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Dear blog followers …

Are any of you in LA? If you are then please join me, my cast and crew for a simple table read of a script that I have written.¬†It derives a lot from my own upbringing as an untouchable, and my observations of how caste system and untouchability are carried along by Indians wherever they go. It is now ready to be shared, at least with a few of you ūüôā

It goes something like this … an Indian Untouchable, working in Milwaukee falls for a Caucasian Indian American Brahmin … right!

Title: Rachel and Siddhartha

Date: Sunday, March 18th, 2018

Venue: tbd, North Hollywood Arts District

Link: https://www.facebook.com/events/101419184021587

 

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Rachel and Siddhartha


Hello, I am Rachel РRachel Rajyalakshmi Iyengar.

I live in Milwaukee, with my Brahmin family¬†– dad, step-mom, and half sister. My own mom … well, she left me when I was still young, so¬†I don’t know her at all. All I know is¬†the family I am with now.

I must admit though, that I long for their love and acceptance. And struggle why I am never Indian enough. I really want to change that. I want to win their love, acceptance, and approval. And I know, I can do it, because, I am an Indian after all. God dammit!

But, hey, its not all bad. I’ve just met this Indian Guy. He is¬†brilliant, charming, socially conscious, and, did I say, he can dance. Phew!

Well, maybe I should let him introduce himself.

Oh! Hello! I am Siddhartha.

I am an UNTOUCHABLE.

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Please click on the link below, and like the FB page so you can follow along as this feature, coming of age story, comes to life:

https://www.facebook.com/RachelandSiddhartha/

¬© Copyright 2017. All rights reserved.¬†No part of this work titled ‘RACHEL AND¬†SIDDHARTHA’, or derivatives thereof may be reproduced or copied in any form or by any means without express written permission of the author Siddhartha Valicharla.


Here is a quick exchange between me and a fellow American who was surprised that I eat meat (beef). And this link here will make it even more pertinent: Dalits attacked for skinning a cow!

Me: Yeah! I’m a full on omnivore … very unlike other Indians, I eat, and love red meat.

American friend:¬†What about the cows?¬†‚̧¬†They are so gentle and precious.¬†Don’t Hindus¬†deeply respect them, and admire their gentle nature.

Me: Just an other four legged animal, I am more on the humane spectrum, not a total give up on all meat kind of guy.

And as far as Hindus are concerned, a cow is not even a God, so if they really care about animals or Gods, they should wage a war to save elephants which is not only a God, Ganesha, but even going extinct. Right?

American Friend: That would be nice if any body did shit about anything haha, elephants are way cooler than cows, they have a lot more personality imo. Ganesh is cool.

Me:¬†Exactly my point. Lots of cows around, and they don’t even have a God status, but they¬†make a big fuss about beef eating. But no one fights for the elephants, that are going extinct and have a God status.
What I am showing you here, is that the cunning Brahmins¬†have the masses focused on the cow, ’cause it creates a tangible rift between the Hindus, the Muslims, and also¬†the ¬†untouchables who eat cow meat … to their social, political, and materialistic benefit.
If you dig deeper into the Vedas, Hindu Holy books, there are accounts of cow slaughter, sacrifice, and the priests getting the choicest cuts to feast on, and take home. Vegetarianism, and anti-beef culture was just a tactical measure by the Brahmins, to counter the humane philosophy propagated by the Buddha, that had won the hearts of the multitudes.

And without such artificial divisions the lower caste Hindus, Muslims,  the Untouchables, and even the Christians, will have no choice but to realize that they are all but one, brothers who have resorted to different paths to escape their Hindu shackles, or are still burdened by its cruel code.

And in absence of¬†such constant conflict,¬†they will unite in arms against their oppressors, the Brahmins. And oh no, we can’t let that happen now, can we!

So,  Save the cows, Export Ganesha, and let the elephants go extinct ..!


Not dedicated to Rohith Vemula – ’cause in his death, ¬†he has shown us that he is alive.¬†He was alive in the sense that he felt the growing gap between his soul, and his body. He tried to understand love, pain, life, and death. He felt an emptiness that drove him to take his own life.

For those of you who don’t know the saga unfolding¬†over the last few days, here is a link to the news page covering his suicide¬†… Dalit Scholar Commits Suicide.

