When Brahmins get treated like Dalits; the world listens

Swipe right and you’ll see why I wrote that.

I agree white people have to learn *more* about race but how many upper caste Indians would be comfortable with their children playing with Dalits?

And yes for white people *we* (coloured volk) are all Dalits since we were their subordinates and slaves less than half a century ago (history would have turned out very different had they not destroyed each other in White War 1 & White War 2).

As an aside I find it a bit absurd when Brits go on and on about how they “died for our freedom.” Our ancestors were subjects (or rather more like glorified servants; Hindustani text books in the 19th century is how an English lady should tell her staff to do a better job) both before and after the Wars so it’s a bit rich to presume they shed their blood in our name. Even the epithet “World War” masks that though the world was at war, it was simply because it was controlled by White Powers (with the exception of Japan). Language is a masking told and all powerful in how to reshape the narrative.

I’m not going to be an icon for Hinditva (I wanted to write Hindutva but my phone defaulted to Hinditva LOL) simply because I make a daily habit of shitting on Islam.

There are some deeply disturbing aspects of Hindu culture especially with regards to treating a huge section of their population on a lower rank than animals.

Caste is the South Asian curse and makes us the laughing stock of the world. Our colour obsession stems from the simple fact that colour is profoundly correlated to the caste hierarchy (as a Chennaite once told me in Kampala- never trust a black Brahmin).

I find it a bit amusing when Indians hyperventilate that Islam is the biggest threat to world peace and Indian security. I would have imagined a significant subsection of their truly dark population (Ms. Subramanian is *not* dark in Chennai) in abject and soul-wrenching poverty should rank a bit higher on their list of concerns..

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109 Replies to “When Brahmins get treated like Dalits; the world listens”

  1. how many upper caste Indians would be comfortable with their children playing with Dalits?

    Interrupting my maun vrat to challenge this. I’ve never seen any indicaton of such discomfort, let alone prohibition (I was a kid in the 80s and early 90s). At least in the towns, we tended to play with whoever would play with us. I remember playing with what were called basti kids (there was a class element here, not caste though.) And in school, no one knew nor cared what one’s playmate’s caste or religion was.

    Are you speaking from experience, or is this speculation? I will concede that such discomfort might be prevalent in rural areas, which I am not familiar with on a personal level.

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    1. I see a lot of people who bring up caste in the rural hinterlands, but honestly I never worried about that. I mean, we get it. Those places are operating on a 1600s level, and have 1600s social norms to match. Let’s bring them into the 21st century, economically and demographically, and those norms will evaporate.

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      1. I keep hearing Hindus who say these kinds of things only happen in rural areas, but that’s most of India. Depending on which statistic you use, anywhere from 66-75% of Indians live in rural areas.

        I do think the rural/ubran split on these issues need to be acknowledged, but too often in these discussions it goes a step further to outright dismissal.

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    2. Again this reminds me of white talking about their one black friend at school or the fact that they play b-ball in the ghetto.

      Alexandria Ocasia-Cortez (need to write a post) left the Bronx as a kid to move to Westchester. Her family did that so her brother and her could have the best schooling. She was the only kid of colour in her class.

      When you create an environment for your children with enough people of the *same kind* then you don’t have to worry about their specific background.

      Caste in India is even more pernicious than Race in America or even Religion in Pakistan.

      It’s so deeply internalised that it’s not even thought about.

      Brahmins (like Jews) are 2% of the population but would make up 50% of the upper class.

      Upper castes (Banias, Kshatriyas and Brahmins) are probably 20% of India’s population but form 80% of the upper class.

      Their poor relatives who are in the lower classes are still able to attract kinship, marriage & diaspora networks.

      I’m in High Tory so I’m not against a class system but I profoundly believe in noblesse oblige. We are all born with privilege, some more some less, and rather than complain about other people’s privilege we should be honest about it.

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      1. Brahmins are around 6-7 % of the population and they might at the most form 30 % of the upper class .Secondly in South Indian states it is the land owning non brahmin communities who are dominant or atleast on par in all modern professions and businesses in states like Andhra Pradesh Kerala Karnataka Tamil Nadu with castes like Nadars Gounders etc .In South India you hardly find a Brahmin Billionaire except maybe 3to4 .Complete domination by reddys kammas nadars vokkaligas lingayats nairs etc

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  2. Caste is the South Asian curse and makes us the laughing stock of the world.

    I’m with you here. It makes us very weak too. It makes the building up of social capital very challenging, and also stamps out individual initiative and self-development.

    (I think I’ll go back to silent mode now)

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      1. OK then, Zack: just to clarify, I was responding specifically to your comment that upper caste parents have a problem with their kids playing with Dalit kids. I did not experience this growingup, nor do I see any such thing now. Like HMB says, I can’t recognize anyone’s caste from their faces (I wouldn’t be able to recognize caste from names either, except for a selected few names.) You are under no obligation to believe me, but it’s nothing like “having a black friend”.

        (BTW…..I think you have a highly jaundiced view of what race relations in America are like today. As someone who doesn’t have light skin, I cannot recall a single instance of racism in my decade long stay there, but that’s just one data point. I also lived in an area with a fair number of African Americans, and I didn’t personally witness whites and blacks behaving weirdly around each other.)

        Back to India: I’m not trying to imply caste has no salience. It does in many spheres; marriage most prominently; occupation in which one find themselves stuck is another. But in “modern” schools and workplaces, which is really all of my experience of India, I have not seen any blatant displays of caste discrimination (I may have missed subtle cues though.)

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        1. Are you a Brahmin?

          If so then you speaking about caste would have the same salience as a white man speaking about racism.

