Why am I an Untouchable

'Why Am I An Untouchable?'

Sujatha Gidla was part of the lowest class in India's social hierarchy — the untouchables. When she left India for the United States, she was finally free of caste, but the psychological toll left her feeling inferior for years.

Posted by HuffPost Personal on Thursday, July 12, 2018

This is an important video to see- we have of course discussed caste endlessly in BP however it is powerful to see an Untouchable speak about it first-hand.

In some ways Dalit is an euphemism so I’m referring to Ms. Gidla’s use of lingo.

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170 Replies to “Why am I an Untouchable”

  1. she’s kind of a communist 😉 i think literally.

    that being said, we’ve had polite exchanges on twitter. she’s curious about genetics.

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  2. I think she hides more than she reveals or purports to reveal. She is a good poster girl for American evangelicals who are keen on harvesting “souls” in other countries. if casteism operates in Christianity and Communists , then there is nothing specifically Hindu about it . Her memories are selective and suitable packaged to an evangelical audience.

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      1. The point is not about ‘laws’ , we are talking about about a functioning social system. It is in your review it is stated as you understand it ‘However, caste remained salient even within the Communist movement.’ . Even though her family is Christian for the last 3 or 4 generations, she cleverly keeps blaming Hinduism ; what happened to Christianity and their social circle ?

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        1. I concede the difference between laws and a functioning social system.

          I think the idea is that all religions in India have been influenced by the Hindu caste system. The difference is that in Hinduism, there is religious sanction for dividing people up in this manner (Brahmins from Manu’s head, Shudras from Manu’s feet). As I noted in the review, Indian and Pakistani Muslims also practice some features of what could be called caste. Yet our religion says that all believers are equal in the eyes of God.

          The official Christian belief is also that all Christians are equal in the eyes of the Lord.

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    1. VijayVan

      She is a good poster girl for American evangelicals who are keen on harvesting “souls” in other countries. if casteism operates in Christianity and Communists , then there is nothing specifically Hindu about it . Her memories are selective and suitable packaged to an evangelical audience.

      VijayVan, would expect better from you addressing issues.
      Selective memory, maybe. Agricultural Labor as an untouchable. From what I kind of know, Agricultural Labor cannot be done by untouchables.

      You look at the end photos (in video), I doubt they were untouchables.

      Not much different like me claiming Dalit/Shudra (probably genetically reasonable) .
      Maybe I am just extrapolating.

      Then I think I have an extremely privileged inheritance. Even with physical mediocrity (height 5′ 4″ ) and was a fat (200lb), in the US never felt discriminated.

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      1. Hi Sereno

        What you feel discriminated by partly depends on the large scale political and social narratives you get, you believe which tell you how to explain the social discomforts. From what you say , USA has no social discrimination because people like you – and Gidla – are already bamboozled by the USA, it’s constitution and have been thoroughly seduced by it so as to not to feel discrimination. OTOH, even till 50 years back blacks were lynched and even in the 60s a well-known singer like Sammy Davis had to drop marriage with a white women and marry a black woman on the pain of losing his life. And he had to enter the halls where he performed through backdoor. Even now the black prison pop is way above their percentage . Gidla can sing praises of the USA till she finds herself in a sticky racial situation.

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        1. Vijavan,

          I think you have got the wrong end of the stick.

          I was saying that what all Gilda is saying does not pass a smell test in some issues.

          I dont feel discriminated (in SL or the US), because I did not face discrimination growing up in SL. I was the shortest guy in school and Uni (Irealize now), but I never felt. However, it was others who got a nickname like “shorta”.

          like you – and Gidla – are already bamboozled by the USA, it’s constitution and have been thoroughly seduced by it so as to not to feel discrimination. OTOH, even till 50 years back blacks were lynched and even

          First, I am not a US Citizen or GC holder. Never aspired to either.
          I am well aware of discrimination faced by Latinos/African-Americans.
          May recall that I lived in the South Bronx and Harlem.
          I have friends, who I consider family who still live in the South Bronx and Harlem.
          No, it is not I know some “Black people”. Some of the family were so close that they visited me in thrice in Sri Lanka.
          https://goo.gl/photos/kNN6jCpcAUbziUr29

          Also my grandfathers brother was married (1890’s) to an American Missionary. Would they have faced discrimination in the US, who knows. All the children were before the age of 10.

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          1. Hi Sereno

            I agree you were saying certain things in her video does not jell. Apart from that , I thought it was condescending towards India from a US angle. Like the English Lords who prefer their servants to defend them and speak highly of them instead of themselves, the imperialism obvious in that has recruited a native , or an ex-native to do the job, which is even better

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  3. See the time distortion I AM untouchable in the sense Untouchability is still around in the US after many years of stay. Probably she is right , she IS facing Untouchability in the US.

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    1. Vijayraghavan,
      I meant to touch upon this topic but since you raised it first I will try to add my two cents worth of comments. There are no untouchables in India. The practice, including calling someone untouchable, is constitutionally banned. You will immediately face arrest. It is pretty difficult to practice social apartheid in public, in restaurants, in bus and railway seating etc. We can guess it is widely practiced in private. For those who are confused by this let me give the answer: There are former untouchables. No untouchables as such now.

      To further clarify, an African American from the U.S. can’t go to India and say why am I a slave? The answer being you are in a time warp, slavery was abolished long time ago and you are fighting obsolete issues.

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      1. +1
        I agree with you.

        While much remains to be done to uplift the historically downtrodden classes of Indian society we must not forget the Gidla herself is a product of Independent India’s affirmative action programs.

        She went to IIT-Madras because of reservation for SC candidates & education from there was her ticket to USA. Trying to sell her book & earn kudos in US by berating untouchability in Indian society as if it existed now is strange to say the least.

        Also, I find SWJs going on about how Islam & Christianity arrived to uplift the downtrodden dalits pure propaganda. Which Muslim medieval king even gave a thought towards the betterment of Indians. They were purely “extractive” ventures very similar to colonialism. The Christian missionaries can afford to look magnanimous in India but would western societies who finance these missionaries be willing to accept large scale migration of Indian Christians in their countries given that they are their brothers according to Christianity?

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        1. @Janamejaya

          Did she do engineering at IIT-M? she does a train conductor’s job in NY including cleaning the platforms . That would be done by school finished native born Americans , not by someone who has passed out of , say Princeton or Cornell under normal career routes. That IS American discrimination ; she is a living proof of it. No genuine dalit in India would put up with it. Genuine dalits have more self-respect than Gidla.

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          1. please note these jobs in NYC are quite highly paid and secure. to be entirely honest they’re also quite plum (i think they are unionized). she’s talked about why she wanted to do this job and she gave some communistic reason.

            she was doing a more white collar job in the USA before.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sujatha_Gidla#Work

            i think she’s atypical in a lot of ways tbh….

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          2. Yeah she did do engineering. She was employed as a software engineer at a New York Bank & lost her job in 2008 financial crisis. After that she claims she could not get a software engineering job in the US because she “lacked the caste networks which UC Hindus have”.

            Read up some of her interviews. She has said this multiple times.

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          3. I am kind of concerned that due to her misguided behavior Sujata Gidla may be hurting the dalit cause in India. She blames the Indian American Hindus for her inability to get an IT job in the U.S., thus alienating the whole desi community.

            She wants to join a Brahmin association. I don’t know why? If I go to an Indian Muslim association and wants to join naturally that will raise some eyebrows; this after I tell them I don’t know Urdu and I am a vegetarian.

            She graduates from IIT-M and claims discrimination? I never thought I had to talk against a Dalit enthusiast whose cause I always supported. I consider Kancha Ilaiah as a hero.

            I think a clever book editor at Macmillan, the publisher coached her into all this sensationalism. One review of the book says, kids turned tops on her head as a child that caused a hole in her head. This is preposterous. She claims a neighbor exposed his erect penis to her when she was a kid. How is it caste oppression? No Brahmin girl ever gets into this situation? The Bent Twig state (not right in the head) continues.

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          4. @Saurav, “Kancha is from OBC, he is not dalit”

            Hi Saurav,
            Kancha Ilaiah is the main spokesperson and defender of Dalits in Andhra and Telangana. I have been following his activities for many years. He is an OBC, belonging to Kuruma/ golla/Yadav caste. Last time he was in the U.S. he presented Dalit’s case in front of Congressional Committee on human rights. According to Wikipedia, “Kancha Ilaiah, who now refers to himself symbolically as Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd is an Indian political theorist, writer and activist for Dalit rights.”

            Thanks to Osmania University, Hyderabad for providing him with a tenured job, shelter and protection from right wing forces. That is a shining example for Islam and Nizam in India.

            He retired recently from Osmania Univ. as Professor of Political Science.

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      2. Whether they are called “untouchables” or “Dalits”, the fact remains that Dalit bridegrooms are being murdered for riding horses or cars. There are cases of Dalit young men being killed for growing mustaches. Rohit Vemula was driven to suicide about two years ago. Casteism is alive and well in India. Perhaps you will be better off if you stop focusing on Sujatha Gidla and look at the larger systemic issues she is discussing.

        This response is a kind of defensiveness and denial. It’s not intellectually honest.

