On air: Is the Indian caste system a human rights abuse?

indiaThe UN Human Rights Council in Geneva is about to recognize caste-based discrimination as a human rights violation. An estimated 260 million people globally are victims of such discrimination, which has been likened to the former apartheid system in South Africa.

There are 65 million ‘untouchables’ or ‘Dalits’ in India. They perform the most degrading and menial jobs. The UNHRC proposes to eliminate this “discrimination based on work and descent,” acknowledging the scale of persecution suffered by millions of people because of the caste system.

Nepal has chosen to back the proposals, but India has not. Earlier this year, the Indian government lobbied against the inclusion of the word ‘caste’ in the draft principles. In recent years, the country has undergone its own reforms, with some Dalits achieving wealth and power.  

So is the caste system an abuse of human rights that must be reformed, if necessary with pressure from the UN? Or do you think the system works in India and should be left alone? Or does the country need to reform, but at its own pace, without external interference?

Ajay Meena in Jaipur writes on the Times of India website :

 “It would be naive to assume that a UN resolution or UNHRC can change social realities in India. This will end up as a tool to harass India.”

And Raj in Bangalore comments: “The caste based discrimination has been in existence in India for thousands of years and it cannot be abolished in a single day.”

This blogger believes that factors other than the caste system are to blame for Dalits doing the worst jobs in society. Do you agree?

153 Responses to “On air: Is the Indian caste system a human rights abuse?”

  1. 1 anu_d
    September 29, 2009 at 10:24

    There was caste based discrimination in India for several decades.

    And then the discrimnated (lower) castes united since late 1980s and voted their leaders into power. Governments both at the center and in many states were founded directly or throuhg the coailition support of the Dalit votes and parties.

    And now there are many cases dalits discrimination against the upper castes in govt jobs/ disbursing public funds for social welfare.

    Because of the dynamics of shifting power base it is highly debatable to distinguish the discriminating caste…and hence I can see Indian government’s reluctance to use the word caste, the definitions of which are rather fluid.

    Neverthless UN must continue to push India to be answerable for discrimination based on work, descent and I would add gender also to that.


  2. 2 Dennis Junior
    September 29, 2009 at 10:40

    No, India should be required to reform that caste system quicker and not at the country’s time speed…If that happens, it will take many generations….

    ~Dennis Junior~

  3. 3 VictorK
    September 29, 2009 at 10:56

    Of course it should, like every other independent, sovereign and self-governing country, at least as far as purely internal matters go.

    It’s fine for the UN & its agencies to draw up principles & offer opinions to countries that solicit their advice. But pushing anybody to act on a purely domestic matter is insufferable impertinence.

    No country that values its sovereignty and right to reform at its own pace, or not at all, should ever sign-up to human rights (or any other kind of) treaties that will give trans-national bodies any kind of say in how they manage their internal affairs. Colonialism with a humanitarian face is still colonialism.

    Otherwise, let the UN talk; only India should decide how, when and if it will act.

    • 4 Thandrr
      September 29, 2009 at 18:50

      Does the UN have nothing else to do ? Do they want to get marginalized, among Indians as well ? Caste system exisits and is deplorable. But things are changing fast. Atleast in South India, we dont even carry over our last names, so that people will never be able to guess our caste.

      The UN is welcome, to do interfere in internal affairs of a progressive, democratic country as it does not have the means to interfere on behalf people dying from genocide in the rest of the world.

  4. 5 Aakanksha Singh Devi
    September 29, 2009 at 11:22

    As much as I dislike the way some people are treated in India, my direct relationship with Human Rights Authorities will not allow me to believe a word they say.

    During the Nepal Election a few years ago when the entire country was in turmoil, UN Human Rights Authorities went from their hotel to another in their flagged, black four wheel drive cars and perhaps went around the capital city once. All the while people in more remote parts of the country were being beaten up if they didn’t vote for the communist parties.

    Where were the Human Rights Agencies then? There is a problem lying deeper than where the Human Rights Authorities dare to or even care to look.

    I hardly trust their reports when it is probably just a surface level report of what they saw on local television.

    Nepal is weaker and is being forced to accept what it is being told. India is rebelling and well done too.

  5. 6 vijay pillai
    September 29, 2009 at 11:42

    caste based system goes back to 3000 years of hinduism.This cannot be eleminated overnight but christian sonia gandhi’s congress party’s vote bank are these untouchables.Gandhis are good in sitting with these poor untouchables and like Mother Thresa in culcutta brought chrhistan values of wes to india in making sure caste system not to be encourged.but the british did nothing and let the system run its cause since the supproted the bramins and they were the core officers of colonial administrsation ,just like the christian educated people of ceylon.

    It is a well known fact that the indian wherever they go keep the cast system in tact with themselves and sticking together without mixing with the local indians in singapore even.Singapore indians dont see indians settled recently there after IT jobs might have become Permanent resident or citzens but they have their own indian clubs and community and so on spreading superiority of their case system even in casteless singapore.

    • September 29, 2009 at 12:44

      Exactly what are you trying to say in respect of the topic?
      You want laws?
      Are there no laws in Singapore to punish discrimination and if so, why it has not been applied in this case?
      It appears you do not approve, nay detest caste system.Then why the caste name Pillai after your name?
      Kindly read my comment on this topic.

  6. September 29, 2009 at 12:10

    Emily here – this article about caste is a few years old, but it makes interesting reading about manipulating social systems. What do you make of it?


  7. 9 vijay pillai
    September 29, 2009 at 12:19

    I am surprised british are giving money to keep the poor as poor in india when indians behave like super power of south asia and would ahve spent billions on making sure the independent self rule of eelam tamils are dismantled ,after all they were the opne who trained ltte in 1983 to 1987. it all looks like a great master plan by india to control sir lanka by setting their foot in tamileelam.Sinhalese are real foolsnw they have only soverinity tinted with indian flag.

  8. September 29, 2009 at 12:26

    Caste system has worked for India for centuries,excepting during British Rule.British used the Division of labor ,promoted by Caste System to Divide and Rule.Contrary to what people think, mistreatment of lower castes had not been in vogue prior to their regime. The Gods ,Krishna, Rama, are not Brahmins.They are Kshatriyas.Disposition and conduct determine caste and nothing else.

    As of today Caste in India exists for Politicians to garner votes .Ordinary Indian to day does not think of Caste any more,especially the educated.

    Mistreatment of some castes are still on in India .It is practiced by some communities,like Kshatriyas(never by a Brahmin) because of old habits.This is also mending.

    So called lower castes are also moving up the social order and they are well integrated into the main stream.

    However still some way to go.This will happen by literacy alone and not by enacting laws.This will increase the divide into a chasm.

    Unlike Race or other Divisions in Society,caste system is not based on Race or creed or language.It was based initially on the Disposition of the individual to perform a task.To day we find Doctors children becoming Doctors,Lawyers offspring as Lawyers( at least in India).Similarly,based on the skillset of the individual,caste system was formed.This has no bearing on birth.Unfortunately many of the systems founded by Hindus were not not understood properly, have been practiced by rote with out reading the texts.
    It is a fact that differences between individuals can not be wished away nor one’s feeling of Superiority.This is the Nature of Man.Casteless., people say.But is it feasible or possible?Inequality/divisions will be there in the world;only thing is it shall be known by a different name, like poor and the rich,Party members and common man in Communist countries,Nation Vs Nation,Language Vs Language,Region vs Region, profession Vs profession.

    When an individual has a particular disposition or Aptitude and if he is raised in the environment which nurtures it, he/she will realize his/her potential..This is exactly what Cate is all about.

  9. 11 osuagwu
    September 29, 2009 at 12:36

    The Indian caste syetem need to be reformed. New and anti caste law need to be passed and effectively enforced. Such laws should be widely publicised and the most affected people educated about their rights ( ie every Indian is equal under the Indian constitution).
    The subjugation of the poor (so called low caste) by the rich should be made a criminal offence and vigirously enforced.
    Caste related murders which is rampart in Hindu majority India should be tackled.Murder Outsourcing activiting even when they are payrolled by expartrate Indians must be tracked down and severly punished.
    In the end it is the lukewarm enforment of caste related discriminatory issues by the government that has complicated the abolution of the primitive caste system in India.

  10. 12 VictorK
    September 29, 2009 at 12:36

    @Emily: a very interesting article.

    Similar unintended – and counterproductive – consequences have been documented wherever social engineering of this kind has been attempted (e.g. bussing and affirmative action in the US). The world-view of the UN and its sympathisers proceeds from two baseless assumptions: every problem has a solution, and state action is always the solution.

    But the question now being put isn’t one that I have an opinion on: only the people with a direct interest in a question like this, and who happen to have the advantage – from being immersed in the situation – can tell us about this, namely Indians.

    • September 29, 2009 at 14:05

      Quite right.UN has nothing to do but to keep elite employed.Instead of attempting to do what is not known to them, let them concentrate on something more important,say,Iran, North Korea,Pakistan,Afghanistan.Libya etc.
      State, as you have rightly observed ,always need not have solutions and again you are on target when you say leave it to those immersed in the problem.Good perspective.

  11. September 29, 2009 at 13:03

    The caste system is abhorrent. India has vestiges of this. The high caste brahmins are very reluctant to give up their rights. In the 21st century one would expect equality in every sense of the word with no discrimination in government or in education. Equality should be the norm where people are no longer discriminated by caste, colour or creed. In theory life has improved for the untouchables. But in practice it will take some decades before the Harijans or the dalits are treated fairly. India has made rapid strides in technology and standards of living but the caste system is still a thorny problem.

