For the first time, the 2011 census of India counted a population ‘other’ than male or female. This presentation takes a cue from the census and traces the legal invisibility of ‘other’ Dalits. Formerly considered ‘untouchable’ and subordinate in the caste system in India, Dalits are also known as Scheduled Castes in legal parlance. This invisibility of ‘other’ Dalits is located in a puzzling legal moment in which transgender status is protected and sexual orientation is proscribed; and while transgender persons are compared with ‘untouchable’ Dalits, there is no legal understanding of persons who are both transgender and Dalit. Relying on Kimberlé Crenshaw’s framework of ‘intersectionality’, this presentation shows the legal invisibility of ‘other’ Dalits and a broader significance of ‘othering’. It opens the contours of the ‘other’ and extrapolates that understanding to other ‘intersectionally’ subordinate groups like Dalit women, Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians. The main argument of this presentation is that law operates on 'single axes frameworks' such as caste, sex, gender and sexual orientation, and that results in the overall inefficacy of the law, and a near total denial of remedial action to ‘intersectionally’ subordinate groups. This presentation argues that attention to subordinate groups would result in improving our understanding of the laws and in making them more robust and more effective for everybody.

Sumit Baudh is a Research Fellow at the Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies, Columbia Law School, New York; currently working toward his dissertation in the Doctor of Juridical Science (S.J.D.) program at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Law.