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        1. Kabir, You probably addressed your comment to Janamejaya. I politely and respectfully submit to you to consider that a Dalit is elected as President of India. There are 121 Dalit members of parliament in the lower house elected through reserved seats. That is one single biggest group in the Lok Sabha. This is happening for the last 70 years of Independence. Twenty or so percent of top government jobs are reserved for Dalits through affirmative action every year. We have to keep this in perspective before sensationalizing isolated incidents. At times it appears like you are holding the readers of this blog responsible and answerable for the day to day incidents in India. We are individuals and not members of some diplomatic mission. None on this blog can talk on behalf of India or all Hindus.

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          1. My comment was addressed to you since you said: “There are no untouchables in India”. My point is that whether they are called “untouchables” or “Dalits”, atrocities against them continue to occur and casteism remains a problem in India.

            I am not holding readers responsible for everything that happens in India. I also don’t appreciate being held responsible as a Pakistani for the ills of Pakistan. There was an attempt to district from Casteism in India by talking about the latest terrorist attack in Balochistan. What one issue has to do with the other I don’t understand. Pakistan has its own problems. Political violence continues to occur during elections. This doesn’t take away from the Dalit experience in India. I understand this makes some of you uncomfortable and that is why you are on the defensive. Nationalism does that to people.

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          2. @Kabir, “Perhaps you will be better off if you stop focusing on Sujatha Gidla and look at the larger systemic issues she is discussing.”

            The topic for discussion is the video of Gidla posted at the beginning of the blog. You keep changing the goal posts and now you want me to solve the problem of caste in India. That is uncalled for.

            I have listed above what the Indian society is doing to address issues with reference to Dalits to give a perspective, not as an apology. In any country if there are any issues between people the law of the land should be appealed to. Blog posts and comments have limited role to address issues at the ground level. I have no delusions about it. Nice to have this discussion with you.

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          3. I know very well what the topic of discussion is.

            I don’t want you to “solve any problems”. I am under no delusions as to how much power you have over the Modi Regime. Just as I have no power over the Government of Pakistan.

            But there is a general tendency on this thread to attack Sujatha Gidla and attempt to discredit her because she makes India look bad or is “anti-Hindu” or whatever. Meanwhile atrocities against Dalits continue every day. There are systemic problems and Hinduism justifies the caste system. That was my very limited point.

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  4. This is my father and eldest sister around 1924. Note my aunts looks (and shoes)
    https://photos.app.goo.gl/YjwEWLx2bmqvZcjB8

    This is my grandfathers sister and BIL, also my grandmothers brother.
    Very “ethnic” looking to say the least.
    http://sbarrkum.blogspot.com/2017/08/head-clerk-of-dimbulla-tea-s-thomas-and.html

    I am not sure what we (paternal) family would be considered in India. Jungle Bunnys.
    Here in SL a long forgotten family name with much writing.

    Also mentioned in Roper Lethbridge
    https://archive.org/details/goldenbookofindi00lethrich

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  5. i’m not a communist. i think dalits in india should focus on economic advancement through the free market (like nadars). not a big fan of evangelicals either.

    but it strikes me that dismissal of the way dalits are treated is kind of like ‘victim blaming.’ i mean, is it a giant conspiracy by the west to concoct this idea of dalit oppression? are they just playing the victims to gain benefits?

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      1. Why don’t you go and worry about the biggest terrorist incident which happened recently in Pakistan & leave India and Hinduism to solve its own troubles. Your preoccupation with India’s issues seems borderline pathological given the fact that you are a Pak origin American citizen currently living in Pakistan.

        If you were infact a real liberal you would have had the eyes to see the huge problems in your own society (religion) & could have made efforts to discuss them in order to improve.

        But instead you read Scroll/Wire which are extreme left wing, (minority is always right) oriented Indian news websites to constantly give yourself a false sense of comfort while living in the very hellish place called Pakistan.

        “Apni aankh ka shahtir to dikhta nahin, dusre ki aankhon ka tinka dhundhte rehte hain”

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        1. this comment is totally inappropriate. i’m leaving it up as an illustration of how not to throw a thread off topic.

          (ban/delete trigger activate)

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          1. Why is this inappropriate? I am not extremely active on this blog but from what I have seen Kabir’s views are normally very tendentious and on the subject of India, Hindusim often censorious or downright insulting. It should be fine to call him out on his hypocrisy.

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          2. Razib, Please indulge me for this one time. I kind of agree with Janamejaya on this count. There is no body I can imagine on this blog who supports the untouchability as exemplified by Ms. Sujata Gidla. We should discuss this in a non-sensational way.

            Some times I do get the impression that India is under a microscope on BP. It is good for India to get as much news as possible, but it tends to get tiring and boring to the readers. Cheers.

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        2. i’m american. i don’t care too much about pakistan as long as their chaos remains internal to be honest.

          as for india under a microscope, i think that’s warranted, because in my lifetime (hopefully!) it will be the #2 economic power in the world. a nation of consequence, like the one i live in. judged by a higher standard tbh.

          i am having minimal tolerance for triggering food-fights now. if that’s what you want, i’ll be fine with escalating.

          kabir’s comment was fine in the context of the thread. the fact that i’m defending him should give you a sense of how disgusting i find the thrust of this throwing off of the discussion.

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        3. Wow, way to get personal! This is a prime example of defensiveness.

          I have just as much right to comment on India as anyone else has to comment on Pakistan. At least, my comments are based on some news sources (you don’t need to approve of my political views or choice of news outlets).

          What makes you think that I don’t see the problems in Pakistan? I have left numerous comments here about how majoritarianism is a problem across South Asia and how I don’t approve of religious states in principle.

          I am interested in India because I am ethnically Indian (as are most Pakistanis). I identify with the high art of North India including Hindustani Classical Music and Urdu poetry. My ancestors were from what is today India. It is up to me to decide what interests me and what doesn’t interest me. It is not anyone else’s concern.

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          1. “My ancestors were from what is today India.”

            Make up your mind about where you are from. You seem to invent ancestors from any place which suits the argument you are making at the time.

            On this blog, we have learnt that your ancestors were from Iran and were not infact Indians who converted to Islam from Hinduism. Then you said a part of your ancestry is Kashmiri. Now you call yourself descended from Indians.

            Also we have only ever seen you defend Pakistan’s treatment of its minorities by saying that it was created as an ‘Islamic state’ and not as a secular one so don’t go around lying to defend your hypocrisy.

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          2. Since it apparently matters so much to you, let’s clarify (for the last time).

            My maternal grandfather was from Amritsar. My paternal grandmother was from Agra. Therefore 50% of my grandparents were “Indian” (actually they were all Indian because it was all British India at the time). On both sides of my family, people originally were Kashmiri and then went to other parts of British India. On my father’s side, some people came to Kashmir from Iran. But when you have been in India for 200 years or so, you are basically Indian.

            If you only read selectively, that is really not my problem.

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        4. Scroll released a video of ‘hindu mobs’ demolishing babri mosque. These are not pictures of any Hindutva mob demolishing mosques. These pictures are not even from india. These are Muslim mobs from Pakistan destroying a Hindu temple in Rawalpindi. 😵😵

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          1. No peep from liberals and SJWs on BP. Is it because everything is India’s fault? 🙂

            PS: I hope Scroll corrected it and apologized.

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    1. Razib

      It requires one to live in an Indian village to understand the life of Dalits. Nadars and Dalits are not equivalent, as Nadars are a part of the OBC, and Dalits are much lower than Nadars. In addition, there is no one single Dalit group; in each village, who is a Dalit is a local endogamy that has been created over 3000 years. To a great extent, Dalits have been ostracized out of land ownership, housing, education, trade for at least a thousand years. The avenues available for Nadars who are a numerically stronger group, does not exist for Dalits. This is like saying that A pallr or a Paraiyar should become a jew and start doing investment banking; neither in a village or in the cities can they do so. Even doing things like opening a food takeout or buying land to build a house became available to Dalit ( I hate that word it suggests a group but this is a 10000 small groups) only in the 1980s.

      Rejection by everyone has made the people long for inclusion, and I love it that Christian churches and to a lesser extent, Mosques opened their doors for them; the temples surely do not. Even an educated Dalit cannot waltz into a town and rent a falt; the first question will always be what is your caste.

      Most caste groups will tolerate a certain amount admixture in marriage, living in apartments, but tehse avenues are readily not open to the Dalits. To be completely honest, even the most Dravidan parties ostracize them, as good as the Brahmins. In a conflict between the caste Hindus and SCs, the parties will immediately favor the Caste, and I am not talking about complex conflicts, even walking in the street and talking to caste Hindu woman. Just because a Dalit youth has studied, does not mean progress, there is a large number of social mores that work against them, and cant be easily understood if you look at an educated Black person in 1930s south.

      The urban industrial and real estate development will be a way forward, but it has not, as the rush is even caste-controlled. Your example is a great example: Nadars rushed into urban India to control the trade, but limited it to Nadar youths. Likewise for each caste group.

      I am not saying you do not understand this, but the problems that dalits face are unique in the world, each ostracized group in the world is ostracized in its own way.

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      1. “the temples surely do not”
        This is false.
        We have had dalits becoming temple priests recently let alone being forbidden to enter temples. Untouchability & caste discrimination in public is forbidden by law in India since 1950 & a hyper vigilant press would highlight any such issue globally.

        Infact it is the internet hindus (who dont find worth engaging) who are very ardent against casteism in Hindu society. The communists or other caste parties don’t really have any incentive to fight caste.