So I dedicate this post, and my return to the blog, to the remaining billion of us Indians, who though alive physically, are dead on the inside to the stagnating monster of casteism that has rendered us all emotionless, remorseless, and impotent.

It is a very simple question … Do caste atrocities happen in India? Is it fact or fiction.

As usual since my audience is primarily from Americas, I will use this analogy. Is Racism alive in America? Now I’m sure it has changed its shape and form, and not the same as it used to be before Civil Rights Movement. But the question is, does it still exist.

We can answer this by picking up incidents of racial discrimination from¬†small, rural, ultra conservative, villages in the states, however, if we can find instances of said racism in something like the Ivy League colleges, which are supposed to be model campuses for the younger generation that are much more open, accepting, tolerant of a racially diverse student population, and be fair to one another, then we know that there is that much more truth to its (racism’s) existence. So the point is that while an incident, or two in a remote, rural village can be struck off as an anomaly, a similar¬†occurrence in a prestigious campus, which stands as an epitome of knowledge and enlightenment, will undoubtedly rest the case that Racism does exist in America and is a far deep rooted problem, and one that can’t be ignored.

Since my blog is not about racism in America, I will leave it to the readers to research the same according to their enthusiasm on the subject. I will however stick with what I intimately know of, India and its caste system.

So¬†overall, what I want to do is, narrow down the fact that, while atrocities based on caste system that happen in villages,¬†and ¬†backward areas of rural India can be dismissed as doings of the ignorant,¬†and the ultra conservative, similar occurrences in colleges, and educational institutions of National and International repute, can’t be ignored, but need to be taken as vivid examples of the heinous caste system that still percolates in, and rules the hearts and minds of Indians.
To prove this,¬†I will list¬†below the different cases of caste atrocities that have occurred at institutes of higher education in India, including¬†prestigious, and well known ones like IITs¬†and¬†IIMs. This¬†should hopefully prove to¬†outsiders (non-Indians), and also Indians who chose to walk around with blinders, that caste system is a all pervading monster, and that just being educated and living in a city, or an urban metro, doesn’t make you immune to the same.

Hopefully it educates the readers to the fact that: Caste is a social and religious construct, education, wealth, employment, or lack thereof, do not affect the predetermined, birth based social hierarchy. Every Indian is bound by it.

  1. This one is a follow up on Rohith Vemula. In fact this BBC report blatantly¬†mentions that “Mr Vemula’s is not an exceptional story of caste discrimination on India’s campuses.
  2. This is a report on the death of Senthil Kumar from 2008, from the same University of Hyderabad, where Rohith Vemula was a student.
  3. This one is from 2012, from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS)
  4. June 2015 –¬†caste culture at IIT-Madras – by Ajantha Subramanian, Prof of Social Anthropology at Harvard
  5. Video from CNN IBN of the abuse of a Dalit student at AIIMS

And just in case you were wondering if I had a plethora of data on¬†this matter and that I sort and¬†organize all such data for use at the exact moment, then¬†I absolutely am not worthy of receiving such praise. It is in fact a misfortune that many such incidents occur on a daily basis¬†and¬†it took me, all of twenty minutes to search for Caste Atrocities in Indian Universities to come up with all of these links. And yes,¬†of course there are many more such incidents, cause they occur so rampantly, and in such quick successions. I just didn’t want to list a hundred of them, but I would¬†encourage¬†you the¬†readers, to¬†paste any such links in the comments, which you think are worthy of sharing with other readers.

In conclusion, Rohith Vemula’s death was not in vain, but unfortunately it was also not unique.¬†I have never met him, nor do I know him. But he is my brother, a valiant son of my country, and a victim of the system that affects every India. I can only hope that¬†in his death, he can be the catalyst that is needed, to¬†annihilate the¬†caste system, and get rid of the evil hold that it has on its constituents. Let his death be a war cry¬†to piece together the great nation of Bharat, by following Babasaheb Ambedkar’s path, and restore it to the glory of Buddha’s times.

In much shame, and Solidarity …


If a picture is worth a thousand words, then is a movie worth a Million?

Fandry is Marathi poet Nagraj Manjule’s impressive debut feature that tells the story of Jabya, a Dalit boy, and his family’s struggle against daily prejudice in their Maharashtra village. Being labeled untouchable does not stop Jabya from dreaming beyond his caste: buying a pair of jeans and longing for the affections of Shalu, an upper caste classmate. Meanwhile, Jabya’s parents focus all their resources on paying for their daughter’s dowry, and worry their son’s continuing defiance is jeopardizing the family’s well-being.

