After 73 Years of Independence, Caste-Ridden India Remains Dominated by Minority Brahmins

After 73 years of independence, a small upper caste Indian minority retains near monopoly of the highest ranks in both the Indian government and the private sector. A few well-educated Indian Muslims and low-caste Hindus can not escape caste-ism even when they move to work in Silicon Valley.  Over two-thirds of low caste Indian-Americans report being discriminated against by upper caste Indian-Americans in Silicon Valley, according to a report by Equality Labs, an organization of Dalits in America.  Dalits also report hearing derogatory comments about Muslim job applicants at tech companies. These revelations have recently surfaced in a California state lawsuit against Silicon Valley tech giant Cisco Systems.

Upper Caste Domination:

It is not just the 220 million Dalits (untouchables), or the 190 million Muslims, or the 110 million from “scheduled tribes” (Adivasis)  who are under-represented, but also the 40-50% of Hindus who come from the widest tier of the pyramid, the shudras or laboring castes, known as Other Backwards Classes (OBCs), according to a report in The Economist Magazine. Here's an except from The Economist:

"Out of the 89 highest-ranked civil servants in the central government, according to a recent survey, just four are not upper-caste Hindus, and not one is an obc. Two-thirds of the Supreme Court’s 31 judges and more than half of all state governors are high-caste Hindus. When the home ministry recently formed a panel to revise the criminal code, its five experts were all men, all from north India and all from upper castes. The trend is just as stark outside of government. A study published last year of the mainstream Hindi and English press revealed that out of 121 people in senior jobs, such as editors, all but 15 were upper caste. Not a single one was a Dalit."

Indian Caste System


Caste Discrimination in Silicon Valley:

The few well-educated Indian Muslims and low-caste Hindus can not escape the upper caste domination even in Silicon Valley. Over two-thirds of low caste Indian-Americans are discriminated against by upper caste Indian-Americans in Silicon Valley, according to a report by Equality Labs, an organization of Dalits in America. Dalits also report hearing derogatory comments about Muslim job applicants at tech companies. These revelations have recently surfaced in a California state lawsuit against Silicon Valley tech giant Cisco Systems.


Religious Discrimination:

Both caste and religious discrimination are rampant among Indian-Americans in Silicon Valley. Back in 2009,  there was a religious discrimination lawsuit filed  against Vigai, a South Indian restaurant in Silicon Valley. In the lawsuit filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court, Abdul Rahuman, 44, and Nowsath Malik Shaw, 39, both of San Jose, alleged they were harassed for being Muslim by Vaigai's two owners, a manager and a top chef — a violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act, according to a report in the San Jose Mercury News.

According to the complaint, restaurant personnel regularly used ethnic slurs such as "Thulakkan," a pejorative term for Muslims in Sri Lankan Tamil dialect, to harass the two Muslim cooks. Also according to the complaint, restaurant staff were encouraged to call the plaintiffs by names such as "Rajan" or "Nagraj" under the pretext of not wanting to upset customers who might stop patronizing the restaurant if they heard the men referred to by their Muslim names.
Modi in Silicon Valley

The complaint also stated that the plaintiffs were forced to participate in a religious ceremony despite telling the owners it was against their Islamic beliefs. The complaint alleged that the restaurant owners insisted on their participation and proceeded to smear a powder on their foreheads, making the religious marking known as a "tilak."

Upper Caste Silicon Valley

"Dominant castes who pride themselves as being only of merit have just converted their caste capital into positions of power throughout the Silicon Valley," says Thenmozhi Soundarajan of Equality Labs. Vast majority of Indian-Americans in Silicon Valley support India's Islamophobic Prime MInister Narendra Modi. Modi held a huge rally at a large venue in Silicon Valley where he received a rousing welcome in 2015.