  12. September 29, 2009 at 13:07

    A correction.Rama is a Kshatriya and Krishna is a cowherd.

  13. September 29, 2009 at 13:45

    Does the Indian caste system need reforming?
    Well of course it should be abolished,ignored and made irrelevent.

    First of all a proper Census has to be carried out which includes caste,1931 was the last time caste was measured in a full census of India.

    New Scientist article http://tinyurl.com/ybcrroq
    taken from an article in Nature reported last week on the BBC World Service English language Radio

    This article is also quite interesting

  14. 17 scmehta
    September 29, 2009 at 13:55

    Though it’s been there for ages, but many encouraging changes have occurred in the last one hundred years or so. The system, which has been self-imposed by the Indian communities cannot be taken as abuse of human rights; however, it does need many reforms, and some of them are urgent e.g. honour-killing must be stopped at once.

  15. September 29, 2009 at 14:00

    I think I will stay out of this one,although I will listen this evening,should be interesting. Pancha Chandra, people are always reluctant to give up what they see as rights! Mayawati Kumari,seems to be making headway. But it is an Indian problem,nothing to do with U.N. or UNHCR.

  16. 19 vijay pillai
    September 29, 2009 at 14:13

    caste was designed by higher caste people to keep the lower caste do their toilet cleaning and road sweeping generation by generation. I became aware of caste as a child of a higher caste at school, i did not show it. In fact my best friend was from a lowerest caste and very bright. He should have become a mechanical engineer, for his ability to demonstrate sound of motorbike from start of the engine to speed up. I was 12 years at that time. But i went for higher education at a top school not him . i think of him when i think of education of the poor and underpreviledged.

  17. 20 patti in cape coral
    September 29, 2009 at 14:17

    I think I also will sit back and listen. From what I know of it, the caste system is abhorrent, but after reading the article sited by Emily, I’m not sure what the right way to implement reform would be. It’s very tricky, and if it isn’t done right, it could cause more problems than it solves. Looking forwmard to the show today.

  18. 21 Saad baloch, Pakistan occupied balochistan
    September 29, 2009 at 14:20

    Well, the caste system is itself abuse of human rights. It is source of hatred leading to crimes.EQUAL economical, social, educational and political opportunities are right of every soul on the earth. Discrimination of any sort, on any base is crime.

  19. 22 Saad baloch, Pakistan occupied balochistan
    September 29, 2009 at 14:33

    Well if India is not ready to abolish this discriminatory system then UN is justified in forcing India to do same, as this system is against humanity.

  20. 23 mohammad in houston, texas, usa
    September 29, 2009 at 14:39

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed … with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
    From the U.S Declaration of Independence

    In the U.S. (and other places) we often hear stories of people “pulling themselves up by their own boot straps” and over coming great challenges. From what I know (which I’ll admit is very little) about the caste system, an “untouchable” has no chance of accomplishing that.

    But, just to play devil’s advocate- who are we to condemn a culture that we may not fully understand. Does an “untouchable” not want to be labeled as such? Probably. Would he/she rather be placed in a higher caste, or be placed in a system with no castes? I don’t know.

  21. September 29, 2009 at 14:42

    Is it a human right violation?
    YES, very much.
    Should UN get involved to solve it?
    NO, first of all it is very difficult for an external org to understand the length and breadth. It might need more than a decade to just to undersantd with the diversity that India has.
    I guess GOI is already working on it (to reduce the effect than completely eradicate it) in different ways. We might need another decade for the results to show.

  22. 25 Tom K in Mpls
    September 29, 2009 at 14:43

    Wow! let’s go into a country, tell them that the way of life they live is all wrong. And then force them to do it our way! That is the right thing do do isn’t it? At least until they try to do it to us.

  23. 26 Robz
    September 29, 2009 at 14:49

    From what little I know of caste systems,they appear to go against the democratic belief in equality for all.
    But in such a system,everyone has a defined purpose in society.In a democratic society you have to find your place for yourself.
    This argument is kind of like free markets vs. government controled markets.
    Being a us citizen,I believe in freedom of choice in everything a person does.But a caste system is also part religious,as most social orders are.
    Given that can the UN mess with ones right of freedom of religion?
    Religiuos practices are discrimninatory also.
    Robz in Florida.

  24. 27 robert
    September 29, 2009 at 14:50

    Any form of discrimination based on your family background is a abuse of human rights.

    One comment I read with interest in the daily email is
    “I personally am fascinated by this way of organising people that is so foreign to us in Europe, or to people in North America, so I’m very much looking forward to hearing about it.”
    Is it so alien? What about the UK notion of class. Although nowhere near as strict as the caste system, the British view of class does have some similarities. How many have been held back from education and careers because of thier background and not thier ability.

  25. 28 Kelly from Chicago
    September 29, 2009 at 14:50

    It seems to me that the caste system is a cousin of racism as it presents itself in the United States. In the US we have affirmative action and minority quotas in many businesses and schools. While it does not actually force people to hold different view points, it’s a temporary (though no less controversial) solution to a long term problem. India could perhaps follow this example without having to make the caste system an intrinsic part of their government.

    If I was Indian, in any caste, I might be angry about this judgment by the UN. I think the issue should be pursued and noted by the UN but with delicacy.

  26. 29 Ivan Mark Radhakrishnan
    September 29, 2009 at 15:00

    It is discrimination and therefore no different to racial or tribal abuse.

    The caste ‘system’ must be addressed. But does thef the United Nations have the ability to correct the problem?

  27. 30 Alby
    September 29, 2009 at 15:01

    Is the UN now ruling on internal matters? Did they ever rule about Jim Crow laws in the US? Is Indian Caste system enforced by similar laws, or only cultural mores? I think there are castes, official and unofficial in all countries. Only countries can prosper that break down these barriers and create opportunity for all, chance that talent at any level will rise to the top and create new enterprise and initiatives. India has its poverty problems precisely because British let caste and illiteracy and lack of education continue there for 200 yrs when the rest of the world was advancing and industrializing. That made it easier for them to rule and exploit the place and people to take the money home to Britain.

    PS if they rule on internal matters in this instance does that make the UN not liable to be accused of “anti-semitism” since they will be accusing another country of human rights abuses, not just Israel over the Palestinian occupation?

  28. 31 Alex in Nairobi
    September 29, 2009 at 15:02

    I agree that the system should be abolished but instituting laws against the practice will not go far. There are laws outlawing drug use, murder and the like yet they happen every other day. The only way out is to educate Indians on the harm occasioned by such a system. I watched on AlJazeera the other day some boys and girls in class. Now that is not unique is it? Unless I tell you what they were learning; begging! Parents sending their children to school to be taught, by an adult teacher, how to beg1 Reason? They are members of the lowest caste and therefore ave no hope of making anything good of themselves in life. The caste system developed over generations, and will take generations to abolish but It is time to start.

  29. September 29, 2009 at 15:20

    Is the Indian caste a humans right abuse?
    Yes it most certainly is ,and most people just don’t want to talk about it at all I don’t think the UN report even made the news in India .
    What really annoys me is when so called upper caste people protest at education and job reservations for lower caste people .

  30. 33 Saad baloch, Pakistan occupied balochistan
    September 29, 2009 at 15:31

    All discriminations, be they on racial base or caste are interlinked. People are economically deprived, suppressed through force and are deprived of political rights. Discrimination is in all parts of world, in most cases majority discriminates against minority as is case in Pakistan and many other countries of the world. All this should immediately stop or if need be should be stopped forcefully.

  31. 34 Mike in Seattle
    September 29, 2009 at 15:33

    This is no different than Jim Crow in the United States. It should have been condemned by the UN then, and the caste system should be condemned now.

    We as a human beings should do all we can to bring these disgusting practices to light and prevent them from happening. Maybe if India had been willing to do more to make sure all citizens were treated like human beings the UN wouldn’t be sticking their nose in India’s affairs.

    • 35 Saad baloch, Pakistan occupied balochistan
      September 29, 2009 at 15:48

      @MIKE. I agree with you. Gross human right violations and human degradation is happening at various places including my part of world( Pakistan-occupied Baluchistan) . Being human we should try to stop all human right violations by exposing them to media and defaming those who do such acts.India should be allowed first to stop the crime against humanity, if it does not then UN intervention is essential as humanity matters.

      • 36 Tom K in Mpls
        September 29, 2009 at 17:05

        So Saad, you want the UN to do to India, what you say Pakistan did to you? I would love to hear the ‘hair splitting’ you have to justify this. Also, how does anyone know that a rapid forced change won’t do major short term harm. Probably creating legally backed social divides. It seems to me that literacy and capitalism will errode the old ways with much less harm.

  32. 37 brinda,India
    September 29, 2009 at 15:34

    Yes there is caste system and yes there is still abuse going on but it is not UN’s business.It is the Indian government’s problem.We have a pretty decent Governing body at present and we dont want UN to interfere.

    Out side intervention have never helped anyone, it just creates a mess and the UN does not even have a good exit policy. Its a country that has been functioning pretty well for a democracy so pls leave us alone.

    Intervention is required when we don’t have a stable government and which we do.We are a democratic country trying to survive the vast cultural diversification. Out siders do not understand it, so pls stay out.

    Indian government has made enough provision and has created enough reservation to make sure all are treated equally. But we all human beings ,,,,,we are not perfect neither are u so…………….as i said pls do not poke nose where it is not required.

