CASTE AT BIRTH
For Channel 4
Producer/Director/Writer: Mira Hamermesh
 

From an old Indian saying:

'Women, untouchables, and drums are made for beating.'

 
 
 

In CASTE AT BIRTH, Mira Hamermesh provides a revealing insight into Indian society, its conflicts and the massive discrimination against the 'untouchables' (who have renamed themselves DALITS) through the excuse of reserving the privileges of the higher castes.

 

Hindu society is divided into tiers of castes, where the 'untouchables' are deemed so low that they fall outside the social scales - outcasts.

Within the Hindu notions of purity and impurity, any contact with them is polluting. In the past, they would be beaten if their shadow fell across an upper caste person. In some villages, they used to be required to wear brooms around their waists and to efface their footsteps.

In spite of the attempts to introduce equality for the 'untouchables', guaranteed by the constitution, discrimination still goes on in a variety of ways, sometimes culminating in brutal murder.

CASTE AT BIRTH artfully contrives an open portrait of Indian society. In CASTE AT BIRTH, Mira Hamermesh follows yet another conflict. The film was inspired by friendship with the writer Mulk Raj Anand, who was the first to write about the plight of the 'untouchables', influenced by Gandhi's ideas. The book UNTOUCHABLES, published in the thirties, is a Penguin Classic.

"We have about one hundred and fifty million untouchables in India who are leading a life worse than the blacks under apartheid, and yet the world is not aware of the magnitude of the problem "

- Swami Agnivesh, Hindu priest

 
1990
54 Mins
 
16mm