Caste defenders

Anna’s thought-provoking post on caste yesterday generated a few links to defenders of the institution which I found intriguing. One defender argues that caste is nothing but cultural pluralism:

… as a truly pluralistic society, the Hindu India allowed each ethnic group, regardless of how numerically small it was, to retain its identity…Caste is a result of this spirit of freedom and pluralism. It is something to be proud of… I pointed out that in the casteless Christian West, the minorities have been forced to abandon their identities and instead have been made to imitate the dominant group in every aspect of life [Link]

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p>This is disingenuous because it entirely ignores the hierarchy and separation at the root of the caste system. What he’s trying to imply is that the caste system creates groups that are “separate but equal” except that he can’t even say that they’re even nominally equal (and we know how the whole “separate but equal” thing worked out).

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p>Another author goes the opposite direction and embraces the idea that caste is all about inequality but says this is good:

… jati and varnam are merely a codification of the fact that all humans are not born equal in their endowments: some are tall, some are fat, some are musically talented, and so on. Caste is about the ruthless Bell Curve, and is about as inescapable as race. It is neither good nor bad; it just is (casteism, however, is reprehensible, just as racism is.) In fact, caste must be useful, which is why it has survived for so long… [Link]

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p>Of course he doesn’t come out and say that it’s about groups being better than others, but when somebody says that “all humans are not born equal in their endowments” it’s hard not to conclude that they’re talking about a hierarchy. His social darwinism comes out loud and clear when he argues that the survival of caste as a social institution is evidence of its usefulness; he’s saying that caste must be a beneficial adaptation for it to have persisted.

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p> The final defense of caste is far more subtle, and comes from an IIM Professor:

The metropolitan elite and rootless experts have concluded that caste is bad. They have made it so that every Indian is expected to feel guilty at the mention of caste. Internationally, caste is a convenient stick to flay anything Indian, its religions, customs, culture.

But the caste system is undeniably a valuable social capital, which provides a cushion for individuals and families to deal with society and the state. The Western model of atomising every individual to a single element in a right-based system and forcing the individual to have a direct link with the state has destroyed families and erased communities. Every person stands alone, stark naked, with only rights as his imaginary clothes to deal directly with the state. [Link]

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p>The argument he makes is that caste based social capital has enabled within caste institutions which then allowed entrepreneurs to emerge:

Tirupur has become a hotbed of economic activity in the production of knitted garments… The needed capital was raised within the Gounder community, a caste relegated to land-based activities, relying on community and family network…. the point that is often still missed is that, in a financial sense, caste provides the edge in risk taking, since failure is recognised, condoned, and sometimes even encouraged by the caste group. [Link]

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p>He further argues that instead of using affirmative action to try to erase caste distinctions, social policy would be better devoted to empowering backward caste entrepreneurs. He even brings out the big guns in defense of his argument, a quote from Gurcharan Das arguing in favor of certain castes:

Gurcharan Das, the strategic consultant, writer and former vice-president and managing director of Proctor & Gamble Worldwide, says in his book, India Unbound, “In the nineteenth century, British colonialists used to blame our caste system for everything wrong in India. Now I have a different perspective. Instead of morally judging caste, I seek to understand its impact on competitiveness. I have come to believe that being endowed with commercial castes is a source of advantage in the global economy.” [Link]

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p>The problem with this last set of arguments is that they try to find something positive associated with caste rather than weighing the net social impact of a variety of different social arrangements. So of course social networks are good and helpful, but you know what – they’re better when they’re open to outsiders and they’re meritocratic. It’s nice to have somebody who can lend you money, but market mechanisms do this a heck of a lot more effectively than non-market ones. Lastly, anti-caste social policy is not at all remotely an attempt to create atomized individuals, so his dichotomy is falsely posed.

295 thoughts on “Caste defenders

  1. Kush, thanks for the hard work aand the actual data, though you didn’t have to stay up half the night finding it. Even on the most recent year’s list, Brahmins are still vastly overrepresented, even among the list of ten “toppers,” so I continue to believe that narratives about “the plight of the Brahmins” is unfounded.

    He is admired for instilling “self-respect” to the downtrodden.

    Tamil Nadu seems to have fared quite well relative to other Indian states on key human development indicators, even with the absence of some Brahmins, and, as far as I can tell, there are still plenty of Brahmins in Tamil Nadu. Rumours of their disappearance are greatly exagggerated.

