As I’ve explained in a previous post, African people, globally, share a similar narrative when it comes to systemic disenfranchisement. From stolen resources to marginalized ancestors to societal abuse, blacks everywhere are fighting the same fight. So after reading about how African descendants in India are being treated, I knew I had to share the information that would further support this claim. Meet the Dalits, otherwise known as “The Untouchables.”
India consists of over 160 million Dalits (meaning crushed and broken) or “Untouchables,” who are considered the outcastes of society; they are descendants of Africans who once ruled the Indus Valley, with linkages between Africa and early India existing for more than 2,000 years. According to African scholar and physicist Cheikh Anta Diop, Africans known as Dravidians created the Indus Valley civilization. In his book The African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality, he describes Dravidians as a type of black race with “black skin, often exceptionally black, with straight hair, aquiline nose, thin lips, an acute cheekbone angle. We find a prototype of this race in India.” And today, those descendants live under a caste system.
The Atlanta Black Star advised that the caste system in India is the foundation of the religion known as Hinduism. “Caste Law in India, based originally on race and ethnicity, regulated all aspects of life, including marriage, diet, education, place of residence and occupation.” The highest caste was the Brahim (the Aryan elite) who identified with the color white, followed by the Kshatriyas (the military and administrative sector) who identified with the color red, then the Vaisyas (merchants and farmers) who identified with the color yellow, the Sudras who identified with the color black, and beneath them were the outcastes or “Untouchables.” The life of the Indian outcastes was (and still is) full of misery and impoverishment:
- Food and drinks by them couldn’t be taken.
- They live in settlements on the outskirts of villages and towns.
- In certain periods in history, they were not allowed to enter the adjoining Hindu community at night or, in other periods, at daylight.
- They were required to attach a broom to their backs to erase any evidence of their presence.
- A cup was attached to their necks to capture any saliva that might escape their lips.
- Their possessions consist of dogs and donkeys.
- Their meals were consumed from broken dishes, and their clothing was taken from corpses.
- Their principal functions included street sweeping, the removal of dead animal and human corpses, and the clean-up of cremation grounds.
However, the Dalits are fighting back by demonstrating an awareness of their African ancestry as well as their shared struggle with blacks around the world, particularly African Americans. In 1972, they developed The Dalit Panther Party, which was formed in Bombay, India. Emerging as a resistance group against caste discrimination, the Dalits took their inspiration directly from the Black Panther Party here in the United States. In a 1988 publication of Dalit Voice, Dravidian journalist V.T. Rajshekar stated the following:
The African-Americans also must know that their liberation struggle cannot be complete as long as their own blood-brothers and sisters living in far off Asia are suffering. It is true that African-Americans are also suffering, but our people here today are where African-Americans were two hundred years ago.
His statement fuels my fire when it comes to my continued research on the conditions of African people throughout the diaspora and continent. Helping our people around the globe should be the primary focus going forward. You can stay connected with The Dalit Panther Project by connecting with them on Facebook and YouTube. And if you have any additional information, please feel free to comment below.
Until Next Time…
Rashidi, R. (2014, December 14). A Complex World: History, Religion, Caste and Race in India. Retrieved September 9, 2018, from https://atlantablackstar.com/2014/12/14/a-complex-world-history-religion-caste-and-race-in-india/
Smith, H. (2017, December 4). The Dalit Panthers. Retrieved September 9, 2018, from https://thedalitpanthers.wordpress.com
DALIT: THE BLACK UNTOUCHABLES OF INDIA. (n.d.). Retrieved September 9, 2018, from http://www.itsabouttimebpp.com/Announcements/Daliti_Panthers_in_India.html
The African Diaspora in the Indian subcontinent. (n.d.). Retrieved September 9, 2018, from http://www.africaspeaks.com/reasoning/index.php?topic=4964.0;wap2