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California accuses Cisco of job discrimination based on Indian employee's caste (reuters.com)
349 points by sahin-boydas 2 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 574 comments

I live and work in India and I would like to throw more light on this. Me and my friends like to joke around that you will never get your dues, either pay raise or promotions unless you have the last names jain, gupta, sharma, verma.

I had a guy on my team who was very capable but did not have the right last name, he was being harassed for promotions for 4-5 years. On the other hand the manager class was entirely "jain, gupta, sharma, verma". I know of a specific case where the same manager had one of his relatives transferred from another branch and then promoted to manager on a different team in the same branch. This was all very hush-hush, I know of it because I overheard them talking about it. This is not some local tidbit software company, this is a company you HAVE heard about.

But it is not just caste based discrimination. There's also linguistic and region based discrimination because there is a lot of regional and linguistic diversity in India. If you travel a few hundred miles in any direction, the language and culture completely change. I have seen teams being formed around states and languages, and they will not let anyone else come into their in group. I have seen teams with extreme left ideologies that will not let anyone else in their team.

I don't believe dalits are any different, they also engange in these practices when they can and I know about people who have suffered from that situation as well.

Everyone's naked in this bath house.

100% agreed, I worked for a big 3 Letter Corp and heard manager speaking in his native language of the State (same as the company was located) to another member of team from same State, saying please work a little and i will promote you as a manager ,who will i do it for, if not for you. In the meantime, we were working our ass off and got nothing.

Its there for real, you can easily see it - If you join a multinational company and find a team with more than 50% of people are from same State - There is something going on. First thing that should be banned in india is attaching Caste as the Last Name.

I agree but people will still discriminate.

People think I am south indian even when speaking in northish accent. They make many implicit assumption based on how I behave, talk and look.


“Put them on notice”? “American company”? What century is this?

There are innumerable businesses in the USA where groups of people speak different languages together. I routinely speak Spanish with people in stores, car repair places, farms etc and most of them seem to be US citizens simply more comfortable in Spanish than English. Why shouldn’t US citizens use the language they want? (BTW I come from a country where I’d be shocked if even 1% had ever overheard a sentence in Spanish).

Years ago I worked at a research lab in Texas where some of the scientists would discuss things together in Spanish unless someone who didn’t speak it was in the room. Nobody seemed at all perturbed by this. Before that I worked at a government research lab in France where it was not uncommon to have stretches of discussion in English when discussing, say, a research paper in that language. Why not?

It would be highly unusual to run meetings like standup where nobody else spoke the language two people were talking in. It’s different if they’re talking outside of a meeting.

None of that has anything to do with “America” or any other country for that matter; it’s simply politeness and getting he job done.

It does. If I worked at a Japanese company, I would learn Japanese. I would respect the culture of the country I emigrated to. Otherwise, why would I live there?

Really? I’ve spoken with French developers at Nintendo HQ who spoke no Japanese and nobody seemed to bat an eye. In fact I first met them at some meetings with very high level execs.


Nobody mentioned anything about "in a meeting", so how are we supposed to divine that that's what you meant?

I think they are in India lol. Even if they were in the US, they can speak any language they damn well please. And I think they might be talking about speaking English anyway, since different regions may have different accents in English as well.

I parsed the comment as his manager playing favorites by speaking in a language the team doesn’t understand or isn’t fluent in.

What is a "big 3 letter corp"? Haven't heard this phrase before.

I'd guess SAP or IBM.


IBM or TCS (Tata Consulting Services).

The reason I joined the private sector instead of the government sector, is that these issues are much much worse in the government sector. I was brainwashed to belive that merit will be valued in the private sector by the HR department and the managers. Which its not in the few places I have worked at.

I'm not even low-caste but still faced these issues.

My dad worked for the government for 30 years and he was not promoted even once until this year. this is not because he was not good at his work, the work is actually pretty simple and stupid, but because of affirmative action policies of all governments current and past, left or right.

One thing I've noticed with regards to discrimination at a couple I have worked is the treatment of mediocrity. At one American software shop I worked at early in my career I would see mediocre African American employees catch shit for being mediocre, but mediocre white people would not. So basically if you were not white you needed to be a stellar performer.

No one is perfect and everyone makes mistakes, and most of us are somewhere on the scale between great and crap. My partner and I joke about this concept of the mediocre white man, and how their workplace is dominated by these mediocre white men. Whereas if you're a woman, or if you're not white, you're not allowed to be mediocre. You gotta be great.

There are essentially two separate sets of measurements; one for white men and one for everyone else. And I notice this as a white man.

As a white man, that is also my perception.

Discrimination has outsize effect on mediocre people. Exceptionally good people will always be able to get far and exceptionally incompetent are likely to be poor.

The discrimination usually shows in lots of small decisions that each separately is very difficult to call discrimation but together amount to making your life more difficult.

Mediocre people don't get many chances to get ahead and they can slip up sometimes. Discrimination makes those few occasions to get ahead much less likely and pay much less and the occasions when they slip up much more unforgiving.

The writer Sarah Hagi is often quoted: "Lord, grant me the confidence of a mediocre white man".

Any discrimination and groupthink seems intensified in workplaces with (1) little reassignment, (2) long tenures, & (3) little external, objective performance feedback.

E.g. government and many portions of academia.

People who don't support it leave, and people who are ambivalent adopt the attitudes of their remaining colleagues.

I don't think that performance feedback or reassignment has necessarily anything to do with it. Would you like to be frequently reassigned at your job? I don't know many people who would.

Yes, all these things might create entrenched groups, but make working viable in many occupations in the first place. I would take the groupthink in that case too.

In a company that is successful and growing, with new teams and projects and offices, there will be more promotion opportunities per candidate - and fewer situations where they have several strong candidates and an almost-arbitrary choice to make between them.

If you're in a sector that isn't growing, or might even be shrinking, I imagine promotions are a lot more competitive...

Admittedly, 'reassignment' might not be the most precise term for this...

I wasn't so much using it as a proxy term for growth, but rather as a direct description of work culture.

I've worked and consulted at a variety of companies. Of the ones that had an expectation that you do 1-2 year stints on teams, then rotate to different teams and challenges, I would describe ~100% as having a healthy workplace political culture.

Of the ones that did not have that expectation, and people typically stayed on a single team for 2 years+, I would describe ~25% as having a healthy workplace political culture.

My conclusion is that, more-so than anything else, cultivating and encouraging regular internal transfers produces healthier companies. (And that's not even broaching the documentation and repeatability benefits!)

It seems counter-intuitive, and I never would have guessed if I hadn't seen it again and again...

The issue is not lack of possible promotions. The issue is who the opportunities goes to. In a growing company, the friends, family and "one of us" will still be more likely to be get the good stuff.

I'm not saying it completely eliminates bias by any means, but I've worked at a company growing from 200 developers to 2,000 developers - and getting promoted for me has been a heck of a lot easier than my friends in fixed-size organisations.

When you need to find that many trusted, competent managers that quickly, you can't afford reject people on the basis of their surname :)

I left startup because it was like the worst experience I think I had regarding gender (I am woman). Not that they would be toxic out right as tech bro stereotype, they were not. Generally they were good people.

But the lack of process and inexperience basically amplified the bias. There too much guess work going into decisions, so they were primary based on pattern matching like things. People were making decisions on very little information and in ambiguity, which made all the assumptions matter more. Where while bigger company I am in now, while there are people who openly express sexist opinions, in general I think I am getting more equal results.

Mostly because once they are making the decision, it is more likely to be based on my actual track record rather then feelings. Not that it is perfect, but when it is unfair, it unfair in all kind of various ways toward everyone and it seems more random. More likely based on personality conflict or something of that sort.

Another anecdote, my previous manager has one of those last names. He was hiring for a position and screening the resumes. He would send them to me for initial phone screen. After a while, I saw a pattern, all the candidates he chose to move forward with had same last names.

Hmm excuse my ignorance. But why couldn’t someone legally change their last name to one of these? Could they really tell what family, tribe, or caste you’re from by face? I suppose regional dialect can be noticed.

It's more about just the name. The best way to understand is to think of India is as similar to European Union with each caste as a country. At some point all the castes intermingled, but they have their own unique set of cultures to this day. So it's more about discrimination against other set of cultures. Loosing your last name at that point is like loosing your culture.

I guess this does not stop in Jobs but also in VC Funding . Most VCs/Seed funds are run by few upper caste Indians . They do have discrimination if you come from a backward caste . if you belong to the same caste , chances of getting a fund are more .

What is a "backward caste"? Haven't heard this term before

The use of the word "Backward" is racist and derogatory.