  2. Many Brahmins in Tamilnadu seem to look at the Dravidian Movement started by Periyar as something “against Brahmins” instead of “uplifting the socially outcasted”. Periyar was fierce about social justice, and he was firm in not entering politics. That was the reason why the DMK started and ADMK followed. The DMK and ADMK has strayed far off from their founding ideologies today. And TamBram above foolishly thinks JJ is catering to Brahmins. Jaya may be a brahmin, but the party is A”D”MK whose majority of the members are not Brahmins. Most of them are MGR followers(who was from an upper caste also). but MGR and Anna was only interested in the poor not about anyone else.

  3. Periyar was fierce about social justice, and he was firm in not entering politics.

    True, and I have a lot of admiration for the “Periyar movement” in general. But there’s no denying that TN’s very small Brahmin minority became the ultimate target of Periyar-based politics. He may not have intended that as a consequence of his movement, but that is part of the end result. Politicians in TN (and particularly in the DMK, IMO) have benefitted a great deal from making the Brahmin into the great bogeyman…to the exclusion of other influential upper castes who were at least partially to blame for the suffering of the socially outcaste.

  4. chineese labor is almost like slaves. not a great model i think…
    1. Chinese laborers are better off than their indian counterparts. They can feed and educate their children properly.

    2. India leads the world in child slave labor. There are millions of little children in India working as bonded laborers in the most inhumane conditions.

    3. The point of that article was that India is severely handicapped by its abysmal educational system.

  5. Tamilnadu is a mess. Any progress it makes is in spite of the best efforts of the populace and the film star politicians they elect. I think an explicit anti Brahmin agenda has pretty much disappeared, except for reservation related discussions (which are more pro-lower caste motivated, than anti-Brahmin motivated). In fact, the hypocrisy of the leaders of parties founded to fight against idolatry and theism surreptitiously propitiating gods before every election is quite hilarious.

    Probably the most worrisome emergent issue in Tamilnadu politics is the appearance of subcaste divides – Thevars vs. Vanniars vs. Nadars etc. These manifest themselves in the popularity of recent movies that seem to encourage or at least show violence as a solution to prevent intermarriage between communities (similar to the inter-caste or inter-religious love tragedies popular a couple of decades ago), and more importantly in riots and vote bank politics. Small leaders with small-minded agendas (think Ramadoss/PMK) are being given disproportionate importance. Well, maybe Vijayakanth (the latest star to jump into the ring) is the solution to all the problems!

  6. Politicians in TN (and particularly in the DMK, IMO) have benefitted a great deal from making the Brahmin into the great bogeyman…to the exclusion of other influential upper castes who were at least partially to blame for the suffering of the socially outcaste.

    I don’t know if I completely agree with you.True there were other upper castes and some landowning lower castes partly responsible. Many people voted DMK because MK promised color TV and rice for 2rs/kg. I am sure Karunanidhi writes some articles against brahmins in his publication, but that is not read by the masses. So the whole point benefitting from anti-brahminism is hard to believe. People vote because he is giving free stuff not because he is against brahmins. Especially when the majority of the people are poor, they dont care the least of Brahmins right now(since there is some decent social justice), but they definitely care about free stuff.

  7. I’d recommend reading the most recent HRW report on Dalits in India as a way of understanding how discrimination stays entrenched even with legal equality and efforts by the govt

    It will probably take some serious foreign pressure to bring about real change in India.

    http://hrw.org/english/docs/2007/02/13/india15303.htm

    “(New York, February 13, 2007) – India has systematically failed to uphold its international legal obligations to ensure the fundamental human rights of Dalits, or so-called untouchables, despite laws and policies against caste discrimination, the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice and Human Rights Watch said in a new report released today. More than 165 million Dalits in India are condemned to a lifetime of abuse simply because of their caste.”

    “On December 27, 2006 Manmohan Singh became the first sitting Indian prime minister to openly acknowledge the parallel between the practice of “untouchability” and the crime of apartheid. Singh described “untouchability” as a “blot on humanity” adding that “even after 60 years of constitutional and legal protection and state support, there is still social discrimination against Dalits in many parts of our country.”

    “Prime Minister Singh has rightly compared ‘untouchability’ to apartheid, and he should now turn his words into action to protect the rights of Dalits,” said Professor Smita Narula, faculty director of the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice (CHRGJ) at New York University School of Law, and co-author of the report. “The Indian government can no longer deny its collusion in maintaining a system of entrenched social and economic segregation.”