Caste vs Race in America:

Contrary to The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) that includes discrimination based on caste, most Indian-Americans argue that race is not caste . Dating back to 1969, the ICERD convention has been ratified by 173 countries, including India. California’s lawsuit reinforces that caste is race. It will now make it harder for companies to ignore caste discrimination. While the US has no specific law against the Indian caste system, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing has filed the lawsuit against Cisco using a section of America’s historic Civil Rights Act which bars race-based discrimination. Here is an excerpt of an article published in TheWire.in on the lawsuit recently:

"In October 2016, two colleagues informed John Doe, a principal engineer at Cisco, that his supervisor, Sundar Iyer, had told them that he (Doe) was from the “Scheduled Castes” and had made it to the Indian Institute of Technology via affirmative action. “Iyer was aware of Doe’s caste because they attended IIT at the same time,” said the case. The suit says that, when confronted by Doe, Iyer denied having disclosed his caste. In November 2016, Doe contacted Cisco’s HR over the matter. Within a week of doing so, Iyer reportedly informed Doe he was taking away Doe’s role as lead on two technologies. Iyer also removed team members from a third technology that Doe was working on and reduced his role to that of an independent contributor and he was isolated from his colleagues, the lawsuit says. In December 2016, Doe filed a written complaint with HR on the matter."

Summary:

Indian society is caste-ridden. A small upper caste Indian minority retains near monopoly of the highest ranks in both the Indian government and the private sector. after 73 years of India's independence. Caste discrimination is also rampant among Indian-Americans and NRIs (Non-resident Indians) in Silicon Valley with 67% of low caste Indians reporting being victims of such discrimination in workplace. Muslims also face employment discrimination in some of the workplaces dominated by Indian managers. California state has filed a lawsuit against Silicon Valley tech giant Cisco Systems alleging caste discrimination.

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Comments

Riaz Haq said…
The Global #Dalit , The Indian #Black : Prof Cornel West In Conversation With #Indian Dalit Scholar Suraj Yengde. Yengde and his #African-#American mentor from a long and robust tradition of Dalit-Black solidarity. #casteism #India | Outlook India Magazine https://www.outlookindia.com/magazine/story/india-news-independence-day-special-whos-indias-george-floyd-heres-exposing-a-racist-india/303552

Cornel West: Well, first, I would like to say that it is a blessing to be in dialogue with my dear brother, Suraj…that we are part of the rich legacies of Ambedkar and W.E.B. Du Bois, that we come together as voices, as figures, as persons who are willing to live and to die for that quest for truth, beauty, goodness and justice that sits at the centre of what Ambedkar and Dubois stand for. Now, we are in a unique historical moment in terms of the spiritual decay, moral decline, and relative transition of the American empire…moving to a low point, unable to regenerate the best of its democratic tradition. And the Chinese empire, ambiguous, still too repressive, still too locked into forms of domination, but escalating its economic production, trying to elevate itself against tremendous difficulties, until the pandemic hit. Then there’s the Indian and the Russian regimes, trying to sustain themselves. Brazil much further on the side. The UK and France, crucial, but in many ways remaining middling. Therefore the fundamental dynamic taking place in our moment has to do with those four fundamental regimes. All of them, of course, are shot through with forms of repression and domination. But all of them are also shot through with marvellous forms of resistance and critique. And you and I are trying to keep track of the radically democratic streams, the ones genuinely empowering those that Frantz Fanon called ‘the wretched of the earth’. This is why I think our dialogue is so very important. I'm looking at it through the lens of a Black people who have been so thoroughly exploited, degraded and dominated and yet still producing so many freedom fighters and love warriors. You are looking at it from the rich, deep heritage of Dalit brothers and sisters, right there at the centre of the Indian regimes, the ways in which Brahmin supremacy has always lost contact with the humanity of Dalits.


Suraj Yengde: It's very interesting, even looking at the past century. I see Du Bois as someone who really fashioned twentieth century political thought. That man never stopped, his pen never stopped…you would have needed an industry to provide him ink!

