Diary 2016 (Jan 24th)- Caste in middle class India
Priyankar Bhunia
3

I read the article which started this chain of thoughts. I had an issue with the phrase ‘coming out’ when I saw the caption but when I read the full story and other similar accounts on the blog, most of it rings true and sounds believable. I still don’t see how that’s relevant as a reaction to the HCU student’s suicide but outside that context, there should still be a place for conversations like this. I don’t think they are talking about extreme prejudices but the subtler indignities people face (or have while growing up) because of caste.

Unfortunately there are very few honest discussions on caste happening today. The reason is a refusal to move beyond a sense of victimhood from one side and outrage (over reservations) from the other side. Political correctness is another reason it’s not being debated as threadbare as it should — I think it should be okay to say caste based discrimination (and reverse discrimination too) exists in our societies. It should also be equally okay to say that reservation in it’s current form is probably going to perpetuate it further.

There was and still is a moral justification of the original intent of the reservations but it hasn't been as effectively as it was meant to so far, so new ways to make it more effective and just should be looked at. I don’t see a change in that direction at least in the coming decades to a more scientific approach to policy making based on proper statistical inputs rather than political compulsions. Perhaps it would be naive to assume it ever would.

I should probably disclose here that I have been a beneficiary of reservation in the past (to get into engineering college) and was pretty sure I did not deserve it. Though I have heard many accounts of discrimination from family members in government jobs and educational institutions, I have never been uncomfortable about this part of my identity nor have had any serious negative experiences of my own owing to it. I have observed subtle and not so subtle caste hierarchies in the towns I grew up in, the villages I sometimes spent my summer vacations in. Dropping your actual surname is pretty common in the parts I come from (Bihar/Jharkhand) to avoid giving away your caste and nowadays this practice is not limited to lower castes. Sadly the so called lower castes have their own sub-hierarchies and it gets seriously hypocritical at many levels.

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