    Dalits endure segregation in housing, schools, and access to public services. They are denied access to land, forced to work in degrading conditions, and routinely abused at the hands of the police and upper-caste community members who enjoy the state’s protection. Entrenched discrimination violates Dalits’ rights to education, health, housing, property, freedom of religion, free choice of employment, and equal treatment before the law. Dalits also suffer routine violations of their right to life and security of person through state-sponsored or -sanctioned acts of violence, including torture.

    Caste-motivated killings, rapes, and other abuses are a daily occurrence in India. Between 2001 and 2002 close to 58,000 cases were registered under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act – legislation that criminalizes particularly egregious abuses against Dalits and tribal community members. A 2005 government report states that a crime is committed against a Dalit every 20 minutes. Though staggering, these figures represent only a fraction of actual incidents since many Dalits do not register cases for fear of retaliation by the police and upper-caste individuals.

    Both state and private actors commit these crimes with impunity. Even on the relatively rare occasions on which a case reaches court, the most likely outcome is acquittal. Indian government reports reveal that between 1999 and 2001 as many as 89 percent of trials involving offenses against Dalits resulted in acquittals.

    A resolution passed by the European Parliament on February 1, 2007 found India’s efforts to enforce laws protecting Dalits to be “grossly inadequate,” adding that “atrocities, untouchability, illiteracy, [and] inequality of opportunity, continue to blight the lives of India’s Dalits.” The resolution called on the Indian government to engage with CERD in its efforts to end caste-based discrimination. Dalit leaders welcomed the resolution, but Indian officials dismissed it as lacking in “balance and perspective.”

    “International scrutiny is growing and with it the condemnation of abuses resulting from the caste system and the government’s failure to protect Dalits,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “India needs to mobilize the entire government and make good on its paper commitments to end caste abuses. Otherwise, it risks pariah status for its homegrown brand of apartheid.”

    “Exploitation of labor is at the very heart of the caste system. Dalits are forced to perform tasks deemed too “polluting” or degrading for non-Dalits to carry out. According to unofficial estimates, more than 1.3 million Dalits – mostly women – are employed as manual scavengers to clear human waste from dry pit latrines. In several cities, Dalits are lowered into manholes without protection to clear sewage blockages, resulting in more than 100 deaths each year from inhalation of toxic gases or from drowning in excrement. Dalits comprise the majority of agricultural, bonded, and child laborers in the country. Many survive on less than US$1 per day.

    In January 2007 the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women concluded that Dalit women in India suffer from “deeply rooted structural discrimination.” “Hidden Apartheid” records the plight of Dalit women and the multiple forms of discrimination they face. Abuses documented in the report include sexual abuse by the police and upper-caste men, forced prostitution, and discrimination in employment and the payment of wages.

    Dalit children face consistent hurdles in access to education. They are made to sit in the back of classrooms and endure verbal and physical harassment from teachers and students. The effect of such abuses is borne out by the low literacy and high drop-out rates for Dalits.”

  8. So the whole point benefitting from anti-brahminism is hard to believe

    I don’t think anti-Brahminism is really part of the current political situation in TN, but it certainly had an impact back in the day, and there has been some “trickle down” effect of that (particularly where reservation is concerned, and now permeating into arguments about temple trusts, priests, etc.)

    To be fair, I think the Brahmin community in TN tends to overplay the idea that the entire government is anti-Brahmin as well.

  9. 1. Chinese laborers are better off than their indian counterparts. They can feed and educate their children properly. 2. India leads the world in child slave labor. There are millions of little children in India working as bonded laborers in the most inhumane conditions. 3. The point of that article was that India is severely handicapped by its abysmal educational system

    Prema, for the last time, your comments are both somewhat correct and completely irrelevant; Sahasrabuddhe did not mention the “educational system”, once. She says that the caste system deprives lower castes of an opportunity to gain education. Again, your comments tend to derail rational conversation. If this continues people will ignore even your substantive arguments. Even I am starting to do that (and I largely agree with most of your general points).

