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Abstract

The policy of religious neutrality in colonial India, the forebear of post-colonial secularism, was radically reshaped in the process of implementing governmental welfare measures directed at ‘untouchable’ Pariahs. This article reveals how caste came to be understood as a matter of religion – and therefore outside the purview of legitimate state intervention – in a series of conflicts involving state agents, European missionaries, Indian landlords and Pariah agricultural servants in late nineteenth-century Madras Presidency.