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        1. Infact it is the internet hindus (who dont find worth engaging) who are very ardent against casteism in Hindu society.

          i’ve seen this, and this is kind of like the anti-racism i’ve seen among salafists. there is some sincerity there surely.

          otoh, just like secular liberals, it seems internet hinduism tends to be an upper caste phenomenon (just like the modernist vs. fundamentalist argument in islam is often among educated urban classes).

          as someone who has been attacked because of my skin color and subject to a mild degree of racism in life (mostly earlier), i get ‘marginalization’ viscerally. i don’t see that the few dalits in america experience that, as here a light brown kashmiri and a dark south indian fall under the same broad rubric to a first approximation in white & black perception. but i assume things are way different in india….

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          1. Where dalits do have political power e.g. in UP you do see them as right wing hindus albeit is lesser numbers than upper castes. Its in places where farming castes (OBCs) are utterly dominant politically e.g. In tamil nadu, punjab, kerala where you see dalits trying to create an anti – hindu identity.

            Its no surprise sujata gidla is from the south. For a UP dalit despite all discrimination, identification with hindusim is very strong.

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          2. As i have said before Hinduism is (mostly) a North Indian Religion. 😛
            The Arabs of Islam.

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          3. @Saurav
            You talk rubbish by saying Hinduism is a north Indian religion. You can say North India has a flavour of Hinduism while south India has another.

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    2. Razib
      My knowledge of her comes through this 5 minute video and Kabir’s review.
      In the Video , do you hear any experiences of her in India ? No . It is all ideological talk, not personal history. So, I have not dismissed any of HER experiences since she did not say any . She says her she thought (in the USA) what if others touch me, they may be polluted. If she thinks like that after being Christians for 3 or 4 generations and university educated for 3 generations, why blame Hinduism ; did Christianity had no influence on her except to find a scapegoat. BTW, ‘touching’ especially opposite sex is frowned upon in traditional India ; you may find it only in some ‘advanced’ universities; nothing specifically ‘dalit’ about it ; yet she wants to give such a spin.
      Her talk is ideological , not personal.
      Even though she seems to come from an educated family for 3 generations and she did Engineering , she seems to be doing the job of train conductor in the video . that’s what she calls no discrimination . If someone whose family has some educational attainments does train conductors job, that will be considered due to discrimination somewhere along the line in India ; yet in the USA she does not think so.

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        1. Razib and VijayVan,
          I do share with Ms. Gidla the language and geography in India and lot of ideology that goes with it. I will comment further as the thread continues.

          My first impression, I love and admire her diction and English accent in the posted video. Very clear. I have not heard any Telugu person talk so good. This is not being paternalistic or patronizing in any way.

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      1. @VijayVan “BTW, ‘touching’ especially opposite sex is frowned upon in traditional India”

        *Reminiscence alert.* I don’t remember as an adult touching my mother or elder sister; even on the day I left for the USA. It is just tradition folks.

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    3. About Nadars. True, they have advanced quite a bit in the last 100 years. OTOH, there are also tightly knit and there are many caste associations catering to them. If Nadars are the way to ‘root out’ casteism as Gidla or Ambedkar says , then you are barking a wrong tree.

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  6. “She herself was part of a leftist party and this got her into some trouble at university.”

    Thats a understatement.

    Linking a article again by one of my fav author

    https://www.livemint.com/Leisure/OZAtHxAe4xwoEYGPOpTdUK/How-to-defeat-a-rogue-nation-Find-a-bigger-thug.html

    “What patriots do not realize is that it is easier to be a nationalist than an anti-national, even for a Dalit. It is very confusing to fight India. India is at once kind and cruel, its politics is at once the revenge of the poor and the oligarchy of the rich.”

    Nothing truer than this.

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  7. Where dalits do have political power e.g. in UP you do see them as right wing hindus albeit is lesser numbers than upper castes. Its in places where farming castes (OBCs) are utterly dominant politically e.g. In tamil nadu, punjab, kerala where you see dalits trying to create an anti – hindu identity.

    this seems plausible. otoh what is the distribution of conversion to buddhism vs. xtianity and islam? (i know a lot of dalits are supposedly crypto-xtian) i’ve read conversion to buddhism is a middle path, not rejecting hinduism as much as caste.

    thoughts?

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    1. Christianity has made inroads in rural Punjab among dalit sikhs and hindus. Infact, the highest percentage of converts are from the areas where Jatt Sikhs are so dominant that they have suppressed any Hindu political movements & any RSS anti-conversion activity thereby helping the missionaries.

      I haven’t seen much conversion activity in Haryana or UP to be frank either to Christianity or to Islam. I may be wrong however. As you mention these things often run underground and I hope some Dalit contributors would enlighten us.

      Conversion to Buddhism too is a phenomenon mostly found in Maharashtra where neo-Buddhism is a thing.

      I think I am right in saying that Hindu religious practice in UP/Bihar has deep resonance across caste. I have seen Dalits from eastern UP perform “Chhath Puja”, a major festival in eastern UP & Bihar, with more enthusiasm than any upper caste folk.

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      1. @Janmajeya
        Chhath is by some accounts a pre-Vedic festival. It is also more a regional than religious one, where even Muslims might participate. Sort of like Onam in Kerala.

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        1. Its impossible to separate what is Vedic & what isn’t from current Hindu practice. The mythology of Chhath is that it was started by Karna who was the King of Anga kingdom somewhere in eastern UP. ‘Chhath maiyya’ is a said to be an interpretation of the Vedic Goddess ‘Ushas’.

          No Muslim ever celebrates Chhath or has ever celebrated Chhath. It entails worship of the Sun God.

          I am from Eastern UP & Bihar & I have only ever seen Hindus from the Brahmins, Kshatriyas to the Dalits celebrating Chhath. These feel good tropes spread by so called liberals in Mumbai or Delhi are really just lies and do nothing to spread communal harmony if that’s their intention.

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          1. @Janmajeya
            I am from Bihar/UP as well and I have lived in both states for a combined total of more than a decade. So I am not talking about second hand feel-good stories.

            Muslims might not chant the bhajans but they do partake in all the other aspects like cleaning up the roads, arranging logistics etc. That doesn’t usually happen in most other festivals.

            We might obviously have very different personal experiences depending on where we lived.

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          2. How extensive is the Sufi influence in Bihar/UP? Prats, what is the difference in relations with Sufis, Shiites and conservative Sunnis? If you don’t mind sharing.

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          3. Janmejaya, there is a wonderful series of documentaries called India’s Frontier Railways, with one centred on Nepal. It followed one particular woman who used the train to ferry goods from Bihar to Nepal, and honestly till the last minute of the documentary I was not able to tell whether this person was Hindu or Muslim.

            Islamic practice and culture was incorporated into their lives in different ways by different people across India. It was only in the last 150 years that a more restrictive norm of being Muslim developed through the combined forces of modernization and globalization. I remember reading in Eaton that Bengali Muslims had last names like Mondal and sometimes even Sanskrit first names till the first few decades of the 20th century !

            Eastern UP and Bihar, being the least modern and globalized places in India due to neglect by both the British and Indian governments, might actually end up preserving the more flexible Islam that has disappeared from most other places on the subcontinent.

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          4. @Vikram

            Yes, what you are saying is right but by now we have been through 2 centuries worth of modernization, globalization, hardening of identities and also a very corrosive 2 nation theory leading to the partition of the country in 1947.

            If you will remember Bihar was one of places where large scale riots took place in the days leading up to independence. Eastern UP and Bihar are may be poorer on an average but are not really that remote. Infact they can be said to be the political heartland of India with maximum number of PMs coming from there.

            I wish the Bihar which you wish for and Prats thinks exists really had an objective reality but thats not really the truth. At least from what I have seen.

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        2. “How extensive is the Sufi influence in Bihar/UP? Prats, what is the difference in relations with Sufis, Shiites and conservative Sunnis? ”

          There wasn’t a lot of Sufi influence in Patna in my experience. I wouldn’t know much about the differences between the various Islamic sects.
          There definitely was a clear physical and cultural distinction between Ashraf Muslims and desi Bihari (Ajlaf ?) Muslims. Mainly fair skin, connections to Saudi and use of purer Urdu.
          (Non-chalantly dropping lines like “Aaj tumhari cycle chalane ka dil kar raha hai”)

          I did have a disproportionately higher number of Muslim friends in Patna, though as compared to the 10 odd other cities that I have lived in.

          UP would be different. You should ask someone who has lived in Lucknow as that is the Muslim cultural centre.

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          1. What makes “Aaj tumhari cycle chalane ka dil kar raha hai” pure Urdu? It sounds like fairly standard Hindustani to me.

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          2. @Kabir
            Hindustani is not the native language of the people of Bihar. You can consider the status of Hindi in Bihar to be similar to Urdu in Pakistani Punjab. So urban Bihari Hindi/Urdu carries that signature. For example –
            Bihari – ‘Hum padhai kar liye hain’
            Lakhnavi – ‘Humne padhai kar li hai’
            Khari Boli/Delhi – ‘Maine padhai kar li hai’

            A typical Bihari would would be quite direct while requesting your cycle and not have that indirect Urdu tehzeeb.
            ‘Aaj tumhari cycle chalayenge’

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          3. Prats,
            Your example seems to be an issue of the standardization of Hindi vs. Bihar’s own dialect and not one of Bihari Muslims using “pure Urdu”. The example you gave of “Lakhnavi” is what would have been considered proper Urdu, at least according to my dadi.