          This isn’t to disregard your perspective but simply put that you are on the privileged end of the spectrum and therefore see things top down rather than bottom up.

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        2. No salience beyond who your children are and your livelihood. No biggy. Letting them eat using the same dinnerware is the height of progressive values.

          Hindus seem to be unable to call a spade a spade. The caste system is a bronze age relict designed to preserve in group advantage at the expense of outgroups. Marriage and occupation are the heart of what the caste system cares about. Everything else is bakwas apologetics designed to obfuscate and sanctify extremely anti social behavior.

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          1. Except at least occupation does not correlate with caste any more (it probably does for castes at historical extremes like temple priesthood for sections of Brahmins and manual scavenging and other sanitation working for sections of SC groups) – I may not be a good ancient-style Hindu for thanking God for this but today people of most castes are allowed to and routinely engage in most occupations, and importantly, nobody seems to hold any nostalgia about the past regarding this issue (the current correlations that may appear between historical caste occupations and modern caste occupations are likely due to inertia and not any normative policies self-imposed by the Hindu society; it is likely that things may change at the extremes too with time). But marriage is a different matter and strong prescriptive norms exist for intra-caste marriage and inter-caste marriages are quite rare, though they are also perfectly allowed in some Hindu sects like Arya Samaj and fully validated and protected by the Republic of India.

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          2. Tbh most societies have norms favoring endogamy, I myself have dated across caste and race, but if people want to follow those norms, I see nothing wrong with that.

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  3. “how many upper caste Indians would be comfortable with their children playing with Dalits?”

    I can’t even recognize a Dalit lol.

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      1. No I’m serious. I literally could not recognize if someone was a Dalit or not (I have a few Dalit friends, but they volunteered that information to me).

        The 21st century Indo-American understanding of caste is that you know what Sharma and Iyengar mean, you know what Gupta and Agarwal mean, and that’s it.

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      2. you are 100% right Zack. I had a heated discussion with a Brahmin colleague at work who was parroting things her parents told her about caste being simply ‘division of labour’. She couldn’t say anything in defence about untouchability, just murmuring it was a blotch. She also made it clear her caste was brahmin (i never asked lol). Caste is entrenched in mainstream Hindu society unfortunately.

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  4. Caste is inherent to Hinduism/India. It won;t go away, but

    A) can morph into something less violent, the way it operates now in a urban spaces, still there but not visible to naked eye.

    B) Over time due to rise in socio economic conditions of various castes , they come at par with upper castes. The shudra–> Upper caste story (Kaysthas)

    Both of them invariably will take many decades

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    1. Dalits are as likely to rise to the top of Indian society as African Americans are able to rise to the top of American society.

      Every civilisation has an “original sin”; slavery for the Americans, caste for India, conversion for Islam (if Islam was truly a religion of peace it would have spread like Christianity or Buddhism, mainly on peaceful proselytisation)

      The wealth of these nations were to *some extent* (how much) built on the backs of slaves and forced labour.

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      1. Agree about the original (and still extant) sins, but things have been changing for a while for the better now. Barack Obama was recently President. In India, we’ve had a couple of Dalit Presidents recently too, though that’s just a ceremonial role.

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        1. Slice up the Indian Population and slice up the American population.

          The 0.1%
          The 1%
          The 10%
          The bottom 49%

          Now imagine what are the racial, caste and creed % of it.

          For instance I imagine there are a lot of Muslims and African americans who are in the 0.1% hence they have pretty high visibility (will Smith, SRK) but if you quantify the disparity, it would be stark.

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  5. // a significant subsection of their truly dark population (Ms. Subramanian is *not* dark in Chennai) in abject and soul-wrenching poverty //

    Are there any actual stats on correlation of caste with poverty across Indian states? Would be interesting to see…

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    1. Here you go

      https://www.livemint.com/Politics/ino3tfMYVsd6VVGUdWXB8H/The-many-shades-of-caste-inequality-in-India.html

      “Not surprisingly, poverty levels are highest among SCs and STs. More than half of the SC population belongs to the poorest two quintiles (based on consumption expenditure data). The figure for STs is similar, as the chart below shows. Roughly 40% of OBCs and 20% of upper caste Hindus are in the poorest two quintiles, NSSO consumption expenditure data shows.”

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  6. It’s like going to the States; it only takes a couple of weeks (at best) to realise how things work and who’s on top.

    The structural inequality is so deeply embedded that it’s a bit like clutter; you simply don’t notice.

    Maybe as an outsider it’s more *acute* for me since I didn’t grow up in that society.

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  7. My BS meter is tingling with this person, who’s probably just looking for a foil for her activist urges (read her bio). Kids are mean. They’ll pick on any visible difference if they want to, be it height, hair cut, different clothes, facial features and yes, skin color. If they’re still frequenting playgrounds, they’re probably young enough to have not yet internalized racism in the manner this person wants to project onto them. Apparently the kids only distinguished on the blonde hair — the majority of European descended Australian folks are not blonde, so presumably they would have said the same thing to other brown and black haired white kids as well. Will never know since I wasn’t there, but something about this person’s post just seems off to me…

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  8. Zach, if you really want to start a dialogue, please write here of your direct observations of caste prejudice in Indian society. Your actual such data collected as a disinterested (or maybe concerned) outsider would be more interesting, valuable and credible than editorial sermons.

    As they say in creative writing classes, “Show, don’t tell”.

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  9. Agreed that Indians should worry more about the Hindu caste system than about the problems with Islam. Caste probably effects more Indians than extremist Muslims (or Pakistan) do. It is pretty shameful that such a system still exists in 2019 and that it is justified in the name of religion.

    I also find people’s responses to this post quite interesting. There is a level of defensiveness about caste from your upper-caste Hindu readership that is quite telling.

