Journal of religious culture = Journal für Religionskultur
Untouchability and inter-caste relations in rural India : the case of southern Tamil villages
- Justice and equality are the two subjects often talked about by most of the nationalists and leaders of various political and ideological streams across the world including India. India was at the fore-front in condemning racial discrimination particularly apartheid and also the influence of super powers) on the internal affairs of independent nations. Her commitment to secure its citizens' freedom, justice, equality and fraternity is reflected in the very preamble of the Indian Constitution. Towards achieving these challenging goals, special provisions have also been made in the Constitution to protect and promote the interests of the most oppressed section of Indian society - traditionally known as Untouchables and Constitutionally as the Scheduled Castes. These provisions are expected to alter the given unjust distribution of power (political and economic) and status (social) among different sections of people and thereby transform India into an egalitarian society. Given India's unequivocal commitment to secure its citizens these noble ideals - particularly the most exploited and pilloried section of India -, we shall attempt here to understand Indian villages, which host over 80 per cent of the Indian population, from the point of view of whether or not these villages patronise the institution of caste which is in contravention of these ideals or whether there are these little republics ideal for realising the said goals and thus to be preserved as they are as claimed by many social reformers including Mahatma Gandhi. In the process, we shall also address the question of how caste has remained unchanged, how it controls social interaction between higher and lower caste groups and accordingly perpetuates unequal control over power and status. And most importantly we shall also understand whether all the Scheduled Castes (lower castes) treat their members as equals or there is hierarchy, discrimination and practice of untouchability even among them.