From our Migration Issue: Caste Off
The Hindu caste system is deeply codified. Below the Shudras are Dalit communities like the Arunthathiyar, who don’t belong to any of the four varnas. In Mahatma Gandhi’s day, they were called untouchables. These days, they are commonly called Dalits, which roughly translates from Hindi as “the broken people.”
Dalits are traditionally expected to perform unsavory tasks like disposing of dead bodies and cleaning bathrooms. Most live in abject poverty. The Musahar community of Bihar in Northern India, for example, has gained notoriety for eating rats to survive.