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      1. I don’t think it is ever acceptable to insult someone’s holy figures. That is just boorish behavior.

        You spend a disproportionate amount of your time attacking Islam. The double standard is noted. I also don’t notice you throwing the entire Hindu religion out because of caste the way you throw all of Islam out because of blasphemy.

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          1. Your choice.

            There is no hypocrisy in being against extremist interpretations of a religion while still believing that basic respect should be shown to holy figures.

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  10. “(as a Chennaite once told me in Kampala- never trust a black Brahmin).”

    I’ve never heard this, but this would mean that ~90% of South Indian Brahmins should not be trusted. I know that there’s a stereotype in places like Tamil Nadu that Brahmins are fair-skinned, but that itself is a small slice of the Tamil Nadu Brahmin population. There are many Tamil Brahmins who are black — I would say most of them, based on my experience.

    I don’t think the relationship between color and caste is as strong as you claim it to be.

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    1. “90% of South Indian Brahmins should not be trusted. ”

      Isn’t this what Periyar also said, albeit in a SLIGHTLY different context 😛

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    2. “I don’t think the relationship between color and caste is as strong as you claim it to be.”

      Well thats not true, when you look at the genetics. Dalits are generally more AASI/indigenous enriched than say brahmins.

      This is obvious in places like south india, where you can often easily spot a Brahmin or a Dalit/tribal from their appearance.

      This does not apply to all brahmins or dalits of course.

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      1. “Well thats not true, when you look at the genetics. Dalits are generally more AASI/indigenous enriched than say brahmins.”

        Yes, genetically speaking, upper castes have less AASI/indigenous. But from the standpoint of outward physical appearance, I don’t think most Tamil Brahmins look any different from Tamil non-Brahmins. The fairer Tamil Brahmins comprise a small slice of the overall Tamil Brahmin population. But I suppose this is an empirical matter that is difficult to prove.

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        1. I can spot the difference between a Bram and non-Bram.
          I knew a Kannada Brahmin who married a Tamil non-Bram. She was allowed to by her parents (this was decades ago) as he was a Doctor.
          Her complexion is golden in comparison.

          South Indian Brahmins maybe *dark* compared to North Indians but are the fairest South Indian population (unless there is a population that is mixed with outsiders).

          It’s cognitive dissonance not to see it.

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          1. There are so many exceptions to such a rule that the rule makes no sense. If you see leaders of Dravidian parties who make nonsensical claims about Nb Dravs vs B Aryans, there are much lighter in skin tone than many brahmins, yours truly included . In fact many of their public posters are slightly touched to lighten their skins even more. It is rumored late M.G..Rramachandran used to eat ‘chittukkuruvi lehiyam’ , a traditional potion – a lehiyam made from skulls of small birds – which was supposed to make skin less dark . In fact DMK propoganda iused to make negative commets about Kamaraj for his dark skin as they were political opponents. On the whole , empirically brahmins and non-brahmins are indistinguishable by skin color. However don’t forget non brahmins also come in hundreds of castes and there may be skin tone differences among them. However I think the whole line of thinking is quite dodgy and unproductive to give any kind of knowledge. Getting obsessed about skin colour , positively or negatively , is rubbish . Moral or spiritual or technical abilities don’t reside in skin colour.
            Your earlier comment about a hearsay of ‘don’t trust black brahmins’ is true as an opinion expressed in Tamilnadu and that just shows how much Tamils i.e. nonbrahmins are prejudiced against black skin.

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  11. Before commenting on this thread, all Hindus should specify their caste so we can see where their opinions about the caste system are coming from. I bet we will see predominantly Brahmin voices.

    I’m Shudra – OBC.

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  12. Jain – Kshatriya / Rajput (if anyone is curious: surname is Solanki: from the last Hindu Rajput dynasty to rule Gujarat in the 13th century before Marathas in the 18th century; relatives are Parmar (of Raja Bhoj of Malwa fame), Chauhan and Rathod (current ruling clan of Jodhpur) – all these relatives are currently Jain). Presently considered Bania by others (and by the community; no one makes a fuss about Rajput origins except for the more academically oriented)

    I don’t understand all this fuss about Brahmins. I am intimately familiar with two Western Indian states, Rajasthan and Gujarat. In Rajasthan, it was the Rajputs along with Jains (Oswals/Porwals) who were the most prominent in Marwar and Mewar..Rana Pratap and his financier Bhama Shah (Jain) are just one example. I saw this dynamic in action in the villages and the towns where the closest community to the ruling Rajputs was the Jains..It showed in wealth, status etc.. Brahmins in the villages were certainly upper caste, and were ritually important, but not considered elite (except for a small fraction of Rajpurohits) and generally had way less influence..

    In Gujarat, the Bania (predominantly Jain until the 17th/18th century and increasingly also Vaishnav Vanias) were predominant forever since the last Rajput dynasty fell in the 13th century. Even as far back as the 10th century, Jains were running the courts, or were main advisors to the kings, and were wealthy enough to make fantastic temple complexes (Dilwara at Mt Abu being one example)..After the Rajputs fell, Jains continued on..Virji Vora (18th century) of Surat was considered one of the richest people of his time in the world, and I think was the Jain merchant from Surat who was involved in Mughal disputes (financed Dara Shikoh?)..Shantidas Jhaveri a Jain merchant from Ahmedabad had a regular presence in the Mughal courts..Culture was heavily influenced by the Jains, including food habits, general aversion to meat, importance of nonviolence etc.. Brahmins again were ritually important but never had status above the Vanias.. Vanias ruled Gujarat in many ways, until the Shudra Patels came up phenomenally in the 19th and 20th centuries and became predominant in many ways.

    So Brahmin this, Brahmin that..I don’t understand all the adulation nor the hate…

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    1. Brahmins have been disproportionately successful in modern India, forming a high percentage of the bureaucracy, intelligentsia, and miscellaneous private sector jobs. People may believe that this is the result of insidious caste discrimination practiced by Brahmins from time immemorial, and continuing in modern India, albeit in more secular garb. (Discrimination practiced in the past is a fact, today probably not as much)

      An alternate explanation is that Brahmins have traditionally paid more attention to book-learning and that attitude has paid dividends in post-Independence India when it did not earlier (Rajpurohits excepted.)

      But people will pick whatever explanation aligns more with their priors.

      (Usual caveat FWIW: I think caste is the bane of India, and I wish to see it annihilated, Ambedkar-style)

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      1. My family on both sides was petty gentry since (at least) the East India Company days, I’m told.

        Then came modernity, and we were transformed into lawyers, programmers, and physicians!

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      1. to both Saurav and Xerxes/Zach/Zak (can’t keep track of your nicks :)):

        The first mistake that people make is using a narrow definition of Hindu. Jains are not Hindu by religion but are as Indic as non-Jain Hindus. Sikhs are similar but are increasingly and consciously moving away to a distinct non-Hindu identity while still staying in the Indic fold (although extremists would like to carve out their own non-Indic, non-Muslim space)..

        So if you think of Jains as Indic (and they are sons of the soil Indics with a history going back 3000 years – The Tirthankar before Mahavir, Parshwa is considered a real person), then all of these statements like “Jains are more Hindu than Hindu” etc..seem like truisms, or exaggerations or snarky..

        Jains take ownership of the land (which they coown with others) and have never claimed to be separate..Separate religion yes, but they don’t see the need to be distinct from others..This is unlike the Abrahamics and now Sikhs.. Also unlike new Buddhists, Jains are mostly not from marginalized, low power groups (in the North are from historically elite/ upper groups, in the South like Karnataka and southern Maharashtra went from elite to middle status groups but still not marginalized), so they don’t have a political need to tout their own uniqueness and distinction from Hindus (esp upper caste/class Hindus)…

        Now on the Jains are Hindus without the fun..For fun, we celebrate Diwali, Holi, Navratri and Rakshabandhan (though no Shivratri, Janmashtmi etc individual exceptions notwithstanding) and that is a nice balance to their very austere religion.

        Saurav – say some more about, why Jains should be considered “out of syllabus”? Would love to hear your take 🙂

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          1. haan, maine mazak hi samjha. but mazak ke peechhe kya tha 🙂 i like your hilarious (always) and perceptive (mostly) take on things..so feel free to elaborate. no offence will be taken 🙂

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          2. Are its nothing. I just feel mostly that Jain and UC Hindus really dont have (that) much difference to really warrant a separate discussion. Mostly Jains intermarry and same as UC only.

            About the fun stuff, in modern day Hinduism, i feel Hindus just took you religion (Jainism) and added some meat (pun intended) to it . 😛

            P.S : Also wont a Kshatriya Jain be a oxymoron

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    2. So Brahmin this, Brahmin that..I don’t understand all the adulation nor the hate…
      I am certainly in concordance with your comments. In fact I have always wondered where is all this rhetoric about “Bhahmanvad” and “Manuvad”, which is routinely shouted by Dalit political parties, coming from. At ground level the primary oppressor of Dalits have mostly been landowning castes like Jats, Marathas, Thevars etc. In Indian folklores the common stereotype of a Brahmin is that of a poor Brahmin. Does anyone remember any folk story with a rich Brahmin or a powerful Brahmin character?

      Whatever be the official caste hierarchy (and I doubt if there ever was a well defined caste hierarchy), the most prestigious position was always occupied by the caste with the political power, which in the case of Rajasthan was the Rajputs. Next important caste was Baniyas/Jains, who held the purse strings and could finance the extravagant life style of ruling caste, (in exchange for protection of course). Brahmins really didn’t have any conspicuously advantageous position in this scheme of things.

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      1. This is what happens when people rely too much on always thinking about big, overarching thought systems considered to be the origins of bad stuff, etc. as opposed to concentrating on other more important (in my view) and dirtier aspects like how those thought systems actually come to be implemented on the ground level in various spaces and times, and also realising that altogether new systems do creep up and become deeply rooted themselves, and that in many areas and places the nice big thought systems may not be having much imprint with respect especially to the things that most matter like value of life, potential for unwanted death due to violence, etc. Not to say that attacking big thought systems is not important; it is vital – but other kinds of studies need to be performed too side by side.

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      2. Lol I am so sorry for haughtily assuming that people don’t already do all that I recommended above – it is probably the case that oppressed people tend to have a sharp and correct understanding of how things came to be, in an intuitive manner even probably, and all types of analyses of relevant systems already performed, and alterations to those systems and new systems designed for better performance.

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  13. \Caste is the South Asian curse ..\

    Get real. In a country with no social security initiatives from the government, caste provided some economic and social security. The way the ‘progressive politics’has played in India has made sure caste survives . Since caste is the basic thinking block of ‘progressive politics’ in India , it has made sure caste becomes salient. Even Ambedkar who wrote books like ‘ánnihilation of catse ‘ had no stomach to ‘annihilate’ caste when he was a law minister and he had a hand in writing the Indian constitution. The Indian Constitution prohibits discrimination based on caste in public sphere , even that has become a travesty due to caste based politics in India. If the spirit of the Indian Constitution is carried out to the letter , 90% of perceptions of caste will disappear.

    Junking caste will require caste-blind administration and politics and institutional support – which is light years away from India

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  14. I think there’s a slow and steady synthesis going on in the cities that’s making the details of caste increasingly irrelevant, and instead making class/wealth increasingly relevant. For starters, i’m a Marwari Maheshwari Bania, two of my aunts are Punjabi Khatris, one uncle is a UP Agrawal, another aunt is a Marwari Saraogi, and some of our more distant relatives are also Jains. Nobody even talks about caste anymore, the differences between us are more about the states we come from.

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    1. All of the examples you have given are upper castes (which btw exhibit a clear indication of hypergamy).

      You are merely alluding to intermarriage among the upper castes; this is evident all throughout India.

      Stop projecting individual circumstances to the larger society and claiming “caste is dead.”

      White people exchange in extensive intermarriage with each other (and also non-whites) doesn’t mean Race is dead

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      1. No, I’m not saying caste is dead, nor that it’s not a relevant social issue. Just pointing out that attitudes around caste have changed in many communities. A generation ago, one type of bania marrying another type of bania was a huge transgression, and sometimes led to ostracization. Now things like “social purity” are beginning to break down in favor of economic status and social liberalism. Many young people in cities grow up not knowing their caste anymore, and knowing it’s wrong to ask others about it. As the middle class swells, this trend swells with it. Caste is far from dead, but this is still a small victory. Obviously much is still left to be done.

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        1. everyone knows their caste; just like everyone knows their race.

          All the UCs are marrying each other; just like white intermarriage in the 50’s-80’s really break down “white ethnic identity.”

          Yes the “modern UCs” are consolidating into each other.

          You also forget lots of India live in joint families (or at least with parents and grandparents) and even the “intermarried partner” adopts the culture of the house..

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  15. Caste consolidation has always been a thing in India, so its hard to say whether the current trend is something enlightened and out of the ordinary. People are interacting with castes that they may not of had any awareness about previously and use some shorthand rules about how to rank them eg “are they vegetarian?” , “do they own land?” The former is unrelated to whether that specific person is vegetarian. The flip side to all this caste consolidation is that it is making religious differences more salient.

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    1. On my time in the arranged marriage circuit, I’ve been turned down for “non-veg” and “too dark” several times. Possible that the bride’s parents are using that stuff as proxy variables for caste? Or is it just a bullshit excuse?

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      1. Hmb, are you on some type of arranged marriage platform where it isnt apparent from your full name what your caste is? If so, its quite possible you are being categorized as lower caste if their only available information is that you are darkish and a declared meat eater.

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        1. No it should be obvious from my name what my caste and ethnicity are. So probably they were just making excuses.

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      2. “On my time in the arranged marriage circuit,”

        I know this is a advice coming from a stranger on internet, and you are free to ignore. If you have a choice try to opt out of the “circuit” . I have seen some really unhappy marriages in the whole NRI arrange marriage thing , (with the spouse frm India) here is USA.

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  16. Zack,

    What exactly is the point you are trying to argue here? Is it that Indian (Hindu) society is irredeemably casteist, and forever condemned to be? (If so, this would be the right equivalent of Ta-nehisi Coates’ view that America is irredeemably and forever racist.)

    If you are arguing against people who deny that caste has any salience in India, you are arguing against a strawman.

    Many of us who grew up in this country have had a significantly more nuanced experience than this. In fact, we have seen progress before our own eyes. Of course there is still much left to do, but why deny progress in the ways it has happened (if indeed that what you are doing) and on what basis?

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    1. Insiders sometimes have a less appreciable view than outsiders.

      There is an upside to being an outsider in all contexts. I am forever part inside, part outside; stuck between the doorways between so many different cultures and ideas..

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      1. I, as a returned expat, look at India with very Naipaulish eyes, as you’ll find in some of my comments.

        It’s always good for an outsider to hold a mirror in front of people, but keep in mind that what the outsider sees is but a snapshot, not a video. The former helps identify hateful practices; the latter identifies changes over a period of time. Both are useful; both ought to be acknowledged.

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  17. One thing to be noticed here – and many people beginning from the very clear-thinking pre-Independence-era leaders and freedom fighters to people all over India these days have known this – is that the caste system as a whole cannot even be attempted to be dismantled in a sudden fashion. Casteism is the immediate thing that has always to be curbed. But of course, both caste system and casteism are closely interlinked and caste system as the begetter of casteism is not fundamentally good ultimately if casteism is considered not good. However, utopias don’t exist in bhUlokaM and it is extremely risky to contemplate sudden outlawing of the caste system from its roots. It only has to be left to God and people to decide how they want to take it forward, but we must try that all the most immediate bad effects of it like lack of opportunity based on caste, caste-based discrimination, persecution of people in inter-caste marriages and loss of their religion as Hindus, etc. are constantly taken care of.

    At least at the current state, I can assure you that the caste system is becoming more and more horizontal and describes an endogamous network of groups who engage in most occupations and don’t go about slighting each other in workplaces and other locations on a vertical I’m-upper-you’re-lower caste basis. Many people in rural areas might carry forward their old little silly and quaint traditions like sitting on the floor in front of a Brahmin (happened to me personally; when I went to visit a Brahmin’s house during my adolescence in the Krishna district for some stupid reason myself – astrology -, a relative of mine from the village very obediently sat on the floor in front of the Brahmin man even though he never asked her to do that; I of course sat in the chair in front of him) but it is the excessive and negative aspects that we should actively curb. That’s all we can do. As I see it, it has a strong logistics and general feasibility angle to it in addition to personal mental bigotry (who cares if you are internally a bigot though as long as you are not actively going around harming people), general conservatism, etc.

