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In India, 300 million humans treated as untouchable (dalits)

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Created on 11 June 2010

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In the context of traditional Hindu society, Dalit status has often been historically associated with occupations regarded as ritually impure, such as any involving butchering, removal of dead animals, removal of night soil (human feces) and leatherwork. One million Dalits work as manual scavengers, cleaning latrines and sewers by hand, and clearing away dead animals. Engaging in these activities was considered to be polluting to the individual, and this pollution was considered contagious. As a result, Dalits were commonly segregated, and banned from full participation in Hindu social life. For example, they could not enter a temple or a school, and were required to stay outside the village. Elaborate precautions were sometimes observed to prevent incidental contact between Dalits and other castes. Discrimination against Dalits still exists in rural areas (where two-thirds of India's people live) in the private sphere, in everyday matters such as access to eating places, schools, temples and water sources.

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