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Battling Social Oppression


Jagpal Singh

UNTOUCHABLE CASTES IN INDIA: THE RAIGAR MOVEMENT (1940-2004)
By Shyamla
Rawat Publications, Jaipur, 2006, pp. xi 362, Rs. 750.00

VOLUME XXXII NUMBER 1 January 2008

This book is about the social movement of an untouchable caste – the raigars, a caste whose traditional occupation has been disposal of the dead animals, tanning and dyeing their hide. They are predominantly found in Rajasthan and in some other states of north and west India - Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharasthra where they migrated from Rajasthan to avoid the social oppression and in search of livelihhood. Though the book touches upon the raigars in other states also, its focus is largely on those of Rajasthan. The raigars have not been the mute bearers of the social oppression of the high castes, landlords and their allies. They not only sought to meet the challenege within their community but also resisted the social oppression of others. Emergence of leadership among the raigars from the late 19th century till the contemporary period – the ‘dharmgurus’, elite, government employees, teachers, engineers, doctors and businessmen enabled the raigars to articutate their problems and strive to resolve them. One of the principal reasons of the rise of raigar ‘elite’ in the post- Independence period has been the impact of the state policies, especially the reservation in government jobs.   Influenced by multiple ideologies of Arya Samaj, bhaki traditions reprsented by Kabir and Ram Dev, satnami traditions and hindutva the raiger leadership founded the caste organizations in different states of their habitation. The most important of such organizations is Akhil Bharatiya Raigar Mahasabha (ABRM) which was founded in 1944 at ‘a big sammelan of raigar caste’ held at Dausa in Rajasthan. The foundation of the ABRM was, in fact, a culmination of the process which had started one and half decade earlier and virtual beginning of the raigar movement. Under the influence of these ideologies and traditions the raigar leadership and organisations operated within the broad framework of Hinduism. The ABRM and other raigar organizations in different states held sammelans at different intervals of times and raised almost similar kinds of issues – need for the unity among the different subcastes of the raigers; removing social evils prevelant within the caste like child marriarge, unmatching marriages, death feast, eating meat, consumption of alcohal, disposal of dead animals and tanning and dyeing their hide; need to educate the children; fighting the untochablity. The raigar organizations in UP, Guajarat and Maharashtra in particular also discussed the need for getting the raigars included in the Scheduled Caste category ...


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