What begins as a carefree look at a child‚Äôs desires and antics transforms into an insightful and damning look at caste discrimination. Refusing to reduce its Dalit characters to victims ‚Äď most explicitly at the film‚Äôs explosive conclusion ‚Äď FANDRY builds from a murmur to a defiant roar.

Manjule’s socially reflective film has received critical acclaim in India and screens for the first time in North America at IFFLA and at other venues. Dates, Venue and Time will be updated shortly, but for now I wanted to get this info out so that you guys can plan and look forward to seeing this movie.

Marathi movie with English Subtitles:
  1. April¬†12, 07:00 PM – Indian Film Festival of LA –¬†http://www.indianfilmfestival.org/fandry/
  2. April 15, 12 noon РStanford University, Stanford, CA  (Room 208, Encina Hall West, Encina Hall is on the corner of Serra and Galvez)
  3. April 16, 06:30 PM: Engineering Auditorium, San Jose State University, 7th and San Fernando, San Jose, CA
  4. April-18, 07:00 PM – Columbia University, New York – Venue: Jerome Greene, 105 (CU Law School)
  5. April 21, 05:00 PM РUniversity of Pennsylvania РUniversity Campus
  6. April 23– University of Houston – Venue, time will be informed soon
  7. April 25/26 – University of Texas, Austin- Venue, time will be informed soon
  8. April 27 РCommunity Screening at Dallas- Venue, time will be informed soon
  9. April 30¬†– Harvard/MIT, Boston, MA –¬†Venue, time will be informed soon
  10. May 5-10– New York Film Festival- NYIFF 2014
 
Do check back for accurate dates and venue information.

As the title suggests, this is just a collection of salient points from  the original paper written and read by Dr. Ambedkar (full transcript can be found on Columbia University website. By sharing these points I hope to form a narrative that will benefit readers with their understanding of the evolution of Castes in India.

I am also sharing this due to its historical importance, as it was part of his work that he did as a student at Columbia University, New York, where he studied from 1913 to 1916, and thereby bringing to your notice a couple of events that are being conducted to commemorate the 100 years since he first arrived as a student there.

Event #1:¬†Dr. Ambedkar’s Century – 100 Years from USA
Date & Venue: Saturday, June 29th, 2013 from 1pm to 6pm at Lerners Hall, Columbia University, 2920 Broadway, New York, NY 10027
Event #2: Celebrate the historic milestone of Dr. Ambedkar’s entry to Columbia University (Link to come)
Date & Venue:  Saturday, July 20, 2013 from 9am to 6pm at Columbia University, 2920 Broadway, New York, NY 
Both events have great speakers lined up to further educate audience on this topic (I will be in attendance, if that helps). So for those of you what are in and around New York, please do come along to make the event a success and also to say hi to me ūüėČ

OK! Now to the paper read by Dr. Ambedkar on Castes in India. Please note that I have edited the below excerpts to keep the blog short and effective, but have not compromised on the content and/or the intent.

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Why is defining the Caste System and explaining it so difficult.

  • The population of India is a mixture of Aryans, Dravidians, Mongolians and Scythians. All these stocks of people came into India from various directions and with various cultures, centuries ago, when they were in a tribal state. They all in turn elbowed their entry into the country by fighting with their predecessors, and after a stomachful of it settled down as peaceful neighbors. Through constant contact and mutual intercourse they evolved a common culture that superseded their distinctive cultures. But it is because of this homogeneity that Caste becomes a problem so difficult to be explained. If the Hindu Society were a mere federation of mutually exclusive units, the matter would be simple enough. But Caste is a parceling of an already homogeneous unit, and the explanation of the genesis of Caste is the explanation of this process of parceling.

Essence of the Caste System:

  • Dr. Ketkar has defined Caste in its relation to a system of Castes, and has concentrated his attention only on those characteristics which are absolutely necessary for the existence of a Caste within a system, rightly excluding all others as being secondary or derivative in character. He speaks of Prohibition of Intermarriage and Membership by Autogeny as the two characteristics of Caste. I submit that these are but two aspects of one and the same thing, and not two different things. If you prohibit intermarriage the result is that you limit membership. to those born within the group. Thus the two are the obverse and the reverse sides of the same medal.
  • Critical evaluation of the various characteristics of Caste leaves no doubt that prohibition, or rather the absence of intermarriage‚ÄĒendogamy, to be concise‚ÄĒis the only one that can be called the essence of Caste when rightly understood. Caste in India means an artificial chopping off of the population into fixed and definite units, each one prevented from fusing into another through the custom of endogamy. Thus the conclusion is inevitable that Endogamy is the only characteristic that is peculiar to caste.

