Untouchable by Mulk Raj Anand is the story of a young man named Bakha, an “Untouchable”. As an Untouchable, Bakha is of the lowest caste in Indian society and works as a sweeper and latrine cleaner. But Bakha longs for a life free from the daily abuses inflicted by the higher classes. He must walk down the street announcing his presence because he cannot touch – by accident or no – a member of the higher classes, for they shall be “polluted.” He may not enter a temple or a school, for the building shall then be polluted as well. Bakha endures insults such as “pig” and “filth” day to day, and he and his family live in utter poverty. There seems to be no end in sight, but there is a glimmer of hope in one man might inspire change in India. A beautiful book.
Untouchable, a work of historical fiction, was first published in 1935, during the British Raj (reign) before the Indian Independence Act of 1947. Today, many Untouchables are now self-described as “Dalits”, and integrate less noticeably into urban areas, having more employment and education opportunities. Although the Indian Constitution outlaws caste discrimination, in rural areas, some discrimination still survives. The following are some non-fiction titles relating to India and the caste system in history: