After seeing the amazing show Daughters of Destiny; I believe the catch-all term Brown is deeply offensive.
The reason being is that we are not all the same shade and it masks privilege. Dalit South Asians are black and need to embrace that term (I know there was a movement to that effect) to be able to articulate their separate racial interests.
This idea that being South Asian is somehow only a colour spectrum undermines the darker members of the community who immediately get overshadowed by the lighter and fairer spokespeople (the upper castes of all religions and regions) who act as interlocutors and Macauley’s children.
As an aside the amazing aspect of Daughters of Destiny is that Dr. George is Macaulaysing the Dalit children and threatening the upper caste hegemony of that space. Go to any private school, corporation or family business in South Asia and upper castes dominate it overwhelmingly. The Marwaris (Jain & Hindu) are still upper caste and they basically rule the (economic) roost. The Brahmins act as the intermediaries of that previous Western culture and the profound impact with which it is transforming India.
However just as I would find it absurd to listen to White Americans on race; these very same upper castes lecture about “Indian poverty” without any regard to their own structural privilege and how it contributes to it.
I’m aware of my own hypocrisy in this matter; I constantly troll about UP (Urdu-Persian) to a sometimes absurd extent. But I also remember to always check my privilege and shut up when there are more informed voices on the table. That’s why I’ll always fend off the upper castes/classes and their concerns/criticisms but try to find authentic voices.
I find it interesting that yesterday when Pakistan was playing Afghanistan; my blood boiled far more against those traitorous Peshawaris then it would ever do against India or Bangladesh for instance. It’s an interesting cognitive quirk.
The racial dimension would add nuance to any discussion. There are black Punjabi/Tamilians and white Punjabi/Tamilians so on and so forth. There would then be much clearer discourses within each community because castes would be conceptualised as distinct as races.
So a Dalit Muslim and Hindu would have a pan-racial identity and be able to have much more advocacy. There is strength in numbers and the Dalitisation of the Subcontinent is important.
It would probably lead to a severe pushback against the prevailing Sanskrit-Persianate hegemony of the upper castes/classes.
Interestingly enough I googled untouchability in Bangladesh and this is what I got (I find the wording very objectionable):
Meet the Harijans, descendants of the lowest of low caste Hindus brought by the British from Central India to keep Bengal clean. Harijans inhabit every town in Bangladesh barring the hill districts. Even in the year 2015, an apartheid system dating back millennia condemns these people to a life of humiliation and disgrace in many parts of the country.
In many ways Bangladesh’s striking homogeneity (excepting the Hindu minority) does have ramifications about national kinship. Do Bangladeshis identify more with one another because they are less structurally stratified and less influenced by the polarising High Traditions of the Sanskrit/Persianate sphere?
This could be one of the reasons as to why Bangladesh is the only nation to fully coincide with part of a linguistic region. I would not be surprised if in a decade or so Bangladesh has even more startling human improvement metrics. What was once the North Korea (as East Pakistan) could soon be the South Korea to West Bengal (even if WB has Kolkatta).