Mechanism of Castes:

  • If endogamy is to be preserved conjugal rights from within have to be provided for, otherwise members of the group will be driven out of the circle to take care of themselves in any way they can. But in order that the conjugal rights be provided for from within, it is absolutely necessary to maintain a numerical equality between the marriageable units of the two sexes within the group desirous of making itself into a Caste. It is only through the maintenance of such an equality that the necessary endogamy of the group can be kept intact, and a very large disparity is sure to break it. So The problem of Caste, then, ultimately resolves itself into one of repairing the disparity between the marriageable units of the two sexes within it.
  • Left to nature, the much needed parity between the units can be realized only when a couple dies simultaneously. But this is a rare contingency. The husband may die before the wife and create a surplus woman, who must be disposed of, else through intermarriage she will violate the endogamy of the group. In like manner the husband may survive, his wife and be a surplus man, whom the group, while it may sympathize with him for the sad bereavement, has to dispose of, else he will marry outside the Caste and will break the endogamy. Thus both the surplus man and the surplus woman constitute a menace to the Caste if not taken care of, for not finding suitable partners inside their prescribed circle , very likely they will transgress the boundary, marry outside and import offspring that is foreign to the Caste.
  • Complex though it be in its general working the Hindu Society, even to a superficial observer, presents three singular uxorial customs, namely:
    1. Sati or the burning of the widow on the funeral pyre of her deceased husband.
    2. Enforced widowhood by which a widow is not allowed to remarry.
    3. Girl marriage.

These customs, as forces, when liberated or set in motion create and perpetuate endogamy, while caste and endogamy, according to our analysis of the various definitions of caste, are one and the same thing. Thus the existence of these means is identical with caste and caste involves these means.

Genesis of Castes:

  • To say that individuals make up society is trivial; society is always composed of classes. Basis for classes may differ (economic¬† or intellectual or social), but an individual in a society is always a member of a class. If we bear this generalization in mind, our study of the genesis of caste would be very much facilitated, for we have only to determine what was the class that first made itself into a caste. A Caste is an Enclosed Class.
  • These customs (Sati, forced widowhood, child marriages) in all their strictness are obtainable only in one caste, namely the Brahmins, who occupy the highest place in the social hierarchy of the Hindu society; and as their prevalence in non-Brahmin castes is derivative, their observance is neither strict nor complete. This strict observance of these customs and the social superiority arrogated by the priestly class in all ancient civilizations are sufficient to prove that they were the originators of this “unnatural institution” founded and maintained through these unnatural means.

Development of Castes (spreading all over India):

  • One thing I want to impress upon you is that Manu did not give the law of Caste and that he could not do so. Caste existed long before Manu. He was an upholder of it and therefore philosophized about it, but certainly he did not and could not ordain the present order of Hindu Society. His work ended with the codification of existing caste rules and the preaching of Caste Dharma. The spread and growth of the Caste system is too gigantic a task to be achieved by the power or cunning of an individual or of a class. Similar in argument is the theory that the Brahmins created the Caste. Preaching did not make the caste system; neither will it unmake it. My aim is to show the falsity of the attitude that has exalted religious sanction to the position of a scientific explanation.
  • Hindu society, in common with other societies, was composed of classes and the earliest known are (1) the Brahmins or the priestly class; (2) the Kshatriya, or the military class; (3) the Vaishya, or the merchant class; and (4) the Shudra, or the artisan and menial class. Particular attention has to be paid to the fact that this was essentially a class system, in which individuals, when qualified, could change their class, and therefore classes did change their personnel. At some time in the history of the Hindus, the priestly class socially detached itself from the rest of the body of people and through a closed-door policy became a caste by itself . And as endogamy had originated from the Brahmin caste it was whole-heartedly imitated by all the non-Brahmin sub-divisions or classes, who, in their turn, became endogamous castes. It is “the infection of imitation” that caught all these sub-divisions on their onward march of differentiation and has turned them into castes. It cannot be otherwise. Imitation is easy and invention is difficult.
  • Caste in the singular number is an unreality. Castes exist only in the plural number. There is no such thing as a caste: There are always castes. To illustrate my meaning: while making themselves into a caste, the Brahmins, by virtue of this, created non-Brahmin caste; or, to express it in my own way, while closing themselves in they closed others out. I will clear my point by taking another illustration. Take India as a whole with its various communities designated by the various creeds to which they owe allegiance, to wit, the Hindus, Mohammedans, Jews, Christians and Parsis. Now, barring the Hindus, the rest within themselves are non-caste communities. But with respect to each other they are castes. Again, if the first four enclose themselves, the Parsis are directly closed out, but are indirectly closed in. Symbolically, if Group A wants to be endogamous, Group B has to be so by sheer force of circumstances.

