Gujarat's poor are Dalits, or untouchables. Before the earthquake, discrimination against untouchables in Gujarat was subtle; afterwards, it was blatant. Their plight has divided Indian opinion: how Gujarat's poorest families were ignored is either a human-rights violation, or the natural order of things according to the Hindu Lord Krishna. (Only very slightly better off than Dalits in this very Hindu state are Gujarat's Muslims.) Through a simple accident of being born lowest in India's caste system, poor Gujaratis are considered so unequal that they have received less food and water, fewer blankets and smaller houses (if they were given one at all) than upper castes.
Some untouchables, like Baba Jogi, are deemed so inferior that aid for them, according to a few higher-caste Indians, is almost unthinkable. Which poses a terrible question for those of us making phone pledges to help poor people in dire distress. Are our disaster-relief efforts only making the gap between the rich and poor greater?
- Dalistan Organisation
- National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights
- Roger Bilham's page on the tectonics of the earthquake