ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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A Balmiki Colony in Central Delhi

Socio-spatial Stigma and Segregation

Caste-based spatial segregation, largely assumed to be a characteristic of rural societies, is reproduced in urban spaces as well, and a large population of Dalits continue to inhabit segregated settlements in the metropolitan cities of the country. Fieldwork conducted in one such segregated neighbourhood of Balmikis in central Delhi is drawn upon to explore how they perceive the urban space and how they think they are perceived by others.

Scholars in the West have argued that sociology’s concern with social stratification about “who gets what and why” should be extended to include and address the question of “where” (Tickamyer et al 2007). This attempt to “spatialise inequalities” and the question of “where” takes us back to some of the ideas articulated by B R Ambedkar and M K Gandhi during the nationalist struggle for Indian independence.

Interestingly, one of the debates around the ideal course of development for India after independence,1 including the emancipation of the marginalised groups such as Dalits,2 gives us some insight into how space reflects social inequalities and maintains hierarchies. “Gandhi believed that even though Indians could achieve political freedom by overthrowing the colonial administration, it was only through the revival of village communities that real swaraj or self-rule could be achieved” (Jodhka 2002: 3346). On the contrary, for Ambedkar, the same village community and its socio-spatial organisation “played a critical role in the perpetuation and evanescence3 of untouchability” (Cháirez-Garza 2014: 37).

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Updated On : 25th Dec, 2018

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