More than 170 million people in India are considered ‘untouchable’ – people tainted by their birth into a caste system that deems them impure, less than human. They continue to face violence and discrimination.

The word ‘dalit‘ comes from the Sanskrit root dal – and means “broken, ground-down, downtrodden, or oppressed.” It was first used by Jyotibha Phule (in the 19th century) in the context of the lowest castes in the Hindu caste system which were considered untouchables. Those previously known as Untouchables, Depressed Classes, and Harijans (a term Mahatma Gandhi popularised, meaning ‘Children of God’) are today increasingly adopting the term Dalit as a name for themselves. Dalit refers to one’s caste rather than class; it applies to members of those menial castes which have born the stigma of ‘untouchability’ because of the extreme impurity and pollution connected with their traditional occupations. Dalits are ‘outcasts’ falling outside the traditional four-fold caste system consisting of the hereditary Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya, and Shudra classes; they are considered impure and polluting and are therefore physically and socially excluded and isolated from the rest of society.

Osho 2 (17)

Man has been fed such great lies that one wonders: why do we go on and on feeding our children on the same lies – which have not given you anything in life. Your insanity, your unconsciousness, your blindness must be enormous.

In this country you can see it. The country has been divided for five thousand years by one of the most criminal minds of the world. But Hindus think that he is a great seer. His name is Manu and his book is Manusmriti. It divides humanity into four categories: the highest is the brahmin – who never works, who only worships, who only prays, and he’s the highest. And the lowest is the sudra, who works and supports the whole society. You can live without brahmins without any trouble. In fact, because of them there is always trouble. But you cannot live without the sudras. Who is going to clean your streets, your gutters, your absolutely unhygienic, ugly toilets?

In fact, most Indian houses don’t have any toilets. People are using the earth openly, urinating anywhere, defecating anywhere. And these people think they are the most cultured people in the world.

In Bombay, I became aware that the whole city is floating in urine and shit! I have always wondered why Morarji Desai had chosen Bombay to be his residence. It is because the perfume that surrounds the great city of Bombay… except Morarji Desai, nobody else could enjoy it.

We are, and we have been for centuries, so inhuman to one-fourth of our people – who are the very foundation of our society; without them, you cannot live a single day. But they are condemned, they are not even accepted as human beings.

They cannot live in the middle of the city, they have to live outside the city. Their other name in Sanskrit is antyaja – those who live outside the town. And there have been times when even their shadow was thought to be disgusting, so every sudra had to move with a bell in his hand – it was in the north of India — so that people could disperse, hearing his bell. You think the West has invented the horn? You are wrong, it is an invention of Hindu society, thousands of years old. No sudra was allowed to move in all parts of the city – only a few parts, but there too he had to keep ringing a bell continuously so everybody should know who he is.

How you have taken the dignity of a human being, how you have reduced him! Dogs can move, buffaloes can move, donkeys can move, police officers can move – but a sudra cannot move because if even his shadow touches you, you will have to take a bath immediately to clean yourself.

In the south, it became even more absurd. Every sudra had a long brush attached to a belt at the back, and in his hand, a bell. And why was this long brush attached? – so that the earth does not become unclean. When he moves, the brush goes on cleaning it.

And you think this country is civilized?

A brahmin can marry any woman – she may belong to the warriors, the second category; she may belong to the vaishyas, the business people, the third category. She may even belong to the fourth category, the sudras – although if he marries a sudra, he will be expelled from the highest caste. He will become a sudra, that is the only punishment. But the sudra cannot marry any woman beyond his caste; it is a more heinous crime, according to Manu, than murder. And Manu is still the lawgiver to the Hindus.

I am asked continuously not to criticize anybody. You just tell me: if nobody criticizes these idiots of the past, then how are we going to get rid of all this nonsense?

The sudra is not allowed to have any education, he’s not allowed to read any religious scripture. Obviously, he cannot read because he has never been in a school.

It was the British government who made a law that sudras can and should be allowed in the schools. When I was a child and I first entered school, I was surprised that a few children were sitting outside the class. I asked, “What is the matter? Why are these children sitting out of the class?”

And the teacher told me, “They are sudras. Although the law has been enforced, we cannot drop our culture. They have to sit outside.”

Even if some sudra somehow manages to learn to read, he cannot read any religious scripture. The penalty and the punishment is death. Forget all about reading religious scriptures – he cannot even listen. If somewhere brahmins are reciting the Vedas, the sudra is not allowed to listen.

This is the respect that you have given to labor. The parasites, the brahmins, are the highest caste; you have to touch their feet. Always you have been told that work is a curse…. And certainly, when religious priests were saying that work is a curse, it appeared to be absolutely a fact, because for thousands of years you have been cursing the workers. It is a vicious circle. First you take the dignity of the laborer, of the worker; first you destroy his pride, his integrity. He cannot do another business.

In Hinduism, there is no movement – you are born a brahmin, you cannot become a brahmin. Even if you are more learned, more wise… even a Gautam Buddha cannot become a brahmin.

And the brahmins have not been able to produce a single Gautam Buddha. But you will be surprised: the sudras have produced people almost equal to Gautam Buddha – of course, unrecognized by the society. But now you can see… a Kabir who was a weaver, and weavers belong to the sudras. He’s uneducated; hence he has not the refined expression of a Gautam Buddha but what he says in the simple and ordinary language of the people has the same flight. And sometimes – because it is raw, uncut diamonds – it has more potential, more possibility, more meaning.

Buddha is a well-cut diamond, well polished, but now you cannot do anything more to him. Kabir is a Kohinoor, just out of the mine. Let me remind you: when the Kohinoor was found, it was three times bigger than it now is in the crown of the Queen of England. To cut it, to give it facets, to give it a beautiful shape, to polish it, two-thirds was lost. Kabir is an uncut, freshly taken out diamond; he has many more possibilities than the Kohinoor.

Raidas was a shoemaker but has the same attainment of consciousness. He was uneducated, never heard of any religious scriptures. His case proves that all religious scriptures are useless, there is no need. A Raidas just making shoes can rise to the same height as a Gautam Buddha – then what is the need of unnecessarily burdening yourself with religious scriptures?

A Gora… he was a potter. He’s also part of the sudras, the untouchables – they cannot be touched. But the poetry of Kabir, Raidas, Gora, is so beautiful, so authentic, so unburdened with unnecessary ornaments – just pure and simple. No brahmin has been able even to produce a Raidas, a Gora or a Kabir, and still they continue to be the most respected people in the society. And the most unproductive, because they are not working at all; they are not creating anything.

I repeat: they are parasites, bloodsuckers. They should be brought back to the earth and they should be made aware that unless you create and work, you don’t deserve anything. Why have they not been able to create a Kabir or a Buddha? The reason is simple: because they have fallen far away from nature and existence. Remaining uncreative, nobody can go on dancing with the tune, in harmony with the stars.

Osho, The Messiah Vol 1, Ch 13 (excerpt)