            It seems to me that standard Hindi is gaining in the “Hindi belt” at the expense of local dialects just as standard Urdu is the language of the educated in Pakistan. This is quite typical of modern nationalism. Benedict Anderson wrote quite extensively about how Parisian French became the national standard and Tuscan became the standard for Italian.

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    2. E.V.Ramaswamy Naicker aka Periyar, an influential figure in Tamilnadu till his death in the 1970s was an outlandish figure. He used to attack Hinduism and Brahmins mercilessly and crudely. Yet , he advised Ambedkar not to convert out of Hinduism to Buddhism so that he change Hindu society from within. If you convert you lose the moral right to change Hindu society

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  8. Why is this inappropriate? I am not extremely active on this blog but from what I have seen Kabir’s views are normally very tendentious and on the subject of India, Hindusim often censorious or downright insulting. It should be fine to call him out on his hypocrisy.

    he’s behaving himself on this thread. i’ve had huge conflicts with him, but i’m trying to be fair. you are went at him because of who he was, as you admit, not what he said specifically.

    would you rather have another fucking argument about a “FAILED state”? there are other blogs and BBSs for that.

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    1. You cannot be continually defending this “failed state” as Bent Twig is wont to do and then hold an opposite standard for a neighboring country. This is pure hypocrisy.

      I haven’t ever discriminated against anybody based on their caste but as an Indian & a Hindu I do bear some little responsibility for an age old problem in my society. Similarly all Pakistanis and people identifying strongly with Pakistan bear a responsibility for Pakistan’s problems be it the hounding of minorities or international terrorism which it spreads.

      If they want to hold India responsible for lapses it commits in treating its citizens they should first earn the right to do so by trying to improve the situation in Pakistan.

      Not doing so is not just hypocritical but cowardly IMO and Kabir seems a particularly egregious example. He reminds me of this old Soviet joke.

      “An American man and a Soviet man are arguing about which country is better. ‘At the end of the day, I can march into the oval office, pound the President’s desk and say “Mr. President I don’t like the way you are running this country.”‘, says the American. The Soviet man replies, ‘I can do that too. I can march in to the Kremlin, pound the General Secretary’s desk and say “Mr. Gorbachev, I don’t like the way President Reagan is running his country!”‘

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      1. bent wig. that’s mean.

        do you know how many hours i wasted watching that scene on a loop? i was a chris farely fan even before it.

        in any case, pakistan has 10% india’s GDP. that’s like italy to the USA. this is not a fair analogy to cold war USSR, which mobilized so much GDP to military to achieve some parity.

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      2. You are attacking the messenger because you don’t like the message about your society. That’s not intellectually defensible.

        I am not responsible for the actions of the Pakistani government or for various non-state actors associated with the country. To hold individuals responsible for things that they cannot control is an intellectually absurd argument. And what makes you think that I am not interested in improving Pakistan in whatever small way I can?

        I defend Pakistan on this forum because a lot of comments come from ignorance and from people who are just generally predisposed to not like Pakistan. That doesn’t mean I don’t recognize the issues that the country has. You assume far too much.

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  9. There is truth to what Razib/Kabir/Vijay are saying while some truth to Janamejaya is saying as well, specially regarding response of dalits is dependent on geographical location. There is a reason why the biggest Dalit leader of the North, Mayawati(nor her mentor) hasn’t converted (yet), even though she threatens to do so every year. Politicians are best bellwether to understand a community mindset.

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    1. @Saurav
      Mayawati’s mentor Kanshi Ram was a Sikh. Not really sure if taking up Sikhi counts as conversion, though.

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  10. re: the subject to this post.

    1) i think the individual who is very interesting and adds ‘color’ to the dalit issue is really not central or illuminating in many ways. she’s a communist. she avoiding taking another job in finance so that she could be part of the ‘working-class’ , though subway engineers make $71,000/year, so it’s not like she’s a taxi driver who works 20 hours per day. her tendency is to fit her dalit background and stories from her life, which i won’t deny or accept, as i can’t judge, into a broader ‘social justice’ narrative of class/race which is ascendent on the american left.

    she’s really a phenomenon of the NYC left of 2018.

    2) there’s the broader issues of dalit marginalization, oppression, etc. in india. i’m genuinely curious about this. i come to this question as an american conservative whose preference is to avoid ‘positive discrimination’ and make recourse to individualist solutions. but that might not be feasible in a society that is highly collectivist/communal.

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  11. “You are attacking the messenger because you don’t like the message about your society. That’s not intellectually defensible.”

    I think you are right. We really needed Bent Twig’s exhortations about caste discrimination in India to open our minds to the problem. Despite the Poona pact between Gandhi and Ambedkar; despite constitutional provisions inserted by Ambedkar, Nehru and other founding fathers of India providing sections of Indian society affirmative action in universities & jobs as well as good representation in legislature and executive branches of the government; despite outlawing untouchability & caste discrimination; despite the Hindu right wing’s extensive effort to bring Dalits into the Hindu mainstream; despite the rise of Dalit focused parties and their coming into power on several occasions; despite all this, if not for Bent Twig’s earnest denunciations here we would have continued to remain in our primitive, pagan & ‘Manuwadi’ ways.

    So thank you Bent Twig. More power to you. As the original Kabir once said:

    “Nindak niyare rakhiye aangan kuti chhawaye;
    Bin sabun pani bina nirmal karat subhaye.”

    India is such a large country and so resource starved that you can’t walk a kilometer without coming across a tragedy. I think we will keep providing you material to foam at mouth for your whole life.

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    1. u know thinking about bent wig gives me an asthma attack right?

      i think you actually make a powerful point there, at least about the explicit legal framework which india uses to safeguard dalit rights and positive discrimination.

      that being said, you can chill on drawing attention to kabir’s other threads? if it turns into a food fight ppl will avoid talking about anything interesting in the thread.

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    2. Again you are on the defensive. I’m not “foaming at [the] mouth”. I am not the one who brought up Sujatha Gidla again. I read her book when it came out because I thought it was interesting. I wrote a review of it. I’ve moved on.

      But people will keep bringing up atrocities against Dalits on this and other forums as long as they keep occurring. You can attack me as Pakistani and I can deal with that. How are you going to attack Zack or anyone else who expresses views you don’t like? Perhaps you just don’t want anyone to discuss the injustices of caste? Way to attempt to shut down discussion.

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  12. The claims of Islamic equality are spurious. Islam had slavery , outright chattel slavery from Day 1. Even in another example you gave, Muhammed and his slave Ayaz standing … , it was obvious Islam condones slavery. Lord had nothing to say to Mohammed to release Ayaz. Islamic societies had been big time slave owners Arabs, Turks, you name it. In recent days , Islamic State, Boko Haram are outstanding examples of slavery. Islamic state or Boko Haram was run by super pious Muslims. This is all just tip of the iceberg

    Christianity fares no better.
    We have to look at societies as they were/are to see what the religion says and not be sidetracked by religious spin meisters.

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    1. You miss the point. There is no “caste” discrimination among Muslims. All Muslims are equal in the eyes of Allah. This is why Mehmood of Ghazni and Ayaz were equal while in the mosque. The Mehmood and Ayaz relationship is complicated (some say they were lovers) and Mehmood made Ayaz the governor of Lahore. But the basic point remains. Unlike Hinduism, where until fairly recently, there were certain temples where Dalits could not go, no Muslim has ever been stopped from entering a mosque by virtue of his socio-economic status.

      “Islamic State” is a terrorist group. They don’t represent how Islam is supposed to be practiced. Using a terrorist group to represent an entire religion smacks of bigotry or, at best, is just bad argumentation.

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      1. Islamic State was created and run by people who are very pious, 5 times a day praying , used to justify each and every actions from Quran. Calling them ‘not true Muslims’ is a cop out. Terrorist Group is label by governments with must justification many times , but that label does not change the religious nature of the people and the regime of Daesh. They got defeated because all the powers , US, Russia , Turkey, etc were keen on destroying the, . If left to Arabs alone, by this time IS would have swept through most Arab countries.
        Caste discrimination are only one type ; actually in India each caste has it’s temples, priests in those temples and their own rules. Anyone who practices untouchability is doing a crime in India for the last 6 decades.

        “religious equality” of Islamic variety is spurious since it justifies and underpins so many varieties of social discrimination like slavery.

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        1. IS may think they are pious but Islam as practiced by the vast majority of the world’s Muslims does not justify violence against innocents. Even “jihad” can only be called by the Caliph under certain specific circumstances.

          Like most religious texts, the Quran can be used to justify various things, depending on what you are looking for. Using a terrorist group to stand for an entire religion is bad argumentation. Does the Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad represent all Hindus?

          I realize that practicing untouchability is technically illegal in India. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t persist in practice.

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          1. I did not say IS stands for entire Islam; I am saying it is a particular variation on Islam in the 21st century, very violent, cruel, intent to conquer the whole world starting with west asia . Hopefully short-lived.
            Due to lot of help from non-Islamic world , it was defeated on the battle field.
            Their invoking Caliphate – styling themselves successors to the Caliphate which was dissolved in 1921 has deep resonance within Muslim world.
            Luckily for Muslims and non-Muslims they were defeated. I say ‘luckily’ advisedly , since with a different configuration of international forces and relations, it need not have happened. If it had been Cold War situation like 1950-1989 , a powerful country could have given them aid, much like Afghan Mujahideen was aided by the US, prolonging their life and power. Luckily in 2014-16, ALL countries were interested in killing them. Once such a movement survives as a viable entity for 20 years, they would have become “Established” power, much like Saudi Arabia. They were 21st century versions of Wahabis who also created much mayhem in that part of the world on their rise to power in the 18th century.

