Caste-based oppression is a reality that affects the mental, social and financial well-being of individuals in our society. Although our constitution spells out secularism and equality as some of its founding principles, in practice caste still dominates our social morals and conduct.
Caste-based oppression has its roots in history, where stratification was encouraged as the basis of social organization and conduct. Today, caste-based oppression constitutes much of the crime and violence in the country. Especially during the pandemic, the rate of violence against individuals from oppressed castes has increased.
The caste assigned to a person affects their social status, employment, access, and emotional health. When we employ the gender lens, a woman belonging to a marginalized caste identity experiences a double risk of being oppressed because of both her sex and her caste. The situation is more difficult for homosexuals and people with disabilities.
Despite the pervasive nature of caste, we have very little idea or interest as a society of how to approach this problem holistically. Political consciousness is corrupt and tilted towards the interests of the savarna, which further fuels the sidelining of the concerns faced by oppressed caste communities.
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Discrimination based on caste begins in the home, and partisan, alienating and violent thoughts are instilled in the minds of young children, thus ensuring the continuity of ‘otherness‘ people from dominated castes. Our social life and decisions like marriage, friendships, family relationships, etc. are based on caste considerations, where it is more desirable to mingle with people who are ‘like us’.
Moreover, the portrayal of caste in popular culture also reinforces the problematic idea that caste-based segregation is normal and even necessary. People from marginalized castes are portrayed as dark-skinned, violent, or incapable of socially acceptable conduct. Control of these narratives and access to tell stories and participate in the art rests with individuals of the dominant caste, allowing them to create caste-reinforcing narratives and a factor that can be used to distinguish between people from each other.
There is hardly any depiction of joy, perseverance or other emotions when it comes to conversations or depictions of people from oppressed castes. They are used as political props to be rescued, sympathized or civilized by the savarna system.
Our society’s outlook, attitude, conduct and responses to caste and caste discrimination are riddled with layers of violence and otherness to such an extent that the microphone has never fully passed to individuals who are the recipients. For the true essence of equality and social equity to be reflected in the daily dealings of a society, it is important to have a transformative consciousness both individually and systemically.
April is Dalit History Monthand we at FII invite submissions on Caste and society, throughout April 2022. We hope to contribute to the conversation about caste and facilitate stories about caste from individuals who know its complexity. We do not encourage appropriation and entries will only be accepted from Dalit, Bahujan and Adivasis writers.
Here are some pointers that can help you articulate your thoughts:
- Caste and gender – the intersection of caste and gender in private and public spaces
- Family and caste – families as cities that encourage caste discrimination, endogamous marriages, socialization and caste
- caste-based violence – hate crimes, honor killings, role of caste in fueling violence against Dalit communities
- Caste and public policy – legal framework and exclusion of caste-based concerns, gap in policy execution, lack of caste criticism in administrative procedures, concentration of power with Savarna individuals
- Caste in popular culture – representation of caste in films, appropriation of stories
- Private accounts of caste – generational experiences of caste-based complexities, memories of navigating caste identity in private life
- Caste literature and studies – book reviews, literature reviews and text analysis that explore caste discrimination
- Personal experiences of how anti-caste leaders and social reformers have shaped resilience and individual responses
- Reports on activistsindividuals and organizations doing irreplaceable work in anti-caste discourse
This list is not exhaustive and you can feel free to write about topics of the theme that we may have missed here. We understand that some topics may be personal and therefore if you wish to publish them anonymously, please mention this in your email.
Please refer to our submission guidelines before sending us your applications. You can email your submissions to [email protected]
We look forward to your drafts.
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Featured illustration: Ritika Banerjee for feminism in India