  10. She says that the caste system deprives lower castes of an opportunity to gain education.

    An educational system that is unable to trump the caste system is a failed system. There is absolutely no doubt that India has failed miserably in educating most of its children and that does not bode well for the future:

    http://www.deeshaa.org/2007/04/30/the-indian-education-system-part-1/

    “exceptional success of the few is overshadowed by the dismal failure of the educational system as a whole. At the primary level, the enrollment is around 90 percent but studies have revealed that even after five years of schooling, around 50 percent of the students fail basic reading tests and are unable to perform single-digit subtractions. Ninety percent of Indian children drop out by the time they reach high school.

    Of the ten percent who do get post-secondary education in India’s around 300 universities (comprising of 17,000 colleges), their results are disheartening. India produces around two and a half million college graduates, including 400 thousand engineers annually. But the quality is so poor that only a quarter of them are actually employable. Stark statistics reveal the oversupply of raw graduates and the undersupply of employable graduates. Infosys, an IT giant, last year sorted through 1.3 million applicants only to find around two percent were qualified for jobs, according to a recent report in The New Yorker.

    That India is not an economic success today is significantly attributable to its failed education system. More importantly, its prospects of even moderate economic success in the future are bleak unless the educational system is urgently fixed.”

  11. Read this -germane to the discussion

    I don’t see how (even if it made out to be). Lets think about this carefully: there are multiple variables that affect poverty and access to education. Ceteris paribus, caste happens to be one of them; class/economic condition (at time t) is another one, ceteris paribus. Gender is another one. Let us not conflate the causes of poverty/inaccessibility to education that are due to caste with those that are due to the other variables. Here we happen to be dealing with only one variable. But nobody has denied that other variables also have similar effects (that is perhaps a topic for another post). So unless you are saying that so-called “reverse discrimination” has measurable effects on access to eduction (which I did not see the article linked to say), the point is irrelevant to this post.

  12. Rumours of their disappearance are greatly exagggerated.

    Good on you risible, for saying that. Brahmins may have faced hostility in Tamil Nadu, but from some of the comments you would think they are seeking asylum in droves. Everyone claims to be oppressed.

  13. Prema, the point is that she did’nt say that (and you made it sound as if she did), even if it is true. You had to dig up a different article to make that point. Again, the discussion about education systems is perhaps a topic of another post.

  14. The question is about being honest in discourse.

    Kush, That is going to be impossible when it comes to Caste. There has to be a baseline from which to start comparison and make argument, for it to be even remotely scietific. This is impossible for caste related data. I see so many ridiculous claims here in the comment section that shows the amount of MISINFORMATION that is out there.

    BTW this is my last comment on this topic. (ever)

  15. Folks,

    Today’s Wall Street Journal has a really ugly cartoon related to caste. A man is holding a phone in his hand and telling someone else in the room: “This tech support person says she hopes I’m of a caste she can talk to.

    Not funny at all. Mildly bigoted. I plan to write a protest letter to WSJ. Hope the Indian embassy folks make noises about it.

    M. Nam

  16. Also, complain about the fact that it’s wrong. Aren’t you allowed to talk to other castes? Just not set eyes on them or touch them or something? Otherwise, how would you tell them to do all those menial chores?

    (I had a really hilarious entry just like this. It said: “This redneck says she hopes I’m of a race she can talk to.” For some reason, they got all upset about that one.)

  17. the point is that she did’nt say that (and you made it sound as if she did),

    Jeez. What part of “many millions of people are failing to get the education that they need” were you unable to understand? Is that a failure of India’s educational system or not? Instead of tackling one of the main points of that article you went of on a tangent criticizing China, which is doing a far better job educating its citizens than India is. Which is one of the main reasons (though not the only one) why its way ahead of India and pulling away rapidly.

  18. Amitabh (Post 219):

    Check out this link

    There are some mistakes in grammar and diction; nevertheless, he organizes his thoughts clearly.

  19. PGW, Glad tfmpage has finally made an appearance on SM. There’s plenty of TamilNadu specific caste-related discussion on forumhub as well. I found Suresh’s podcast series very useful when it comes to caste & politics in TamilNadu. http://www.podbazaar.com/view/126100789566373956 Suresh is a sociology student at a Canadian Uni, and the views expressed are very, uh, fob-friendly :)

    You realize very quickly that caste has permeated so much of TN – culture, film, politics, education, employment, housing, basically just about every part of life, other than the obvious religion angle, that its quite futile to compartmentalize discussions into narrow niches. While I understand the intent when somebody says “Don’t mix education systems with caste, that’s a separate discussion”, or “I’m only interested in caste only as related to 2nd gen NRIs in USA, not India/fobs” etc, the reason caste is so complex is because you cannot understand it in such narrow terms. Caste is mixed up with just about everything, so a discussion on caste especially in TN quickly goes all over the place.

