5 Indian Casteist Slurs & Why We Need To Stop Throwing Them Around

Homegrown Staff

Bhangi, often used in a derogatory manner, is a term that could refer to a member of the Bhangi caste, who have been historically oppressed and traditionally restricted to cleaning latrines, manual scavenging, and sweeping. Also known as ‘Chuhra’ or ‘Balmiki’, they have found themselves on the margins throughout, even being banned entry into religious places for prayer.

In 2017, the Supreme Court of India declared that calling people ‘dhobi’ or ‘harijan’ was offensive. The Wire informs, “Relying on the Statement of Objects and Reasons of the SC/ST Act, the bench observed that calling a person ‘Harijan’, ‘dhobi’ and so on nowadays counts as abusive and language and is offensive.

Citing similar reasons, in 2008, the Supreme Court had said that addressing a person from one of the Scheduled Castes as ‘Chamar’ or ‘Chambhar’, traditionally, the community whose primary occupation was tanning and leathercraft, may amount to an offence punishable under the provision of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

Anti-caste activist Divya Kandukuri informs that the word, which is otherwise used to call someone as rapscallion was historically used to mean ‘low’ or ‘low-caste’ in Persian.

The Mahars of Maharashtra, who comprised the largest untouchable group in the state, mostly all converted to Buddhism in the mid-20th century following the path of Dr B.R.Ambedkar.