The caste system in India is often considered an anthropological artifact, culturally and religiously sacrosanct and beyond Western censure.
The system is made up of four distinct social classes, Brahmins to Peasants, with a 5th group in the mud: The Dalits, or Untouchables. India’s constitution outlawed the notion of “untouchability” in 1950, but human rights activists say Dalits still suffer caste-related atrocities in the world’s largest democracy.
The United Nations’ World Conference Against Racism looms, and though official India claims that caste doesn’t belong in the discussions, the “Plight of the Dalits,” what some call South Asia’s Hidden Apartheid, is written bold on NGO clipboards.
Smita Narula, Senior Researcher, South Asia, Human Rights Watch;
Professor Nicholas Dirks, professor of history and anthropology at Columbia University and author of the upcoming book, “Castes of Mind.”