Prejudice and Discrimination in India
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India is a country that offers a diverse range of cultures, races, and ethnicities for anyone that may choose to visit. Many people may think of someone’s race as the same as their ethnicity, but they are very different. Race is a socially constructed category composed of people who share biologically transmitted traits that member of a society consider important, whereas ethnicity is a shared cultural heritage which can contain many different races within it (Macionis J. J., 2006). The mix of cultures, races, and ethnicities come from all over the world; there are people, cultures, and ethnicities from the all over the Middle East, Europe, and Asia. Even with all of the diverse cultures, races, and ethnicities there is still discrimination against the lower caste Dalits once considered”untouchables”.
India is the oldest continuous civilization in the world, and this has enabled India to absorb a variety of cultures from all around the world (Singh, Bhatia, Chaubey, Datta, and Samson, 1989). There is no such thing as “Indian Food”. The country is more that 3,200 km from north to south and 2,500 km from east to west and the climatic and cultural diversity have contributed to the large variety of cuisine (Singh, et al, 1989). Agricultural and climatic conditions do determine the different types of food, but dishes are also influenced by religion and historical events. Most Indians are vegetarians, since beef is taboo for the Hindus and pork for the Muslims, which are the two largest religion throughout India. North India’s rich and creamy concoctions are in total contrast to the spicy coconut flavored fish of South India. Many people associate curry with Indian cuisine, but curry is not part of the culinary vocabulary it is a derivative of the word Kari, meaning sauce, attached to Indian cuisine by the British (Singh, et al, 1989). Indian cuisine has strong Oriental, Middle Eastern and European flavors to it which has evolved over many years and is a clear example of the cultural diversity throughout India.
There are many different races and ethnicities spread throughout India. Europeans have been in India for centuries. European empires were built and destroyed in fights over the spices of India, which were considered precious commodities then (Singh, et al, 1989). The Chinese and Japanese have lived in India for many centuries as well. Many Chinese and Japanese Buddhists and Hindus have traveled or migrated to India to live and/or worship at the many religious centers such as the Bodh Gaya, Patna, Goa, Kulu, and Manali to name a few (Singh, et al, 1989). Throughout the 1960’s and 70’s India was a favorite vacation spot for the hippies who traveled there for the spiritual aspect and the dugs found there during the time, and there are many that have made India their home now (Singh, et al, 1989). With people from all over the world visiting and migrating to India throughout the centuries the racial and cultural diversity of India has grown immensely. I was and still am in awe of the beauty of the construction, art, and diversity of India.
Even with all of the diversity throughout India, many of the people as well as the Government discriminate against even today a group of people known as the Christian converted Dalits. The converted Dalits once a part of the lowest caste in the Hindu religion and known as the “untouchables” which converted to Christianity and are have lost their rights in India (Newton, J., 2007). After the tsunami in December of 2005 many lives were devastated, but the government sent aid to the people of India that is all but the Christian converted Dalits. Christian Dalits along the coast were hit the hardest by the tsunami and in India and estimated 16,413 are dead with an estimated 5,699 missing and millions left homeless (Newton, J., 2007). Many Christian Dalits lost everything they owned and were forced to be homeless and left to beg for what little they could get, which was very little when you look at the fact that they have no rights in India.
There are around 16 million Christian Dalits that live in India and are not even recognized by their government (Newton, J., 2007). After visiting the areas which were hit by the tsunami I could easily see the affects the government had had on the people of India and the Christian Dalits. There were people that were rebuilding then there were groups of people that were congregating together under bridges, along the beaches, and even sitting on the sides of the streets begging for money, these were the Christian Dalits. They were hardly even given a second glance by the passerby’s if not verbally abused by them. The Christian Dalits lost their rights in India and experience this discrimination because they were converted to Christianity from the Hindu faith (Newton, J., 2007). The government’s actions towards the Christian Dalits are inexcusable and not befitting of what these people deserve.
India is a beautiful country with many cultures, races, and ethnicities. The rich history, beautiful landscapes, religious sites, cuisine, and art of India has shaped it into a country that is worthy of being one of the world’s biggest tourist destinations, but India as every other country does have its skeletons in its closet. The treatment of the Christian Dalits by the other members of the country and especially their government’s treatment of them since they converted to Christianity and after the December 2005 tsunami have cause many to be homeless, live in poverty, and even lose their lives.
Dalits have always been consider the low of the low in the Hindu caste system and have been persecuted for generations and for the ones that choose to convert to Christianity it seems to have gotten worse. Throughout the history of the world, many governments have turned their backs on certain groups of people in their countries throughout all of history though it is difficult to see it first hand. For its historical, cultural, and ethnical aspects, India is and wonderful country to visit, but they have a long way to go when it comes to catching up with the times when it comes to equality for its entire people.
Macionis, J.J. (2006) Society: The Basics (8th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.
Newton, J. (2007) “Indian Christian’ Untouchables’ Face Social Monsters” Catholic Insight 15.6: 14(2) General OneFile. Gale. Apollo Library. December 21, 2008. http://find.galegroup.com/ips/start.do?prodId=IPSSingh, Bhatia, Chaubey, Datta, and Samson (1989) “India’s Heritage”. South n107: 71(6) General OneFile. Gale. Apollo Library. December 21, 2008 http://find.galegroup.com/ips/start.do?prodId=IPS