Cornel West: (Laughs)

Suraj Yengde: And now, in the modern era, in the 21st century, what we see is the politics of Ambedkar and Du Bois resonating, almost 100 years later. I look at this era as someone who has lived a few decades of the 20th century, linking up to the arc of their inspirations, their energies…now that needs to be carried on to the next century. It is no accident that Du Bois and Ambedkar carried so many resonances, though it couldn’t come to fruition as much as we might have expected. But now, if they were to relive, the possibilities and connections would be so strong! Not only because there are vocabularies that can connect us more confidently, but also because of the unfinished business of love that they, our ancestors, inaugurated. One of the parallels we see is of course the Dalit and Black Panthers…the civil rights spirit that the African American public sphere as well as private sphere brought to us, and similarly, the land rights movements led by Dalits. The Dalits are the most landless people of India, 77 per cent of them don't own any land, which means they have been virtually permanent refugees in the Indian nation.
Riaz Haq said…
The Sanskrit word "varna" means "color, tint, dye or pigment" in the Mahabharata. Varna contextually means "colour, race, tribe, species, kind, sort, nature, character, quality, property" of an object or people in some Vedic and medieval texts. Varna refers to four social classes in the Manusmriti.

The Europeans translated "varna" to "caste"

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Varna_(Hinduism)
Riaz Haq said…
For 70 years, #Dalits have been denied freedom of religion through 1950 Presidential Order that denies job/education quotas to #Muslim or #Christian converts despite ample evidence that they suffer hardships equal to #Hindu untouchables. https://scroll.in/article/970613/for-70-years-dalits-have-been-denied-freedom-of-religion-through-a-presidential-order via @scroll_in

This month marks 70 years from the passing of the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950, which aimed at ensuring that Dalit communities would be able to fully enjoy the fundamental freedom and rights protected under the Constitution of India. However, Paragraph 3 of the 1950 Presidential Order prevents Dalits communities from exercising one of the most basic of human rights, the right to freedom of conscience and belief.

The 1950 Presidential Order identifies the caste communities who have experienced extreme social, educational and economic backwardness arising out of the traditional practice of untouchability. These castes are also referred to as Scheduled Castes or Dalits.

These Dalit communities were singled out for deserving affirmative action benefits under various government policies, including education and jobs. Dalit communities also have special protections under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 and political reservation in various forums.

Paragraph 3 of the Presidential Order, however, limited the classification of Scheduled Castes initially only to Hindus. Due to the political activism of Sikh and Buddhist communities, the 1950 Presidential Order was subsequently amended to include Sikhs in 1956 and Buddhists in 1990. The 1950 Presidential Order, however, continues to leave out Dalits who converted to Islam or Christianity from its ambit, despite ample evidence that they suffer equal hardships as other Dalits communities.

The rationale seems to be that Islam and Christianity are more egalitarian religions and therefore a Dalit would not face the same discrimination in their new found faith. Sadly, however, Dalits converting to Islam and Christianity found that their “Dalitness” clung to them and followed them, even after their religious conversion.

In May 2018, Kevin Joseph, a Dalit Christian youth, was murdered by his wife’s relatives in Kerala. His only crime was that he had dared to love and marry an upper caste woman. Principal sessions court judge C Jayachandran noted in the judgment that the motive of the murder was caste prejudice. Sadly, this was but one of many incidents.


In the 1992 landmark judgment of Indra Sawhney and Others v Union of India and Others, the Supreme Court noted:

“Though Christianity does not acknowledge caste system, the evils of caste system in some States are as prevalent as in Hindu society especially among the converts. In Andhra Pradesh, there are Harijan Christians, Reddy Christians, Kamma Christians etc. Similarly, in Tamil Nadu, there are Pillai Christians, Marvar Christians, Nadar Christians and Harijan Christians etc. That is to say all the converts to Christianity have not divested or set off themselves from their caste labels and crossed the caste barrier but carry with them the banners of their caste labels. Like Hindus, they interact and have their familial relationship and marital alliances only within the converted caste groups.”
Riaz Haq said…
Why is the RSS supremo always a Brahmin?


