Nearly two-thirds of the population in rural Rajasthan and rural Uttar Pradesh still practise untouchability, a survey by Social Attitudes Research in India, or SARI, has found. Almost half the population in these regions is also opposed to marriage between Dalits and non-Dalit Hindus.
The agency collected data for the study by interviewing 8,065 people in Delhi, Mumbai, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh over the phone in 2016. The findings were published in a paper authored by academics Diane Coffey, Payal Hathi, Nidhi Khurana, and Amit Thorat on January 6 in the Economic and Political Weekly.
The survey found that in Delhi, 39% of the non-Dalit Hindu women and 27% of the men said that someone in their household practises untouchability, while 21% of the female respondents admitted that they did not touch people from the Dalit communities despite decades-old laws criminalising the act. In urban Uttar Pradesh, 35% non-Dalit Hindu women said they practise untouchability, while only 18% of the male respondents admitted to it.
The researchers said the 2011 India Human Development Survey, or IHDS, showed that reported untouchability in metropolitan cities such as Delhi and Mumbai was lower compared to rural Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, where more than half the non-Dalit Hindu households had members who practised untouchability.
“Roughly comparable SARI data…suggest this fraction has not improved in five years,” they said. “Results across the surveys are similar for all of the places we study except Delhi, where reporting of untouchability among SARI respondents is roughly double of what it was in the IHDS.”
The survey found that 60% of adult respondents in rural Rajasthan favour laws preventing inter-caste marriage, while the number stood at 40% in Delhi. In Mumbai, 27% of men said they support such laws. Inter-caste marriage was legalised after the Special Marriage Act of 1954 was passed.