The reality of caste divide

The discourse on caste in India is frequently met with a curious response, mostly from the educated and middle classes: don’t divide us on the basis of caste.

Published: 03rd February 2018 04:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 03rd February 2018 02:10 AM   |  A+A-

The discourse on caste in India is frequently met with a curious response, mostly from the educated and middle classes: don’t divide us on the basis of caste. However, the findings of a phone survey conducted in 2016 in Delhi, Mumbai, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh and published in the Economic and Political Weekly in January show the reality is that Indians are already divided by caste.

The study focused on finding the prevalence of prejudice against women and Dalits among respondents. It did so by asking three questions with regard to the status of women: approval of women working outside the household when their spouses could afford to support them, prevalence of veiling (ghunghat) among Hindu women, and whether the women ate after the men in the household.

Veiling has reportedly been found to indicate the ability of the woman to make decisions, while women eating after men had implications for their health. The responses revealed a prevalence of discriminatory attitudes towards women. On Dalits, the survey looked at: prevalence of untouchability in the respondents’ households, views on reservation and crucially, support for legislation against inter-caste marriage.

Untouchability was found to be widely practised, and support for legislation against inter-caste marriage was found to be high, especially from rural respondents. There was significant support for reservation. But the respondents—those for and against it—did not fully understand how it functioned.

The prejudice against Dalits and the status of women are linked. One of the ways in which caste boundaries are maintained is through the control of women’s sexuality. Maintenance of these boundaries, however, are detrimental to Indian society—affecting the economy, human development and well-being of communities. The educated and the middle classes must stop living in denial of the horrors of caste and take active efforts to confront the realities of caste, unpleasant and discomfiting as they may be. India will be the better for it.

Stay up to date on all the latest Editorials news with The New Indian Express App. Download now
(Get the news that matters from New Indian Express on WhatsApp. Click this link and hit 'Click to Subscribe'. Follow the instructions after that.)

Comments

Disclaimer : We respect your thoughts and views! But we need to be judicious while moderating your comments. All the comments will be moderated by the newindianexpress.com editorial. Abstain from posting comments that are obscene, defamatory or inflammatory, and do not indulge in personal attacks. Try to avoid outside hyperlinks inside the comment. Help us delete comments that do not follow these guidelines.

The views expressed in comments published on newindianexpress.com are those of the comment writers alone. They do not represent the views or opinions of newindianexpress.com or its staff, nor do they represent the views or opinions of The New Indian Express Group, or any entity of, or affiliated with, The New Indian Express Group. newindianexpress.com reserves the right to take any or all comments down at any time.

facebook twitter whatsapp