  33. 38 Chintan in Houston
    September 29, 2009 at 15:55

    Of course it is a human rights abuse. But what I don’t get is how does the UN propose to eliminate it? The only way caste system disappears from peoples eyes is a socio-economic status of an individual/family. But sometimes even that is not enough, best example is Dr. Robert Gates arrest a month ago and the Obama’s reaction with that incident.
    Unless the UN is backing their decision with a lot of aid for these people in distress all this rhetoric will be nothing but lip service.

  34. 39 Saad baloch, Pakistan occupied balochistan
    September 29, 2009 at 15:56

    @ brinda in India.Poking nose in to others affair is not good and most often produce inappropriate results. India should be given opportunity to solve this problem out. But if she is not willing to do it, then would u let humanity down by allowing such discrimination to continue .I personally think then UN intervention becomes necessary in the larger interest of humanity.

  35. 40 Mohan, USA
    September 29, 2009 at 16:09

    The question can be raised, should the UN or an equivalent organization have stepped in during the days of segregation in the USA? All societies have their biases, whether it is based race, caste, gender of economic status. To elevate the problem to an international level and call it human rights abuse would over-exaggerate and perhaps even exacerbate the problem.

    There have been attempts at reforming the caste system in India for 1500 years. All have proven successful to some extent or the other. And history will prove that the most successful of them are due to the vision and commitment of spiritual and political leaders at bringing about such reform. I am sure that this is happening in India even today, and will continue to happen, without need of outside factors.

  36. September 29, 2009 at 16:18

    @brinda Maybe UN peace keeping forces could be sent to areas where the communal abuses are worst.

  37. 42 Kalai in San Francisco
    September 29, 2009 at 16:36

    Yes, it is a human rights abuse. But I don’t think UN or any other international organization can ‘reform’ that in India. It is deep rooted in individuals’ minds. Even when well educated Indians migrate to other countries, a significant majority of them tend to identify themselves based on caste.

    Isn’t there an organization in UK for reducing caste discrimination among Indians? (I think it was started by Jasvinder Sanghera). So there you go, unless individuals realize it is worthless to hang on to some invisible identification, you cannot eliminate it from Indian society.

  38. 43 Ritesh
    September 29, 2009 at 16:42

    World fails to recognize that off late “Caste system ” has become more of a Political Issue than a social problem !!.

    It is a matter of great misfortune that the castes which were accused being the “oppresor” are being crushed humiliate by DALITS and OBCs..

    Any reform cannot reverse trend this !!

  39. 44 Todd in Atlanta
    September 29, 2009 at 16:49

    Where does one start?
    Any nation that has a sector of it’s population designated as, O.B.Cs (Other Backwards Classes) desperately needs a nationwide psychiatric evaluation.

    I’m sorry, I love my Indian friends like family, but there is far too much built-in bigotry, discrimination and racism in the culture. So, of course (in my opinion) they should do away with their ridiculous caste system, and get this idea out of their heads that they should look down upon any individual.

    As a black person it sickens me to see Indians travel to America, and bring that disgusting bigoted attitude with them, and start looking down their noses at blacks, especially when a lot of these Indians are…ahem… darker than some of the blacks they discriminate against. Yes, I’ve seen and experienced this for myself.

    On one hand I admire the Indian people for their incredible affinity to math, science and almost all things educational. On the other hand, there is a certain cruelty I see towards their fellow man that’s truly disturbing, and this stupid caste system is a manifestation of that.

    • 45 Chintan in Houston
      September 29, 2009 at 17:48

      @ Todd in Atlanta
      I couldn’t have better said it myself.
      The only thing i would like to point out that India even though is one nation is very very diverse with the currency bill with 15 languages in the back. These are all local languages. India is like, if Europe was 1 country where everyone looked the same but talk different languages, eat different kind of food and have different religious beliefs.
      If difference between white people in Europe exist even though to an outsider they all seem the same, India has the same problem. And Europe has been in numerous wars since centuries, Wrold war I & II to say the least.
      All I am saying is, it is complicated, you have to be there to understand. But i do agree with you 100%.

  40. 46 Tom D Ford
    September 29, 2009 at 16:52

    “The UN Human Rights Council in Geneva is about to recognize caste-based discrimination as a human rights violation.”

    Good. Recognizing the problem is the first step towards solving it.

  41. 47 Kalai in San Francisco
    September 29, 2009 at 17:05

    Isn’t there an organization in UK for reducing caste discrimination among Indians? (I think it was started by Jasvinder Sanghera).

    – To clarify my previous comment: it is http://www.castewatchuk.org.

  42. 48 brinda,India
    September 29, 2009 at 17:07

    @Saad baloch, Pakistan occupied balochistan

    Hi saad,

    No , i am not saying i dont want to do anything or i did not mean i am not willing to do anything. Over the year after independence , all the governments that have come to power have been working to resolve the issue. Religion is way for life for us, and its roots are too deep. The diversity is immense. What i want to say is unless one is born and bought up in that environment ,understanding the culture is very difficult.

    There are reservations and provision in Government jobs and collages for people for lower casts in our country.

    See if the govt was not doing anything about it then it would have been an issue.
    Our major problem is not the system but poverty and corruption .

  43. 49 Pierre Alexis
    September 29, 2009 at 17:11

    It is such incredible that India has got away with this gross violation of human rights for so long. It is shameful that India gave priority to nuclear weapons development instead of improving the living conditions and and freeing from discrimination the poorest of its own people, a sizeable percentage of its whole population.

  44. 50 brinda,India
    September 29, 2009 at 17:12


    Maintaining peace and bringing prosperity are two different things.

    The objective is to get the exploited community out of poverty and towards development and progress.

    That can not be done by an out siders .It has to come from within. Unless the oppressed raise voice or do anything about it nothing will happen.

    That hold good for any country or any human being.

  45. September 29, 2009 at 17:13

    And what shall we do with the class system?

  46. 52 Andrew in Australia
    September 29, 2009 at 17:26

    As much as when I awake in the morning I feel like I am God or in other ways divine I am not. My ancestors did not slaughter, dupe, steal from or otherwise convince the rest that we were better than they were and enslave them to a life of drudgery and inferiority. So for people like me who have a laughable idea that we are really all the same and no one is better than anyone else such things as caste systems or class systems seem ridiculous, oppressive and infantile. In the modern age people will defer to celebrities and the rich but as my earlier comments suggest they really are no better than you or I on the lower rungs of fame or wealth, we just have better things to do or not as clever at hoodwinking others to suggest we are important. As for class systems who is anyone to say that thou shalt be beneath others other than those who wish to hold power over them, they should be abolished and not just in name only as the Japanese have done with their secret lists of untouchables, but absolutely.

  47. 53 John in Salem
    September 29, 2009 at 17:26

    While it would be unfair to make a direct comparison, the American civil rights movement does offer one profound lesson about changing a society. The first thing that Martin Luther King got from studying Gandhi wasn’t the art of non-violent protest but rather the awarenes that affecting deeply historical and traditional social injustices requires unrelenting pressure.
    Laws had to be passed to force change. The screaming bigots in our streets resented federal intrusion but had to accept the new rules and “whites only” signs became history. It didn’t eliminate the problems of discrimination but it did destroy the institutional structure that allowed it to go on unchallenged.
    It was the constant pressure of protests and marches on the evening news and the damage that that did to our credibility on the international stage that made these laws come about and not that it was simply the right thing to do.
    I’ve no doubt the majority of Indians agree that the caste system is an outdated artifact of the past, but accepting something intellectually and being willing to stretch your comfort zone for it are two different things. Human beings, in general, have to be pushed to change ingrained behavior, and if this U.N. declaration helps that process it’s a good thing.

  48. 54 Andrew in Australia
    September 29, 2009 at 17:41

    I love it when people say.. outsiders you do not understand it so stay out.

    So what is to NOT understand, because of some inferiority, fear or self-interest the so-celled ruling “elite” decides arbitrarily to discriminate against basically the majority it deems unworthy.

    What is to understand, any reasonable human being can see such systems are vulgar, shameful, repressive, and a shameful remnant of barbaric times that any culture or nation clings to. You’re right I don’t understand.

  49. 57 brinda,India
    September 29, 2009 at 17:46

    @world have your say

    What is missing in the introduction of this topic is the kind of work the Indian government has done over the decades to eradicate and support OBC.

    That would probably give more insight and depth in the discussion . The introduction gives an opinion that nothing has been done to solve the issue.Which is incorrect and misleading.

  50. September 29, 2009 at 17:50

    @brinda It hasn’t happened by itself so maybe outsiders should start pointing fingers and interfering actively to stop human rights violations on a massive scale which occur everyday across south asia.Why can nort South Asia be shamed in ti changing

  51. September 29, 2009 at 17:59

    @todd in atlanta some diaspora communities freeze their culture when they leave India,I remember a few years ago an Indian Minister apologising for the beahviour of south asians in African countries saying these people left the country a lomg time ago and hold out dated views,whereas indian culture has developed quicker.

  52. September 29, 2009 at 18:03

    Of course the caste system should go! Aside from the obvious human rights issues; consider also the individual potential of the ‘lower castes’ that has been lost over generations because they were denied mobility.

    I don’t think it will be easy to eradicate though. The system is still around because it is perpetuated by the rich and powerful in society. These same people would be in a position to offer employment or opportunity etc. so whether the caste system is outlawed or not, discrimination based on caste may persist.

    What I find strange is that some of my indian friends and acquaintances (here, in the west) still cling to the idea of the caste system, when it is meaningless in our society. For example, they still consider it to be a factor in arranged marraiges. At the same time I don’t think I’ve even met one person (in the west) who has declared that they are not of the highest caste. Why have a superiority complex over ‘birth right’? Surely any accomplishment is more rewarding if it has been achieved through hard work and determination rather than influence or money brought by a having a certain heritage.