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      1. I haven’t seen her video but she wrote a very good book.

        This attempt to discredit her is really not very becoming. So she says things people don’t like to hear. She has the right to say them and we have the right to post about them if we find them interesting.

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          1. What is her nonsense?

            Slice up each strata of Indian society and then look at the compositions.

            As an example if Brahmins and the Upper castes make up 10-15% of the Indian population; they probably make up 95% of the highest 10% tier of Indian society.

            We look at demographics in an entirely incorrect manner. Also like the WASP establishment in the US even if there is a demographic turn-over (Dalits coming to power); they are still dealing with a predominantly upper caste structure.

            This isn’t a bad thing necessarily just a great understanding.

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      1. There’s an absence of reality here. We are writing in consequence of her voice and video. If she had been “denied” – the whole idea is preposterous when she and her producers are acting legally – we won’t have a long blog about her.

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  13. I only just saw this video.

    I found literally nothing to disagree with what she said, including the remedy she proposes to remove the caste system. Sure, she isn’t the first one to mention the economic upliftment and professional mobility as the means to removing caste discrimination. But she is right in recognizing it as have been others in the past including Babasaheb Ambedkar.

    (Not sure how Christianity etc is relevant to what this video is about)

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    1. I found the video superficial. She leaves out so many rich details from her life that the video comes across as a evangelist attack on cruel pagan societies.

      I am curious about one thing though. She says the caste system must be destroyed. I agree but I want to know to what extent does she or anyone else (including me) want it destroyed.

      While the economic functions of the caste have already been diluted to a large extent & are going to be further diluted due to capitalism & urbanization, to truly destroy caste as an identity marker you have to have mixed marriages. This is not happening in India to any large extent between dalits & the upper castes.

      Upper caste mixed marriages are happening but while I don’t have the data for it I suspect not many are happening between upper castes and dalits. Many reasons for this which is beyond the scope of this post.

      So are you going to have govt. mandate mixed marriages?

      As an aside does ending racing in the US also entail all races intermarrying until everyone is a uniform shade of brown?

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      1. I think you are missing a trick here. Caste has a genetic signature, true, but that in and of itself isn’t an issue. E.g. Chinese and Indians are genetically different on average, but their being in the same society does not lead to Casteism *unless* there is systematic cultural and economic discrimination. What matters in humans is how we act – a learned feature of our cultural software – not which womb we came out of.

        One does not need inter-marriage to remove Caste. One needs to remove the mentality of social community (zāt, birāderi) trumping individual rights. Caste discrimination, religious discrimination, misogyny, abuse of children etc are all symptoms of this disease. That to me is the real cross we Indians bear.

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  14. OK, that’s it. I’ve had enough. I don’t appreciate this rude nickname which you seem to find so cute. I didn’t appreciate it when Razib used it and I certainly don’t appreciate it now. I have a name and if you must address me, you can use that. Also, please stick to the argument and don’t get fresh with me.

    Zack, please take note.

    [This was in reference to “Bent Twig” or “Wig”, whichever one it is. But the offending comment seems to have disappeared]

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      1. Thank you. Calling people by anything other than their proper name (unless it is a pet name and done with love) is extremely condescending.

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  15. “Yes, what you are saying is right but by now we have been through 2 centuries worth of modernization, globalization, hardening of identities and also a very corrosive 2 nation theory leading to the partition of the country in 1947.”

    Janmejaya, while agreeing with you, I do think there is a lot of hope going forward.

    Let us be honest and realize that until recently there were not a whole lot of reasons for Indian Muslims to accomodate Hindu culture and look up to Hindus, except as a background due to demographic/ancestral reality. Over the last 800 years, the ruling class was first Muslim, and then British. As Hindus, our achievements certainly didnt match those of the preceding millinea, and definitely not even a patch on those of Europeans since 1500.

    I think this has changed decisively in the last 100 years, first with the Independence movement and the adoption of India’s Constitution, which really had far reaching effects on the Hindu society which are still playing out. Since then, the elite Muslims who stayed in India (recognizing the significance of the freedom movement and the political order it produced) have contributed greatly to the cause of our national strength. Cinema and music aside, just read about Syed Abdul Rahim and his contributions to Indian football, its hard not to be moved by someone who loves his people and country so much.

    I agree that much of this attitude shift is confined to a certain group of urban Muslims, but their number and impact is not insubstantial. I am sure that as India grows richer and stronger, and as more Hindus achieve global success in various endeavors, Indian Muslims of all strata will engage with Hindus and Indian culture in deeper ways, and this will lead to more comfort with the flexible Islamic practices of their ancestors.

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    1. You have a Whiggish view of history. 🙂 I don’t subscribe to it especially as the recent times have shown forces of sectarianism and identity politics are growing stronger.

      Some points on the observations you make

      1) “there were not a whole lot of reasons for Indian Muslims to accomodate Hindu culture and look up to Hindus”

      Unlike the Islamic marauders, the European colonizers brought with them a curiosity and took great trouble to learn Hindu religion, philosophy and the Sanskrit language as well as making efforts to discover India’s history. Many European artists /philosophers were inspired by Hindu culture & religious texts. They also brought with them European enlightenment which was extremely attractive to Hindus and has led to the Indian state as it is today.

      2) “the elite Muslims who stayed in India (recognizing the significance of the freedom movement and the political order it produced)”

      Most elite Muslims especially in UP and Bihar were die hard Muslim League supporters who till 15th August 1947 were completely opposed to the idea of a unified secular country which Congress had been advocating. The day India became independent many of them realized that they will have to leave behind their property, businesses and land to go to a almost foreign land with nothing to their name. This is the reason why many of them did an absolute U-turn and started piping about being Indians. This is extremely short- sighted perfidious behavior & it was just the great humanity of Nehru, Patel and other leading light of the Congress party which saved these people. Otherwise just as more militant minded Sikhs under Master Tara Singh & Patiala rulers had done in Punjab & Haryana, these people would have been forced to flee.

      An especially vile character was Raja of Mahmudabad, a Shia landlord from UP who after fighting for Pakistan all his life wanted to leave behind his wife and children in India to inherit his considerable estate. Apparently his family members are still fighting for it. https://www.livemint.com/Politics/nhjt6MOGlMa6rA5PlxM29K/A-Rajas-43year-battle-to-reclaim-ancestral-property.html

      3) “(Muslims who stayed in India) have contributed greatly to the cause of our national strength”

      I agree. But these people have been few and far between and much hyped by a state eager to burnish its secular character.

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      1. Even the Muslim League of the Madras Presidecy was die hard pro Pakistan. Out of the entire South India few hundred at most would have gone to Pakistan post-47. What did these idiots think trying to make a country they are not going to live in ?

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        1. What were Muslims deep in proper India thinking by supporting partition? It’s a interesting question that I keep hearing . What were their interests? It should be easy to answer from the political writings of Muslim press and media in India in the 1940s. I know that Maulana Azad vehemently opposed partition partly because of this Indian Muslim angle. I am genuinely interested to get answer to this question? What were they actually thinking? It would be a good poli sci study on the interaction between ideas and interests.

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          1. “What were Muslims deep in proper India thinking by supporting partition?”

            You ask as if the whole thing had some sort of cold heart logic to it. The original supporters of Pakistan were UP muslims, a state which by no means would have been part of Pakistan from day 1. UP muslims knew that, Jinnah knew that. Still the greatest support. In Brexit the areas which get highest amount of funding from EU voted to leave.

            “I know that Maulana Azad vehemently opposed partition partly because of this Indian Muslim angle. ”

            This has been a on going trope now that Azad was some sort of a leader of muslims. He was mostly given ceremonial posts, which Jinnah himself pointed out.

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          2. Dhulipala’s book ‘Creating a New Medina’ & C.M. Naim’s articles like this one shower a great light on Muslim psychology in North India before independence.

            http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/00litlinks/naim/txt_naim_ambiguities.html

            Some quotes:

            “So there we were finally at the western gate, waving the crescent and-star and shouting the familiar slogans: ‘Pakistan Zindahad… Quaid-e-Azam Zindabad… quaid- e-Azam Zindabad… Na’ra-e Takbir, Allah-o-Akbar… Hans ke liya hai Pakistan, Lar ke Ienge Hindustan’. In front of us was the low boundary wall, behind which was the front yard of the school where we could see our fellow students assembling and forming rows.

            ….

            Soon ‘normalcy’ returned to our lives. The school re-opened after a sudden closure for a few days, and the only visible difference there was the mysterious absence of our Geography teacher, who had been a leader in the local branch of the RSS – he was held in custody for a few weeks, then released. Father’s illness soon became fully manifest, and ran its course until he succumbed to it one night in October. His death, of course, radically altered my own individual life. As the only male at home, and with our mother observing purdah, I was now the visible ‘head’ of the family – but that was usual and expected. A few years later, the government abolished the zamindari system and our main source of income disappeared, but that too had been expected. We could still maintain our safed-poshi though at a lower scale. There were changes in the hierarchy of local movers-and-shakers, but we still knew many of them and, more importantly, they still knew us.

