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Caste & Ethnicity

Caste in India has tremendous historical and contemporary significance, and is tied to religious identity, socio-economic status, politics and education. Its complexities are debated, and issues related to caste and affirmative action constitute a dynamic part of social movements and human rights in India. India’s ethnic diversity is reflected in state and territory boundaries and echoed in its 22 constitutionally recognized languages. There are also hundreds of “scheduled tribal groups” sanctioned by the Constitution, subject to both legal protections and social challenges.


Caste Systems of India
An overview of the caste system with an annotated bibliography.

Caste, Ethnicity and Poverty in Rural India
A paper by I.N. Gang, K. Sen, and M-S. Yun.

Two articles by leading scholars, “The Concept of Caste” by Gerald D. Berreman and “The Indian Caste System” by Adrian C. Mayer, from International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences.

Changing Educational Inequalities in India in the Context of Affirmative Action
A report on educational inequalities and affirmative action in India, by Sonalde Desai and Veena Kulkarni, published in Demography.

Dalit Foundation
An India-based organization supporting the Dalit movement.

Dalit Solidarity
An advocacy organization working for Dalit rights based in the United States.


Hinduism and the Caste System
An overview of the role of the caste system in relation to Hinduism, historically and at the present time, by Jayaram V.

History of the Indian Caste System and Its Impact on India Today
Paper by Manali S. Deshpande on the history and current significance of the caste system in India, with a useful annotated bibliography.

India’s Adivasis
World Bank report on indigenous people in India; by M.B. Das, G. Hall, S. Kapoor, and D. Nikitin, in Indigenous Peoples.

Jati: The Caste System in India
A summary and diagram of caste and jati in India. Note: this is a description of jati, but the diagram is of the Vedic varna system. For the distinction, see other sources in this section.

Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India
Information and support for disadvantaged castes.

Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India
Information about the Scheduled Tribes in India.

National Confederation of Dalit Organizations
NACDOR is the apex body of Dalit Organizations in India, promoting democracy, human rights, sustainable development and peace and reconciliation with the perspective of the socially excluded Dalits.


Oxford Bibliography on Caste
On various dimensions of caste in India, by Christophe Jaffrelot.

The Varna & Caste System in India: A Basic Bibliography
A useful bibliography about the caste system in India, by Patrick S, O’Donnell.

Untouchabilityand Segregation
On caste in contemporary India, from the Human Rights Watch report, “Caste Discrimination: A Global Concern.”