  53. 61 Kat in Vancouver
    September 29, 2009 at 18:09

    The UN has an individualistic understanding of Human Rights and in India rights are defined on a group scale. India’s caste system is an ancient tradition but was codified into a discriminatory government policies that were created by colonial Britain. On those grounds I believe that yes the caste system is a human rights violation because democracies should not structurally discriminate against a huge proportion of its population.

    • 62 subra
      September 29, 2009 at 18:31

      Racism is discrimination based on differentiation amongst white, black, yellow and brown.
      Caste system discriminates amongst people of the same creed, same religion, same colour, only for the sake of exploitation.
      More aggravating is the fact the dalits are not considered as human beings by some puffed up egoists.
      How can the Un remain silent on such an inhuman, cruel and inacceptable cultural discrepency of the modern times when equality is the basic right of all individuals.

      • September 30, 2009 at 04:22

        The caste system was a discrimination based on work which exists all over the world in todays class system. Human equality is a myth it does not exist in any form for every human is an unique individual. No two ever see eye to eye, even my own two eyes don’t see the same if they did, I would not be able to see in 3D.

  54. 64 Bert
    September 29, 2009 at 18:12

    The article Emily posted could also be about affirmative action in the US.

    Not the I think the UN has anything to say about any of this, but I’ve wondered for multiple decades why no one vilifies the Indian caste system, as almost universally the South African aparttheid system was vilified.

    There is no more instituionalized racism conceivable than the caste system. Is there? Yet, where is the global outrage? Where are the jaw-jutters?

  55. 65 brinda,India
    September 29, 2009 at 18:12


    Tell me something………..we all know the caste system has existed in India for centuries,,, even when UN did not exit .
    How long had UN been in Existence ?Why Now ? are they getting up now ?What other motives can there be ?

    name one country where there no problem of religion ? or oppression.How effective has external intervention have been ?we all can safely agree that there is more mess then that was earlier. I am not saying Intervention is not a good thing. IT is when there is no stable government or governing body.when we are able to handle it and are not asking for help,then why impose ?

    Unless UN has a permanent fix ,, it is not welcome.More over there can not be a permanent fix. We are dealing with human being here 🙂

    What different things can UN do that the existing government can not do ?or has not done yet ?

    Don’t u think there are other countries doing much worse ?

  56. 66 Michelle from Jamaica
    September 29, 2009 at 18:12

    The Un can sell it, but the Indians have to buy it. What social benefits will be put in place to substitute the “income” of these lower class citizens. Will education be made available to them? You have to give them options, you can’t just say you are now equal, without equal opportunities. I hope to UN can help to bring about this change. I am saddened that humans have to live like how some of these people live. But a part of the process must be education and opportunities.

  57. 67 Charley in Portland, Oregon
    September 29, 2009 at 18:17

    My question re: the Indian Caste System is why Hindu fundamentalists get upset when Dalits convert to Islam or Christianity.

    If a person is treated like dirt, who cares if that person coverts to a different faith that will treat him better?

  58. 68 Karthik
    September 29, 2009 at 18:17

    A country like India where caste system has survived for centuries cannot be expected to cherish on its own.
    Only a part of the selfishly motivated caste system was reformed during the British rule.Therefore I think it is very important for a powerful entity like the UN to demand obidience in order to maintain justice.

  59. September 29, 2009 at 18:20

    Before I came to India no one had ever mentioned my caste and I wasn’t aware of other peoples castes either ,however since I have been here I have been subjected to comments about the characteristics of my caste and also stereotypes about what I can or can not do because of my caste.
    On one occassion while in a restaurant some people sat down at the table where I was eating took one look at me and asked me to move,because they couldn’t possibly eat or drink in my company ,well I refused and suggested they should move,which they did.

    • 70 Nitin Gadia
      October 2, 2009 at 07:58


      That’s interesting. So, where are you from originally?
      I am trying to understand caste, and have asked several questions of Majnuun on this forum as well.
      Did you identify with a particular caste? If so, why would you if you want to have the caste system abolished? How could people judge your caste in the restaurant?
      Feel free to take a look at my other questions and discuss anything you find to be inaccurate.

  60. 71 haider meghjee
    September 29, 2009 at 18:22

    @vijay pillai
    find your friend and help him pay for the education of his kids.
    by doing this you break the cycle of poverty.
    yes the caste system is a human rights violation.
    so do we invade india and free the dalits or do we stay in iraq and get the cheap oil.

  61. 72 Jitan C (NYC)
    September 29, 2009 at 18:32

    The “untouchables” is a significant minority that is know for years to influence elections. It is actually in the interest of some of these politicians to keep this society poor and illetrate… so that they can continue playing on their emotions.

    Additionally, the amount of aid that India gains due to this poverty-stricken image is an important source of funding for the government.

    Do you really think we can afford to lose this image by changing the status of the people?

  62. 73 Tom D Ford
    September 29, 2009 at 18:33

    I suspect that the religion needs to be changed also.

    I think that the idea of “Karma” was created to support and continue the caste system. That a person deserves what he gets in this life because of his past life.

    And so a person born into a Dalit family has no hope of ever getting out but a person born into a high caste system will always stay in his high caste.

    I look to me like the religion was corrupted on purpose to support this horrible system.

    But then I think that all religions were created in the times of kings for the same purpose, to manipulate and control subjects and keep them beaten down into subservient submission.

  63. 74 Dr. Jeffrey Sher
    September 29, 2009 at 18:34

    Regarding your guest Mr. Pruad (sp?) I am reminded of the Shakespeare quote:
    “Thou dost protest too much”. Good job trying to get a word in moderator!!

  64. 75 Nayan Thaker
    September 29, 2009 at 18:36

    I hope you are going to bring on air the people who are still trapped in centuries old mindset so that we can hear why they cling on to their ways of life, the rural feudal people — the ones you are interviewing, who are representative of the educated intelligentsia, you will find are all against casteism. As the BJP member repeated, it has nothing to do with the legal and institutional framework — it has to do with a change in the way of thinking which is happening as more and more people receive education and interact with each other in the modern state of India.

  65. 76 Andrew in NC
    September 29, 2009 at 18:36

    Winston-Salem, NC, USA – I teach cultural anthropology, and I am always surprised at the explanation of caste discrimination that it is based on the impurity of the jobs that Dalits must do. Dalits must do the worst work because they are born into this lowest caste. They are born “impure”, and must therefore do the “impure” jobs, not the other way round. All religions and societies have strongly entrenched beliefs about purity and impurity. It is when impurity is attributed to a class of people that discrimination and even genocide become acceptable. This same tension drives the controversy over same-sex marriage in the U.S.: allowing impurity into “proper” society threatens the divinely-sanctioned order of the cosmos and will bring catastrophe to society. It is not only the Indian caste system that promotes such thinking; all rigid religious systems of discrimination against “impure” groups leads to the violation of people’s modern, secular rights. Witness the stoning of cars in Jerusalem during the sabbath, and the lashing of Saudi male youths for mixing with females at a party. I recommend Mary Douglas’s book Purity and Danger to better understand this phenomenon.

  66. 77 Filip Spagnoli
    September 29, 2009 at 18:36

    Check out this description of the human rights implications of India’s caste system.

  67. 78 Kat in Vancouver
    September 29, 2009 at 18:38

    If you read and listen to those in the upper castes in India – they talk about of the untouchables as if they are children. Imagine in Canada or the US if we talked about poor people in that way. It would be an uproar. Unfortunately, to the world, they are an almost invisible population so how can the UN reach them realistically?

  68. 79 Kat in Vancouver
    September 29, 2009 at 18:39

    What caste are your callers? They have been able to leave India and be successful how can they offer a perspective on the untouchables?

  69. 80 steve
    September 29, 2009 at 18:42

    I’m kind of shocked saying this system is part of their identity. Imagine if southerners in the US came on and saying it was part of their culture to have slaves or deny blacks equal rights, and think it’s okay because it was culturally accepted a while ago for that to be fine in southern states???

    It was part of their identity as Nazis to kill jews and discriminate against them. Because something is cultural doesn’t mean it’s good.

  70. 81 Phyllis , Naples Florida
    September 29, 2009 at 18:42

    STOP! Stop! Stop! Please Mr. Ravi Shankar………. Stop the excuses.

    The cast system is alive and well not only in India but in the entire Indian diaspora. Malaysia, Canada ,African countries, Trinidad, etc.

    I am not sure if the UN should get directly involved but I have long wondered when they would put it in the spotlight.

    It is a vile system.

  71. 82 Mike
    September 29, 2009 at 18:44

    Most Indians friends do have an inferiority complex, even here in the west. They will never discuss that issue openly as they do others. I think it is great that the BBC is discussing this topic and I would like to say keep up the great work.

  72. 83 Jean-Jules Fogang, Silver Spring, MD US
    September 29, 2009 at 18:46

    The cast system is absurb in this era of 21th century. The fact that India has waited too long to address the issue is the proof of its inability to do so. Human rights organizations as well as the UN should step in before it is too late. This is nothing but segragation and the experiences of the US or South Africa where people had to fight hard to have their rights respected left bitter social sequels.
    India is not the world largest democracy as people tend to say. There would not be a democracy as long as some people are excluded.