            ….

            The specific events of that August day soon felt like ancient memory. But not the passions that had led to that day. They transformed themselves into two interlaced narratives, both peculiarly reliant on the terrors of that January day – it seemingly had left a permanent fault line in the landscape of our lives – for maintaining their hold on us. As time passed, we developed a peculiar bipolar attitude towards Pakistan. It appeared to us as a land of opportunity and possible future refuge, but it had seemingly also left us mired in an abject insecurity we hadn’t dreamed of. We never missed an occasion to lament the harm we had so foolishly done to ourselves or to feel twinges of guilt for what we had done to our Hindustan, but just as often we also rejoiced in Pakistan’s existence and felt grateful it was there even if its borders were no longer open to us after the Nehru-Liaquat Pact.

            When parts of our homes were arbitrarily padlocked by the authorities under the Evacuee Property Act or when Liaquat All Khanwas assassinated in Pakistan, we told each other how stupidly we had acted, but when the fires of Jabalpur and Jamshedpur rose in the sky we assured ourselves how right we had been. In this manner, swinging back and forth between these polarities of being right and being wrong, we somehow managed to add fifty more years to our lives.

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          3. Thank you very much Slapstik, looks like a fascinating book with the exact topic I am looking for. Published by Cambridge Press which is the top place for social and political academic publishing. Bookmarked in Amazon.

            The answer also seem believable to me. Religious activists operate in long time frame. Helping, self-sacrificing to create a new Medina in Pakistan that can be a powerful state of Muslims in South Asia and can act for Muslims ( looking from 1947, only Allah knows what can happen to India proper 50 years later) seem a very plausible motive.

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          4. “What were Muslims deep in proper India thinking by supporting partition?”

            Rather, you should ask, what were they smoking. 🙂

            Partition of India is the only recorded instance in history when a community willingly, doggedly, obstinately split itself in two states (later 3 states), and permanently crippled itself politically. It is a no-brainer to see that had Muslims remained in a united India, they would have been a political force to reckon with, even internationally. They could have easily acquired the leadership of the muslim world owning to their sheer numbers (about 600 million at present, in India, Pak and Bangla combined).

            Today, subcontinental muslims are a sad lot. In India they live as a guilt ridden, politically marginalized minority. Bangladesh was a basket case till recently, and still has a long way to go before an average westerner can spot it on a world map, and Pakistan is tearing itself apart trying to get more and more “Pak” in its quest to become the citadel of Islam.

            Don’t know what else to call Partition other than some mass obsessive compulsive disorder, leading to collective self harm.

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          5. Muslims deep in “proper India” did not “support Partition”. No one knew that Partition was going to happen until Lord Mountbatten announced the June 3 plan to which Pandit Nehru and Quaid-e-Azam then agreed. Even then no one knew the final borders until after August 15th. The ML campaigned using the slogan of Pakistan, but that was a vague slogan and did not imply Partition until the very end.

            Partition happened because Congress and the League could not agree on safeguards that would address the legitimate fears of the Muslim minority that they would be ruled by Hindus who would always be a numerical majority in any one-man-one-vote type situation. It was not inevitable.

            I can’t speak for Bangladesh, but I think most Pakistanis are much happier being ruled from Islamabad than being ruled from Delhi. We are in control of our own destiny much more than we would have been as a permanent minority in a Hindu-majority country. Obviously, the deaths and displacements that occurred around Partition are tragic. The blame here lies largely with the British for speeding up the date of their withdrawal and not properly planning the division of British India into two new countries.

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          6. “We are in control of our own destiny ..”

            Bedouins of Saudi Arabia settle the political disputes of Pakistan (case in point – Musharraf Nawaz Sharif fracas). Is that being in control of your destiny?

            America flies in with its commandos to deep inside Pakistan, kills their most wanted man (Osama) and flies away with his body. All Pakistanis can do is to do “Ta Ta” to their helicopters. Is that being in control of your destiny?

            America merrily bombs vast swathes of Pakistani territories (FATA), and indiscriminately kills children and wedding guests. Is that being in control of your destiny?

            It has been said by others (dont know who, just google it), that Pakistan was the condom America needed to enter Afghanistan. This is the true value of Pakistan for the western world. Wake up and smell the coffee.

            Can you ever imagine India being treated so humiliatingly by US? Shah Rukh Khan was once stopped at some US airport for additional security checks. After the outcry in India, US officials had to apologize. This is called respect.

            India has still a long way to go to command the respect Chinese and Russians do, but they are getting there. OTOH, Pakistan is just used condom. (Not my words, so no offence please).

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          7. Snake Charmer,
            I don’t know why you are trying to make the point that India commands more respect in the world than Pakistan does generally. This is an obvious point and again if your standard is that you are better than Pakistan, it is a pretty low standard.

            This still doesn’t change the fact that Pakistanis can live in accordance with our own culture and with Islam rather than being subservient to the Hindu majority in India. The main reason for Partition was the lack of compromise between the Congress and the League. Quaid-e-Azam was not expected to know what Pakistan would be like in 2018. Pandit Nehru was not expected to predict the rise of Mr. Modi (Someone like him really makes the case for why Pakistan was necessary).

            And before you get too cocky about India, please recall that it is just another third world country. Whatever secularism and democracy it had going for it is being rapidly destroyed by the new regime.

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        2. @Vijayaraghavan: “What did these idiots think trying to make a country they are not going to live in ?”

          I have not thought of people in down South pining for Pakistan knowing they are never going to live there. But when I think about it, this is not so strange. Look, the whole Khalistan issue was supported and financed by Sikhs from abroad who had no plans to settle in the new putative country. Even recent bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh had huge support from Telangana NRIs who did not face any discrimination as such. There is plenty of idiocy to go around in this world.

          1+
          1. You could also add the Tamil Diaspora who funded the LTTE. They are still active thru other channels trying to achieve a separate state thru other means.

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          2. @hoipolloi
            By people , I did not mean Muslim man on the street. I meant Muslim League especially in the Madras Presidency and it’s supporters and ideologues.
            Sikhs abroad is a different thing. ML was a party to the negotiations for Pakistan and so what it said mattered.. Sikhs in Canada/USA are nobodys in Indian politics and what they said is immaterial. They did not have skin in the game. They were a problem for their local governments. Telengana NRIs , as long as they are Indian citizens are a party to the local politics and their input mattered

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          3. Srilamkan Tamil diaspora is different matter. they were a party to the conflict as long as the conflict continued. In fact, they were products of the conflict . One can say lot of illegal things by diaspora to support LTTE – not all really ; but they had a legitimate voice in what was going on SL

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        3. Even the Muslim League of the Madras Presidecy was die hard pro Pakistan. Out of the entire South India few hundred at most would have gone to Pakistan post-47. What did these idiots think trying to make a country they are not going to live in ?

          Many South Indians dont think along these lines when cheering for a separate Tamil state in Sri Lanka. What happens to the many Tamils who live and have property in the South of Sri Lanka if Federal/Seperate Tamil state is created.

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          1. People in SI if they cheered for Tamil Elam (which was not much) did more about of a sympathy wave, not out of political convictions since people of SI don’t have a stake in Srilankan politics. In fact, even Dravidian political parties were doing a populist politics by going along with the sympathy wave. That dwindled to zero after Rajiv’s assasination and picked up again after 2005 , reaching a crescendo in 2009. In the Tamilnadu elections soon after , SL Tamil issue did not matter at all and was a non-issue.

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          2. I think the position of pro-Pakitani Muslims in India proper in 1947 is fundamentally different from Indian Tamils, NRI Sikhs and others. They did not have personal, direct stake in creation of a state except ideological reasons. Muslims in India on the other hand must have been aware that by creating Pakistan, Muslims in India will transform from a very powerful minority comprising nearly one third of the population to a weak minority of one-eighth strength. Demographic numbers, after all, were the most important information reverberating across South Asian public sphere before the partition.

            This act of directly harming immediate security for some uncertain ideological goal in the future, is in a different class altogether.

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          3. @Shafiq: “Muslims in India will transform from a very powerful minority comprising nearly one third of the population to a weak minority of one-eighth strength.”

            Thanks for bringing clarity to issues we discuss on BP. I have some thoughts to share on this topic. One point we constantly observe across history and societies, the emotional and stupid way people behave against their own interest. Good things happen now and then as an exception and not by design. A propaganda of lies always has a big effect.

            Point two: When a movement gets to the fanatical stage by the behavior of a vocal and violent minority within the group things take a different dynamic. The moderate voices within the movement are quelled. They start pretending to go along. I guess this was what happened with partition, say after the call for direct action.

            I have more concrete examples that happened during Khalistan demand and more recently the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh into Telangana and residual AP. In the latter case Sri Krishna commission was going to different districts to elicit people’s response. Telangana movement by that time reached to religious fervor stage. Pro-Telangana elements went to various places and told people likely to talk against bifurcation that if they testify to the commission their families are in danger. It was clear from other sources that majority people in both the regions are either neutral or against separation.

            Similar situation existed with Khalistan which many on this forum are aware of.

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          4. Hoipolli

            ” It was clear from other sources that majority people in both the regions are neutral or against separation.”

            You are mistaken if you think that the Pakistan demand was not the overwhelming demand of Indian muslims. Dhulipala, Ambedkar writing as well as election of 1946 made it very clear what the muslims of the subcontinent wanted. That’s the whole point of the book.