It's the official terminology: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Other_Backward_Class

It's not considered derogatory in India.

I know. It perpetuates the racism and derogatory attitudes.

I have heard this term often but never gotten used to it being used to describe an entire ethnic group nonchallantly - like the comment you are replyig to. I have had several conversations with Indian colleagues where some would use this term to describe other non-privileged classes as "backward" so matter of factly. This is racism of the quintessential kind.

I saw the same kind of discrimination in an Indian office I used to manage part of (that is to say, a fair number of the staff functionally reported to me but all the local management and HR decisions happened in India). It was interesting, though: the office was in Chennai and they essentially banned even interviewing anyone from outside Tamil Nadu, no matter how qualified. Perhaps someone from Andhra Pradesh or Kerala got in every now and then, but no one from farther afield.

I mentioned this before and got marked down for it. In the UK Caste was added a few years into the anti discrimination law.

I know one of the MP's involved in getting that through parliament.

Wasn't the bill not passed through the parliament due to opposition by British Hindus? [1] Or you talking about a separate law?

[1] - https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-38663143

I am not sure I thought that Parmjit Danda, Keith Vaz and Lord Gupta had got it through.

Incidentally the person concerned in that article lives in my home town

I hope this nonsense can stop and talent can be rewarded regardless of caste.

> This was all very hush-hush, I know of it because I overheard them talking about it.

Of course it is. In India, there are some ridiculuous rules related to caste discrimination. For example someone from "lower" caste can sue a person for libel and have him thrown in jail with no FIR. Caste based discrimination is wrong. But arrest-before-FIR is worse and can destroy someone's life.

Do you know why such a law came into existence? Because of atrocities against "lower" castes which wouldn't even be investigated. But most laws in India end up being misused. (For example dowry harassment laws.)

None of this actually fixes anything. The core problem is poverty and lack of good education. If affirmative action was based on poverty instead of caste and wasn't in terms of hiring/reducing marks but giving out resources to those who lack it, it might have save more lives because currently more rich or upper middle class families benefit from the affirmative action.

10% of country owns approximately 80% of the wealth.

Majority is poor. You don't need to look at the caste.

Anti discrimination laws are important but if we keep focusing on caste, nothing will change if you don't tackle the core problems that is extreme inequality.

I firmly believe the mentality of digging graves for each other is a mindset of poverty and that is what happens in most of India. Scammers exist because scams pay more than real jobs. Stereotypes are formed because some of that disproportionately affect poor communities or specific group. It's a vicious cycle. Poverty makes everyone angry and find reasons to seem better than others. Caste is one of them sometimes when you can't find others.

This is nonsense. As is demonstrated in this thread, even people with similar educational and professional backgrounds are discriminated against on the basis of caste. Since historically the managerial class is dominated by upper castes, the ones being discriminated against are naturally lower castes.

Yes, the reservation system is imperfect and is abused. That doesn’t mean that we replace it with a system that is caste-blind. Rather, incorporate income into it, so that the lower-caste poor ppl get help

No this is looking at the problem superficially. The upper castes feel neglected because there are close to 50% reservation in Government jobs. So they have no choice but to go to private sector. Now they practice undeclared reservation in private sector and not give jobs to the lower castes even if they are equally good and if not better. This is a systemic problem. Each one feels slighted. The lower castes have reservation in Government jobs so upper castes create undeclared reservation in private jobs. Both are harmful to the society!

Even the architect of the Caste-based reservation system Dr. Ambedkar (who is also the architect of the Indian Constitution) said that the Reservation in its current form should only exist for 10 years and not be extended. He contended that 10 years is more than sufficient to have a caste-based reservation. But it kept continuing for 70+ years. It is high time we revamp it to only provide reservation for those who are from low income categories. Doesn't matter which caste they are from. That will actually be helpful.

Caste-based reservation only enforces caste system in India. It doesn't help get rid of it! And it also goes against one of the six Fundamental Rights of Indian Constitution: The Right to Equality. Caste-based reservation violates this Fundamental Right. It was a temporary stop-gap measure which we have made permanent not to upset a section of the Indian society. But it is causing more harm than good. That is a fact!

The upper castes are in a minority of the country. It’s not like they’re inherently better at their jobs, they just have better access to important resources like social capital, economic capital, and education.

I know friends who are from not from upper class and super rich/educated and wealthier but still enjoy the benefits of caste based quota system, while there are people from upper caste and poor and never able to come up through the system. As long as Reservations and Quotas are present - this will prevail. It should be merit based and not caste based.

No other country has such laws. It's against even the basic magna carta principles.

I know about "victims" who lie about the accusitions in these cases, the local community knows that its a lie but people are still guilty until proven innocent.

I disagree with this, even though I faced such discrimination.

P.S That does not mean discrimination does not take place or that there are no genuine complaints.

> Because of atrocities against "lower" castes which wouldn't even be investigated

> I know about "victims" who lie about the accusitions in these cases, the local community knows that its a lie but people are still guilty until proven innocent.

Both of you are offering anecdotes, and I assume the former far outnumbers the latter, but we would find more anecdotes of the latter on HN, because most Indians here are not low-caste.

P.S That does not mean that discrimination does always take place or that there are no false cases.

Unfortunately for you I can back up my "anecdotes" https://asiatimes.com/2018/03/indias-supreme-court-accused-h...

>The court also referred to data released by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment showing that of the 15,638 cases decided by the courts in 2015, 11,024 resulted in acquittals or discharges. Another 495 cases were withdrawn and only 4,119 cases resulted in convictions.

Unfortunately that doesn't have to mean anything. If the courts are biased it is possible they are only convicting if the evidence is so strong they dare not. Or maybe some courts are honestly decided and others are corrupt...

I'm not in India so I have no idea what the truth is. I do know corruption is a problem there and corruption is a hard problem to solve.

There are in fact preumption-of-validity ("prima facie" evidentiary) laws outside of India. In the case I'm considering these don't directly apply to civil or criminal law, though they operate closely adjacent to these.

We have "prima facie evidentiary" laws in India too. The law the parent is talking about has nothing to do with it. FIR is registered irrespective of whether there is a case made out prima facie or not. That is the biggest problem with this law. It turns the notion of "innocent until proven guilty" over its head.

"Civil forfeiture".

But that is for property. Does not extend to a human being. That is the same everywhere. You are confusing the two things. Even in India authorities have legal rights to confiscate property they feel is being used in criminal activity. That is allowed and doesn't require a warrant. But do you, in the United States, have any law where you can be arrested without there being a charge-sheet or an arrest warrant or prima-facie evidence? Even the arrests that cops make in the US are based on prima-facie evidence: not providing information as asked for by law, hiding drugs or on the basis of suspicion. No where does anyone get arrested because someone else just complained about the said person.

So, I've been responding to several, often unclear and inconsistent, though absolute claims, made by several commentators in this thread, for which any counterexample would be sufficient refutation.

I'm also not defending the Indian law, only making clear it is not as fully exceptional as portrayed by some here.

Answering your specific question as to the US and detention without charge or due process: yes, definitely. Guantanamo Bay is an extraterritorial detention centre for supposed terrorists, held without trial and subject to torture, since the prison opened in January 2002. 779 prisoners are acknowledged to have been held at some point, 40 remain. I don't find a statement of longest detention, but that could be as much as 18 years.



Tens of thousands of detainees are held by immigration authorities, with nearly 400,000 having been booked into ICE custody in 2018. Detentions are on the basis of (suspected) immigration status, not criminal disposition.


Could you explain the situation with dowry harassment laws?

American with a question here. In the U.S. you can legally change your name. What would happen if a Dalit went to court and petitioned to get his named changed to Gupta or Sharma?

The weaker sections usually need the social support provided by their caste. They are therefore more likely to want to keep it.

It is easy to cosmetically change your caste, in schools if you are not "lower" caste you do not mention anything and you fall into "general category".

On the other hand you need to prove that you are "lower caste". As government benefits follow.

They don't need to go to court.


The problem is that you need an entire stack of documentation for different sets of paperwork, and that comes with your old name. The only way to get a change done safely in ways that will not show a name change is by getting the name right at birth.

Would the entire stack be checked for a job in the private sector?

I guess the difference is that Dalits are much less likely to be in a position of influence or power

There is about 27% Quota for SC/ST (a category that covers Dalits). So, you would find Dalits in state and central government jobs.

Private Sector is not subjected to those quotas even though attempts are made.

No surprise there. Nepotism, casteism and regionalism are widespread at certain companies in India.

Not to forget extreme nationalism.

Curious what extreme left ideology looks like in India.

Unlike the USA, India was under the control of the left since independence. So people who call themselves left are the ones who want to preserve the status quo and go back to the good old times.

