God), but are eternally existing.  They estimate them to have been written down between 1500 BCE and 500 BCE.

VHP   Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council). This is one of the many Hindu extremist organizations within India and around the world. They are registered in the USA as a 501 (c) 3 organization. In India they are notorious for their hate campaigns against Christians, and for inciting communal violence. Money that is raised in the West is sent out to further their agenda in India. They have led the attacks on minorities such as Christians and Muslims in India. They are largely responsible for the false propaganda and hate campaign against the minorities in India. They are the ones who conducted mass murders in Gujarat and subsequently tried to justify their actions.

Vishnu   Vishnu is the second aspect of God (the others being Brahma and Shiva). Known as the Preserver, He is most famously identified with his avatars, or incarnations, especially Krishna and Rama.

VKP   Vanvasi Kalyan Parishad, an offshoot of the RSS comprising hinduised tribals.

Wilberforce, William   (24 August 1759 to 29 July 1833) was a Christian, British politician, philanthropist, and abolitionist who was the leader of the parliamentary campaign against the slave trade. Due to his efforts, and after 18 years of introducing bills to the British Parliment, the slave trade was abolished in the British Empire in 1807. Shortly before his death in 1833, the act to free all slaves in the British Empire was passed in the House of Commons.

Yellama   Goddess of the Fallen, in the hindu pantheon. Yellama, or Renuka, is a patron goddess of many down-trodden people such as Harijans, scheduled caste and scheduled tribes people, eunuchs, gays, lesbians, transsexuals and even upper-caste Brahmins. For many thousands of years, people of all castes and creeds have revered her as the “Mother of the Universe” or Jagadamba



All information here is used with permission from Dalit Freedom Network