Hyderabad: In a recently published study in the Economic and Political Weekly (EPW) journal, Amit Thorat and Omkar Joshi write that untouchability still prevails in parts of India. Based on data from the India Human Development Survey (IHDS), 2012, they found that 49 per cent of households in northern India practice untouchability.
The survey gives an overview of the various castes: Brahmins (priests), Forward castes (Kshatriyas and Vaishyas), OBCs, SCs (Dalits), STs (Adivasis), and others (ones who don’t identify themselves as any of the aforementioned categories). Thorat and Joshi, however, claim that often members of the forward and other castes are both clubbed under “others” both constitutionally and in the literature.
The survey showed that a staggering 52 per cent of the Brahmins practiced untouchability, while 33 per cent of OBCs and 24 per cent of forward castes admitted to practicing it. Meanwhile, 22 per cent STs and 15 per cent SCs admitted to the same. The OBCs accounting for the second largest share of those adhering to this practice could be indicative of what M.N. Srinivas termed “Sanskritisation”, where low or middle caste groups emulate the rituals and practices of the upper castes in order to be accepted by the latter and to be able to rise up in the social hierarchy, the article stated.
Households that were interviewed for the survey were asked two questions: the first was whether any member of the household practised untouchability. Of the 100 households surveyed, 44% of the Brahmin households said they practiced untouchability. The OBCs were again the second-largest group with 26 households answering in the affirmative. Seventeen ST households, too, admitted to practicing untouchability. On an average, 21 out of 100 households practise untouchability.
The second question asked during the survey was whether it is a problem if an SC enters the kitchen or uses the utensils. Fifteen Brahmin households said ‘Yes’ while 11 OBC households admitted it was a problem if an SC entered the kitchen or used the utensils. Meanwhile, only five SC households admitted it was a problem. On an average, 8.53 per cent of households admitted to it whereas 91.47 said they don’t practice it.