  73. 84 Conrad Scheid
    September 29, 2009 at 18:49

    What i find most disturbing about the caste system is the lack of upwards social mobility afforded to those within it. In the western world, we more or less have our own caste system, with terms such as impoverished, middle class, wealthy, etc. However, the assumption is always present that you might move above your ‘caste’.

  74. 85 haider meghjee
    September 29, 2009 at 18:50

    there is caste system in canada (native americans)
    there is caste system in the U.S.A. (native americans)
    there is caste system in australia (aboriginals)
    let us not forget them.
    let us clean up our act first before we start preaching to the indians.
    the indian caste system is a human rights violation and so are the canadian, amreican and australian caste systems.
    i say we keep our soldiers at home and use them to free our own dalits.
    haider meghjee

  75. 86 Madhumati
    September 29, 2009 at 18:50

    When I was living in an Indian village for an NGO project I knew a dalit widow who had been raped by the upper caste men. What is most apalling to me is that the castes in India live such isolated lives from each other that the upper caste people dont have any idea about the depth of the caste problem and tend to either deny it or reduce its importance.

  76. 87 Kalai in San Francisco
    September 29, 2009 at 18:53

    I disagree with Brinda on “educated” Indians being ‘open’ on the caste issue. I can name at least 10 people I know who are highly educated, at the same time manage to be completely fools by claiming their caste every time they eat, drink or sleep. In another instance, there was a person who was trying to find out my caste by asking so many questions related to that and I chose not to reveal.

  77. 88 brinda,India
    September 29, 2009 at 18:59

    @Jean-Jules Fogang, Silver Spring, MD US

    Can you tell me on what basis are u saying India has not done anything about it ?
    Ignorance is not an excuse.

  78. 89 Tom K in Mpls
    September 29, 2009 at 19:04

    All the on air, Indian speakers, admitted India is making progress. Yet everyone out of India don’t seem to care. And the non-Hindu speaker unintentionally pointed out that there is a real difference that is due to the availability of things, such as education. Yet supposedly it is possible to change castes through education.

    Obviously, the caste system will exist as long as Hindus care, in spite of any law.

  79. 90 brinda,India
    September 29, 2009 at 19:07

    @Kalai in San Francisco

    what is wrong with following your own caste or religion ? Is that not a persons personal choice/independence ? the question here is of discrimination!
    was there any discrimination ?

  80. September 29, 2009 at 19:14

    Thanks very much BBCWS,and India it’s a lot clearer now. It’s an age old mind set. Not go to a Dalit doctor,indeed!

  81. 92 George
    September 29, 2009 at 19:26

    I dont believe it is a good thing since it puts some above others when we are all sinners and Jesus said the good Samaritan didnt cross over to the other side of the street when a man who had fell amoung thieves needed help but went to him and bound up his wounds and payed for his inn. And that is what he wants to do for all mankind spiritually speaking. So no its not a good system of treating fellow human beings.

  82. 93 Kalai in San Francisco
    September 29, 2009 at 19:46

    @ Brinda

    Well, there is nothing wrong with subscribing to your caste / religion as long as there is no “pride” associated with it. The point I realized is someone from a lower caste cannot claim as proudly (or even neutrally) as me or you in an Indian society. Whether you like it or not, there is still stigma associated with a person who claims “I belong to SC” loudly. In my opinion, I am against any kind of self-identification which reminds another person of his/her squirmish past. This is the best I can do to a fellow human being.

    And as Steve said before on “identifying”, we want to assume that being ‘educated’ means you are able to see above these differences and leave this stupidity below. Sadly, that doesn’t happen.

    • December 19, 2009 at 18:35


      SC is not a caste.. rather a degenerating classification by Britishers..

      For your info, most of the lower caste people, want to stay within their own caste.

      The caste propoganda is only effective among the so called educated people in india, who is dislodged from their community, know nothing about our society, yet speak as though they know everything.

      But for the ordinary people of india, whether its higher caste or lower caste, they always wanted to be part of their jaati..

      Please verify if you can.. The people are against casteism and NOT against caste..

  83. September 29, 2009 at 19:55

    Hi WHYS, I find your topic very interesting, I personally think the caste system is discriminatory. It so discriminatory, some the high caste ones find it very difficult to integrate when they go to other countries or community. Indians should recognise that the world is bigger than India. Thank you.

  84. 96 Majnuun
    September 29, 2009 at 20:29

    The only people WANTING to KEEP the caste system are the Hindu’s who are NOT in the lower caste.

    The upper classes have a very luxurious life while the caste system is in place, of course they will be the ones who want it to stay.. and they will pose all kinds of reasons as to “why now?” and “it’s really not a problem” and “no we don’t have any issue, it’s all good and well in india”.

    If you ask any member of the lower caste, they will want it removed.

    Long story short, the caste system is INDEED A HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATION which Indian HINDU society has been complacent about for thousands of years!

    If HINDUS in India want to integrate in modern society, they need to address this issue immediately. They can NO LONGER HIDE behind the veil of the lack of information… the global village will no longer tolerate the archaic, ignorant, illiterate, and barbaric practices of OPEN DISCRIMINATION AND OPPRESSION perpetrated by the Upper Hindu castes on the lower classes of its own religion any longer !!


    • 97 Nitin Gadia
      October 2, 2009 at 07:43


      I have only a very basic understanding of the caste system, and the discrimination that is faced by many. This is a good opportunity for me to learn. I have several questions if you don’t mind.

      Are you of a discriminated caste, or any caste for that matter? If so, do you identify yourself with that caste? For example, if you are labeled as a Dalit by others, do you also consider yourself a Dalit? If you do identify yourself with your caste, how can you call for the abolition of the caste system while also identifying yourself under a caste? When you say that the caste system should be abolished, do you mean discrimination of the caste system? If you don’t identify with your caste, how do you manage to do that if you live in South Asia?

      I am just seeking clarification, because I honestly do not understand, and need to learn from someone who actually seems to know from experience. Feel free to look at my other comments and clarify anything I have misunderstood.

      • 98 Majnuun
        October 2, 2009 at 15:22

        Hello Nitin,

        Good questions. First of all, I am not Hindu, therefore do not belong to any of the official castes within the Varna/Karma system. However, the Hindu’s, consider all non-Hindus to be part of the “untouchables” caste. My family left India in the mid 70’s because of this very problem, the unfair treatment in the social order and the regular civil riots against non-Hindus. Due to this, my father had a struggling business in India from the 1950’s until 1969 – and then there were several major civil wars when Hindu’s were trying to cleanse the country of non-Hindu’s.. and my family lost everything – the Hindu’s burnt down the business and our home.. and we fled the city with only our family members. At that time, my uncle was in America, and he sponsored us to migrate here.. and we’ve been in the US since 1976. Unfortunately, the world at that time did not pay attention to this problem, and we were not given any political asylum or any benefits whatsoever – we were on our own in the US just as any other normal migrant. This was not a problem, since my father was a hard-worker and quickly took care of the family from that point on and my siblings are now all prosperous.


    • 99 grittee
      October 9, 2009 at 01:36

      Majnuun – responding to your first response to me (for some reason I can’t directly reply below it) –
      That is very unfortunate, and throws a lot of light on things. I wonder why non-Hindus were outcasted in some places. This conflicts with some facts that I have read, that in Goa and other parts of India, Christians are delineated by caste, and mention caste in matrimonial ads.
      Also, how could non-Hindus be so discriminated against historically when Muslims dominated India for 600 years, and the British (mostly Christian, though did not rule theocratically) dominated India for 200 years?
      I’m just trying to further understand the complexity here.

    • December 19, 2009 at 18:36

      /** If you ask any member of the lower caste, they will want it removed. **/

      Its wrong.. please substantiate.. i have interacted with many dalit people, and they are not apologetic about their caste, nor feel low about their caste. The main issues are poverty, and lack of opportunity, and not the caste..

  85. 101 vijay pillai
    September 29, 2009 at 21:34

    Andrew of Australia hit the nai on the head. Superiory of indians wich they are used to back home agains the untoucables when dealing wiht the outside world have no bound. It is ithe same people accuse australans of mistreating aboriginals in australia.I have the habit of telling indians to practice before preach.

  86. 102 Majnuun
    September 29, 2009 at 22:31

    @ Brinda,
    Obviously you must not be from the lower caste, otherwise you would not be opposing UN intervention. Any person of the lower caste will disagree with your point of view.

    @ Saad,
    You say let India work the situation out herself…..Well, let’s see, they have had the caste system in the Hindu religion for thousands of years.. how much time would you like to give India to work out the problem of the caste system?
    You would not be of the opinion to let India work out its problems if you were an untouchable and your mother just got raped – as is so common amongst the women of the lower caste. In India, Human rights violations are perpetrated lower castes and non-Hindu residents daily!

    Yes, the UN must step in immediately and begin a process of educating society and aiding the victims of these horrific crimes.


  87. 103 Mr Nripa
    September 29, 2009 at 22:33

    India is big country of different sections of the people in multicultural society. In a such big society it is quite obvious that all the sections of the society may not be equally forwarded. It was found by investigation just after independence day some group belong to particular cast is not forwarded equaly with
    other group say advanced cast and Hence based on this cast sytem our constitutation has provided some reservation to those which is not forward so that all the section of the society can come forward and able to particiapte for faster progress of the nation.
    Since this cast system is exist since India exist; it is way people used distribute their task based on thier capcity and comfort and every body were happy on their duties and there were no domination to lower cast from upper casr. It was an smooth way of functioning the society.

    So cast sytem is not at all descrimination among people and hence it is not human right abuse.

