Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 April 2014
Combating Exclusion: Paradoxes and Challenges
Social exclusion as a practice is embedded in structures and processes of inequality of various kinds. Class, caste, race, gender, ethnicity, religion or geographical region could be the trajectories along which social inequality may exist. Inequality has its consequences in political, social, cultural, and psychological domains for individuals, families, groups, and communities. Despite the multidimensional nature of social exclusion, economic dimension remains primary in its dispensation for most of the excluded. However, economic improvement may not necessarily create an inclusive society. Exclusion, in most cases, intertwines with certain immutable or least-changeable characteristics of individuals and collectivties. In India, one may safely but cautiously ignore race as the immutable variable leading to exclusion. Though caste does not correspond with race in terms of distinct skin colour for each caste, but caste status is determined by birth and thus it is regarded as immutable in India. Caste is the major divisive force followed by religion, and they both tend to go together. Even the universally recognized egalitarian religions of the world have been infected by the caste virus in India. Thus, we have numerous studies showing the existence of castes and caste-based exclusions among the Muslims, the Christians, and the Sikhs. Tribal communities in India, both mainland and north-eastern, with few exceptions (such as Meenas of Rajasthan), exist without a caste system, but they suffer from exclusion from the development process as such.