Summary:

  • My study of the Caste problem involves four main points: (1) that in spite of the composite make-up of the Hindu population, there is a deep cultural unity; (2) that caste is a parcelling into bits of a larger cultural unit; (3) that there was one caste to start with; and (4) that classes have become Castes through imitation and excommunication.

Finally:

  • For myself I shall find as much pleasure in a positive destruction of my own ideology, as in a rational disagreement on a topic, which, notwithstanding many learned disquisitions, is likely to remain controversial forever. To conclude, while I am ambitious to advance a Theory of Caste, if it can be shown to be untenable I shall be equally willing to give it up.

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Hopefully you have not forgotten that all of the above text is from Dr. Ambedkar’s paper on Castes in India: Their Mechanism, Genesis and Development, A paper presented at an Anthropology Seminar taught by Dr. A. A. Goldenweizer at Columbia University on 9th May, 1916 and first printed in: Indian Antiquary Vol. XLI (May 1917). If at any point you thought that the narrative was mine, then all I can say is that you guys give me way too much credit ūüėČ

As usual please let me know what you think of the post and also if you will be able to attend any of the above listed events!


http://www.dnaindia.com/india/1849807/report-couples-who-have-premarital-sex-to-be-considered-married-madras-high-court

Got nothing else to say!

Lords of the Castes!


Caste Discrimination to be Outlawed by Equality Law – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-22267147

Is this a case of Karma being a bitch and the Lords getting bit by what they chose to ignore and seeing as “Not Our Problem mate”!!

So here is the whole story in brief:

Britishers ruled India, by virtue of which a lot of Indians ended up in the UK and not surprisingly about four hundred thousand Untouchables among them. Indians as you have grasped by now take their caste system wherever they go so even those in UK practice them hence the discriminate against Untouchables all forcing the Govt to acknowledge and outlaw Caste Discrimination by including it in the Equality Law.

Dalit organizations have hailed it as a win, and the govt of India and the other upper caste organizations didn’t think much of it and didn’t talk about it as that is how they let caste issues die. But what I wanted to look into was what are the Britishers (the Lords and the Commons) making out of all this. Are they asking the below questions …

  1. Why did this become their problem?
  2. Did they not know of this problem in their 400 year rule of India.
  3. Did they have a means to have squashed this problem when in its infancy?
  4. What could they have done to avert it?

I bet, it is no fun task to come up with a law like this and deal with such discrimination that is so hard to discern, unlike Race discrimination etc. So it makes it that much more interesting to find if in some way this whole ugly situation could have been avoided in the first place, so lets check the history in depth.

When Britishers came to India they were easily able to see the plight of the Untouchables and the social status they were given. They were able to discern the social system and not just understand it but exploit it to their advantage. Any of you ever wonder how Britishers were able to topple Indian kingdoms in no time and with very little need for military force from back home? They did so by using the untouchables. They realized the low status of the Untouchables in the Hindu society and their willingness to fight for a life of dignity. The first regiment started by Britishers was the Mahar regiment (untouchables around Mumbai) and made up 1/6th of the Company’s Bombay Regiment. They achieved many successes, most notably on 1 January 1818, when only 500 Soldiers of Mahar Regiment of the 2nd Battalion of 1st Regiment of the Bombay Native Light Infantry along with 250 cavalrymen and 24 cannon defeated 20,000 horsemen and 8,000 foot soldiers of the Peshwa Army in what would be called the Battle of Koregaon.