  88. 104 Majnuun
    September 29, 2009 at 22:52

    @ Me. Nripia,

    I can appreciate the sentiments in your comments.. but please, go ask those individuals who are in the lower caste.. what do they say? Upper-caste members cannot determine whether they are being discriminatory… since they will obviously have a very biased point of view and deny discrimination and human rights abuse.

    Regardless of the fact the Indian constitution provides avenues of advancement for the lower caste, the Hindu culture and religion have this ideology as a basis for the makeup of society! Such an ideology may have survived in the past by being hidden under the guise of “it’s our religion” or “it’s our culture” or simply by “it’s our problem, don’t be nosey, leave us alone” – but this type of attitude can no longer be tolerated. The international community has already decided on this issue, and Indian society and the Hindu religion and culture must stop these Human Rights Violations, whether willingly or by international force.


  89. 105 vijay pillai
    September 30, 2009 at 00:17

    i am not surprised by the roundabout defence of cast system .
    Hindus has been in practice in india and the untoucables were made to feel under hindu caste system that since one is born a bramin,due to their better karma in their past lives compared to untoucables who had sinned in their past and born lowly birth. This was my accepted view as a hindu and did not know much about untill i learned how china with their socialist system eleminated caste system making all equal. andd reduced povety.
    But the untouchables with no education accept it as fate and be happy with their lot and dont question. But in the eyes of international community of nations of blacks, whites and yellow, indians cannot keep their head high and say they do treat theri fellow citzens according to international norms and not based on their previous birth of karma. This is an unacceptable argument under any jurisdiction.

  90. 106 vijay pillai
    September 30, 2009 at 00:26

    In Majnuum, untouchables of hindu caste system,wherever they are found a true flag bearer and he has the passion to see justice done not in another decade’s time but in immediate future. good luck.
    Muslims got off the hook since there cannot be caste system among muslims, they all equal under allah..

  91. 107 Majnuun
    September 30, 2009 at 01:30

    @ Mr. Vijay Pillai,

    Please understand that no one should condone any caste system if it is discriminatory.

    In the Muslim world, there are certain discriminatory practices against women as well.. and I do not agree with those either. For example, enforcing women to wear the veil (Hijab) is NOT a right given to Muslim males, it is only enforceable by Allah. Yet, there are so many Muslim countries which enforce the veil, sometimes even on non-Muslim women. This practice is completely self-imposed by the Muslim governments, and NOT a part of the religion. Similarly, praying five times a day, or any other required act of worship cannot be enforced – yet Muslim governments somehow have misunderstood this basic principle in Islam – no compulsion in religion (Quran 2:256). I do not blame the religion for this – i blame the people who take the religion to this extreme.

    If you contrast this with the Hindu religion – the caste system is inherent in the religion through the system of Karma and Reincarnation.


  92. 108 Nitin Gadia
    September 30, 2009 at 02:45

    Banning the caste system is like banning race and class. While these differences are human creations, they do not necessitate discrimination. Caste is deeply ingrained in the identities of people everywhere, whether they are considered to be on the top or the bottom. In fact, it is not uncommon for people to be proud of their caste kinship in the same way that cockneys in Britain and Blacks in America are proud of their identities. Banning caste discrimination is absolutely necessary. Banning the caste system is neither necessary nor is it even possible.

    The caste system is far more complex than it is commonly construed inside and outside South Asia. It is a common misconception, for one, that caste is confined to Hindus. Quite the contrary, Christians and Muslims have castes. Furthermore, it is not simply based on a simple 4-tiered varna system. It is based as much on the Jati, or communities based on kinship, with surnames that represent professions, akin to how a “Miller” in Britain was once a miller. My father grew up in a Jati in Rajasthan of businesspeople, while the bordering Jati was entirely Muslim cloth-dyers.

  93. 109 Marcus Fronto
    September 30, 2009 at 03:39

    If India wishes to be part of the modern world of free and prosperous nations, India must make amends with its past and take IMMEDIATE steps to eliminate any and all forms of discrimination based on the caste system. Too often, Indians have been unwilling to confront this abominable system that is widely practised in their midst. It is about time the world puts the spot-light on India about this archaic and anachronistic system. Let no lobby turn this spot-light off.

  94. September 30, 2009 at 04:57

    I am an Indian Christian hailing from Kerala who is a Singapore citizen. My name reflects no cast system–only my family genealogy. This holds true for the local Indian community here who are castless.
    I think the cast sysstem prevails in India because Hinduism never went through any kind of “Reformation” to bring it into the modern international community. Unless the Hindus can do some real soul-searching themselves, the cast system will be castigated worldwide.
    Yours sincerely,

    • 111 Nitin Gadia
      October 1, 2009 at 03:52

      A particular community may be “casteless”, but that doesn’t mean that other Christian and Muslim groups are not. In fact, there are many places where Christians or Muslims actually form a jati, and are partly defined by their religion itself.
      Also, I once heard a story where a Christian man courted a Christian woman, and her mother asked if he was a Brahmin, and he replied “of course” out of fear. He went and asked his mother if he was in fact Brahmin, and she replied that they were.
      The caste and jati system is indeed breaking down or changing in many parts of India, but that doesn’t mean that it is archaic or inherently unethical.
      Caste is not Hindu, it is the ethno-socioeconomic system of the Indian subcontinent.

      • 112 Nitin Gadia
        October 2, 2009 at 07:23

        I was born and raised in the US, and the caste system means nothing to me here, and likely also means nothing in Singapore. Likewise, when I go to India, my cousins do not understand my ethnic and racial identity as an Indian-American. Outside of a society, its complex of social identities do not apply, and when one enters a new society, people try to apply the system to you.
        I consider myself “casteless” as well, but during my last visit to India, my cousins tried to apply the same identity to me, trying to persuade me to enter the business of retail and wholesale. When I said I wanted to do social services, they tried to fight with me. If I hadn’t learned about jatis only recently, I would not have understood what was going on, and I would not have even known I was a part of the “Agarwal community”. Things are too subtle to pick up.
        Once I came across a man whose ethnicity was hard for me to judge. Out of curiosity, I asked him where I was from. He tried to fit it in my context as an American, saying that he was from Singapore, and listed all his origins from all over Europe and Asia. I joked and said he was “Eurasian”, and he replied that in fact that was his ethnic group in Singapore. That seemed bizarre to me, but only as bizarre as a person of mixed race has the identity “Mixed” in the US.
        I used to readily judge Indian society, but know I do more listening than talking, because India is a place too complex for even Indians themselves to fathom and think they know.

  95. 113 Peppa
    September 30, 2009 at 05:08

    Ah this scenario & the comment by Raj as posted in the article remind me SO MUCH of White American attitudes on this very issue of racism against African-Americans . I can’t help but think to myself, if a Dalit became Prime Minister of India, would they end up with a situation as is occuring in the United States today? Well the bottom line is this, people can change whenever or whatever they want. Stop making excuses India.

  96. 114 subra
    September 30, 2009 at 05:12

    Man is really a very strange animal, difficult to understand; their behaviour is so erratic. Once they start enjoying something, whether it is morally wrong or unethical, they find no fault with it. The caste system enables many Indians to benefit from it in many ways – raping, molesting the women and daughters of the lower castes; even accepting alms using all types of crooked ways- but not accepting those same people as human beings.
    The UN debate shall provide a golden opportunity , a forum, to all people loving justice and equity to become aware of the gross injustices suffered by lower castes at the cruel hands of supposedly superior people.

  97. 115 Beaufort
    September 30, 2009 at 06:09

    In my opinion a ditch digger is just a important and valuable as
    a doctor and should be valued equally. There is no moral,
    religious, social or political reason that such a barbarous system
    should exist, especially in a world which is supposed to be enlightened.
    The number of people abused and suffering in India as a result of
    this hideous system exceeds by far those victimized by Saddam
    Hussein in Iraq making India a regime which should be invaded by
    the policeman of the world right now in order to correct this crime
    against humanity. India has an incredibly rich potential for wealth
    and productivity and if it were not for corruption, waste and this
    archaic barbarism all its people could live comfortably and sustainably.

    • 116 engi
      September 30, 2009 at 15:28

      Do you know how many extremely qualified immigrant doctors in Canada drive taxis? Canadians says doctors qualified elsewhere aren’t the same, as if the human anatomy was not universal. But this is not discrimination, is it? And industrialised countries that are so equal, why do they have so many visa regulations for people from third world countries when they expect to be treated like kings and queens when THEY visit third world countries? Even international agencies don’t pay their local staff on the same scale as their foreign staff. And look at all the rubbish that’s being said about Obama’s birth certificate, just because his father was from Kenya. None of these things were said of W Bush even if his IQ was borderline. Go and see Harlem and go and see the Indian reserves in Canada and you’ll see where the worst forms of discrimination are practised. Clean up your own house before you go into clean up others’.

  98. September 30, 2009 at 09:20

    Where I come from all men and women are born equal.

    • 118 cinnamon
      September 30, 2009 at 13:32

      Yes pdxmike according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights all men and women are born free and equal but im hard pressed to find a country in the world that practices this – no not even the USA has got it in one when it comes to this fundamental human right….so tell us pdxmike where do you come from?

    • 119 Tom K in Mpls
      September 30, 2009 at 15:55

      We are not born equal. That is incredibly obvious. However, I do agree that we all deserve an *equal chance* to live our lives as we choose. But there are no guarantees of success, just the chance.

      Viva la difference!

  99. September 30, 2009 at 09:26

    these system makes some people so vulnerable…..they need to be on the RED CROSS and UNHCR registers.


