Untouchable India: Impunity for Caste Violence

February 10, 2016
03:00 pm - 04:30 pm

About the Event

Besides being the world’s largest democracy, India holds the dubious distinction of being home to more poor people than any other country in the world. Most of India’s poor belong to low castes: in particular Dalits, who suffer from the stigma of untouchability, and Adivasis, who belong to tribal communities. Together, the two groups number over 300 million people, a figure nearly equivalent to the population of the United States. Despite the abolition of untouchability at the founding of the Indian Republic in 1950 and the subsequent enactment of special laws to protect Dalits and Adivasis, the two marginalized communities nevertheless have been subjected to violence on an unprecedented scale. Worse, in most cases, they have been denied justice. In his presentation, New Delhi–based journalist Manoj Mitta explored instances of impunity for caste violence in India, bringing out the different ways in which investigators, prosecutors, and judges betray prejudice. Tracing the history of the abolition of untouchability in India from the 19th century onward, he also drew parallels with the trajectory of race relations and racial violence in the United States.


Manoj Mitta, Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow

moderated by 

Zerxes Spencer, International Forum for Democratic Studies

1025 F Street, N.W., Suite 800, Washington, D.C. 20004

About the Speaker

Mr. Manoj Mitta is an Indian journalist focusing on law, human rights, and public policy. He has served as a senior editor at two of India’s leading newspapers, the Times of India and the Indian Express. He was also founding director of the Foundation for Media Professionals, which promotes media freedom and works to uphold standards of journalism in India. He has published two critically-acclaimed books on sectarian strife in India, The Fiction of Fact-Finding: Modi and Godhra (2014), in which he questions the exoneration of Narendra Modi in the 2002 Gujarat riots, and When a Tree Shook Delhi: The 1984 Carnage and Its Aftermath, co-authored with H.S. Phoolka (2007). He has spoken at universities around the world, as well as at the British and Canadian Parliaments and the U.S. Congress. Following a year of primary research and interviews in the field, Mr. Mitta is devoting his fellowship to drawing up his findings and writing a book, tentatively entitled The Bottom Layer: Impunity for Caste Violence, focusing on massacres of former untouchables and tribal members in India.



Photo: Michał Huniewicz/Flickr (Creative Commons)