Queen of the Dalits

Prakash Singh / AFP /Getty Images

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati Kumari

It was an image dripping with symbolism — and cake crumbs. When Mayawati Kumari, Chief Minister of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, turned 52 in January, aides and civil servants took turns to finger-feed her scoops of a 115-pound (52 kg) chocolate birthday cake at a party in the state capital Lucknow. The image of mostly high-caste men feeding a Dalit (formerly "Untouchable") woman was an incredibly powerful one in a country where discrimination based on caste has been banned for more than half a century but where many of the old barriers and prejudices endure. Just in...

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