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Although the constitution of India abolished the concept of “untouchable persons,” officials continue legally to recognize caste categories for purposes of compensatory discrimination in government employment, university admissions, and legislative seats. Caste, rooted in ancient religious laws and further codified under colonialism, plays a role in contemporary legal debates in South Asia and beyond. Although some assume caste to be immutable, it is complex and changing, leading to litigation over the definition of caste categories. Activists are increasingly recognizing caste as a global phenomenon and participating in international legal debates, including efforts to unite oppressed populations, in countries ranging from Japan to Nepal to Senegal, in a call to declare casteism a form of racism, illustrated by the 2001 United Nations World Conference against Racism.

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