Dalit, oppressed group, definition and history

One section of Indian Society called themselves “Dalits” means oppressed1 group. The term dalit in Sanskrit is “dal” which means to crack, open, split and so on.  When used as a noun or adjective, it means burst, split, broken or torn asunder, downtrodden, scattered, crushed, destroyed2.

The Present usage of the term Dalit goes back to the nineteenth century when a Marathi Social reformer and revolutionary Mahatma Jotirao Phule used it to describe the outcastes and untouchables as the oppressed and broken victims of the Indian caste ridden society3. At the same time it is believed that this usage was first coined by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar4. Today this term is used frequently and has become popular among the Dalit people of various protest movements in India.

Besides its common use, the term Dalit today is specially used for those people who, on the basis of caste distinction, have been considered “outcaste”. They were “outcaste”, because they were not according to the architects of the system fit to be included in the fourfold graded caste structure of Indian society5.

As per National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR), In India 170 million Dalit are there, constituting 17% of the population and today they are regularly facing inhumanity and discrimination from the society which get away them to live their live with basic human right and dignity promised to all citizens of India. As per NCDHR report, 3 Dalit women got raped, 27 atrocities against Dalit community Every day.

  1. Oommen, T.K. (1990): Protest and Change, Studies in Social Movements, New Delhi, p. 254
  2. V. (1988 reprinted): Dal and Dalit, in a Sanskrit-English Dictionary by Sri Monier-Williams, Delhi, p.471; and also The Practical Sanskrit-English Dictionary by Vaman Shivram Apte. (1989 reprinted), p.493.
  3. Zelliot, Eleanor, cit., p.271.
  4. Murugkar, Lata, cit., p.6.
  5. The fourfold caste structure included in Priestly (Brahman), Warrior (Ksatriya), Traders (Vaisya) and Serving caste (Sudras).

2 thoughts on “Dalit, oppressed group, definition and history

  1. very good article,
    article truly reflected the picture of their deprived condition.

    we have to take strong action against the issue of division of society based on cast and castism

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