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          5. hoipolloi: “It was clear from other sources that majority people in both the regions are neutral or against separation.”

            Saurav: “You are mistaken if you think that the Pakistan demand was not the overwhelming demand of Indian muslims.”

            Saurav, Your point is well taken. I was harping on the bifurcation of my native state, Andhra Pradesh separating into Telangana and the left over Andhra Pradesh. How a small vocal group can twist events in its favor. Cheers.

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        1. Deep, I am talking about realpolitik reasons (economic and political strength), not deeper forays into religious and abstract thought. Obviously Hinduism has a much longer history of such thought and therefore more complex/sophisticated.

          I will argue that much of the Muslim elite in India today accomodates Hindu thought into their life a lot more. All of SRK’s children have Sanskrit/Hindu names for example. Salman keeps a Ganpati every year (you should see the comments Bollywood loving Pakis leave on those videos). Best work on Gandhi (and hence a political realization of Hindu thought) comes from Muslim scholars like Shahid Amin, Faisal Devji and Akil Bilgrami.

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          1. It is the Pakistan meddling in Indian Muslim society that muddies the waters. I saw this YouTube clip about a goodwill trip by Indian delegation to Pakistan. In that Asaduddin Owaisi, a fire-brand Muslim MP from Hyderabad, Deccan was participating. The Pakistani panel was trying to scare and patronize the Indian side saying but you are in a minority, we will offer our help, tell us what you want us to do. Mr. Owasi thundered in chaste Urdu, that Pakistan should keep its hands off of Indian Muslims. He added, “we have a constitution and law and we Indian Muslims can take care of ourselves.” It was heartening to hear that.

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          2. Salman’s mother is a Hindu
            Gauri is a Hindu

            As a counterpart Saif is half Hindu and married to a Hindu but named his son Taimür.

            Obviously The Muslim elite has to make accommodations with a dominant Hindu culture

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          3. [Salman’s mother is a Hindu
            Gauri is a Hindu

            As a counterpart Saif is half Hindu and married to a Hindu but named his son Taimür.

            Obviously The Muslim elite has to make accommodations with a dominant Hindu culture]

            Zack, I get the sense that you are not too pleased with these types of accommodations..Muslim elite (inheritors of Mughal as I think you see them) adopting a tiny bit of pre-Muslim Indian legacy and culture.. Or may be I am reading too much (given your past Islamo-Mughal cultural bias and stated wish for it’s predominance in India + past laments that an united India with the right cards from Muslims would have resulted in such an outcome).
            Apologies again,if I am reading too much 🙂

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          4. hoipolloi, I am unsure of how much Pakistan is an issue for Indian Muslims. There are Muslim families who had marital relations with Pakistanis, but this category has shrunk considerably. There is the usual leftist tukde-tukde crowd that looks to Pakistan, but there are many more non-Muslims in this group than Muslim background folks.

            There was some amount of curiosity about Pakistan (for all Indians, regardless of religion) because of the wars and the iron-curtain type situation, but I dont know how long this will persist. I mean no offence, but its not the most interesting place in the world.

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          5. Zack, that was precisely my point.

            It is the political and economic dominance of Hindus in India that changes the perspective of elite Muslims towards Hindu culture. Once that barrier is removed, Muslims do find a lot in the deeper streams of Hindu tradition to appreciate as cultural figures like Masoom Raza and Javed Akhtar prove.

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          6. Personally i see elites as people who don’t really need collective identities hence their interests are divergent of most other people’s interests.

            As a general rule – The weaker the individual the stronger the bonding between individuals with collective identity.

            Hence appropriation of various identities by elites is more of a PR stunt & not really their understanding of nuances of identities among general populace. People need identities for social, economic & political purposes but elites don’t as they have direct access to various power axis & financial security. It is this difference that academia does not project or only project elites too much resulting in the fractured modern world we are observing now a days.

            It is in the same vein that i see the projection of Hindu-Muslim relations in India via academia which projects this unity through exceptions & not based in the everyday realities of general people. On the other hand the elites do such PR to gain foothold in various communities & we rarely find them talking critical viewpoints about any identity.

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      2. The raja of mahmudabad didn’t stay long in Pakistan. He migrated to London in the fifties, and was ultimately buried in Mashhad, Iran. His situation was sui generis.

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  16. Maybe I know nothing about India. But my observation is that if someone has a successful career or business; people could care less about about their caste. Discrimination isn’t a major issue.

    What this says India I leave to the rest of you.

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    1. I think a rough model would consist of three factors:

      1) Depth of roots in urban setting (lowest depth would be village dweller with no relatives in urban areas, highest would be South Mumbaikar with generations of urbanity and assets like property).

      2) Extent of higher education (which also correlates strongly with English proficiency).

      3) Depth of formal employment (lowest would be villager with no family in any government office, highest would again be a South Mumbai type).

      Regardless of caste/religion, these attributes control how well an individual is protected by India’s laws and constitution. For South Mumbai film stars (who formally employ other people, not just themselves, invariably have higher education from abroad and are deeply rooted in South Mumbai), religion etc is not an issue in choosing partners. I see similar trends emerging in middle/upper middle class folks in metro cities.

      On the other hand, if you are a landless labourer in a rural setting, have no relatives and a weak caste network, Constitution is toothless.

      Now obviously, the former category consists mainly of upper caste Hindu people, while the latter category is bound to consist mainly of Dalits who dont own land. But there is a degree of openness, there are minorities in former category (Muslims/Christians as entertainment stars, Dalits in business, government and politics) and one can find upper caste Hindus in destitute situations in the country side being persecuted by peasant caste Hindus and sometimes ajlaf/ashraf Muslims.

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      1. On the other hand, if you are a landless labourer in a rural setting, have no relatives and a weak caste network, Constitution is toothless.

        Now obviously, the former category consists mainly of upper caste Hindu people, while the latter category is bound to consist mainly of Dalits who dont own land. But there is a degree of openness, there are minorities in former category (Muslims/Christians as entertainment stars, Dalits in business, government and politics) and one can find upper caste Hindus in destitute situations in the country side being persecuted by peasant caste Hindus and sometimes ajlaf/ashraf Muslims.

        Very worthwhile repeating

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  17. Latest anti-Dalit discrimination in Tamilnadu

    One news going round Tamil newspapers – in a Tamilnadu government run school . they have midday for school children cooked locally. In a particular school , the cook was a dalit. So, the other caste parents refused to send their children till the school stops cooking and feeding food by a dalit. The government bent to these demands and transferred that cook elsewhere.
    If you can read Tamil –
    https://nakkheeran.in/24-by-7-news/thamizhagam/horrible-because-school-cook-depressed-woman-continued-caste

    There is a bitter irony in all these things from many angles. After , the anti-Brahmin , anti-Hindu, “Rationalist” , Atheist Dravidian movement has been in power for 60 years , presumably these acts of blatant discrimination occur – this is not isolated.

    The other parents who refused to send their children , 99% won’t be brahmins , these would be other castes in fact these would have been the backbone of Dravidian movements giving obeisance to the icons of the movement,.

    Thirdly , this is a repeat of the notorious “Cheranmadevi Gurukulam controversy” in 1925 , when E.V.Ramasami Naicker of Indian national Congress protested against the separate dining arrangement for 2 brahmin boys in a Gurukulam , run with monetary help from support of the Congress. Then he quit Congress, launched his own Dravidian and atheists movement and so on. This Controversy has a special ring in Tamil political history since it formalised the Nonbrahmin movement into something more militant and anti-brahmin . Now 90 years after these incidents , identical flash-point inter-caste dining for school children has erupted , but this time with no fanfare and the Dravidian government quietly aqueising to reactionary forces. The reason is that anti-Dalit discrimination whether in dining or social interaction or schools is not directly connected with Brahmins or brahminism. Both caste system and as it’s extreme discriminatory practices like anti-Dalit violence don’t need brahmins or brahminism. Even with extreme anti-Brahman sentiment in the society , it can follow a parallel path.

    Many “progressives” like Gidla have the wrong end of the stick.

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  18. @Moderators

    I had a reply to Shafiq’s post above which was deleted.

    Guys if you want this to be a forum for discussing India’s problems threadbare and rail against the ‘Hindu Caste System’ in peace while not allowing anything which throws Muslims, Islam & Pakistan into negative light just say the word.

    If you don’t want that you should not arbitrarily delete posts without explicitly mentioning your reasons. Nothing in my reply to Shafiq was incendiary or abusive.

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  19. Creating a new Medina is a superlative and definitive piece of work on the Pakistan movement in the United Provinces. But the book also covers opposition to Muslim separatism from within the Muslim community there. The Muslim Ashrafs of UP were by no means a monolith.

    It makes absolutely no sense to project the political beliefs of British India’s Muslims to Muslims remaining in India after independence. Everyone who wanted to live in a Muslim majority, Urdu centric country has left. And if we want to start projecting, why not also single out Rajputs and Sikhs who fought loyally for the British, and those Rajput houses who defended the Mughals against the Marathas more ferociously than almost anyone else ?

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  20. New Medina

    Obviously this term is an echo of the term New Jerusalem. New Jerusalem has entered the culture of Protestant europe as a wished for Perfect Place to which we should aspire too. Even the British Labour Party sings New Jerusalem in it’s party meetins.