    As some others here suggest, there is some angst that caste system may be fundamental in someway to Hinduism but I don’t think it is the case. High Hindu thought can perfectly survive with a (re-?)formulation of varNa as the abstract bookish categorisation of individuals based on qualities and other stuff which may also include birth but without any overarching importance attached to birth and parentage. It is Low Hinduism that emphasises strict group-endogamy that may ultimately lose (or not, too) but both styles/modes of Hindus must be magnanimous and loving towards each other.

    Anyway, I think the arrival of new perceived demons into Hindu society like homsexuality on the scene is already beginning to force quite a significant number of Hindu families to even reduce insistence on non-intercaste marriages lol. I routinely see silly jokes on TV that say just marry someone from the opposite sex, does not matter who or what.

    (Edit: I can only apologise for my long comments lol. It has become a very entrenched habit of mine to write reams and reams, sorry!)

    4+
    1. But there may be quite a few hidden variables and thoughts that I am missing here from a standard normal-Leftist or quite-a-bit-more-Lefist (I don’t know which it is) viewpoint, such as that even the presence of strict caste endogamy and cultural caste networks may automatically cause reduction in meritocracy in the system and lead to discrimination of individuals based on caste opportunity-wise. It is probably here that the Left and the Right separate more viciously from each other and my personal psychological orientation dictates that we have to try to approach what the (moderate-ish) Left aspires for (but the Right, in fact, may be right; I don’t know; because human nature is probably too inherently wretched and powerless (as I can personally attest with 100% certainty that is the case taking the example of me) and humans themselves may re-create all their previous histories and stuff after sometime in left-like close-to-utopia-s), but everything has to be done smoothly, whatever is thought important to be done, without much violence.

      I said the above just to indicate that I of course may not be thinking about this from all possible angles and consequently missing a lot of stuff.

      2+
      1. These days whenever I read your comments the song “vaiShNava janato” seems to play in my mind LOL (in a good way, of course).

        1+
        1. Haha, am kinda glad it does but most probably what I have written above might not be the standard views of Vaishnavas. I tried and failed to become a good Vaishnava in the past but still my ultimate goal that remains in my deep psyche amidst all my left-y transgressions and trysts with super-materialistic stuff and also mental hedonisms is to reach near the Lord’s Lotus Feet ultimately with all my lowly passions and desires removed without a trace and with the following skill granted to me: of remaining in perfect happiness (without boredom, aversion, etc. too common for me in this world) with the senses filled only with the Lord’s Lotus Feet and nothing else whatsoever.

          4+
    2. Also, I perhaps committed a logical error in the longish comment by saying that “caste system as the begetter of casteism is not fundamentally good ultimately if casteism is considered not good…”. Personally, assuming that inequality and hierarchies are impossible to avoid, caste system of the High variety is not fundamentally appealing to me because it is too overly abstract and theoretical and probably infeasible to implement (their ultimate attempts are/were probably to realise a goal of some form of very extreme meritocracy which is also likely not sustainable; but it also has to be noticed that, in practice, this system too fell to the Low scheme of privileging birth over everything else at some very ancient point) and caste system of the Low variety is of course even less appealing because it is kinda overly dumb and stupid, and needless to say, has many extreme aspects also. Casteism is one of the other effects of the caste system but there is a possibility an entity named caste system can be theoretically good; I, personally, however, don’t think caste system as a real-world entity is a very good and efficient system. I just wanted to correct that logical error.

      One of the most efficient and also good ways in my view is to allow some kind of freedom and flexibility for people to choose what occupations they want to engage in, fail/succeed at them, and change occupations if needed. Of course, people may take into account their own caste-like personal histories like being born to an engineer/doctor, etc. and other such considerations in addition to other factors when making their own choices but the system should not rush and systematise that kind of rigidity as normative for everyone.

      1+
  18. To be fair on someone like HMB, if you have grown up in the west, i can understand their “blindness” to caste (lot of my urban middle class friends in India have that too). It is much easier to find a dragon than meet someone from a dalit community in the States.

    2+
    1. Like I said, I’m not denying the pervasiveness and importance of caste in rural Jharkhand…I’m only reporting what I’ve seen as part of a small diaspora in major White and Hispanic cities.

      0
  19. Where do ‘Kayastha’ fall into all this Caste discourse ?

    All middles caste usually have no platform to share their experience as it is either the highest i.e. Brahmins or the lowest i.e. Dalits & untouchables who have stronger networks all over the world & platforms where they keep attacking each other while forcing intermediate castes to follow the govt.’s ‘ascribed caste identities’ & common perception about castes prevalent all over the world.

    ————————————————————-

    Take inequality in India, note the highest disparity within caste groups is within “Upper castes”. It is the result of focusing on identities & not focusing on resource distribution thus leaving atleast 50% people out of most govt. policies which focus on redistribution by focusing on ‘Identities’.

    Check the following papers – Note inequality

    https://www.epw.in/journal/2019/19/notes/employment-scenario-and-reservation-policy.html
    Backup – https://web.archive.org/web/20190516152456/https://www.epw.in/journal/2019/19/notes/employment-scenario-and-reservation-policy.html

    https://www.indiaspend.com/vast-income-inequalities-within-castes-study-top-10-among-forward-castes-own-60-wealth/

    Real question has always been – How “Backwardness” should be defined in India ?

    https://www.epw.in/engage/article/how-has-idea-backwardness-taken-shape

    1+
  20. I have to say I have really come to appreciate Zach’s knowledge of the pain points of Indian society. He steps right on them and does not let up. The squirming of the Indian commentariat is a treat to read.

    Slowly turning into an Indian mate – inside out, and I mean that as a genuine compliment. I for one see you more as Indian bredrin’ than Pakistani.