  20. Not funny at all. Mildly bigoted. I plan to write a protest letter to WSJ. Hope the Indian embassy folks make noises about it.

    I am glad that you now believe that it is the job of the government to monitor cartoons about private business and then use the tax payer funded salaried government employees to make phone calls to private newspapers. Welcome to the dark side ;)

  21. AMFD #272:

    Heh heh… not so fast!

    It is the job of the Government to use taxpayer dollars to correct misconceptions, of the cultural practices of its taxpayer base, in foreign countries, especially those misconceptions which could have a material impact on the economics or security of the country.

    M. Nam

  22. Instead of tackling one of the main points of that article you went of on a tangent criticizing China, which is doing a far better job educating its citizens than India is.

    This is my last response to you. I did not “criticize china” (whatever that means). I merely pointed out that the Chinese model is not the only other developmental model available to India. The abominable conditions (in relation unequal access to education due to caste status) in India should be reformed, but aping the Chinese model of labor market control (after all, Sahasrabuddhe’s point was about the effect of educational opportunities on the labor market) is not the answer. I’m done.

  23. the fact that china is ahead of india today could be the simple result of it having ditched socialism 20 years before india. it is too early to come to the conclusion that somehow india is fundamentally worse off. it is not as if china is the egalitarian utopia you think it is—it is multiethnic, and if you are not han chinese, you don’t count.

  24. just to clarify, the last comment is of course with regard to the economic situation.

  25. Even in Mahabharata, Karna (charioteer foster parents) had to lie about his caste to get training from Parashuram and was eventually cursed because of that.

    Parasurama’s problem carried a grudge against Kshatriyas and not charioteers.

  26. An exception to this is P. V. Narasimha Rao who was elected from AP, were Brahmins are not a politically significant.

    In AP and Karnataka, brahmin politicians have often been called to play the ‘honest broker’ to balance the interests of the two dominant non-brahmin groups – Vokkaligara (SM Krishna, Deve Gowda) vs. Lingayat (Veerendra Patil/Nijalingappa/BD Jatti) in Kar. and Reddy vs. Kamma in AP. The Congress for many years managed to balance group interests within, but the breakup began in the 1970s. Hegde, and Gundu Rao before that played the go-between in Kar. while in earlier years Narasimha Rao did the same in AP. In AP today the group polarisation is almost complete with the Congress being represented by Reddys and TDP by Kammas. But now once again a another round of fragmentation has begun with the TRS breaking out (these are Kammas from Telengana – and Congress played them cleverly to break Babu’s bank in 2004). In Karnataka the fragmentation is more advanced as the Vokkaligara constituency is no broken between the Congress (SM Krishna), the JD(U) – Deve Gowda, and the upstart – BJP (Yediyurappa), while the Lingayats are finding it difficult to get in to the fray. A minor struggle between Lingayats and Vokkaligas is playing itself out within the BJP and the Congress is hoping hard that this breaks the BJP in Kar. Deve Gowda is worried that the BJP will break his party so he too hopes for the same. But the BJP is being v.ambitious and is trying to build a pan-Hindu constituency across the state, but wherever territories are conflicted between the Vokkaligas and Lingayats (as Mysore and Bangalore are becoming) things are getting very difficult. But in D. and U. Kannada it is different as opinion leaders – mainly the Kodavas – and the business people – the Bunts are firmly with the BJP. Now that leaves numerous groups such as the many Dalit communities, outside the equation. Already in neighboring AP the Mallas and Madigas two other groups are now jockeying for power and don’t want to take the party’s orders any longer. This is the kind of situation that cries out for a Mayawati and Nitish Kumar – someone who can create a broad alliance and everybody. After the last election in Kar. the Congress appointed Dharam Singh – Rajput, possibly from the smallest community in the state – as CM so as to balance group interests. In TN the fragmentation has been going on for sometime now. Expect some hard bargains to be struck within hte DMK by Thevars, and Nadars, as otherwise they will abandon Karunanidhi for their respective parties (ADMK for the Thevars) and the new Nadar party floated by Sarat Kumar. All along here is the unquestioned assumption that a person from X community can be represented only by a person from X community.

  27. 264 Sigh!