    The question is, is New Medina has the same cultural history among Muslims of the Indian subcontinent. Is it part of Muslim culture to use this to find a Perfect Place ?

    Besides a vague reference to Quran and Prophet Mohammed’s life, I don’t know anything about this New Medina business ? is it something pulled out of the hat of the author Dulipala to give a nice title?

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    1. The idea of a covenant is at the core of Abrahamic thought. This has its origins in the exodus of the Jews from Pharoic Egypt and their journey across the desert to the promised land, Israel. If the Jews followed the law of God delivered via Moses, he would reward them with Israel. This metaphor occurs repeatedly in subsequent iterations of Abrahamism as the promise of the ‘garden of eden’ in Christianity, ‘al-hoor al-‘iyn’ in Islam and so on.

      New Medina was the version of this covenant offered to the Muslims of British India (esp. UP) by the pro-League Ashrafis to rouse support for the idea of Pakistan. Pakistan would be an ideal Muslim haven in the subcontinent, and Muslims would get just rewards for supporting this idea in the midst of a hostile and overwhelming Hindu majority.

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      1. Does Dhulipala, in his book, tell us where the phrase comes from?

        I’ve never heard it before his book. And googling only reveals a restaurant in Morocco.

        The idea of hijra is obviously important in Islam (calendar, etc) but I don’t recall Medina having any theological significance. (Not that I have any particular expertise, beyond the usual childhood indoctrination).

        I’m glad you’ve read Dhulipala’s book. I would like to, but it is 900 freakin pages!

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        1. The phrases were used in both League speeches as well as Urdu newspapers of the time by League propagandists. There were a lot of references to the Consitution of Medina as well.

          Dhulipala’s main contribution is the thorough analysis of how the League communicated with its followers via the Urdu media (he learnt the Arabic script and analysed the Urdu newspapers of the time), and showcasing how the League’s leaders banked on maulvis like Shabbir Ahmad Usmani to popularize itself. There is an entire chapter on the debates between the pro League and pro Congress maulvis (Madani for example).

          The various chapters in the book are fairly independent (esp if one is acquainted with Indian history), so you can read select chapters of your interest if that works better.

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  21. sbarrkum

    If it give you any solace , i agree with you on the the whole tamil issue. It all hunky dory for us all as long as our own “community” is not being questioned and we are questioning the acts of others. But say something about us and THIS IS WAR

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    1. Thanks Saurav,

      To be honest, most of these issues to me are just academic at my age.
      I just argue for the sake of arguing.

      My drinking buddy (and nephew) was killed and burned by the SL army, probably 1989.
      I had left the country in 1988
      Carmen Liyanage is in the far left, with a black tie
      https://photos.app.goo.gl/aALrL7rguP2b3jKp8

      This is Carmen’s father (Tissa Liyanage) my cousin
      https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/150476878/

      Tissa’s two grand-daughters, Carmens’s sisters daughters.
      Washed away in in the 2004 Tsunami
      https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/150476874/
      ========

      Had a gun at my head because I had just broken curfew (1983).
      I was just walking up a side street (lane in SL) to a friends (Anura) home.
      Anura had a case (12 bottles) of Gin.

      Thrown into remand (police prison) during 83 for arguing with police constable.
      Was asked my
      a) name: which ends with “singhe.
      b) Race: Tamil
      Argument: How can a Tamil have a name ending in “singhe” as against “singham”.

      Then got whipped by a belt and thrown into the prison.
      Luckily a friend who had seen the incident dropped by and stopped the Terrorism charge the Police were about to write up. Changed to drunk and disorderly conduct.

      Thats Privilege, i.e just having a friend who can stop/change police write up.

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      1. Hi Sereno
        Your life is typical of Srilankans in that period ie brush with – and worse- arbitrary authority. Except that you were luckier than many , both Sinhalese and Tamils. Commiserations on your personal losses.

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      2. “when the generation that survived the war is no longer with us, we’ll find out whether we have learned from history” – Angela Merkel

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  22. I really don’t understand why Indian Muslims are supposed to appreciate Hindu culture. Is this a condition of their living in India? Where is it explicitly written that in order to be an Indian citizen one must interact with “Hindu culture”? Some of us would call this a soft form of bigotry.

    The Bollywood elite don’t represent Muslims as a whole. SRK may give his children Hindu names (their mother is a Hindu as has been pointed out) but the vast majority of Muslims would only marry other Muslims and give their children Islamic names. It is an individual’s choice what aspects of a culture he/she wants to identify with.

    And while we’re at it, let’s define “Hindu culture” so that we are all clear on what this means. Is Hindustani Classical Music part of “Hindu culture”, despite the many contributions of Muslim ustaads and gharanas?

    Why not speak about Indian culture and leave the religious demarcations aside for a bit?

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    1. Kabir, I have nowhere said that anyone is ‘supposed’ to do anything. There are Indians who dont engage with Indian culture at all, and they have every right to do so. As an example, consider the fact that no less than the captain of the Indian test team has clearly said that he does not eat Indian food.

      I am talking about general trends. Millions of Muslims around the world wear Western clothes, learn European languages and so on. Even Pakistani Muslims incorporate tons of Western culture into their lives (clothes, musical styles, sports, English language and vocabulary).

      People are not bound to a specific way of life. They have the right to pick up from whatever they are exposed to. In the case of Indian Muslims, they are exposed to both Hindu and Anglo cultures, and hence will pick items from both into their lives. Why exactly is this a problem ?

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      1. Vikram,
        There is no problem as long as you agree that it is an individual’s choice to express their culture however they want. Your earlier comment seemed to imply that the “good” Indian Muslim is one who assimilates and appreciates “Hindu culture”. I find that problematic. Imposing the culture of the religious majority on religious minorities is not on.

        I think you need to clearly delineate what is meant by “Hindu culture” and how that is different from “Indian culture”. For example, I am very invested in Hindustani Classical Music, but I would not call this “Hindu culture”. Bhajans are part of your religion, but non-religious classical music has nothing particularly “Hindu” about it. Indian Muslims are Indian and as such you would expect them to be engaged with Indian culture. But as for specific Hindu themes, if they are not interested, they are not interested.

        Your comparison with Western culture is also not a useful one since Western culture is now the default universal culture of the whole world. Pakistanis wear jeans and speak English because those are signs of upward mobility. When it comes to religion, Pakistanis have not adopted Western values and very Muslim.

        “Hindu” culture is nowhere as successful as Western culture (not a judgement, just a statement of fact) and there is no particular reason for Muslims in India to be all that into it. Those who have inter-married with Hindus or are part-Hindu themselves are obviously exceptions.

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        1. “When it comes to religion, Pakistanis have not adopted Western values and very Muslim.”

          So there is an incompatibility between Western values and being Muslim.

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          1. Not necessarily. It depends on how strict of a Muslim you are and how literal your interpretation of the Holy Quran is.

            My point was that superficial things like wearing jeans and speaking English does not change an individual’s value system. In Pakistan, society’s value system is very much based on Islam.

            It should be an Indian Muslim’s choice whether he or she wants to engage with “Hindu culture”. The religious majority does not get to make the religious minority assimilate.

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          2. Especially as Indian Muslims are *not* immigrants; they preceded the modern state of India and they arguably shaped India in the same way the Safavids shaped Iran (through nos ancetres les Moghuls)..

            I’m such an imperialist LOL

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          3. @Kabir “It should be an Indian Muslim’s choice whether he or she wants to engage with “Hindu culture”. The religious majority does not get to make the religious minority assimilate.”
            That is what the Indian Constitution says for the last 70 years as the constitution is based on individual rights.

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          4. I have no problem with what the Constitution says.

            Vikram’s original comment seemed to imply that the “good” Indian Muslim is one who engages with “Hindu culture” (what exactly that is and how it is different from Indian culture I’m still not clear on). He has since clarified that he didn’t mean it that way.

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  23. I dont understand the obsession of my fellow Indians with proving Pakistan was a bad idea. Various current political and economic metrics are being offered to prove this. But consider this.

    Uptil 1990, the Pakistani economy grew much more quickly than the Indian one, and indeed their per capita income (PPP) was twice that of India. Muslims from UP who moved to Karachi, definitely found far more economic opportunities there in contrast to UP.

    So would you say Pakistan was a good idea back then ?

    Communities are not monoliths. Within Muslims, there was a whole spectrum of views (this is in fact what Dhulipala emphasizes) ranging from Azad and Maulana Madani’s emphasis on “composite nationalism”, to Jinnah’s “two different civilizations which are based mainly on conflicting ideas and conceptions.”

    Pakistan was a political demand, and those who felt extremely committed to it or thought they could benefit from it, moved out. Those who didnt like it, or didnt feel its benefits outweighed the costs of migration, stayed.

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    1. “Those who didnt like it, or didnt feel its benefits outweighed the costs of migration, stayed.”
      They did not say all these things at a time when it mattered i.e. before 1947. We are supposed to deduce these things much later. Then behave as if Pakistan never happened.

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      1. An independent state does not necessarily mean an antagonist state. Just like Pakistan, Bangladesh also became independent of India, but far from antagonism, India and Bangladesh sign land swapping agreements.

        The politics between India and Pakistan will get resolved in time, most likely with the Pakistani elite getting exhausted of its needless confrontation with India, or being forced to do so by an external power or internal developments.

        The emergence of modern nation states produces violence, indeed many nation states are the products of inter state violence.

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