    5+
    1. // I have to say I have really come to appreciate Zach’s knowledge of the pain points of Indian society. He steps right on them and does not let up. The squirming of the Indian commentariat is a treat to read. //

      Basically you love him because he follows dominant narrative about caste & probably shares the views about it similar to you.

      Pain points – What are they ?
      Every society has problems but the first step to solve any problem is to correctly recognize the problem & then discuss the solutions.

      For e.g.
      Most caste discussions gets diverted into religious discussions rather than policy & results discussions.

      There are many aspects that needs to be acknowledged to create a middle ground for solution but the problem is that all caste discussions & solutions are discussed as – ‘Either my way or highway’.

      There are many aspects to caste discussions but one needs to have clear differentiations regarding the aspects, contexts to have a proper discussion about them but they are usually denied in the name of ‘Established facts’ & ‘Methodologies’.

      My responses where i discussed Caste before on BP –
      https://www.brownpundits.com/2018/03/23/should-hinduism-survive/

      3+
      1. Do I really follow the dominant narrative on caste?
        I was the one who launched at PewDiePie and have always stepped up to defend India.
        However it is also important to hold a mirror to any society.

        1+
        1. Well lets start with basics –

          Define caste ? Theories of origin of caste ?

          // I was the one who launched at PewDiePie and have always stepped up to defend India. //

          I don’t know what is the connection here as ‘Caste’ is a completely separate issue while yes it was part of Pewdiepie controversy but as an academic topic it’s a completely different topic.

          // However it is also important to hold a mirror to any society. //

          Yes i agree but to do that one must have nuanced understanding of issues of society one wishes to hold a mirror to.

          I don’t see any discussion on BP about caste with regards to how elites shaped it, modified it & used it ?

          How Caste got described in different texts, contexts, periods & which policy affected which aspect of caste ?

          Forced changes only result in reinforced fundamentalist behaviors.
          E.g.
          https://frontline.thehindu.com/static/html/fl2325/stories/20061229002903000.htm
          Note 3rd para of ‘Democratisation of touch’.

          I am interested in exploring Caste issue in all it’s nuances & not limiting it to certain aspects just to validate or invalidate arguments about the issue.

          No society can change if elites don’t provide the society the chance to change.
          Check – Power Elite Theory {James Mill theorized this Sociological concept}
          https://www1.udel.edu/htr/Psc105/Texts/power.html

          1+
    2. You can like what you want, but just realize that you’re definitely punching down when you attack Hindus and Indians. Say what you want to say, but do so with respect and decorum.

      (I do find it ironic that I have to say this to a Sanskrit virtuoso, while I myself barely speak Hindi and don’t give a crap about Sanskrit hahaha.)

      6+
      1. So now in order to criticize the Hindu caste system one has to attack Islam? Interesting. What do these two issues have to do with each other?

        I have always been against extremist interpretations of Islam. I just don’t believe in gratuitously attacking the entire religion.

        I’m sorry if I was enjoying the other side being on the defensive for once.

        2+
    1. Contrast Yashica Dutt with any other story of class dynamics where one changes his/her taste & behavior in accordance to their acquaintances or how ethnic communities interact and change their behavior or hide certain aspects of ones identity as accommodation strategy.

      She is much more financially & socially secure and can now increase benefits from her “oppressed” identity in modern world obsessed with ‘victimized identities’.

      1+
  21. Maybe it is too late to contribute here but one data point is better than nothing. My dad is OBC, my mom upper caste non-Brahmin of South Indian kind. They married with their parents blessing in 1978 in rural India in maternal grandfather’s house.
    My father’s relatives straight up refused to attend the wedding. Some of my mothers relatives wanted to banish my grandfather from caste, not that he cared. But it never came to pass.

    So, this came about because my dad was engineer and my mom was one of six girls. I think people who know caste nuances in India can do the math.

    I grew up in semi urban town and visited said grandfather’s village every summer with my siblings and played with my “pure” caste cousins without any issue.

    Sometimes my school friends parents would ask carefully if we were reddy or naidu, and I would cheerfully say neither. My friends would apologize and continued to be my friends to this day. The last time this occurred was in early 90s.

    This is not to say my father never suffered because he was an engineer. Political clout is related to caste and people with political clout get promoted more often. Yes it is unfair but lots of other things are unfair in India unrelated to hierarchy of caste. E.g. being reddy in rayalaseema and be locked in to factionism and deadly family feuds.

    Sometimes it seems people get carried away with upper, forward, OBC and SC without consideration that a balija is different from reddy, kamma and kapu are different naidus , ediga is different from velama and madiga is different from mala.

    That is the lack of nuance in all of the caste stomping. Some of the OBC , SC, ST think their caste is special wherever it is in hierarchy for others. Without the voices of actual OBC , SC, ST, what is point of these discussions? There are some of those on BP survey and may be they should add their views, even if it is done anonymously.

    9+
    1. So much for the alleged casteism that was previously ascribed to Violet by someone.

      The caste ranting on this website and the cheerleading it gets is mostly virtue signalling from people who seem to not have much direct experience of caste.It’s like suburban white kids getting enraged about race.

