Battling Social Oppression
Jagpal Singh
UNTOUCHABLE CASTES IN INDIA: THE RAIGAR MOVEMENT (1940-2004) by Shyamla Rawat Publications, 2008, 362 pp., 750
January 2008, volume 32, No XXXII

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.

Continue reading this review