I’ve noticed that our caste thread has once again exploded. My new policy is to simply skip over comment threads once they become negative.
I thought I would add 2 points. I’m very suspicious when white liberals “ally” in the war again caste since there is little doubt that caste was tremendously strengthened during the colonial era. I’m not arguing that it was created during the time of the Brits, the genetic data shows otherwise, but for the purposes of administrations & control, rigid lines were always drawn over the population. The Brits were not benevolent masters as so many on this blog like to believe.
I will share a little anecdote since I love stories. A senior female academic of Indian origins who was asked to speak at a conference wrote in asking as to why she was the only woman featured and why weren’t there more women. The white lady academic/administrator replied, very defensively, that “Genderism isn’t the only discrimination there’s racism, class and caste discrimination.”
As soon as I heard that snippet I realised what the white lady was trying to do; a dog-whistle. She was using caste as a way to attack the Indian academic. This is not the only story where this has happened. Another Indian female academic stopped going into a prominent college because everything she went in she was stopped by the porters (Oxbridge college have porters). This didn’t happen to the other white students.
As soon as this story made public there was a reactionary pushback by many white liberals that an “upper caste” Indian was trying to defame the white working class porters. This is bs because caste distinctions isn’t picked on by Westerners.
So I am very suspicious when white people try to get involved in the caste system since frankly it’s none of their business but I applaud that Ms. Girls had the chance to tell her story on her terms.
Finally what about Pakistanis; are we allowed to talk about caste? I’ve reflected on this a fair bit, ultimately I straddle the divide (to some extent) but it’s important to talk about Pakistan’s social system.
I do not think caste is at all operative above the middle classes who are Urducised and Muslimicised. It’s absurd to think caste has any real salience in a culture that takes its cue from Islamic values.
However there is a very strong clique in Pakistan that operate almost as a caste (but much more fluid – think Boston Brahmins) and are the sub-elite. They aren’t the most powerful or the richest or even celebrities but they are on the periphery of all 3 circles and in fact gel them together. I tweeted about them in a thread (I’ll link to it later) but they are the 1,000 families:
(1.) they live in Defense, Karachi; Clifton maybe. You could even go into particular phases
(2.) they school in KGS then go abroad for undergrad. Some stay in the West most (?) return
(3.) “Muhajir” families but most of them are the descendants of the administrators/ministers/leaders of post-independence Pakistan, when Karachi was the capital and migrants from UP provided the initial leadership cadre.
(4.) very well-spoken English and of course some Urdu for effect (Ghalib etc).
(5.) they love their drawing room politics and are entertaining to a fault. Virtually all of them drink.
(6.) they conform to a particular look since Punjabis and Pathans (other foreigners) have also married into this class but overt “ethnic” markers preclude entry into this class. If a family speak Punjabi or Pushto or even Urdu predominantly they simply are not a member of the 1,000 families. All have ultimately foreign origins (Persian, Arab, Morocco but like all recent Indian Muslim elite mostly Afghanistan) with Shijrahs and can usually pass for other parts of the Ummah.
(7.) they love to talk about how Partition was/may have been a mistake (virtually all are liberals) but deep down are the “germ of Pakistan”. They embody and pulsate the Pakistan ideal.
(8.) the other cities in Pakistan are not their territory. Karachi is their only base. Kashmir is another world (that is a Punjab-Isb-Pindi issue) since they all still have residual links into India proper.
(9.) Benazir Bhutto was an honorary member of this class; Sharifs are definitely not. Imran Khan, in his playboy heydays, was but now is not. It’s an ephemeral feeling but when “you know you know.” A lot of their fathers and grandfathers were celebrated Pakistanis either in the diplomatic corp. It’s why Pakistanis were known for being particularly suave in foreign affairs in the 60’s-80’s. This class probably lost power with Liaquat and with the rise of the first military govt; never regained it.
(10.) this class has also fallen on hard times. They became decadent in the 80’s and rely on good marriages and salaried employment to get them through. Not good at business (Memons etc) but rely on political connections.
This wouldn’t be a caste exactly because the boundaries are so slippery and ill-defined. However I would call them a “clique” that verges on a caste since it combines some Islamic and Hindu elements with a very strong colonial overlay.
Beyond the Military, Pakistan raison d’etre is really this highly successful sub-elite. They form that all-important ideological core since they set a national standard that Pakistanis/Pakistaniyat conform too.
The best name for the 1,000 Families are the Neo-Mughals since they embody (much like the Mughals) highly contradictory elements. In one go they are valiant defenders of Islam & Pakistan but on the other hand they are hedonistic and partial to all the “European” vices (alcohol, gambling, adultery, promiscuity). Straddling contradictions is what makes this clique-caste so compelling and a glue to Pakistan.
If India wants to eradicate Pakistan it needs to level Defense and KGS since the ideological core of the nation would be wiped out. The Muhajir psychosis, which is now the Pakistani psychosis, bubbles with them. Without them and their integration of all elite sectors of Pakistani society into a hedonistic socialising partying set; Pakistan would be more like Yugoslavia, which it’s avoided.
Of course the greatest failure of the neo-Mughal class was 1971 since Dhaka seemed to have a great number of these people.