  100. 121 Sidra Nazir, Pakistan
    September 30, 2009 at 13:04

    I think nations should better be left on their own to solve social and political issues. Such weaknesses should not be exploited by foreign powers to invade thw countries and make the situation even worst.

  101. 122 vijay pillai
    September 30, 2009 at 15:21

    Mahathma Gandhi always identified with untoucables specially those toilet cleaners and human excrement collectors as people of god. If they stop work for a day the stink would ruin higher caste people’s lives.

  102. 123 RightPaddock
    September 30, 2009 at 15:48

    The caste system is found across South Asia, not just India – its operates in Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. And it crosses religious boundaries.

    It’s not clear whether Andrew BC Pereira has ever lived in Kerala, but I can take him to churches in Kerala that are set aside for Brahmins, Dalits, Rajputs etc.

    In Pakistan a woman is not allowed to marry outside her caste, to do so will quite likely result in a a so called “honour killing”

    And to the person he implied that a Dalit could never be Prime Minister, I’d remind him that a Muslim became President of India. And in the most recent Indian elections someone named Mayawati was considered as a potential winner of the prime ministership. Mayawati is both a Dalit and a woman, she is the Chief Minister of India’s largest state, Uttar Pradesh – think California.

  103. 124 rosie
    September 30, 2009 at 16:01

    The caste system needs to be abolished now, but eradication from people’s hearts and minds will take longer. As a hindu it’s not something I can feel proud of.

    Racism in the west has largely been eradicated due to strictly enforced laws (even though there will always be racists everywhere) but if India can implement strictly enforced laws against caste discrimination, violence and poverty, it will start to have an impact, if not this generation but the next.

    • 125 Tom K in Mpls
      September 30, 2009 at 18:08

      I don’t know where you are from, but in the midwest of the USA, it is strong in peoples personal lives. Laws regarding many related issues are often abused by indignant individuals and promote further bias. The only thing the laws have done is to teach people to practice ‘politically correct’ behavior. The only ‘cure’ for racism is for people to interact without outside pressure. There is no substitute for honest interaction by those with good will.

  104. 126 anu_d
    September 30, 2009 at 16:43

    The only time caste based systems were officially endorsed as a part of governance was during 200 years of British Rule….where they even called themselves the 5th Caste…..”The Ruling Caste”

    David Gilmour’s historically Reserached Book “The Ruling Caste”……The Imperial Lives in Victorian Raj…gives and elaborate account of British rule and social lives in a caste back-drop.

    In 50 years of post indendence Caste have never been officially endorsed by the Government ( that has infact had several affirmative action policies to the contrary)……..but 200 years of government endorsed Caste-ist ways will take another 50 years to disappear

    • 127 BRIGHTANNY
      September 30, 2009 at 17:22

      since the internationalization of human rights,institutionalized abuse of human right is no more solely a domestic affair.Human beings are now viewed beyond the confines of national boundaries.It is surprising that it has taken the UN this long to be interested in this.Now that it has,it should act speedily and seriously.

  105. 128 Karthik
    September 30, 2009 at 16:59

    I would like to first of all set the record straight with regard to the caste system – caste started as nothing more than a way to describe occupational classes in society. It is similar to classifying our society as doctors, postmen, engineers, etc.

    I would like to add that the very basis of the caste system (as we see in its present form) does not have any valid basis in Hinduism as the central tenet involves the existence of a supreme entity – Brahman – that includes all animate and inanimate entities in the universe. Nobody is precluded from attaining unity with God (moksha) – deemed the highest goal in Hinduism.

    The constitution of India formally abolished the caste system in 1947 and since then, we have seen an “untouchable” President – Mr. K.R. Narayanan and an “untouchable” Chief Minister – Mayawati Devi. The Dalit vote bank is now seen as crucial to any Indian election.

    It would be overkill for the U.N. to draft a resolution on the caste system – there are far more important problems to conquer. Passing this resolution will not make a difference to the ground conditions in India – atrocities will continue to be committed because this is a generational problem that can only be resolved with the improvement of economic opportunities at the rural level.

    • 129 Nabul Baruah
      October 3, 2009 at 13:50

      You are right in saying caste system came into being to describe occupational classification. In Hinduism barna is classified according to skills an individual demonstrate in society, not by birth, In real meaning a teacher will be considered to belong to a brahman class. Now the biggest enemy of India in the path of development is this caste system. An amount of trauma, an untouchable carries through out his life can not be imagined. Constitution rejuvenated this acute problem by segregating the society as schedule caste, schedule tribe and backward classes. This is a big dent in Indian constitution and it will continue to prevail if a third party or an international human rights body does not take care of it.

      • 130 Nitin Gadia
        October 5, 2009 at 15:36

        That is a very interesting point I’ve considered. When I was in India last, there was a lot of controversy about having reservations for certain castes. Many are resentful towards Gandhi because he said he would fast unto death in protest of there being reservations in parliament for certain castes. The feeling I have on this is that it is a tricky balance between taking efforts to give people an equal status on the one hand, while not further rigidly defining their group to the point that it becomes so deeply ingrained in people’s identity as “us” vs “them”. History is full of groups being ethnicized because of government policies, further deepening divisions. While I have very little understanding of the identity politics in India, this is something to always consider.
        Can anyone further enlighten us on this particular subject?

  106. 131 Umakant
    September 30, 2009 at 18:51

    India is a signatory to some of the International Treaties on Human Rights and it is their responsibility to honour national and international human rights obligations and standards. Caste system is not a typically Indian problem. There are other countries in South Asia and also in Africa and Latin America where caste system and similar kind of social system operates in its limited way, though it may not be as pronounced as it is in India. The global dimension of caste/work & descent based discrimination has been affirmed by some of the studies undertaken by UN bodies in last one decade or so. UN certainly has a role to play in addressing this kind of gross violation of human rights of a large chunk of humanity, around 260 to 300 million people around the globe, out of which close to170 million live in India alone. India must take a lead in addressing caste/work & descent based discrimination at global level.
    Dr. Umakant
    Dalit Rights Advocate
    New Delhi
    September 30, 2009

  107. 132 Elina
    October 1, 2009 at 15:45

    “is the caste system an abuse of human rights?”

    — Yes, in my opinion it is and it should be reformed. It’s fine that the UN has put the matter in the spotlight and is going to recognize the caste-based discrimination as HR violation. I was just thinking whether that would be as far as the UN is able to take its actions, after all. Some contributors here suggested that the UN should now act seriously and speedily, but what, in effect, could those actions be?

  108. 133 Nabul Baruah
    October 2, 2009 at 13:38

    Is caste system in India is a social discrimination?

    It is a social discrimination and is exploited by the muscle power of affluent group to subjugate their fellow group. When India became independent confederation, this affluent group traded Reservation to the subjugated group against their upper hierarchical status of caste because they still want to be identified as higher caste people. This is a heinous crime on the part of the Government to allow such discrimination against its citizens. It is really shame to know that a government like India where the father of the nation, Gandhi himself belong to a lower caste, who all along his life resonated the word equality among people, discriminate their own citizens and allow apartheid in society.

    Today all the political parties use these groups as block votes and try to win their support by wooing all sort of filmy tricks rather then rescuing them from social degradation and deprivation and allow them a at par social status by way of caste because no caste can be upper or lower. Now we see, even the leaders of the subjugated groups try to capitalize on their people’s pathetic plight.

    In my opinion, Government should come out with stringent Act like Canada’s Equality Rights and punish those people who disobey and choose to continue to such social discrimination and abolish all the matters in the books and other mass media platforms like film and TV serials and encourage abolishing social apartheid and also reservation. Constitution may be amended to abolish the word upper caste and lower caste.

  109. 134 Paul8222
    October 3, 2009 at 11:27

    I avoided contributing until I had had time to think and hopefully commit something worthwhile.

    I am awed and fascinated at the wealth of knowledge set down here.

    The British, during the Raj, typically made great use of caste where it suited their manipulation of power in the Indian Civil Service, the Indian Police Service and the British Indian Army. This probably did much to unofficially perpetuate it into the Republic.

    Gandhi founf it abhorrent, on which basis, I suggest it must be unqualifiedly wrong.

    The Universal Declaration of Human Rights under the U.N. Charter declares against any discrimination on whatever grounds. Given India’s frequent involvement in peacekeeping enforcement for the U.N. it cannot object to supposed interference by other member states in commenting on caste.

    The practicalities of dismantling it and the impact on the economy and society are a poser.

  110. October 5, 2009 at 17:22

    The Indian government,being the largest democracy, should lead in ridding the country of this abnoxious caste system by enacting laws and Acts to ban it entirely from the Indian psyche and society. The caste system should be dead and buried for good.

    • 136 Nitin Gadia
      October 6, 2009 at 17:05

      Andrew – I’ve responded to your previous posts, and am trying to generate a discussion with you. Your comments do not make sense to me. At what age did you move to Singapore? Please read my previous responses and comments.

  111. 137 Mohan, USA
    October 5, 2009 at 22:54

    Mr. Pereira,

    The caste system is not a political issue, it is a cultural and religious one, rooted completely in Hinduism. The government has taken steps to try and bring equality based on economic status using the caste system, and it has only resulted in reverse discrimination and further division among the communities. What is needed is a truly secular government which does not involve itself in the religion of the people. It should scratch out the term caste in government job and college applications, and judge people solely on qualifications. It should also exclude of other faiths, Christians and Muslims, from putting themselves into a caste category, as it does not apply to them.