The new progressive India that you see does not have a real right, because it is mostly still a poor country. Nevertheless it has moved closer to the free market, trying to cut down government interference if not for anything but corruption by the erstwhile leftists.

The extreme left consists of elitists, close knit extended family of the ruling powers. In fact even today much of India's media and who is who political influencers consist of people who attended the same elitist schools in Delhi.

Ironically, they still have not come to terms with a tea seller becoming the Prime minister, so they keep running smear campaigns against him both inside and outside the country.

this post 1.conflates of economic ideology and political ideology. 2.conflates political left, political center.

Political left was unpopular with the previous centrist government and with this one. But this one is especially intolerant to dissent. Prominent Dalit scholars and activists have been arrested because they "promote enmity between caste groups". Because surely asking for rights for the historically marginalized is 'promoting enmity'. The grassroots left movements are one of the biggest threats to caste politics and current establishment. Unfortunately, it currently doesn't have wide enough traction to change government policies.

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-natio... https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/sudha-bh...

I wholeheartedly agree to your argument that right & left is irrelevant in India.

An "Activist" however is not a peoples representative. In a democratic country, you stand for elections to become a peoples representative.

These "activists" are instead involved in armed violence with the democratic state.If they did that in 1950 fine, there is some justification but not in 2020.

I would call them terrorists, mafia or fascists - the Indian word is Naxal/Urban Naxal.

Democracy is not perfect, but I am not buying the promises of insanely wealthy self proclaimed activists who have enough money & resources to run armed conflicts and hire the best lawyer, but somehow never win in the elections.

> I would call them terrorists, mafia or fascists - the Indian word is Naxal/Urban Naxal.

Pray enlighten the rest of us as to how the current regime favouring one particular corporation isn't fascism?

Where is this definition of "urban naxal" defined? Just because one thought so? If speaking against the atrocities of authorities is being "urban naxalism", most of the current leaders also did so, during the emergency in India. Is there a Retired/Erstwhile "Urban Naxal" title too, for them?

Please keep HN civil. Your ultra-right thoughts can find good currency on Twitter/Reddit.

HN being invaded by ultra-right, on a thread that talks about caste-based discrimination.

Guess it is enough Internet for one day!

What is it that I said makes me ultra-right?

India has been democratic for more than 70 years. I say picking up guns to disrupt civil society with an intent to capture power through violence is not Activism.

That is the recipe of fascism.

And "emergency" is by definition a suspension of democracy.

> In a democratic country, you stand for elections to become a peoples representative.

Participatory democracy doesn't mean that responsibility ends the moment one gets off the voting booth. In fact, the resposibility starts right there, by casting the vote, to ensure that the representative works for the benefit of people.

Us Indians just find the latter part, of dealing with that responsibility, a lot harder, and just convince ourselves otherwise.

And anyone else would get termed "activist" "leftist".

Left => left nothing. Left out off the mainstream (development, benefits, facilities), for being contrarian.

Not left as in left hand side.

Thank you for your right wing propaganda. Left parties have been active only in 2 Indian states, and today in just one.

All parties are somewhat socialist because India is a poor country.

The current government is hard right, its founders were inspired by Nazi Germany and the media landscape today resembles radio rwanda.

India was romancing with the USSR, until it fell in 1990. How much more left do you want to get?

And the USA is romancing Saudi Arabia - what is your point?

You can go to r/india to see that. That sub is peak irrational leftism.

And people generalizing Brahmins and other upper castes as oppressors are not exactly right. For many of us who are Brahmin by caste but have a rural, agriculture etc.. background otherwise, we have not witnessed such extreme casteism.

Disclaimer: Brahmin by caste / surname but my community is traditionally agriculturist.

Lets put it this way , you guys had the privilege. AFAIK atleast 2 generations ahead with the reading and writing compared to other communites. Please dnt pick exceptions here. The community had a headstart privilege access to reading and writing. If you look at the data of professors here in US and the first generation of guys in US doing higher studies you know. So you have a community base here . Its the same with IITs and reputed educations institutions .

> AFAIK atleast 2 generations ahead with the reading and writing compared to other communites

Can you explain then why Dr. Ambedkar asked for only 10 years of caste-based reservations and to be done with it after that? Did he not know of this statistic when he asked for the reservation to be scrapped after 10 years: https://www.deccanchronicle.com/opinion/columnists/290917/ti... ?

We continued to have caste-based reservation for 70+ years. That is almost 3 generations. We are well into the 4th generation. This is more than sufficient time for uplifting lower castes. And let us not forget that access to education and industry has improved exponentially in this period while it wasn't available previously.

The time has now come to move away from caste-based reservations to income based reservations. For how long will we keep enforcing caste in everything? Then the upper castes will also enforce undeclared caste based reservations in private sector because they did not get the same treatment in Government sector. Isn't it? This will just end up being a never ending process of one trying to out-do the other. You now have political parties specifically oriented around Dalit issues like the Bahujan Samajwadi Party. Do you have a political party specifically oriented around Brahmin issues? Nope. This shows that the system has empowered the lower castes well enough already! So we can now move to empowering the actual downtrodden in society: no matter what caste, creed or religion they belong to!

> why Dr. Ambedkar asked for only 10 years of caste-based reservations and to be done with it after that?

That's a misconception. There are 4 types of reservation.

1. Political reservation.

2. Reservation in Education.

3. Reservation in (Public) Employment.

4. Reservation in promotion.

That 10 years thing Ambedkar talked is about Political reservation. He said every 10 years it should be REVIEWED to end it or not. The other two reservation in education and employment is a fundamental rights in constitution. So it'll go on till there's discrimination in the society. The last one is not a fundamental right, that's why recently Supreme court of India reject it to implement.

20% of reservation in education was given to SC/STs in 1954, who form the 22.5% of the population. Reservation in (public) employment for them started in 1982 with 22.5%. Reservation for OBCs started in 1992 with 27%, who form the 52% of the population. Indian states have their own ratio for reservation with the condition that total reservation percentage should not exceed 50%. Now notice that the public sector in India only provide 3.8% of the total employment. Private sector is free of any reservation. So much for 70 years of reservation.

This is 2020 ,we are still talking about upper caste management suppressing lower caste in USA. If there has been 70+ years of equality driving measures taken , then this news shouldnt be there.I hope you understand how authority works in India, the Upper caste is already in decision making positions when this movement started 70 years back, i can very well imagine what would have happened. I m not supporting reservations , but there is always a benefit of doubt thats for the suppressed ones.

Here let me use your own argument and just replace upper and lower caste with caste based reservations instead of upper caste management in private organizations. This is what I get:

"This is 2020, we are still talking about caste based reservations suppressing upper castes in India. If there has been 70+ years of equality driving measures taken, then this news shouldn't be there. I hope you understand how authority works in India, the lower caste is already in decision making positions now that the caste based reservation has been around for 70 years, i very well know how it happened. I am not supporting upper caste dominance in private sector, but there is always a benefit of doubt thats for the suppressed ones."

You see how easily I can make the same point for upper castes? How can you justify 50% reservation for lower castes for 70+ years? You can't. You can't even say that there is underrepresentation in our Parliament because there is adequate representation. We have reserved constituencies in which only lower castes can participate. They can participate in the unreserved constituencies too. Heck even the remaining 50% unreserved seats can be contested by lower castes by just choosing to not use their caste certificates. There are so many Adivasi parties and political organizations. There isn't even one for Brahmins. I am not saying this is bad. I am saying that this is the progress we have already achieved in 70+ years. We have a stringent SC/ST act which will jail people without prima facie evidence. Are you not bothered about the Fundamental Rights to Equality as promised under the Constitution of India? If everyone is equal then why this special treatment for 70+ years? I can understand one needs uplifting and for that a reasonable amount of time is required. But 70+ years? That is not justifiable by any means.

Just to put it in perspective: Our Honorable Prime Minister of India is from OBC (Other Backward Class). Our Honorable President of India is a Dalit. So no, our Country has progressed a lot and lower castes are actually holding positions of power more so than ever before. Exceptions cannot become the norm. But has the system become obsolete now? I believe it has! You can't keep the system going on and on for a few exceptional cases. Then it can have negative consequences down the road! The system has to evolve and meet challenges that we are all facing currently and not keep harking back to the past. Ultimately Caste System needs to be rooted out of our country. We can't do that if we keep the reservation system in the present state! We need to change it to income based reservation so that once you have obtained it and gotten a leg up you don't utilize that system anymore and let others who really need it take its benefits.

> If you look at the data of professors here in US and the first generation of guys in US doing higher studies you know. So you have a community base here . Its the same with IITs and reputed educations institutions .

