Census of Government of India 2001
located on the eastern side of India, has a population of 5 crore 20 lakh people. The state is broken up into 26 districts, which are made up of 225 blocks. Over the past several years, the state has been hailed as one of the most progressive states in India, and the BJP, whose main slogan is “Vibrant Gujarat,” has played a major role in pushing for that growth.
Religion and Caste in Gujarat
Even with all of this progress, the state continues to remain deeply divided over caste and religious boundaries. Among the four major religions practiced in Gujarat – Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, and Christianity – there is an established hierarchical social structure comprised of a number of different dominant and scheduled castes.
Hinduism is the dominant religion in the state, practiced by over 80% of the population. The dominant Hindu castes in Gujarat are the Brahmins, Patels (Leua, Kadva), Darbars (Kshatriya), Koli Patels, Ahirs, and Mers. The Scheduled Castes (SC) or the Dalits make up 7.1% of the total population and are made up of the Vankars, Chamars, Garodas, Mahyavanshis, Senva, Turi Barots, Dangasiyas, Nadiyas, Hadis, and Valmikis.
Caste and other such divisions also play a role in the structure of the other practiced religions in Gujarat. Within Islam, Vora, Khoja, Sipai, Saiyad, and Khatki are the main castes and in Jainism, the Vhaiya caste dominates. Christianity in Gujarat includes many Dalits who have converted from Hinduism but continue to be defined by their caste. Outside of these major religions, there are also a number of Scheduled Tribes or Adivasis, made up of Vasavas, Halpatis, and Dhodiya Patels to name a few.
The government of Gujarat has implemented certain policies designed to uplift those belonging to the Scheduled Castes into higher positions. The most prominent is the reservation system, where certain seats in the government are set aside only for Dalits. In Gujarat, 7% of seats in the government and education sectors are reserved for Dalits (as opposed to 14% set aside on the national level). This amounts to 2 of the 26 Members of Parliament (MP) and 13 of the 182 Members of Legislative Assemblies (MLA) currently held by members of the SC. There are also established reservation systems in place at the district, block, and village levels throughout the state.
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Even with this promise of upliftment through reservation, Dalits continue to be discriminated against throughout Gujarat. The number of atrocity cases against Dalits and the practice of untouchability continue to occur at alarming rates throughout the state, especially when compared to other Indian states