    • 138 Nitin Gadia
      October 6, 2009 at 16:24

      Mohan – From what I understand, the caste system is an Indian, not a strictly Hindu, socioeconomic construct. I suppose that the government can take such a role divesting legitimacy from such aspects of the caste system, but the social reality of identities would still remain. Read my other entries and correct me where I am wrong.

  112. October 8, 2009 at 11:47

    The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has just issued a very strong opinion piece “Tearing down the wall of caste”, the first ever opinion piece by the principle UN human rights official on this matter. She recommends the international community to “come together to support these efforts as it did when it helped put an end to apartheid.” She also states that “The Human Rights Council, the premier intergovernmental body for the protection and promotion of human rights, should promote the 2009 Draft Principles and Guidelines for the Effective Elimination of Discrimination based on Work and Descent.” This is a welcomed statement in a timely and needed debate on the global struggle against caste discrimination! See: http://www.todayszaman.com/tz-web/news-189244-104-opinion-tearing-down-the-wall-of-caste.html

  113. 140 Majnuun
    October 9, 2009 at 16:37

    @ Grittee,

    Of course, not all people of any religion or nation are bad, but there are elements in every society which exhibit questionable behavior and intent.

    There are many Hindus in India who would like to see ONLY their own religion in the country. And, as a result of the Muslim and British occupations, those Hindus have stereotyped against all non-HIndus for generations. The caste system just enables them to continue their prejudicial mentality, which further provides them a sense of self-assurance in conducting violent acts against lower castes and non-HIndus.

    This problem requires attention immediately.. and the change will need to come soon also. Yes, it may take a generation or two to generally change the environment, but if we don’t start now, then when?


  114. October 12, 2009 at 04:05

    @ Nitin Gadia,
    caste: one of the artificial divisions or social classes into which the Hindus are rigidly seperated and of which the privileges or disabilities are transmitted by inheritance. -Encyclopedic World Dictionary.
    The Hindu cast system has other ramifications too. First the Christians and then the Muslims disengaged themselves from the majority Hindu cast system by simply adopting Christian/Muslim names respectively. Much later Sikhism (an off-shoot of Hinduism) was founded on mono-theist principles — anti the caste system.
    I refute your assertion that my comments do not make any sense. I have recieved about 20 e-mails from all over and they all understood my comments.

  115. 142 Hopi
    October 21, 2009 at 13:41

    Well..well. It is very important to note that The Constitution of India recognizes groups of citizens as “backward classes” in order to provide them special rights under the constitution. This is translated into regulations in affirmative action for jobs in the government and educational opportunities. However, there is no sunset feature to this preferred treatment, no end date based on whether such backward-ness had been lifted or reduced to a level. This had created a weird outcome: large groups of people in the state of Rajastan recently rioted against the government because they were not classified as backward enough to attain certain special privileges !!
    Be that as it may, very often such discussions confuse the official position of a nation with social behavior of communities. This is as much true of new nations like the United States as it is of old civilizations. Even in the new “caste free” countries there is the accepted practice of “the right to association”, a recognition that people choose whom they would like to be associated with. This cannot be forced easily (although it had been tried under dictatorships) and very often it could happen because of a mutual win-win underlaying business motive.
    Social engineering is not what the UN can do best. They ought to concentrate on having antagonists SIT at conference tables and TALK. When the powerful people of the world are engaged in sitting and talking, they may just forget to shoot at each other and peace might break out.

  116. December 19, 2009 at 18:42

    First i would ask everyone, what amount of understanding they have about caste system?

    Second, why should caste system be abolished? If discrimination and suppression are the reasons cited, then is it not the capitalism and corporate system which is also suppressing?

    Isnt democracy not a suppressive one, where people who got majority votes oppress those who dont vote for them?

    FInally, the history shows us that christianity and islam have subjugated, suppressed and enslaved india for thousands of years.. arent those be banned in india?

    Are the people against just caste system or the discriminations? If its discriminations, then we have to be just enough to oppose all systems which discriminates..

    We should show our macho just by bashing caste system, where no retaliation will happen.. and if any one even speaks about christian history or islamic history, they will face immense retaliation from those institutions and hence most of them are silent about it.

  117. December 19, 2009 at 18:44

    I have one more question. Most of the commenters here are either foreigners or NRI’s. How can they oppose a system that they dont have seen or Never have been part of?

    How far is it logical to spew venom on a system just based on media reports?

    • 145 Madhumati
      December 21, 2009 at 19:02

      I came to the US when I was 26. In India I had worked full time as a social worker for 1.5 years and done lots of research (which included actually going and talking to people) of various castes in Pune. This was during the Mandal Commission fiasco.

      My experience is that it is the upper caste people who typically dont have much to say about caste system or are in denial about it. The others obviously dont like it. Not a surprise. I am from a lower caste and I am not sure what exactly I am supposed to like or respect about being treated as inferior?

  118. 146 Kat in Vancouver, Canada
    December 21, 2009 at 19:16

    I think that domestic and foreign people have a right to an objective opinion of the caste system based on facts. My opinions are grounded on thorough academic research at the Master’s level. Others might derive their information from other sources, such as: the media, books, or documentaries. The fact is that India has probably world’s largest population of impoverished peoples and it is important to understand where the roots of that exploitation lies.

    • 147 Nitin/grittee
      December 22, 2009 at 17:37

      @ Kat in Vancouver, Canada

      Thorough research is much needed, and can offer a great deal to the understanding of caste

      However, one can only go so far studying something like caste from such a bird’s eye perspective. To really understand it, you have to live it, and even with that, you would only experience one perspective.

      I once had a professor from Britain who understood the history of immigration to the United States very deeply. But he had to ask us things like “How Irish do you have to be to consider yourself or be considered Irish?” This is something that many Americans know intuitively, but Irish people would understand best. India is unbelievably complex, and if you ask anyone to properly define another group, it will be very difficult for them. Likewise, often academics have a better understanding of history of someone’s identity than that person in a greater context.

      Furthermore, I think that there are deep systemic biases in the academic world, and an intrinsic privilege that must be acknowledged. Academia is full of racism and simplistic understandings in every field, and that will continue into the foreseeable future. Just because someone is a “scholar” doesn’t mean that they are disciplined in their objectivity. I know, because I have lived with and around academics all my life, and see it in the things I read.

  119. 148 Nitin/grittee
    December 22, 2009 at 04:55

    I think that the discussions here have come down to a lot of misunderstanding that is based on some basic semantics:

    *What do we mean when we say “Caste” as opposed to “Caste System”?

    Are they two different things?

    If by “Caste System” we mean the systemic caste oppression that arises from a hierarchy, then yes, that makes sense. But if we mean abolishing the entire system of identity by caste, that simply does not make any sense.

    It needs to be clearly defined for conversations to be clear.
    I really don’t think that anyone on this forum has disagreed that caste oppression should be banned.

    If someone can enlighten me and others, please do so

    • 149 Madhumati
      December 22, 2009 at 20:04

      Nitin, If you read the title of this program it clearly mentions caste system and human rights abuse – “Is the Indian caste system a human rights abuse?”. That answers your question. By the way it is impossible to remove identity because it is a biological and historical fact.

  120. 150 Kat in Vancouver, Canada
    December 23, 2009 at 18:33

    Nittin – so you feel as though the systematic study from an objective perspective is flawed because it lacks personal experience? Experience is not objective nor is it unbiased but if we are talking about “personal experiences” let me share mine.

    I will let you know that if we are discussing experiences, I grew up in an Irish/Hungarian – Catholic household in New England. My family came over on both sides in 1901 to start a new life in New York City. I now classify as an immigrant in Canada and surrounded by people from South Asia, Central Asia, and East Asia. It just happens that second biggest minority in Vancouver, which is where I live now , comes from India. I work and speak with people who have experienced the horrors of the caste system and not one of them is supportive of it.

    I don’t know why people in general and not just you attack someone personally instead the logic, reason, and ideas presented their arguments. Academia is a worthy profession just as a shop keeper is. The difference between an “academics” arguments is the level of objectivity and unbiased information presented within it.

    • December 26, 2009 at 15:50


      Systematic study from objective perspective — what do you mean by this?

      how can one do a study without experiencing it? or how can one do a study on a system that they dont have any idea about it?

      Most academicians do their thesis for a degree and not for exploring things.. so they rely on previous research paper, and base their thesis on that.. So fundamentally the academic system is a flawed one..

  121. 152 Kat in Vancouver, Canada
    December 23, 2009 at 18:42

    Furthermore, I feel as though I need to defend the passionate bloggers here, the people who post on WHYS are generally well versed in the topics discussed and their opinions matter no matter what. People do not need to know every detail about the Caste system in order to debate the issues.

    • 153 Nitin/grittee
      December 24, 2009 at 19:12

      Kat – you misunderstood what I was saying. I was completely agreeing with you. I was just trying to widen the perspective.

      I did not attack you, and I have not attacked anyone on this forum. Some things I have said were taken personally, but I did not mean it to be. I also value everyone’s comments. Everyone must be an ally in fighting caste-based discrimination, and even if I disagree with someone, that is not the point. We should seek a mutual understanding

      I am simply trying to widen the perspective, to say that a purely academic understanding can do a lot, but is not limitless. You clearly understand this, and attempt to delve deeply into it, with your own identity and others’. The work you are doing and the comments you have made are great, and show you have a deeper understanding of the caste system than most.

      Academia is a noble profession when it is done nobly, like the way you are undertaking it. The foundation of the understanding of caste and race is highly biased, and is only changing now to a great extent. In fact, much of caste discrimination was created by the British administrators, as you noted, which employed academics, to classify and even racialize peoples

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