This is not the generalization I oppose. I agree with this. (Although as far as IITs are concerned it is mostly well-off Bania's rather than Brahmins, but still privilege at play).

What I don't like is the generalizations that sound like all Brahmins were well-off and oppressed / actively harassed other people. While there is some divide between every two castes of India, and some of the traditional ways of Brahmins passively hurt people of other castes, that's not the way to put it.

I m not generalizing all are well off . I do know of BPL families from this community , but thats 1% , the rest 99% are others. I want to emphasize the majoritarianism . While i was graduating in engineering ,I was the first engineer in my Family tree. I wanted to purse my MS in US, but struggling to find information and support , while my other friend from the same middle class upper caste community had all information + 10 cousins in US to guide and support him . I was working in startup with a Ultra Upper caste founder ,he brought in his dumb cousin as the VP PM.My friend who was from the upper caste , who was working his ass off was never promoted , the CEO was trying to do best for his community.

Obviously there is partiality in favour of their own castes among Brahmins, Banias etc.. then there is favouring Indians over other people. Mostly among management types - that's how they are taught to think. The same mindset that thinks management is superior to doing work yourselves is likely to favour people on such basis instead of qualification.

> https://mirror.uncyc.org/wiki/Indian_Programmers

> The Russian programmers have found the concept of "indocritical mass" - this is the limit of Indian programmers that can work safely in one company. If this mass is exceeded the count of the Indian programmers starts increasing in a geometrical progression until every position in the company is occupied by Indians. Indian programmers are coming!

> It is not clear how the Indian programmers breed but judging by the speed at which they breed there is high probability that they breed by division like an unicellular organisms.

I agree there is lot of such bias. But what I don't like is stereotyping all Brahmins like that. Maybe that's a counter bias from your standpoint; nothing is black and white.

dude, why would you witness such extreme casteism? Its like being White in the US and saying I don't see any racism.

> why would you witness such extreme casteism?

Ok that wasn't much clear. Things like untouchability or fights between castes aren't there. And while in-caste marriage etc.. are a thing, that's not exactly discrimination thing. Eg: there are multiple sub groups in Brahmins based on origin and while they don't have 'lower' 'higher', the marriages are preferred to be within that sub groups because each of them have distinct cultures, language dialects etc..

Why not let the two people getting married make the decision if they want to merge the two cultures?

I do not ask this rhetorically. I am Indian, though raised in America with very liberal parents. I have a cousin in India who can not get married to her boyfriend because his mother won't accept a marriage to someone who speaks a slightly different language. Both are similar caste, same religion, just from different parts of India.

That is absolutely batshit insane.

In India, you don't ask elders "why?" for anything they tell you to do, that's considered disrespect - whether it is parents or teachers. That's why many customs that made sense once upon a time, have morphed into meaningless ones, because they continued by tradition rather than understanding.

At the time marriages were arranged by parents, this made sense because you get to preserve your culture, traditions, language etc.. (in a situation where dialect depends on the place and caste).

> Why not let the two people getting married make the decision if they want to merge the two cultures?

Well that's insane. Maybe, thinking from the place of those elders who are highly interested in conserving their culture, it doesn't make sense to leave everyone to their own causing a mix-mash of different cultures and interests, and that's the generation gap. Although it is more likely attributed to belief rather than such line of thinking.

> Why not let the two people getting married make the decision if they want to merge the two cultures?

They absolutely can. Nothing in Indian law stops them from doing it.

> That is absolutely batshit insane.

It absolutely is. Now the point is, what stops your cousin from getting married to the boy she likes? The boy can always move out of the home if his mother is unhappy with it. Ultimately it comes down to preferences. Nothing to do with law. Law is quite clear in this that you can marry anyone as long as you have attained legal age.

Also, are you telling me that such preferences don't exist in America? I am sure you have a mother somewhere in the US right now being pissed with her son for choosing a girl she doesn't like. She might not like the girls face, her family, her status, her location or whatever it might be. This is something that is prevalent everywhere. It is not specific to India alone. Just the excuse for opposing is different. That is about it really. If I want to find an excuse to not like someone I can make up a 100 of them. Nothing stops me.

Agreed. I'm ignorant of Indian culture, but I am married to someone from a very different racial and ethnic backround than my own. My experience has led me to believe that intermarriage is one of the most powerful ways to break down cultural barriers. I would not go so far as to say people should avoid marrying people similar to themselves, but I do believe barriers to intermarriage are harmful. And if you seek a rich life full of new and interesting experiences, marrying someone from a totally different background than your own isn't a bad way to start!

> I have a cousin in India who can not get married to her boyfriend because his mother won't accept a marriage

She can but she won’t, or do mothers have to sign-off on marriages?

Only a brahmin would point out that he is brahmin TWICE in his comment. We know that you are a brahmin and feel 'proud' of your caste. You sir, are the reason why casteism exists in India.

That crossed into personal attack and is not ok.

I appreciate the experiences that you've been sharing in your other comments, but you provoked a flamewar in this case and should not have done that.



> You are the anti-brahmin hypocrite [...] People like you are why

Please do not cross into personal attack, even when provoked, and do not take the thread further into flamewar even when baited. Doing those things only makes the thread even worse. And actually the bulk of this thread, when I looked at it last night, was doing relatively well considering the difficulty of the topic.

For over 2 millenia dalits were not even allowed to enter schools or gain education. Ambedkar was famously the only dalit student in his school.

If dalits and other lower castes were not allowed to enter schools for more than a thousand years , then doesn't that mean that brahmins and other upper castes had 100% reservation in education for more than a thousand years? Why complain about reservation now when it was you guys who started it?

> For over 2 millenia dalits were not even allowed to enter schools or gain education.

I agree. But reservation as it is in practice currently is rather a knee jerk reaction and not a scientific system. The problem with all these SJW "empowerment" plans is they empower the people who are already empowered.

A retired judge told that the only way to ensure reservation won't be misused is restricting it to one member in one family, and I agree with that, or even restricting reservation to those with less income. The problem with second approach is people easily fake income in income certificates.

The misuse of reservation system is why there is lot of complaints against it, even for people who would score a low amount in tests, reservation would become a scapegoat when the other person with similar economical status gets a job or seat in good college with similar scores.

And your generalization isn't true either. My dad learned till 4th standard, which is almost the average in the area regardless of the caste. My grandmother told she didn't go to school, and I have not seen my grandfather to ask how much he studied.

At this point, you may consider me biased because I don't know about harsh realities in other regions. But keep the data point.

This is the biggest fallacy peddled by upper castes against reservation/quotas and to deny that caste discrimination in India. Reservations in India are not meant to equalize income or opportunities among the castes. They are meant to keep the government machinery unbiased against the 'lower' castes through representation - so that their services are not biased against lower caste citizens. It has nothing to do with the economic status of the reserved castes. Why is it needed? Precisely because of the type of incidents explained in the news article. It's extremely common for dalit officers to be harassed and denied opportunity by upper caste groups playing politics. Same goes for recruitment. This is far more common than the incidents where a reserved category person is promoted without merit. Just imagine how prevalent that is in India if they are willing to take such toxic practices to a corporation in US. That my friend, is the harsh reality. I didn't want that whitewashing narrative to go unchallenged here.

Fuck, does that mean you can ignore merit and let the guy who grew up with more privileges and less qualifications still get better opportunities than one with better qualifications just because the former is from a caste that is oppressed by someone else somewhere else? This will just increase dissatisfaction among non-reserved castes and reinforce the discrimination.

Even then, what is wrong with the retired judge's suggestion I mentioned?

The story of how a merited upper caste lost out to an unqualified reserved caste is another misleading anecdotal argument. Even merited reserved caste people face the same accusation. I have anecdotes for that as well, but I've never seen the accusers accept that there are merited lower castes. But what is revealing is the demography of the upper hierarchy of the government positions. There are progressively more upper castes as go up the hierarchy -with almost all institutional heads being a sharma, verma or gupta. And it has nothing to do with merit either. It's a result of systematic discrimination, harassment and office politics against lower castes. It's evident in their discrimination against the customers too - if you ever accessed a government service. It's all too evident to even deny. This is prevalent even in elite educational institutions [1]. The instances of this injustice far outnumber the ones you talk about - even neglecting that meritorious lower castes face discrimination. Even the rich lower castes don't get to compete on a level playing field - your caste determines your opportunities, not economic status.

As for the supreme court judge's comment - they are not all that righteous or infallible. The SCI is infamous for decisions that favour super rich or conservative ideology. The same problem of upper caste domination politics exist among the judges too - just check the list of chief justices [2]. The solution the justice gave doesn't address the representation and bias problems that reservation is supposed to solve.

