The Bhangi A Sweeper Caste Its socio-economic portraits -Shyamlal

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The Bhangis constitute a well-known caste group in India. They are widely distributed throughout the country. According to the social hierarchy among both higher and lower castes in India the
Bhangis occupy the lowest of the low position as they are night soil removers. Prior to Independence, the Bhangis mainly worked as sweepers for higher castes. Mythologically they are
supposed to have been born ritually unclean and therefore poten-tial polluters of higher castes. They are, therefore, forced to isolated mohallas (bustees) and are denied the use of public wells as well as admission to schools, hotels, restaurants, tem-
ples. They are the poorest and isolated caste at the bottom of the economic and social scales. In free India, Indian laws prohibit discrimination against groups who are called “Untouchables”,such as the Bhangis. Nevertheless, not surprisingly, throughout the country, the success of scheduled castes in improving their socio-economic condition has been quite uneven. They are listed
in the Indian Constitution as Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.Of the total number of listed Scheduled Castes in Rajasthan,which is 59,’ the Bhangi is the lowest caste. The Bhangis, though
numerically not the most important section of the Scheduled Caste population in Rajasthan, are nevertheless a large community. The Bhangi population in Rajasthan was enumerated as 1,90.525° in 1971, and this figure accounts for 0.74 per cent of the total population of the state. Of the total Scheduled Castes which constitute 15.82 per cent of the total population of
Rajasthan, 4.67 per cent are Bhangis. Though the Bhangis are found in all the districts of the state, they are mainly concentrated in the districts of Jaipur, Alwer, Bharatpur Ajmer,Sawaimadhopur, Kota, Nagaur, Jodhpur, Bikaner. It is surprising that the Bhangis are still on of the unaccounted for and unstudied Schedule Castes in the State of Rajasthan.Very little is known about the Bhangi caste of Jodhpur, in the Western district of Rajasthan.The little literature that is available regarding Jodhpuri Bhangis is mainly in the shape of sporadic papers and sketchy descriptions in some books, Gazetters,Administrative Reports and in a preliminary sociological survey.The Bhangis made their first entry into literature with the publication of Major C.K.M. Walter’s Gazetters of Marwar, Mallani and Jeysalmere, which was printed and published by the Foreign Department Press, Calcutta in 1877. Walter tells very little about the caste Bhangi. Indeed he seems to identify the
Bhangis and the sweepers as an inferior branch of the untouchable castes, whose occupation is to sweep the refuse and filth of villages and towns. But he does not give account of their origin,customs, and other conditions.The next specific reference about the Bhangis of Marwar was made by Hardayal Singh, the then Census Commissioner of Marwar State in Report on the Census of 1891,” which appeared in the year 1894. Hardayal Singh in Census Report on ‘Bhangi
Caste’ of Marwar State gives some details about the origin, marriage customs and religious life of the Bhangis in a very generalised manner and completely neglects the other aspects of
the Bhangis’ way of life. In fact he fails to give us a rounded picture of the contemporary life of the Bhangis owing to the lack of his sociological insight and interest.

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