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(hâr`ĭjănz') [children of God], in India, individuals who are at the bottom of or outside the Hindu castecaste
[Port., casta=basket], ranked groups based on heredity within rigid systems of social stratification, especially those that constitute Hindu India. Some scholars, in fact, deny that true caste systems are found outside India.
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 system. They were traditionally sweepers, washers of clothes, leatherworkers, and those whose occupation it was to kill animals. The term is also sometimes applied to the hill tribes of India, who are considered unclean by some because they eat beef. Originally called untouchables or pariahs, they were given the name Harijans by the Indian political and religious leader Mahatma GandhiGandhi, Mohandas Karamchand
, 1869–1948, Indian political and spiritual leader, b. Porbandar. In South Africa

Educated in India and in London, he was admitted to the English bar in 1889 and practiced law unsuccessfully in India for two years.
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, who worked for many years to improve their lives. Many now refer to themselves as Dalits [Marathi,=broken] to indicate their oppressed position outside Hindu society; legally the Indian government groups them as "scheduled castes."

Until the Indian constitution of 1949, Harijans, who constitute 15% to 20% of India's population, were subject to discrimination and social restrictions because of their "polluting" effect on those with whom they came into contact. Under the constitution, the Harijans were recognized as scheduled castes and tribes entitled to educational and vocational opportunities, as well as representation in parliament; however, widespread discrimination still exists.

Some Harijan leaders have become powerful in Indian politics. Jagjivan Ram, one of the first of his caste to receive a formal education, held several cabinet posts under Indira GandhiGandhi, Indira
, 1917–84, Indian political leader; daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru. She served as an aide to her father, who was prime minister (1947–64), and as minister of information in the government of Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri (1964–66).
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 and was a leader of the Janata coalition that unseated her in 1977. K. R. NarayananNarayanan, K. R.
(Raman Kocheril Narayanan) , 1921–2005, Indian government official. An "untouchable" or Dalit (see Harijans), he nonetheless graduated from the Univ. of Travancore (now Kerala, 1943) with high honors.
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 was a government minister and served as India's president (1997–2002), and Meira Kumar was the first woman to be elected (2009) speaker of the Lok Sabha, India's lower house of parliament. Others have obtained a strong voice in state politics, particularly in Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh. Militant untouchables formed the Dalit Panthers in Mumbai, while many have sought to escape the stigma of their birth by conversion to Buddhism, Christianity, or Islam.


See B. R. Ambedkar, The Untouchables (1948); J. M. Mahar, The Untouchables in Contemporary India (1972); D. Hiro, The Untouchables of India (1982).

References in periodicals archive ?
They also requested promotion of the employees of Harijan community in accordance with their seniority without delay and also provide employment to the children of retired employees.
Addressing a press conference in his office here on Tuesday evening the SSP said, the Police arrested two accused involved in the theft of five religious statues from Harijan Krishna Temple in Samiabad near Ali Goharabad Mohallah of Larkana, in the limits of Market Police.
kabristan se jafarul hasan ke ghar hote huye dhobi tola 3) L022 to east harijan tola 4) L077 TO Ushraha 5) T03 to Bishanpur 6) Lolaha chowk to Mushari 7) T01 Bhatti chowk to chainpur uttar tola 8) T04 to Bhagwatpur harijan tola 9) T02 to Khatwo tola 10) L032 Pandav sthan hote huye
Protective works beside Che road from PIVD roads towards Harijan Para under Paparara-I CP within Kharagpur-ll P.
Tenders are invited for Reconstruction of L036 to Kumhar Tola via Yadav Tola, Musahari Tola and T03 to Muslim Tola and Mallah Tola and T04 Yadav Tola to Haripur West Tola via Muslim Tola and T04 to Punarwas Harijan Tola via Shah Tola and T02 (Koshi Bund) to Jhinuwa T01 (P.
Tenders are invited for Repair/restoration of damaged slab of effluent channel near E-454 A, Harijan Basti in New Ashok Nagar
Tenders are invited for Construction Community Centre, Dispansary, Toilet Block, Re-Construction Harijan Choupal In Vill-Harola, Noida.
Tenders are invited for Providing and laying GI pipe line at harijan basti ward no.
He said that Jihad would change the entire geo-political structure of the Sub-Continent, as it would also free much-oppressed Indian Muslims, Christians and 'low-caste' Harijans, from the cruel and highly discriminatory shackles of Indian oppression.
Chapter 5 concerns Gandhi's attempt to persuade India that sweeping was the highest profession, and his failure to see that the Harijans ("children of God"), as he called untouchables, needed emancipation, not just a better image.
However, this was not to be and the various state initiatives did not have any appreciable impact on the economic well-being of the Harijans and 'the mountain people'.
He said that Jihad would change the entire geo-political structure of the Sub-Continent, as it would also free much-oppressed Indian Muslims, Christians and low-caste Harijans, from the cruel and highly discriminatory shackles of Indian oppression.