Dalits in Bangladesh

When I looked at the 1000 Genomes data five samples collected in Dhaka, did not align with the others. Most Bengalis are shifted away from other South Asians because of East Asian ancestry. These five individuals, in contrast, clustered with Tamil and Telegu Dalits. Importantly, their identification numbers indicate they were sampled at the same time.

This highlights the fact that a large community of Dalits live in Bangladesh, Dhaka Dalits push for anti-discrimination law:

A considerable number migrated into what is now Bangladesh between 1835 and 1940, during a British-sponsored urbanisation plan. They worked in jobs such as road sweeping, clearing sewage, shoe repair and tea harvesting. This historical legacy of working in low-paying, difficult jobs continues today.

The genetic data suggest to me that they are indeed descendents of migrants.

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14 Replies to “Dalits in Bangladesh”

  1. If the Tamilians and Telagu people moved to Bengal between 1835 and 1940 why didn’t they keep their mother tongue?

    How much color does DNA provide for when they moved to Bengal from perhaps Tamil/Telegu places?

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    1. UP dalits are in a similar spot.

      why do u expect people to keep their mother tongue? most indians in trinidad don’t speak an indian language.

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    2. AnAn, This is not the first time that I heard the presence of Telugu Dalits in Bangladesh. I remember watching them on YouTube a few years ago. I don’t recall the language they are using. I should look them up again.

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  2. Razib,

    Do you know if there is any structure within Dalits from all over India? Are the caste labels known for Dalits?

    I am curious about Telugu Dalits because Mala and Madiga won’t intermarry and they refuse to intermarry with Erukula (in AP), although all of them are lumped under Dalits.

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    1. Violet the labeling of “caste” in India is massively messed up. When I was 11 and 12 I read many British books breaking down Indian caste by region in great granular detail. There is no clear category such as untouchable/dalit/harijan. That is a recent creation by academia.

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      1. AnAn,

        I am not sure which books you read, but it is clear for anyone who lived even briefly in villages which castes are untouchables/dalits/harijan without any academics chiming in.

        Whatever was the definitions of British books, post-independence India have Forward Castes, Other Backward Castes (OBC), Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST).
        All SC are now lumped under “Dalits” and STs are commonly under “Tribals” in these genetic studies.

        Perhaps you can look up why some castes were put under SC and others under OBC to understand this better. Then you can explain what “messed up” is. Also, recommend watching “Mala Pilla” (Telugu movie from 1930s), based on a novel by the same title. Very clear who were defined as untouchables/dalits/harijans.

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        1. Violet, Thank you for clarifying. I was about to say the same. The latest is not to use in the Indian media the word Dalit.

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      2. There is no clear category such as untouchable/dalit/harijan. That is a recent creation by academia.

        genetically are actually quite clear. it’s pretty interesting that the groups labeled as dalits by academia seem to share very similar genetic ancestry.

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    2. Do you know if there is any structure within Dalits from all over India? Are the caste labels known for Dalits?

      they seem really drifted. so lots of endogamy.

      the chamars seem to have more west eurasian ancestry than south indian dalits. but chamars are still more like south indian dalits than middle caste south indians are like south indian dalits.

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      1. “they seem really drifted. so lots of endogamy.” Agreed. What is the degree of genetic overlap between groups labeled as dalits with shudras and other groups of people in south Asia and outside south Asia.

        There are many different groups of people now labeled as “dalits”–some of which are arguably not disadvantaged. Do you have enough samples from each of the many sub-branches now labeled as “dalits” to calculate the relationship between their DNA? Where might they have moved to South Asia from?

        Is there data on how “dalits” compare to other groups of people with respect to big five psychological personality traits, IQ, physical health and mental health? Obviously this question is addressed at everyone and not just Razib.

        My own view is that all caste related affirmative action/scheduled classes/preferences/assistance should be banned and replaced by affirmative action based on socio-economic factors alone. The only group that should get preferences in India are those of African ancestry (for a variety of global and geopolitical reasons).

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        1. There are many different groups of people now labeled as “dalits”–some of which are arguably not disadvantaged. Do you have enough samples from each of the many sub-branches now labeled as “dalits” to calculate the relationship between their DNA? Where might they have moved to South Asia from?

          we don’t have THAT many dalit samples unfortunately. i can put together a post on them soon though. mostly have tamil/up the bangladeshi ones above and UP chamars

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  3. Its kind of ironic that Mondal thought his community interests will be served better by allying with their muslim bengali counterpart rather than hindu zamindari class. In India, dalits got some type of affirmative action while nothing to that affect in Bangladesh/East Pakistan. How naive/short sighted our founding fathers were?

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  4. The propositions that a) the category “dalit” makes excellent sense from a perspective of social discrimination and b) there is considerable discord and mutual suspicion bordering on hostility among the various groups that constitute this category can (and are) simultaneously true. It is a leftwing illusion that those at the receiving end of pervasive social oppression somehow sense and practice a spontaneous solidarity.

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  5. @Razib Bhai, If those 5 samples are from south India, what about lower caste Hindus that lives in Bangladesh? The groups like “Namsudra” are not uncommon among hindus in rural Bangladesh.
    For example, In every villages of Homna there are at least two different Hindu districts, those districts are inhabited by castes like Yogi(craftsmen,Goldsmith ect.),Namasudra,Kobuit(Fishermen caste), Sahas and Kayasthas. All those caste except Saha and Kayasthas look distinctive from Bengali Muslims. According to genetic it seems Kayasthas ,Vaidyas and other mid-caste bengali hindus cluster with Bengali muslims, so I thought those 5 Bangladeshi samples might be lower caste hindu Bengalis.
    When I visited Sylhet, I noticed the women that works in Sylhet’s tea garden look similar to south Indian dalits, so Dalit migration from southern India definitely occured in colonial times.

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