    I meant germane to the discussion on caste as a whole – not your sparring with Prema on education per se . I was in a hurry so could not spell it out clealry. As all of us were getting into heated debates on caste /caste defenders etc ,its good to know that there are new viewpoints /angles to the whole issue. The Indian PM and others are actually talking about moving beyond caste to more pressing issues such as economic backwardness etc – I have no idea whether this is genuine or political expediency but its interesting ,nonetheless.

  28. Kurma, True, Parashurama did have a grudge against Kshatriyas, but I thought Karna had to disguise himself as a Brahman since a sutaputra would not be acceptable. However, the wikipedia entry for Karna contradicts it and says Parashuram thought Karna was a common man, whatever that means. So I am not sure.

    Regardless of Parashurama, I think discrimination against Karna and Ekalavya because of their low castes were real — Pandavas mocking Karna during the arms trial, Draupadi’s insults during Swayamvaram, Bhishma’s humiliations etc. Karna gets some redemption as after all his parents are Surya and Kunti. Ekalavya does not and is killed by Krishna. Speaking of Krishna, it used to bother me that Krishna and Pandavas were complicit in the death of the tribal woman and her five sons inside Varanavat’s wax house. Pandavas consciously allowed their guests to burn to death while they escaped, with the Kauravas looking at the corpses and thinking that those were deadbodies of Pandavas. There probably are versions where Pandavas were not cognizant of the fact, or else I wonder if the rationalization would have been acceptable if the guests were Brahmans instead of drunk tribals.

    dc mentioned Satyakama-Jabala. In middle school, we had to read a Rabindranath poem about that and I remember our Bangla teacher having a really difficult time trying to explain to us why Jabala, a maid-servant who had served masters of many different castes, was not sure of her son’s caste. The poem ends with Gautama’s resonant euphemism – “tumi dwijottamo, tumi satyakulojato” (you are the greatest Brahman as you are born out of truth) as he takes into his fold someone who fell through the cracks. Wonder if he would have said the same if Satyakama was decidedly shudra. In general, while growing up reading the classics in Sanskrit and Bangla translations/interpretations, my impresssion was caste deviation and mobility were exceptions, not norms, and the perpetrators were always swimming against a very strong tide. But I have to admit that I have not read any of those books in the last fifteen years or so and don’t remember a whole lot.

  29. I meant germane to the discussion on caste as a whole – not your sparring with Prema on education per se .

    I understand. But what I wanted to say was that caste is one important variable that affects life chances (or economic backwardness), and as you rightly pointed out, class is another one. One can address both at the same time, but in this post, we were talking about the former. I apologize if I wasn’t clearer. And yes I like the fact that the p.m. is talking about addressing all these issues.

  30. Karna gets some redemption as after all his parents are Surya and Kunti. Ekalavya does not and is killed by Krishna.

    Huh? Can I know which story/purana/version of the Mahabharata says that Ekalavya is killed by Krishna? I thought Ekalavya loses his thumb because of Drona cruelly asks for ekalavya’s thumb to be his guru dakshina. Afterwards, he still lives, and Krishna recounts that he has learnt to hunt without his thumb and is pretty good, though not as good as when he had his thumb.

  31. Also, keep in mind that the Pandavas had various marriages with tribal women, Bhima being one of them.

  32. Another area of Brahmin dominantion is the media. Here is a report from the Hindu, which cites to a study sponsored by Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, which may have been dowing the patiala pegs or sourced their story from a Christian missionary penpal, who knows ? :-)

    New Delhi: In the first-ever statistical analysis of its kind, a survey of the social profile of more than 300 senior journalists in 37 Hindi and English newspapers and television channels in the capital has found that “Hindu upper caste men” — who form eight per cent of the country’s population — hold 71 per cent of the top jobs in the national media. Women, non-upper castes, and Muslims are grossly under-represented in relation to their share in the population.

    The survey notes that Dalits and Adivasis “are conspicuous by their absence among the decision-makers. Not even one of the 315 key decision-makers belonged to the Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes.”

    The survey was designed and executed by Anil Chamaria, freelance journalist, Jitendra Kumar from the Media Study Group and Yogendra Yadav, senior fellow at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS).

    If men and women are taken together, the share of upper caste Hindus or `dwijas’ in the upper echelons of the media is 85 per cent. These castes account for 16 per cent of the national population.

    Brahmins alone, the survey found, hold 49 per cent of the top jobs in national journalism. If non-`dwija’ forward castes like Marathas, Patels, Jats and Reddys are added, the total forward caste share stands at 88 per cent.

