Cover image for Untouchable freedom : a social history of Dalit community
Untouchable freedom : a social history of Dalit community
Prashad, Vijay.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New Delhi ; New York : Oxford University Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
xx, 176 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DS422.C3 P728 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



This volume is on the Balmikis of Delhi, who work as sanitation workers and keep the city clean. They live in poverty and face sustained discrimination. In response the Balmikis fight to liberate themselves. Untouchable Freedom is the first comprehensive study of this community and traces their struggles from the 1860s to the present, as they have moved from agricultural labor to urban work.

Author Notes

Vijay Prashad is an Assistant Professor of International Studies, Trinity College, Hartford.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

For centuries, India's Dalit (untouchable) community did the dirty work of the higher castes and ruling elites. Today, considerable numbers of Balmikis support India's Hindutva (Hindu Raj) movement. This book's purpose is to outline the contradictions of Balmiki life in order to explain why this group of Dalits has turned to support Hindutva while other Dalits have not been so seduced. Offering an extended history of the Balmikis from the 1860s into the 1960s based on stories, ethnographic fieldwork, archival material, and the private papers of Dalit families, Prashad (international studies, Trinity College) gives a history of the Balmikis' relationship with the political elites. We learn of attempted strikes and the authorities' efforts to modernize Delhi's refuse collection system; about the Dalit religious system and its relationship with Hindu reform groups like the Arya Samaj and the Ad-Dharm movement; about the Gandhian movement's relationships with the Dalits and its approach to untouchability; and about independent India's government strategies to counter Dalit aspirations. What should be a very informative book is hurt by unclear transitions from topic to topic and a lack of clarity at many points. D. L. White Roger Williams University