’Outcast’ – the repressed people of Asia’, released in May 2011, depicts the destitution, injustice, poverty and exclusion suffered by hundreds of millions of people in South Asia, as well as small glimmers of hope and empowerment. The photographs and stories about Dalits in Asia were collected by the Danish photographer Jakob Carlsen, over several trips to the region. It is a haunting read, presenting images of a human rights situation so dire you cannot help but reflect on how this could still be taking place in the 21st century.
The photos are accompanied by stories of bonded labour, untouchability, segregation, murder, impunity, child labour, forced prostitution, extreme poverty and much more. There are also statistics on atrocities and untouchability practices at the back of the book.
In 2009, Carlsen won the prestigious Pictures of The Year International – World Understanding Award for his pictures of Dalits from India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan – which are now available in book form. The book has already been critically acclaimed and the Wall Street Journal wrote:
“Though untouchability has been decried since the start of the Indian independence movement in the 19th century—Gandhi called it ‘a heinous crime against humanity’—the practice still keeps many millions in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal bound to a wheel of grinding poverty. The black-and-white photographs in ‘Outcast: The Repressed People of Asia’ (Ajour, 216 pages, $46.95) are haunting: A sewer worker, splashed with excrement, lowers himself underground; women scavenge for food in a vast, open dump; a flooded-out fisherman appears resigned to receiving none of his village’s emergency aid due to his low caste. In the slums of Bombay, a woman and child cross an open sewer to makeshift ‘houses’ rented illegally to Untouchables by railway workers. Mr. Carlsen found not ‘Shining India’ but faces burned by the midday sun, glowing with sweat and grease and lined from ceaseless toil.”
In 2007, the International Dalit Solidarity Network sent Carlsen to India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan to document the situation of the region’s Dalits and many of the pictures taken on this trip, and used in IDSN’s work, are part of the book.