India's Orphaned Dalits

"India is home to more orphans than anywhere else in the world, thousands and thousands of Dalits that are forever deemed untouchable by humanity."

                                                      by Marla Summers

About the Caste System

Hinduism is a religion encompassing over one billion followers and a menagerie of traditions and beliefs. The religion claims no single founder, yet is woven together by a series of religious books known as The Vedas. Hinduism is often referred to as the oldest human religion, with its origin estimated to have been around 3000 B.C. Centered upon the concept of reincarnation, Hinduism emphasizes a good lifestyle in order to advance to a better status in the next life. This is the backbone of the caste system and the chain that links approximately 167 million people in India in the lowest economic level. These are the Dalits.

India's caste system assigns individuals a certain hierarchical status according to Hindu beliefs. Traditionally, there are four principal castes and one category of people who fall outside the caste system: the Dalits. As members of the lowest rank of Indian society, Dalits face discrimination at almost every level: from access to education and medical facilities to restrictions on where they can live and what jobs they can have. Dalits have been oppressed, culturally subjugated, and politically marginalized.  The principals of untouchability and “purity and pollution” dictate what Dalits are and are not allowed to do; where they are and are not allowed to live, go, or sit; who they can and cannot give water to, eat with, or marry; extending into the minutia of all aspects of daily life. 

Within the Dalit community, there are many divisions into sub-castes. Dalits are divided into leather workers, street sweepers, cobblers, agricultural workers, and manual "scavengers". The latter group, considered the lowest of the low and officially estimated at one million, traditionally are responsible for digging village graves, disposing of dead animals, and cleaning human excreta. Approximately three-quarters of the Dalit workforce are in the agricultural sector of the economy. A majority of the country’s forty million people who are bonded laborers are Dalits. These jobs rarely provide enough income for Dalits to feed their families or to send their children to school. As a result, many Dalits are impoverished, uneducated, and illiterate.

India's Orphans

Generation after generation are born into Dalit families in India, now making up over 15% of the total population. These children are locked into the social caste and will be forced to take up the same menial jobs as their parents, without any hope of moving out of the untouchable villages. They are unable to receive education and are doomed to the same fate as the many generations before them. It is very common that parents abandon their children as one less mouth to feed, after which most of the  orphans will stay on the streets all their lives and at best be taken into dilapidated orphanages. Once they grow too old for the orphanages, they return to their impoverished villages and crowded streets, often falling back into their traditional jobs or working as prostitutes.

Five thousand years after Hinduism was born, billions and billions of Dalits have lived in conditions unimaginable, untouched by society in the belief that their poverty is a punishment from their previous life. Yet while Hinduism has no single founder to be blamed for this horrible human enslavement, we can be blamed for not stopping it. India is home to more orphans than anywhere else in the world, thousands and thousands of Dalits that are forever deemed untouchable by humanity. They are forever unloved and forgotten, even despite movements in favor of human rights. And while they are physically poor, they are also far poorer spiritually. Very few of them will ever even meet a Christian, much less hear and accept the gospel. The worst part is not that Dalit orphans have to live in those conditions; it is that they have to die in them.

You can help rescue orphan children by giving them new hope.  Click here to read about New Hope for Children orphanages.