https://www.quora.com/Why-is-the-RSS-supremo-always-a-Brahmin


Pralip Narzary, Have researched RSS.
Answered October 29, 2016

Because people in senior cadres are mostly higher caste Hindus. They were the first people who took up the cause of uniting the Hindus. They have been at the forefront right from the birth of Hindu movement - for example Savarkar, Hedgevar both were brhamins. Higher castes have been influential everywhere - just have a look at the list of PMs of India - Modi is probably the second non-Brahmin PM. Look at the caste composition of your teachers - I am sure more than 70–80% would be from higher caste - so its not that the RSS does not let anyone else become supremo, Prof Rajju bhaiya did become RSS supremo. So it is all about availability of able people in the top cadre. Modi worked hard and now he is the PM. Had he not worked hard and Advani or some other higher caste BJP guy become PM, people would be asking question, why is BJP’s PMs are always higher caste - but the same question has never been asked from Congress, despite the fact Congress’ PMs and Presidents have always been from higher castes. I think once OBCs or SCs or STs are in majority in top cadre, you will witness a dalit or OBC or adivasi heading the RSS.
Riaz Haq said…
Unrepresentative US Congress dominated by old white male millionaires. #democracy #UnitedStates #Congress #Elections2020

https://twitter.com/haqsmusings/status/1301243188934443013?s=20

Millionaires: Congress 51%, US Population 5%

White Men: Congress 77%, US Population 31%

Women: Congress 20%, US Population 51%

Over 55 Years: Congress 67%, US Population 28%
Riaz Haq said…
#Dalits bear brunt of #India's 'endemic' sexual violence crisis. #UttarPradesh has the highest number of reported cases of violence against Dalits but there's been a spike during the #COVID #pandemic. #untouchables #Caste #BJP #Hindutva https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/sep/16/dalits-bear-brunt-of-indias-endemic-sexual-violence-crisis

A spate of brutal rapes and murders of young girls in a single district of India over the past month has provoked outrage and exposed the ongoing use of sexual violence as a tool of oppression and revenge against lower caste communities.

Over the past month, the Lakhimpur Kheri district of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh has witnessed four incidents of girls being raped and brutally murdered. At least two of the girls were Dalits, the lowest caste in the Hindu system of social hierarchy, who were previously referred to as “untouchables” and cast out from society.

Last week, a 14-year-old girl Dalit girl was found hanging from a tree in a village, having been raped and murdered. Just a few days before, a three-year-old girl was raped and strangled to death.

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On 14 and 24 August, two girls, a 13-year-old and a 17-year-old, were both raped and killed in Lakhimpur Kheri.

“These cases of extreme sexual violence are more examples of the dominant caste wielding power over Dalit women who are perceived as weak and vulnerable and available,” said Manjula Pradeep, director of campaigns at the Dalit Human Rights Defenders Network.

She added: “Dalit women are seen as impure and deprived when they access basic amenities but their bodies are also used as objects to take revenge on the Dalit communities and keep them oppressed. With more Dalits demanding their rights, these kinds of incidents we have seen in Lakhimpur Kheri are increasing.”

Local activists said the assaults carried out against the Dalit girls went ignored by police until the issue was raised by activists and members of the opposition political party, who said the incident of the 13-year-old had “shaken humanity”. Activists have also struggled to enter the village to intervene in the cases as upper caste members of the village had reportedly blocked access.

The state of Uttar Pradesh already has the highest number of reported cases of violence against Dalits but during coronavirus lockdown there was a reported spike of attacks on Dalits by upper caste Thakurs. However, no arrests have been made.

“The recent spate of rape and murder cases in the Lakhimpur Kheri district indicates an endemic problem of sexual violence and the state government needs to do much more to address this crisis,” said Divya Srinivasan, a south Asia consultant for women’s rights organisation Equality Now.

“In many instances, sexual violence committed against Dalit women and girls is perpetrated by men from dominant ‘upper castes’, who use sexual violence as a tool to assert power and reinforce existing caste, social and gender hierarchies,” said Srinivasan.