And Untouchables in this situation benefited from education, employment and a level of social acceptance that was never achieved by them. A mutually beneficial system I would say, Untouchables get a way out and the Britishers get a way into owning Indian.

However after the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, this alliance seemed to have changed.¬†¬†in 1892, when it was decided to institute “class regiments” in the Indian Army. The Mahars were left out of these class regiments, and it was notified that the Mahars, among with some other classes, were no longer to be recruited. The Mahar troops, who included 104 Viceroy’s Commissioned Officers and a host of Non-commissioned officers and Sepoys were demobilized. For years, the Mahars regarded this event as a great betrayal of their loyalty by a government they had steadfastly served for over a hundred years.

The reason I share this is to show that Britishers used the untouchables for the purspose they had on hand but for some mysterious reason let go of them and suddenly plunged them back to the depths where they came from. And that is the reason I titled this post ‘Lords of the Castes’ on the lines of the movie/book trilogy ‘Lord of the Rings’ … in the movie!

Elrond leads Isildur deep into the fires of Mt. Doom where the ring could have been destroyed at the place it was forged. And Isildur instead of throwing it keeps it!!

In a similar way, Britishers were in the middle of the caste system, they had full awareness of it, and the means to end it. They had let the Untouchables out of their depths, given them employment, education much beyond that hope and dignity and all they had to do was continue their support for just a bit longer and they could have pulled the Untouchables out of those depths forever and would have made them strong and self sufficient and left them in a position where they could have truly claimed their fair share in the affairs of the country and more importantly their own lives. And where a caste free society could have been a possibility

But what did they choose to do, instead of continuing support to their most loyal subjects they withdrew it all and paralyzed them. They disbanded the Mahar Regiment, closed doors of employment in the army to them and relegated them to the social outcasts that they had always been. And much to the chagrin of the lower castes they recruited upper castes into all the civil and administrative posts thus creating a further barrier between them and the Untouchables.  And all this while they had full access to the man who could have given then the ins and outs of the caste system and the way to annihilate it, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar.

So when they had a chance to break up the caste system or at least get the Untouchables out of its wretched claws they dropped the ball. And for that they now have a “it has come to bite me in the back” situation. And for that I don’t feel an iota of pity for them. I definitely understand that the folks that are suffering the discrimination are my Untouchable brothers, and sisters, and I will wholeheartedly fight for their, and my emancipation but as far as the Britishers are considered I could care less for the troubles they are going through right now, because either they were dumb to not see the full picture, or were plain selfish to have ditched the Untouchables after they got what they needed from them.

I just hope that this serves as warning to the other countries like US, Canada and Australia where there is a large Indian populating and the issue of caste discrimination is right under the nose!

Be warned, if Indians live among you, so does Caste System ..!


Hi all,
Your support and help made it happen! Know Real India has its own website – KnowRealIndia.com
If 2012 was the year of humble beginnings and baby steps, 2013 will be the year when we make bigger strides, More topics covered as part of Know Real India, more focused on what you as readers would like to read up on and making more connections and spreading the truth about India. Here are somethings that you can expect to see …
  1. An eBook –¬† ‘Caste System for the Curious’. It will give reader the basics of caste system, where it is seen, how it is maintained and spread, and what its ill effects are. And this will be presented in a series of interview like questions, each building on the previous question and leading into the next.
  2. Supporting Dalit Artists РI have always believed that Art is a great medium to express a social cause. So Know real India  will become a means through which Dalit artists get an opportunity to show case their stories, their struggles, hopes and aspirations.
  3. More events, more connections –¬† most of our events have been in and around the Great Lakes area but we want to take it to all over North America, so you will probably see us host an event or two in a city near you. And we rely on you to get these opportunities for us, so please let us know if you or someone you know are interested in would like to host an event for Know Real India.
But for today, we are proud of how far we have come and the friendships and relationships we have formed. We believe that our own website will help us reach out to more readers, get more engagement and better spread the truth about India. so check out our new home, KnowRealIndia.com and share with us your comments and suggestions.

Thank you!     Thank You!      And a million times Thank You!