[1] https://theprint.in/opinion/brahmins-on-india-campuses-study...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_chief_justices_of_Indi...

You are just arguing what's on your mind without even properly understanding my arguments.

> As for the supreme court judge's comment - they are not all that righteous or infallible.

There is no point in talking about the person. Point me what is wrong in his comment.

> The story of how a merited upper caste lost out to an unqualified reserved caste is another misleading anecdotal argument.

Because you don'taccept that it happens, it is misleading, lol. In NITs/IITs, some people get seats with JEE rankings of 100K, which are otherwise allotted within 10K without reservation. And it is well known that most of people are economically well-off to pay for coaching and study materials (self studying candidates are extremely rare).

Some years ago, a scheduled caste student from a middle class family who got All India Rank 1 in JEE Mains and got lot of publicity got 100+ rank in JEE advanced. If he was a general category student, he couldn't get CSE in IIT Bombay, but he got CSE seat by reservation. Now imagine a person who got 90th something rank in JEE advanced, coming from similar or worse economical background, and still missed the seat in top institution because someone thought that is the way to do reservation.

India's literacy rate in 1947 is right below 10%. It was not just Dalits that did not have education. Education for a long time has been limited to few people and vast number of those people are not western educated either. They got traditional oral education well into mid-19th century.

As an American with an interest in South Asian culture, I found this ten percent number striking. A quick look at the US Library of Congress via Google search, shows these major newspapers of India in the 1940s.


I believe there were more than 15 languages in India with newspaper circulation of 1 million or more, in addition to English and Hindi, in the 1980s. Even illiterate Yemen had a literacy rate greater than 50% in the 1980s, by my understanding. So I am very sceptical of this ten percent statement about India.

India's population in 1950 is roughly 400 million. 10% of that is about 40 million.

15 news papers with million or more circulation and 40 million people who are considered literate, the numbers show how high news paper penetration rate was (in era of limited radio and no TV in India).

Edit: Found this graph abt literacy in India around 1950, it is about 13-16% ball park.


> For over 2 millenia dalits were not even allowed to enter schools or gain education.

Any source for the 2millenia part?

> A person with ½ of my competetive exam scores, and double the income easily gets a seat in NIT because reservation based on caste. The generalization that all upper caste people are oppressors and all lower caste people are oppressed is wrong.

Just wait for it. Even certain 'upper castes' have now started getting reservation and getting a seat on a merit in the open category is only going to get more difficult. Certain states have already crossed the 50% reservation limit set by the Supreme court[1][2][3]. So much for Supreme court's power.

While this has happened at the state level, it's only a matter of time that these demands will go to the national level.

1. https://www.news18.com/news/india/reservation-for-economical...

2. https://www.thequint.com/news/india/mapping-quotas-how-india...

3. https://m.timesofindia.com/t10-nov-30-2018/1-what-happened-t....

Well they stopped going against reservation and started demanding some percentage for themselves.. peak social justice /s

That doesn't really help. Even Modi's so called "10% reservation for general merit" scheme is a cheap votebank trick. With income limits as high as 8 Lakh, it is just like taking 9.9% and giving 10%.

In India, "the Left" represents socialism, while "the Right" represents liberal economics.


People with leftist political leanings are generally unhappy with all governments, and have very strong opinions about how the country should be run. They end up forming their own tight clubs.

EDIT: corrected "libertarian economics" to "liberal economics"

I disagree with this actually. The right in India in terms of economic policy is as far left as in the democratic party in USA. The left is further left.

Sure, I'll take your word about US politics. But I don't see a disagreement ... the Indian right still represents the liberal end of the Indian spectrum on economic policy. Whether that is far or near in US terms does not constitute a disagreement.

It is by no means "libertarian" if the current government has strengthened public food distribution systems and other policies like MNREGA.

That is not what libertarian means.

Ah, that. Thanks, I corrected the use of "libertarian" to "liberal" in my GP comment. I am sure that is not perfect either, but should be good enough to answer the original question ... "left" in India is more about economics than liberty.

They are mostly people from the east coast. If you draw a line from the state of bihar to kerela and people in the 4 big cities. punjab and kashmir to some extent too. Some support the communist party of india, which still holds power in some states but is steadily declining. Many support fringe armed terrorists and domestic terrorists and breaking up the country.

Before independence there was a strong movement to push india towards a communist revolution like china or the USSR. The indian national congress which is still the main party on the left absorbed many of these radicals. In the cold war, these parties aligned India with the USSR, despite the absurd hypocrisy that india is a member of NAM but also signed a cooperation treaty with USSR. You will find that roads in new delhi are named after thugs from the eastern bloc like Tito, thats something you will not find even in ex-yugoslav states. But zero roads or monuments named after anyone from the western bloc or indians not part of the nehru-gandhi dynasty.

It is mostly orphans of this movement which disbanded after 1991. They're against everything america does but send their kids to the USA for studying in america's best universities.

trying to establish context between the video and GP question. are you saying the extreme left are the Dalit or the Sharma's and Guptas's ?

We have Naxalites and Maoists who have been fighting the Indian state for quite sometime now[1]. They are allegedly funded by China[2].

1. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naxalite%E2%80%93Maoist_insu...

2. https://www.indiatoday.in/india/north/story/chinese-intellig...

Please spare the dalits my friend :) they are the worst affected from this caste based discrimination! :) Sure, there may be a few who engage in the kinds of practices you are referring to but the majority don't. Even if they did, that would be to protect themselves (these kinds of dalits tend to be enlightened about their plight in society and local politics in their organization) and to create checks and balances they engage in this stuff.

Couldn't people just change their last name? I imagine if suddenly everyone's last name was Gupta, that kind of discrimination would become difficult.

I am from the state of Tamil Nadu. Unlike other states, we don't use a last name. The official forms and documents of state government/schools will not have a last name field. If pressed for last name, we just use fathers name. The first time I had to give a last name was when I was >20 years old when applying for passport from the Indian government. (Federal govt. not the state govt.) My last name is my fathers first name. My fathers last name is his fathers first name. My grand fathers last name was his caste name. Till my grand fathers generation, caste name as last name was prevalent. It all changed with the Self-Respect movement led by social justice icon Periyar. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Periyar_E._V._Ramasamy

At fist Self-Respect conference held on Feb 1929, Periyar passed a resolution to drop caste names. The press report about the conference reads “The necessity of the resolution to drop caste titles is strengthened because of the practice of discriminating persons on the basis of their names without knowing anything about their character, ability or intelligence. The demand that such discriminatory caste titles and religion-markers are abolished will appeal to all those in favour of unity and equality.” Source: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/all-in-your-name/arti...

It is rather popular to use the education qualifications after a persons name (like MBA, Masters in Engineering etc), as most seen on wedding invitations behind bride and grooms name, to emphasize on the importance of education and skills as a status marker rather than birth. Example: https://kingofcards.in/media/others/printing/templates/templ...

If you think caste discrimination does not exist in TN just because of this, you are fooling yourself. Politically powerful castes like Vanniyars and Gounders still discriminate against Dalits and other castes, especially in rural areas.

I don't disagree. The powerful classes still dominate the lower classes. Caste system is deeply rooted in the culture for thousand of years. It will take a very long time and massive efforts to eradicate it. Self-respect movement was one of the early efforts in the right direction and it had found great success in my opinion. I attribute my life progress to the effects of Self-respect movement. I was born in a poor low-caste family, raised by a single mother. I completed a STEM masters degree in India, migrated to the US and now work at one of the FAANG companies. I benefited from the educational and social policies of my state govt. and was able to push myself up despite financial and social disadvantages.

The major turning point in my life was when I was able to secure a seat at the top technical college of the state through single-window counseling which was introduced by the state govt. the year before. Without that system, I would have applied to individual colleges separately (costs lot of money) and had been at the mercy of racially biased selection committees, dominated by the so called upper castes. I neither had the light skin, nor the deep pockets to pay for a "management seat".

I made use of the best resources at the institution presented by the opportunity I wouldn't have got otherwise. It changed my life forever.

I don't have anything informative to add, but wanted to comment that I liked reading your story. Well done.

An even better approach is to just change your religion. I was born a hindu dalit but I converted and so have many of my friends and family. Religious conversions have become so common in India that states have started to bring out laws to curtail it. Casteism is a construct of Hinduism and other religions don't suffer from it in the same way as Hinduism does. So you can change your religion , your name and claim that you have no caste. Hindus have no problem seeing a converted christian as equal to them, but will refuse to see people from their own religion as equal.