      6+
      1. OK, this comment is a bit too late, but I agree there was certainly some amount virtue signalling here from people who in the past have not shied away from expressing their pride in their own heritage (even if in an indirect humble brag sort of a way).
        Pakis will be will be Pakis on caste – and for most this is a stick to beat Hindus with, and another rationalization of why they want to leave everything Indic in their heritage behind.
        Indian liberals, or supposed intellectuals, see this as an opportunity to proclaim their moral and intellectual superiority over the plebeian masses..
        And for most of us in between, it is a discussion, where assumptions like Brahmins were the top dog forever and everywhere can be challenged. That “Shudras” have and have always had a lot of power needs to be stated.. It’s a discussion and not a defense of discrimination (although Pakis, leftists and virtue signallers will for obvious reasons take it that way)

        3+
  22. Great comment on the caste dynamics of AP, very interesting. I’m Tamil but spent a large part of my childhood in the erstwhile AP. Interestingly my maternal ancestors settled in Chittoor around 5-6 generations ago where there used to be a large Tamil community, and that is where my mother grew up in a joint family but all of them have moved away now and our large ancestral house has been sold.
    When I moved to Hyderabad from caste-blind Mumbai for a few years in school it became clear to me (after I managed to learn Telugu, lovely language) that
    there was a sub-current of a very alien form of thinking among my classmates. The Reddy’s considered themselves top dogs in class followed by the Naidus, and caste stereotypes were occasionally peddled, mostly in jest – such as never trust a Kamma, etc. The Brahmins were nowhere in the pecking order and we were actually made lightly fun of for our vegetarianism. This sort of thing operated at a sub-level and was probably a reflection of the parents way of thinking more than anything else. In adulthood, I’m sure these considerations are almost non-existent as most of them have married outside their castes would definitely not propogate this kind of thinking to their children. Equally, it’s probably a feature of all South Asian societies and scratch the surface the stereotypes and prejudices come tumbling out. Caste is no longer a salient feature of urban life but that doesn’t mean society has flattened out.

    Someone made a point that skin colour is not correlated to caste and I second that – that myth that brahmins are ‘fairer’ is just that – a myth. Tam-Brahmin families show a wide range of skin colouring and phenotype, as is typical in South Asian communities once you control for occupation and time spent outdoors. If anything in my experience the ‘fairest’ in TN are the non-brahmin mercantile folk.

    5+
    1. Xerxes the Magian and Deep Bhatnagar gArlU, it is my wholehearted request to you that you make happen Deep Bhatnagar’s articles on caste system – it’s origins and dynamics here on Brown Pundits.

      1+
  23. Xerxes the Magian and Deep Bhatnagar gArlU, it is my wholehearted request to you that you make happen Deep Bhatnagar’s articles on caste system – its origins, dynamics, etc. here on Brown Pundits.

    2+
  24. I have not experienced the caste village setting as my father was posted as sub-engineer in Madhya Pradesh which has tribal population so i have experienced tribals when they were less socially & politically active but much more in tune with their surroundings. My father used to make rounds to ‘sites’ & thus used to eat and drink food from & with tribals.

    He had colleagues from various castes & he became friends with many of them but made one of his colleagues “sworn sister aka moohboli behen” who are from ‘Banjara’ community. We call them Fufaji & Buaji and we have good relationship with each other and have attended each other’s functions frequently but the family relationship is restricted to just our family & it is the similar case on their side too.

    Regarding marriage they insist on marrying within once own community. I have seen them develop financially & noticed them to be following the similar pattern of so called “Middle class Upper Caste” {as narrative goes} or Hindutva people.

    We have attended “maan” many times in various temples which is a kind of ritual animal sacrifice where whole family eats together. We have attended it with them from the time when they were financially not secure to now when they are better off than most of the Indians.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animal_sacrifice_in_Hinduism
    Note – Jhatka is the preferred method for killing the animal for food.

    I have also noticed that my father after being wrongly punished by his ‘oppressed lower caste’ boss {Punishment that he challenged in court & proved his innocence} he has become more aware of taking note of people he deals with & their castes. This has also forced some changes in his behavior too which can be termed as ‘casteist’ although i keep discussing & objecting to it whenever possible.

    Since people here seems to be sharing their personal caste stories i thought i should share mine too.

    2+
  25. https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/in-ancient-punjab-religion-was-fluid-not-watertight-says-romila-thapar-5709145/

    She is a renowned Historian & one can note what she is saying about Indic religious traditions & Jati/Varna system.

    Why is she providing these new insights if all features regarding Caste system & it’s historicity are a settled debate ?

    Similarly –
    https://www.academia.edu/37740094/Social_Life_Issues_of_Varṇa-Jāti_System
    From Book – History of Bangladesh: Early Bengal in Regional Perspectives(up to c. 1200 CE) Vol I & II
    https://www.academia.edu/37833946/ASB_book_ad

    Also note how Scholar’s position within academia allows one to challenge academia but if one enters into academia with the intention of challenging it instead of accepting the dominant narrative their arguments are reduced to personal name calling, ideological accusations etc. instead of addressing their responses.

    E.g. Ongoing academic debate regarding ‘caste’ within academia –

    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/326436800_'So_called_caste'_S_N_Balagangadhara_the_Ghent_School_and_the_Politics_of_grievance

    https://www.academia.edu/38979955/A_New_School_in_the_Study_of_India

    More papers from the Ghent School scholars {Supposedly Right-wing Hindutva brigade} –
    https://ugent.academia.edu/JakobDeRoover
    https://ugent.academia.edu/SNBalagangadhara

    Book – Europe, India, and the Limits of Secularism by Jakob De Roover

    E.g. – https://bangaloremirror.indiatimes.com/entertainment/lounge/of-caste-and-west/articleshow/21186737.cms

    https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/TheHeathenInHisBlindness/conversations/messages/4297

    Orientalism, Academic blind-spots & others –
    https://hunter-cuny.academia.edu/VishwaAdluri
    https://fu-berlin.academia.edu/JoydeepBagchee

    Both set of scholars are now asking critical questions regarding assumptions of ‘Caste system’ but one i.e. Ghent school is using the existing research to question the current assumptions about the issue while the other set of scholars is asking for further research into historical records to asses & re-imagine ‘Caste system’ & it’s evolution based upon regional archaeological & other records. -_-

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