Srinivasan emphasised that these entrenched hierarchies of power gave attackers of Dalit women a worrying sense of impunity. Assaults on lower caste women were rarely investigated or prosecuted, and in the case of Dalit victims, rarely prompt much media coverage or public outrage.


'If you saw her body, you will never sleep again': despair as India rape crisis grows
Read more
India remains the most unsafe country for women in the world, with a woman raped every 20 minutes. Lower caste women in particular bear the brunt, with little to no access to justice. It first came to light in a 1999 report by Human Rights Watch that documented how Dalit women in Bihar were raped and then had their breasts cut off and were shot in the vulva.

Official statistics show that at least four Dalit women are raped in India every day, though the real number is thought to be much higher as the communities often do not report the rapes due to pressure from higher castes or because police refuse to file the cases.
Riaz Haq said…
#India's #caste system is ruining lives in #SiliconValley. Over 90% of #Indian techies in #US are upper-caste Indians and they are making life hell for over 250 Dalit techies working in firms such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple & Netflix. #Hindutva https://zd.net/2RQNg05

It may seem bizarre that the caste system, a centuries-old system that organises and stratifies human society, continues to play a heavy role in deciding which Indians prosper and which don't within a space many consider to be an uber-meritocracy -- the US tech landscape.

A recent lawsuit against two Indians, filed by California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing on behalf of another Indian, has made waves over the past few months for all the wrong reasons. It has illuminated how the Indian caste system has terrorised one of the most marginalised groups in India.

Except, this time, it is happening in the US tech industry, a place that people normally associate with egalitarianism and a thirst for talent regardless of colour, race, religion, or any other creed.

Caste is a 2,000 year-old system for classifying society in the Indian subcontinent -- or whatever other definition that can be used for the geographic spread that was depleted and then amputated by British colonial rule.

In this stratification, the priests -- or the "Brahman" class -- were at the top, the warriors or "Kshatriyas" came next, the merchants or "Vaishyas" formed the third tier, while labourers, artisans, and servants, known as "Shudras", came last and essentially served the other three castes. Of course, it's not so simple -- in reality, there are over 5,000 castes and over 25,000 sub-castes in India, spawned by sheer geographical, cultural, and religious diversity.

What is homogenous across the country, however, is another category that exists completely outside of the caste system, on a rung so low that if you were forced to come up with the worst moral and physical degradations that you could think of, they would in all likelihood pale in comparison to what has transpired in India over centuries and continues to do so today.

These people that are deemed to be on the lowest rung are the Dalits. Self-named, Dalit means "oppressed", but they are also referred to by Indian society as "achoot", or, "untouchable". Dalits have historically been involved in occupations such as working with leather, cleaning sewers, or killing rats and were therefore considered "spiritually impure".

Not so long ago, if a Dalit saw a higher caste walking down the road, they would have to flung themselves to the ground to not contaminate the upper caste (UC) person with their shadow. Violaters would be beaten, often to death, and incredulously, they still are today.

All across India, Dalits -- who comprise at least 25% of the population, or a staggering 400 million people -- are barred from drawing water from the wells of UCs. Dalit children are either denied education or cannot study with UC peers; their villages are separate and hence, they are forbidden from walking through upper caste ones; they cannot eat where UCs eat; they cannot pray where UCs pray and God help them if they marry out of their caste. Their woman and children are physically and sexually abused on a serial scale.

If a person is born as a Dalit, they will die a Dalit, and their children are almost certainly destined to a life with no upward mobility.

While many scholars contend that the caste system became more inflexible under the British, who transformed it into a rigid, more easily governable structure that privileged Brahmans even more, others say this narrative is just an attempt by upper-caste Indian Americans to rewrite history books and erase any mention of Dalit oppression. While the British Raj did have a complex, destructive effect on caste, India's pre-modern history was also most definitely defined by castes.

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