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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.
Tenders are invited for Protection To Scoured Bank Of Genguti Left Embankment Near Village Gopalpur Harijan Sahi For The Year 2018-19
Tenders are invited for Restoration Of Drain From Babuli Pattnayak Res To Kafala Fandi Chhaka Via Mohantypada Harijan Sahi In Ward No.
Tenders are invited for Renovation Of Drain From Rambha Electric Office To Bazar Harijan Sahi Of Rambha Nac In Ward No-12 Of Rambha Nac
Tenders are invited for Improvement To Cc Road From Kebidird Road Towards Harijan Pada In Ward No 13
Tenders are invited for Construction of Cement Concrete roads from biddeddappa kuli house to Parmeshwarappa mucchatti house of bisalahalli Village, G T Patil house to Harijan keri of Chhinnikatti village and Harijan keri roads of Anuru, Tumarikoppa, Chatra tanda, Old & New Shidenur Villages of Byadagi taluka, Haveri dist.
Tenders are invited for Construction of Cement Concrete roads from Karimattihalli busstand to Siddeshwara temple, Ningappa sadara house to tiluvalli harijan ramanna house, roads in the villages of Kabbur tanda, Najik lakmapura tanda and Kurubagonda of Haveri taluk and ranebennur- joyisarahalli road to Harijan keri joint road of yarekuppi village of Ranbennur taluka, Haveri Dist.
Tenders are invited for Construction of Cement Concrete Road in Andagi Panchayath Hebbatthi SC Colony from Home of Gutyappa Shivalingappa Harijan to home of Gutyappa Manjappa Harijan in Sirsi Taluk, Uttara Kannada District.
C sadak nirman karya mahaveer harijan k plot se ramesh harijan ki gali hote huye bholenath k mnadir tak w.
Tenders are invited for Ward no 4 ramanna haveri house to prakash harijan house road work, ward no 3 and 5 mailarappa house to jingi gowramma house and kalburgi house and uliveppa house to kaddipudi house and jujagav house to harijan uliveppa house and G savanur house to gosavi house road work, ward no 21 MM ofset printers opposite to melmuri house CC road work.