Convert and you might get beaten up by your local Bajrang Dal chapter.

I understand the reason you have described to change religion or become an atheist. But in part of India where I am from, I see people adopting another religion and still taking the cast name with them. They will only allow marriage within "Christian + same cast" people. Even People who have renounced God and become atheist home on to their cast. I guess it is the tribal instincts of human being kicking in.

The other religions in India haven't given up on casteism - https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/Focus-on-quota-...


> You should read up a bit about the apology made by the church for being responsible for the Rwandan genocide.

That's a misleading statement. The church was complicit, not responsible. Still reprehensible.

The church was responsible for promoting the division so they could convert. That is not just complicit but also responsible.

If you are engaged in arson, and the church watches silently or hand out gas it is complicit. If it pours gas on the building so you can light it on fire it is responsible.

Yes. That's what Sikhs do.

> Male Sikhs generally have Singh ("lion") as their middle or last name, though not all Singhs are Sikhs. Likewise, female Sikhs have Kaur ("princess") as their middle or last name. [1]

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sikhs

But don't Sikhs also have their own (diluted?) form of caste system?

You can change your last name to Rockefeller, and some get away with it [1], but usually you'd be exposed because not only would you not have the right clothes, manners, alma maters, accent, etc... but most of all, you wouldn't know the right people. "Oh you're a Rockefeller, eh? So I'll see you at the Wickliffe's garden party in Martha's Vineyard this June?"

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_Gerhartsreiter

Although I agree with your general sentiment, it seems that Christian Gerhartsreiter got quite far (e.g. member of the Algonquin club), and wasn't discovered because of poor manners or a declasse accent or the wrong clothes, but for parental child abduction.

Yep. He even married a McKinsey partner back when that was an admirable career.

For some reason this reminds me of this Senegalese immigrant to France who, upon receiving citizenship, petitioned to have his legal name changed to better reflect his new identity.

He chose "Charles de Gaulle." This was 30 years ago, I don't remember if he was successful.

For those unfamiliar with French history: the original Charles de Gaulle was born in Lille, France, in 1890, and was the leader of the French government in exile during WW2. Taking his name would be something like an American immigrant naming themselves George Washington.

That wasn't a popular name chosen by immigrants to America, but very popular among freed slaves who had a similar opportunity to choose a new name:


He will willing to, almost literally, give up his identity to assimilate. Plus he apparently had a pretty good understanding of the culture.

I hope he got the name, a good job, and maybe some sort of award for "French Person of the Year".

Well, he got an airport and nuclear aircraft carrier named after him!

The other side of the story is the positive discrimination via Reservations that some castes are granted for college admissions, jobs, promotions, financial help etc. available to them. I don't know the legal position of this, but I imagine changing a name might be seen as giving up on your caste based reservations. Politicians favour caste/religion based voter segmentation, which doesn't help either.

In some states, it is impossible to get into good med schools, even if you score 100% in your tests, because there could be only three seats in the open quota, and 4 candidates got 100%

Reservation is not granted based on the last name. It is granted based on the caste marked in the documents.

While it is true that the fourth candidate with 100% may not get a seat, the same is true in reserved seats as well. If there are 20 reserved seats and 21 candidates score 100%, the last guy may not get a seat. I don't understand what is that you are calling unfair as.

> Reservation is not granted based on the last name. It is granted based on the caste marked in the documents.


I was responding to "why not change the last name". There is a correlation between some castes and last names, so changing the last name may seem as giving up on the caste-based reservation. ie, a practical reason to retain the family name.

I wondered the same thing when I was in India years ago. So I asked our guide. There are a lot of clues beyond family name to determine ones caste. Would be nice if it where that easy, so.

And I assume some people like their last name, regardless of discrimination they might face because of it…

What if you change your last name to either of these?

Most forms ask you to fill your parents name and they also ask you to fill your reservation group, that is general, OBC or SC/ST(schedules class/tribe). A lot can be gathered from this. Even if you lie, there are background checks for this. The smarter parents, register their kids as something generic like "kumar" or "singh" in schools.

Interesting, I've often seen CVs from people applying from India include their parents' details. I assumed it was something to do with caste but I was still surprised to see it added even when not required.

An even better approach is to just change your religion. I was born a hindu dalit but I converted and so have many of my friends and family. Religious conversions have become so common in India that states have started to bring out laws to curtail it. Casteism is a construct of Hinduism and other religions don't suffer from it in the same way as Hinduism does. So you can change your religion , your name and claim that you have no caste. Hindus have no problem seeing a converted christian as equal to them, but will refuse to see people from their own religion as equal.

That is weird and very foreign to me. Why not become an atheist? Or doesn't that count?

Would it help Indian citizens to change their last name?

I would be thinking about changing my name.


> A big problem is the the leftist politics of painting everything as social problems, instead of dealing with them as they are.

I don't understand. If caste-based discrimination is not a social problem, what is it then?

I agree, caste-based discrimination has to be almost as pure a social problem as problems can get.

But in defence of what gp said, it is possible for the major problems to be unidentified and cause misattributed to discrimination. Consider the classic US Berkeley bias case [0].

No doubt sexism is rampant at universities as it tends to crop up everywhere, but sexism wasn't the cause of the statistical anomaly that was the issue of the day. In a nutshell, the existence of discrimination doesn't mean that it is causing the issue at hand.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simpson's_paradox#UC_Berkeley_...

We are no longer forced to follow our father's profession or live in our villages.

Caste names are very local, when you move to a city or another state where people speak a different language people will have no way of knowing.

I am NOT a brahmin and I am not taking a privileged position, however the people claiming to be SJWs real goal is to make these divisions larger.

A lot of educated and intelligent black Americans, do not support BLM precisely for this reason. The far left benefits from all the violence and politics, whereas ordinary black people will pay the price of greater mistrust.

Yes I do because I live here. Becuase most of the original adherents of jainism are from the merchant caste and if you ask a layperson that is how they will describe them. And there is still a strong syncreticism between hinduism and jainism. Most jains still run businesses, companies and corners shops.

> In a country where just 70 years ago, people were shipped off to the caribbean as bonded labourers and as slave replacements.

And they largely took that caste system with them to their new homes, unfortunately.

I’ve got a “hot button” about castes. I hate ‘em.

Comes from growing up overseas (I live in the US), and having servants.

These were the people that raised us, and were, for all intents and purpose, “family.”

Except they weren’t, and when I found out how they lived, it broke my heart.

I was also raised by a British mother, who was an awesome woman, but came from a middle-class Liverpool (“scouse”) family, and spent her entire early life feeling “not good enough,” despite attending an Ivy-League university, and excelling at her work (http://cmarshall.com/miscellaneous/SheilaMarshall.htm).

Knowing how she felt also broke my heart.

The British have a heavy-duty caste system that isn’t as codified as India’s, but just as pervasive.

Of course, in the US (and, I believe, in other parts of the world), we are currently facing a reckoning about another type of “caste system.”

There seems to be an innate human need to “just be better” than others. I think we all have it, and have to make a conscious effort to suppress the impulse.

As someone who was born a lower caste hindu, I don't really mind the british caste system at all. Because the british caste system is fluid. If you are born to servant parents and study hard to become a doctor, you end up at the top of the caste system. Not in Hinduism. Even if you become a doctor, but were born a dalit(lowest caste), you will remain a dalit and so will your future generations. There is no escape from the inhuman hindu caste system.

Becoming a doctor does not make you upper class in the UK. You can't really become upper class, at least in the traditional sense - certainly not through a job or money.


e.g. David Cameron, Eton educated prime-minister, described himself as middle class.


Edit: You could argue that everyone is middle class these days - almost nobody self identifies as working class and there are so few real upper class people (I've never met one).

Edit2: Of course, you used to be able to buy entry into the upper class. But that doesn't happen anymore ;-)

A doctor would happily take being middle class rather than being a lowest caste hindu dalit. The fact that someone can advance to middle class makes it vastly different from Hinduism where you and your future generations are doomed to be born in the same caste.

The lords system in England buys someone in your family a seat in the house of lords. It might mean you were born born with land that theoretically you have government rights over, but if you take that farther than changing competitive rents you will discover the powers haven't been removed only because it wasn't worth the bother since nobody used them.

That is my impression as an outsider anyway. I'm sure the details are different somehow.

But I just love watching Parliament in session; especially The Prime Minister's Questions.

Those toffs can absolutely shred you, while complimenting you the entire time.

It's watching the English language being wielded as a weapon.

Good point, and I appreciate it, but it isn't quite as "fluid" in the UK as it may seem. In the US, yes. In the UK, not so much.