    In contrast, OBCs, who are estimated to constitute around 40 per cent of the population, account for an “abysmally low” four per cent of top media jobs. In the English print media, OBCs account for just one per cent of top jobs and in the Hindi print media eight per cent. Muslims too, the survey noted, are “severely under-represented in the national media”: they account for only three per cent among the key decision makers in the national media, compared with 13.4 per cent in the country’s population.

  33. “The poem ends with Gautama’s resonant euphemism – “tumi dwijottamo, tumi satyakulojato” (you are the greatest Brahman as you are born out of truth) as he takes into his fold someone who fell through the cracks. Wonder if he would have said the same if Satyakama was decidedly shudra.”

    Wow…this is a perfect example of ridiclously overthinking a parable. The point was simple-the point is to show the importance of character over birth, end of. You can add any extra masala to anything you want. For example, what if I said something that’s lauded in Buddhism is to secretly abandon your wife and child so you can selfishly gain enlightment? On another note, its been noted by scholars that its possible the Upanishads arose as a revolt against brahminnical hegemony of the old Vedic rituals-which adds to the idea that this parable was meant to break down the idea of the “higher” birth of brahmins? And the exact same has been argued for the rise of Buddhism=even old Buddhist texts describe how the Buddha himself specifically chose to be born as a prince rather than dalit or whatever else.

    And something else to think about, it says something that children of all castes are being taught from the same guru.

  34. Wow…I wanted to see the comments in this post…but it is just so many that I guess I will be guilty of just putting my thoughts without taking the time to read all of the above.

    I was thinking the other day (yes, thinking…not concluded)…that caste is another system that was part of the system. I mean, it is just that. If the real question is about whether a human being has equal opportunity irrespective of who he is born to, then perhaps, the current system of inheritance and associated benefits may also be discriminatory. For all we know…there may be a time in future when people will frown upon the practice where rich children get good education, opportunities and even ability to rely on the capital from their parents. So, I guess its a matter of evolution, perspective and timing.

  35. … jati and varnam are merely a codification of the fact that all humans are not born equal in their endowments: some are tall, some are fat, some are musically talented, and so on. Caste is about the ruthless Bell Curve, and is about as inescapable as race. It is neither good nor bad; it just is (casteism, however, is reprehensible, just as racism is.) In fact, caste must be useful, which is why it has survived for so long… [Link]

    Being fat or musically talented, as qouted above, are more signifiers of culture and habit than of birth, isn’t it?

    You can take babies from a wide variety of castes and raise them all in a similar environment and culture and they will be products of that environment more than anything else.

    A bengali friend of mine differs on this opinion and says if a “princely” baby is raised by low class people, even though he may have all of their habits and customs, there will be something “royal” in him that stands out from the crowd – some graceful demeanor or elegant stride or whatever.

  36. jati and varnam are merely a codification of the fact that all humans are not born equal in their endowments: some are tall, some are fat, some are musically talented, and so on. Caste is about the ruthless Bell Curve, and is about as inescapable as race. It is neither good nor bad; it just is

    I actually can’t believe how ignorant this comment sounds…Someone’s caste doesn’t mean that they have inherent biological traits (nor for race for that matter) — all of them are social constructs.

    all people are born different, but we all should have the equal opportunity to succeed in whatever we want to do. Caste, practiced in a hierarchical way, prevents this equal opportunity – It’s fine to me (and I think some people disagree with me on this) if you want to recognize your caste ancestory, but I believe you do not have to recognize your caste ancestory and also have to have prejudices. Caste just is, and race just is – and both are social constructs — just don’t take it to the level of saying that these arbitrary designations mean anything as far as talent and biology. God, hasn’t Nazi Germany taught us anything?

  37. It is really sick of people who defend Casteism in this modern world. Some of the sick people are blind folded with the illusion of the life-span of the preserved caste based system in India for ages and some just wants to have it back for their vested interests so that they would be exploiting the society while being at the top. These are modern day demons and devils. The western world civilization is obviously right in not having the caste based discrimanation where people are rewarded based on their achievements rather on caste based bias. That is why the western world have so much progressed and India has lacked it’s progress in every field. If the pro-casteism group is gaining favour then India must be divided into 2 groups between pro and anti caste based population. The progress of homogenous society would be hundred fold with in the next hundred years.