Documentary project on Dalits


In commission of the Dutch development organization Cordaid, we made a documentary project about Dalits (pejoratively called ‘untouchables’) and their insurgent movement in India. The material was collected in spring 2004 during our three-month stay in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat, where we worked intensively together with Dalit and human rights activists.

Dalits – 200 million people, or one fifth of the Indian population – face daily physical and symbolic discrimination based on caste. It is believed that Dalits are born as ‘impure’ and, therefore, are designed to do ‘unclean’ work like manual scavenging, burying the dead, handling dead animals, and alike. In spite of existing laws and quotas for the protection of the physical and social security of Dalits, most still live live in poverty.

The photodocumentary shows how Dalits struggle for their daily survival and try to meet with the new requirements of a globalizing and urbanizing society. It portrays men and women in their attempt to improve their living conditions and escape the pitfalls of explicit and inexplicit discrimination. A special emphasis lays on the work of various Dalit and human rights organisations fighting for the rights of Dalits.