Applying Sociological Theories to the Dalit Issue in India
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In India, Dalits are what used to be called the "untouchables." The term Dalit means the "broken people." Symbolic-interaction theory would focus on the way language shapes the identity of all Indians, to give rise to an underclass like the Dalit. Systems of oppression stem from the embedding of symbols into the individual and collective psyche. Therefore, symbolic-interaction theory explains why the oppression of the Dalit continues even though the caste system has been officially and legally abolished. A symbolic-interactionist would also point out that the organization of the Dalit into a formal organization with a name has a powerful impact due to the interaction between symbols (language) and social institutions. Symbolic-interactionism would also explain why the leaders of the Dalit civil rights movement understand the importance of raising awareness via education. It is important to shift the discourse when discussing matters of political oppression. The discourse will impact reality. Moreover, religion also provides the core symbols that shape worldview. If Hinduism has a highly structured, hierarchical cosmology, a Hindu culture will organize its manifest institutions around this symbolic reality.
A structuralist-functionalist would point out that major social, political, and economic institutions foster the oppression of the Dalit. As the narrator of "India's Broken People" points out, the Dalit recognize that the policing and law enforcement structure almost