Untouchables (aka Dalits) as we know are the lowest caste in Hindu religious societies, and we all, Indians and non-Indians alike have reluctantly agreed to their existence as part and parcel of a Hindu society? But there seems to be still some questions about existence and reference to some Christians and Muslims as Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims and why they would not be just Christians or Muslims, or at the most, Catholics, protestants or Lutherans ..! What better way to answer this question than to take a real life example that has come my way –
 
Question from Ms A.
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Hi there
I have been on a quest for nearly a fortnight and stumbled across your blog. Boy, would I be super pleased if I received your advice and/or insight into a matter that has been nagging me!
I am a first generation Indian born and bred outside of the motherland. My whole existence socially has been dominated by western forces as my parents did not immerse me in the indian community. As a consequence, I didn’t make any indian friends nor did I have an interest in my culture until later in life. I am however very religious but I don’t make a song and dance about it. I care to treat religion as a personal matter that doesn’t involve any other participant. The irony of it all is that my parents are orthodox Indians but to their credit, they are much more progressive than other families.
I have met a great guy that I have introduced to my folks and in their eyes he is a winner bar one thing. He is Catholic ‚Äď apparently, this falls into the lower caste system of India. I have with fail found nothing to say that Catholicism even falls within the caste system. If anything, the furtherest I have seen papers take it is because it doesn‚Äôt fall within a traditional Hindu caste, it defaults as an untouchable caste.
I think this is crap to be honest.
I would like your insight. Fortunately, my guy has been immersed in the Hindu culture and I’ve already told him that there is no chance in my converting.
So my question ‚Äď is there any truth that Catholicism is an untouchable caste?
Thanks and kind regards
A
—————————————————-
Straight forward answer to this question is No, Catholicism on the whole is not considered an untouchable caste in India.
However, are there Catholic converts who were originally from Dalit/Untouchable/lower castes? Yes.
In spite of conversion are they still considered and treated like Dalits/Untouchables and as a lower caste. Yes, Yes, Yes and a million times Yes. (check this BBC report – no refuge from caste in Christianity)
Are Ms.A’s parents using this as a quick excuse of somehow relegating him to an untouchable caste and that way getting her to disregard her love? Maybe.
Would it be really sad if they actually succeed? Of course, Yes. 
If they do succeed, will it be just an other instance which goes to prove that, the stigma of untouchability permeates even the so called progressive Indians (including Ms.A’ parents and even Ms.A for that matter)? Need I say anything!
So overall, there are definitely grounds¬† on which Ms. A’s parents might be right in at least the part where they claim that the guy is a lower caste or an untouchable, though they might be wrong in classifying the whole Catholic faith as an untouchable caste.
 
To answer this  question in depth though we will need some more specifics that Ms.A has not provided in her question.
And they would be:
1. Is the guy an Indian? If so, Were his parents/grandparents from the lower castes or from one of the untouchable castes and did they convert to Catholicism?
2. Is he a non-Indian who seems to be interested in Hinduism? If so, is he White, Black, Hispanic or of some other race?
 
Now I am torn between waiting for Ms.A to answer these questions before moving on with the rest of the blog Vs. Assuming, based on my experience that, what we are dealing with here is Option 1, the guy is an Indian who is of Dalit or Lower caste descent ..!
 
Hmm …! Well, Patience, I have been told is a great virtue! So wait, I will … to the chagrin of all of you ūüėČ
I will wait for Ms. A’s response till later tomorrow to get her side of the story and then irrespective of what her answer is, I will present my analysis for both the above options (Indian and non-Indian).
 
In the meantime check this video starting at 1hr:15min:55sec mark. Watch from this point on for at least about 2 to 3 minutes to get a glimpse into the ill-reaching effects of caste system in Christianity.
 
—–So its been 48 hours now since I asked Ms.A to answer a few extra questions but, I have not got any response so will move on with the conclusion. We will answer the question assuming both of the below options:
1. Is the guy an Indian? If so, Were his parents/grandparents from the lower castes or from one of the untouchable castes and did they convert to Catholicism?
2. Is he a non-Indian who seems to be interested in Hinduism? If so, is he White, Black, Hispanic or of some other race?
 