We recently had a woman that works for the State Department give testimony, and one of the things she mentioned, in her prepared remarks, was that she came to the US, because she couldn't get a fair shake in the UK, due to her "Northern accent," despite some heavy-duty cred.


The one thing that the Indian caste system has, is something to outlaw.

Since it is so codified, there's a specific thing to point to in a law.

News Flash: doctor isn't the top of our class system.

Even if you become a doctor you still won't be a part of the aristocracy.

The best you can do is upper middle class. That might mean you're the head of a FTSE100 company, which is still pretty good but you won't be upper class until the Queen dishes out a knighthood for all great works of charity you'll do.

...and even then though you'll probably still wear the wrong kind of shoes and hold your knife a bit funny at supper.

Sorry I am not entirely familiar with the intricacies of the British class system. My point was more about the British class system having upward mobility. Hindu caste system has none. A dalit doctor is still the lowest caste and all of his future generations will also be lowest caste. While poor farmer brahmins will call themselves highest caste.

No worries at all mate. My post is very tongue in cheek and should be taken lightly.

Although I work closely with many people in India I don't understand the caste system at all. So I'm just listening to the rest of the conversation and being informed.

Indian Jatti are more fluid than the European caste system. Any one can be a kings, and Jattis can move. They can have their own temples, gods, priests and kings.

European caste system on the other hand is very clear on who is royalty, and who isn't. In fact even today in countries like Denmark, ordinary people are NOT allowed to have royal second names.

God is also monopolised by the church and the clergy, until people (the new middle class) started quitting the church.

Please do not mistake the progress made due to economic development to social changes, and the other way around.

You seem to have quiet a rosy view of the British class system, but that is not the reality. Money or profession will not just make you higher class here in UK.

Maybe the term that I was looking for was middle class, rather than higher class. I'm just comparing it to Hinduism, where a lowest caste dalit cannot even progress to middle castes even if he becomes a billionaire.

Perhaps you are mixing up “class” with “caste”? Because it’s perfectly possible for a poor lower caste person to climb up the ladder of “class” to be a middle class. It does buy you certain privilege which otherwise wouldn’t be possible. Because money, ad the end of the day, does matter to an extent.

Caste on the other hand is an entirely different beast, as you have rightly pointed out.

While I get what you mean, to somebody who spent whole life in pretty egalitarian society it still sounds pretty horrible. You get much better working society overall when this kind of shit isn't there. If whole society prospers, everybody gets the benefits in many ways.

I've spent 6 months backpacking all over india in 2008 and 2010, and what I saw there broke my heart many times. The frequent kindness of the poorest folks on top of their misfortunes was very inspiring though

> There is no escape from the inhuman hindu caste system.

The Hindu caste system talks about spiritual evolution of the soul as it goes from body to body in each birth.

You might be a lower-caste in this birth, but you might get upper-caste birth in a next life. And vice-versa. That's how you escape it.

People taking such myths seriously is the crux of the problem. After all, if you were born low because of your alleged past sins, why should you not suffer in this current life?

> If you are born to servant parents and study hard to become a doctor, you end up at the top of the caste system.

I think this is the opposite of a caste system.

It's the opposite of the hindu caste system, but pretty much in line with the british caste system where caste is based on profession and not by birth.

It seems you're seeking to define a "British caste system" by reference to the Hindu caste system minus the Hindu caste system's defining feature. You're ending up with something like a meritocracy. It's not clear what point you're making other than "I don't like the Hindu caste system".

What's to stop any Indian from changing their last name? Are there other sure-fire signs of caste status, other than name?

Upward mobility is not a British trait. “Upper class” is Britain is something you have to be born into, not something you achieve through making money or education. At least not in this century.

Now America in the other hand, we hold greater respect for self-made immigrant success stories than a privileged rich kid spending daddy’s money.

I feel that I need to make a point here.

I did not mean to offend anyone. I was simply talking about my experience, in my life, and my outlook. I am very grateful for others sharing their experiences and outlooks, and it has helped me to understand things a bit better. I appreciate it. Really.

I understand that this is an emotional topic, and that some people have suffered greatly.

But let's not turn this into a flame war.



You conflated caste with class. The comments below are a reaction to that false equivalence.

Actually, only one other person (besides you) sank to insults.

I've enjoyed the responses, and the responses to responses. I've learned a bit from it.

This has been a really good thread, about a topic that has a thousand years of pain behind it.

I corrected you, not insulted you.

Caste and class are similar but not the same. Merging the two concepts into one is useful for generating outrage and maybe for bonding, but less useful for understanding the suffering of one society compared to another.

Have a great day!

Caste is not the same as Class Discrimination.

Depends on who is doing the definition.

The British system has a lot more to do with who mommy and daddy are, than what the sheepskin says.

It's pretty hard for people raised in the US to understand it. We keep looking at it through our lens, and we have a relatively young, egalitarian, culture that started when our continent was used as an overflow for the prison system.

A lot of folks in the UK try to get ahead by modifying their speaking patterns and accent. My mother had impeccable English (her mother sounded like she came from Liverpool). She was a scientific editor, and was absolutely brutal. I know. She edited some of my work.

I don't think it really got her what she wanted.


YGBSM. Are you sure that you want this post to stay up?

EDIT: I removed the quote of your insult, and simply flagged your post. Let's be adults, here. I'll probably remove this post before the two hours are up.

Is mentioning white British privilege over low-caste Indians now a flagging offense?

> Is mentioning white British privilege over low-caste Indians now a flagging offense?

Flat-out, deadly, insults are. It was delivered as an insult.

> Don't take this the wrong way this is your white privilege showing

I didn't "take it the wrong way." I took it exactly as it was intended.

What's ironic, is that the insult was delivered without the person even taking a few minutes to find out a bit more about me. I don't hide anything. It's all there, for you to examine.

I understand that this is an emotional issue, which was why I carefully kept all of my responses to my own experience, and never made a value judgement.

I'd suggest that you read through all my comments, and point out my insults. If I have inadvertently done so, then I sincerely apologize, and will make any amends possible.

I am not Indian, and won't even pretend to understand what Indians of lower caste go through, but I do have some experience in the British system.

I've heard this argument alot. To people saying caste isn't that big of an issue in contemporary india, esp in the urban areas: let's ask an Indian parent if they'd be comfortable having their child marry someone they think is of a "lower caste" than theirs. THIS is the best litmus test, quick, cheap and easy way to clear all doubts on the contemporary caste question.

The things is inter-caste marriage is the best way for caste to be eliminated, and since that is hardly happening, doubt it'll go away anytime soon. Hell, Indians on matrimonials openly advertise theirs and ask for partners of specific caste.


> let's ask an Indian parent if they'd be comfortable having their child marry someone they think is of a "lower caste" than theirs

I have found that one of the quickest ways to be sure that the answer you get for that question matches what you’d like is to open them up to the possibility you might not get married at all. If my parents ever cared about that, they sure don’t now, and they’re nowhere near desperate ;)

IMO Indian parents are some of most sly people to walk earth. They coerce, emotionally blackmail and are obsessive about controlling their child's lives be it professional, educational, romantic decisions. Sometimes I think the quote "Most parents would do anything for their child except let them be who they are" is specifically made for the Indian boomer generation.

Oh boy this hit so close to home that I almost fell off laughing in agreement. I’m trying my absolute best not to be what my father was to me to my sons.

Be careful not to go too far the other direction.Kids do need some direction to get them on a good course.

I don't know you or your kids. So I'll just leave that as a general warning and hope you can make the right decision as to allowing your kids many good choices while keeping them from making a really bad one.

Don't suppose you have ever heard the trope about jewish mothers? I think parents everywhere... :)

My parents are not like this at all, so it's not universal.

> Indian boomer generation

Off topic but this is something that grinds my gears.

India didn't have a post WW2 baby boom, there are no Indian boomers. Etymology aside, Boomer is used to signal generational privilege which also doesn't apply to India.

Not every culture values independence above all like the west. Many places, particularly around Asia, value family ties or the collective good more than the individual.

Also, who someone is isn't set in stone. It can be molded by those around them.

> let's ask an Indian parent if they'd be comfortable having their child marry someone they think is of a "lower caste" than theirs. THIS is the best litmus test, quick, cheap and easy way to clear all doubts on the contemporary caste question.

This test will fail because it doesn't account for what truly is caste in people's minds. Even among those who do not want to discriminate, different castes represent different daily cultures, traditions and even languages. So the question becomes on if they are comfortable with someone from a different culture - and that answer is almost always no.