Option 1: Basically the question I am asking here is, Is the guy (assuming he is an Indian) from an untouchable or lower caste descent? And if the answer is Yes, then the explanation as to why Ms. A’s parents called him so is pretty self evident because even though their family might have converted to Catholicism/Christianity, even if it was a few generations ago it still doesn’t erase the stamp of untouchability for them. To make it a little more clear, lets take an analogy. It may seem unrelated¬† to begin with but stay with me and it will all make sense.
Lets say, we have a tablet market and different tablets get manufactured in these different countries Japan, Germany, US and finally China and depending on where they get made they are marked as Made in Japan, Made in Germany, Made in the US and Made in US respectively. Now in spite of being made in different countries can they all be branded as Apple devices, yes, can they marked as Toshiba, Samsung, Sony or Nexus? Yes, yes, yes and yes. But does that change their ‘Made in’ status? Absolutely not. Made in, stamp is for the life of the device.
Now lets look at the consumer side of this equation: Lets say there is a perceived notion that the quality of the product and its coolness factor is as follows – Made in US, then Germany, then Japan and finally those that are made in China. So if we have consumers that believe in this coolness ranking, then it doesn’t, matter what brand ends up carrying the product, those made in China will always be deemed as less worthy. So if someone has made up their mind to not buy any product made in China, then it doesn’t matter even if the product is the latest iPad, from Apple, they wouldn’t wanna be caught dead with them. So is the system of Indian caste system. As per your birth you are branded a specific caste and so will be your kids and their kids and so on, changing your religion, city and or profession might get you going to a different temple or different office building but you can’t shake your caste off.
So in this case Ms. A’s guy, like the tablet, Made in China, may have a ‘Born in an Untouchable family’ stamped on him. And Ms. A’s parents much like the consumers prejudiced against buying anything ‘made in China’ are against having anything to do with a guy stamped with ‘Born an Untouchable’. And blinded by this prejudice they are not able to bless this relationship even when by their own admission, if the guy is a gem. And this kind of a remark is not uncommon at all in an Indian marriage circle, it is very common to hear parents/match makers claim that they found every single thing they were looking for in a mach and more but they couldn’t proceed any further because the boy was of a lower caste. So if they were looking for lets say a match for their daughter and she works say as a school teacher and they find that the dean of the university in that city is available, they would still not give her hand in marriage to him if he is an untouchable. On the flip side¬† they would be OK with marrying her to a 30 year slacker, with no real life and still living at home if the caste matches.
So we can conclude this section by stating that in spite of the guy, being accepted as brilliant in all aspects of life, he is dismissed as not a worthy match because he is from an untouchable family, even if he is a Catholic and over which he has no control.
 
Option 2: Is he a non-Indian who seems to be interested in Hinduism? If so, is he White, Black, Hispanic or of some other race?
Though a unique explanation, this is not totally unheard of, it is just a mechanism of attributing a low caste to someone who is not even part of it to begin with and then letting the inherent prejudice of caste do the rest of the damage.
So if we remind our self that caste system is not past and parcel of non-Hindu religions, and that non Indians have nothing inherently dividing them by castes, then Ms. A’s parent’s tying Catholicism to Untouchability is plain hogwash!1. It could be that they don’t want to outright tell her that they don’t want her marrying this guy so are tying this person’s practice of Catholicism to Untouchability.
2. If the guy is a black/Hispanic or some other darker skinned race, then they might be trying to cover their color prejudice under the mask of caste system. Typically Indian lower castes and untouchables are dark skinned (there are definitely exceptions). So it is very easy for Indians (upper castes) to mistreat other dark skinned people. Here is a whole story,  Justice for Sparkle, covered by MSNBC that deals this topic. In summary though a Math professor in Georgia (an Indian immigrant) did not like the fact that his son married a black girl. He felt that it degraded the family value, so he had a hired hand kill her for ten thousand dollars.
And as for why this person has embraced Hinduism, I can and at the same time can’t understand it. I know that most outsiders get enamored by the mystery of India and it also gets confusing with the Buddhist values being added on to Hindu religion and hence giving it a peaceful and non-violent flavor. But hopefully my efforts will bear fruit and those who I reach out to can realize that if a religion can teach parents to kill their own children and its primary purpose is to divide its followers then it is not something you go out and embrace but keep your distance from and if possibly fight against.
 
Now where does this leave Ms. A:
Firstly, it is an uphill battle fore her, now that her parents have already tied this guy to Untouchability.
Secondly, with most Indian kids, though they might have grown all westernized, they still get full financial support through college and after by their parents, they might even be living with them, so if this is the situation Ms. A is in then it will become tougher for her to stand up to them.
Finally, I wish her all the strength and courage to live for her convictions and she can enriche her life with what she will learn from this experience, irrespective of the outcome.
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