Is that just an Indian thing? Because in my family, here in Rural Iowa, the in-laws include a woman from New Delhi, Valencia Spain, Baguio Philippines, 2nd generation Elba Italy, Korea. That doesn't count the New Englanders and Appalachians (which is a whole different thing than Iowan).

I mention it because, a spouse of a different culture can be a wonderful thing. Language, food, daily culture are a constant source of enjoyment and growth.

I agree with you but for a country which has seen more than 1000 years of conflict from "outside cultures" (the Mughals, the British, etc.), the instinct to preserve one's own culture is very strong. That is why you see Hinduism still surviving whereas in other parts of the world other local religions (and cultures) were destroyed. Recently with more education, globalization, emigration and with the internet things have started to change slowly.

This unfortunately is very true. Hope things change as soon as possible for my kids. Intercase marriages are the solution to this problem, unfortunately is very low.

Cultural differences are a mere fig leaf for racism. Culture doesn't differ in a big way at all amongst castes.

Watch his reply to your post where he cleverly passes off muslims and Christians as invader cultures, without you noticing.

> Cultural differences are a mere fig leaf for racism. Culture doesn't differ in a big way at all amongst castes.

Right I totally forgot about the different languages that exist in India. Or the different religious ceremonies. Or the different Gods people worship. All those must somehow not mean the culture is different.

> Watch his reply to your post where he cleverly passes off muslims and Christians as invader cultures, without you noticing.

Those are your words, not mine. I suggested no such thing. The people of India today, irrespective of their religions, are all equally Indians. But to claim that there were no religious wars in the past (and even the present) and that there was no effect of religious conversion on hardening of stance on culture in Hinduism is naive and ignoring a big problem.

There is also a HUGE difference between talking about people today vs 5 centuries ago. We should be able to talk openly about the impact of foreign conquests in India without negatively impacting the people of those religions in the country today.

> But to claim that there were no religious wars in the past (and even the present) and that there was no effect of religious conversion on hardening of stance on culture in Hinduism is naive and ignoring a big problem.

Historically speaking, India was once a Buddhist country. Buddhism was violently suppressed and eliminated by the caste based Brahmin kings. Is this what you are referring to when you are talking about - "religious wars in the past (and even the present) and that there was a sizeable effect of religious conversion on hardening of stance on culture in Hinduism is naive and ignoring a big problem."?

The Brahmins took over control with a caste based system - apparently still active in California. Over time the new Indian dynasties which arose after the 7th and 8th centuries tended to support the Brahmanical ideology and Hinduism, and this conversion proved decisive. These new dynasties, all of which supported Brahmanical Hinduism, include "the Karkotas and Pratiharas of the north, the Rashtrakutas of the Deccan, and the Pandyas and Pallavas of the south" (the Pala Dynasty is one sole exception to these). The persecution of Buddhism started as early as in life or soon after the death of King Ashoka (Gonandiya). D.N. Jha writes that according to Kashmiri texts dated to the 12th century, Ashoka's Son Jalauka was Shaivite and was responsible for the destruction of many Buddhist monasteries.[7] The story of Jalauka is essentially legendary, and no independent corroboration of the Kashmir tradition has been discovered.[8] Patanjali, a famous grammarian stated in his Mahabhashya that Brahmins and Sharamanas (Buddhists) were eternal enemies[9] With the emergence of Hindu rulers of the Gupta Empire, Hinduism saw major revivalism in the Indian subcontinent which challenged Buddhism which was at that time at its zenith. Even though the Gupta Empire was tolerant towards Buddhism and patronized Buddhist arts and religious institutions, Hindu revivalism generally became a major threat to Buddhism which led to its decline. A Buddhist illustrated palm-leaf manuscript from the Pala period (one of the earliest Indian illustrated manuscripts to survive in modern times) is preserved in University of Cambridge library. Composed in the year 1015, the manuscript contains a note from the year 1138 by a Buddhist believer called Karunavajra which indicates that without his efforts, the manuscript would have been destroyed during a political struggle for power. The note states that 'he rescued the 'Perfection of Wisdom, incomparable Mother of the Omniscient' from falling into the hands of unbelievers (who according to Camillo Formigatti were most probably people of Brahmanical affiliation).[10] In 1794 Jagat Singh, Dewan (minister) of Raja Chet Singh of Banaras began excavating two pre Ashokan era stupas at Sarnath for construction material. Dharmarajika stupa was completely demolished and only its foundation exists today while Dhamekh stupa incurred serious damage. During excavation, a green marble relic casket was discovered from Dharmarajika stupa which contained Buddha's ashes was subsequently thrown into the Ganges river by Jagat Singh according to his Hindu faith. The incident was reported by a British resident and timely action of British authorities saved Dhamekh Stupa from demolition.[11]

Omvedt states that while Buddhist institutions tended to be less involved in politics, Hindu brahmins provided numerous services for Indian royalty:

I can not question the legitimacy of your claims, I am not a historian.

However, there is no theological opposition to other gods or atheism within modern Hindu culture. It is in fact a reason why Hindus have millions of gods and are encouraged to make more.

That stands in stark contrast with Christianity or Islam, which has not waged religious wars just in India but in much of the world.

Moreover, the disappearance of much of the ancient religions and cultures can be attributed to just these two religions.

As someone married to someone from a different language and culture, I can say that those differences are not as insurmountable as they might seem, and the effort to overcome them is repaid many times over if you enjoy expanding your horizons.

You can modify the test to give them two choices, a partner that is of higher caste and another that is of lower caste - all things being equal (wealth, health, even skin color). If they were truly non-discriminatory, and only cared about preserving their "culture", they should reject either one with equal probability.

And that is what happens in reality. Among all the inter-caste marriage discussions not all happen in the high vs low distinction, there are several where there is no higher one or lower one (like say a north Indian marrying a south India, like in the book 2 states) but still there is chance of rejection of the marriage.

I agree fully that there are rejections that will happen because of inter-regional differences outside of just caste.

> that is what happens in reality

Are you claiming a "mid" caste family given two marriage proposals:

1. To a brahmin spouse 2. To a lower caste spouse

with everything else being equal (including geographic region) will reject both with equal probability?

Or you could model it a different way. They know it sucks, would rather it not be an issue, but hey, take all the advantages you can get.

If everything is the same, would a rational actor not pick the one which is more advantageous?

To be honest, for some of them it is a matter of 'preserving culture' and I don't think they would accept a 'higher' caste one either. That said, it may be different in other parts of India.

that's actually true, but in most cases, while they might be reluctantly willing to accept a partner from a "higher caste" they'd be downright aggressively dismissive of the other. And this holds for families all along the long chain of the caste hierarchy. Hypocrisy is a way of life.

Arranged-marriages based on caste are also not good for the nation because it perpetuates the idea that 'your culture' is somehow superior than to the rest of the nation.

Inter caste marriage doesn’t eliminate caste anymore than interracial marriage eliminates race. Also, there are no protected categories for discrimination when it comes to mating or marriage.

Edit: splitting this comment into a reply. Please downvote or upvote individually...

Interracial marriage does not eliminate race, but in my experience as someone in an interracial marriage, it does greatly ameliorate the harms of racial divisions in society. It closes the empathy gap, allowing a large circle of people on each side learn about the unique experiences and circumstances of people in the other culture. It opens a kind of wormhole in the social graph allowing cultural knowledge and resources to flow between communities previously alien to each other. I believe the power of intermarriage really cannot be overstated as a means of bridging cultural divides.

Originally part of parent:

I feel like the quest for universal equality is like the quest for a universal compression algorithm, futile. everyone is unique, so you can’t equalize people.

The most productive and happy path forward is to think about the individuals (yourself and your counterparty).

It’s not your group against the world. It’s you against the world. And it’s not your group at your disposal, it’s the world at your disposal.

"At Cisco, the unnamed employee reported Iyer to human resources in November 2016 for outing him as a Dalit to colleagues. Iyer allegedly retaliated, but Cisco determined caste discrimination was not illegal and issues continued through 2018, the lawsuit states."

If this is accurate, that's pretty messed up. If a private company, especially one of Cisco's stature knew of any form of harassment and then decided that this type of harassment is fine because its not technically illegal they should be punished. Harassment at work for any reason is never ok, work should be a space where you are judged on your productivity level and attitude, not on the place of birth of your ancestors.

From what a friend has said to me, the situation is fairly similar to the discrimination people of colour face (slavery, jim crow, segregation, economic mobility, interracial marriage, lynchings, human right violations) and what native americans face (land rights, economic mobility, cultural assimilation and destruction) ... except this is in the asian context with added peculiarities. The distinction between the classes is made by the last name and skin colour like how you would discriminate between italian, spanish, irish, german, danish ... on the basis of their name as people look similiar despite all of them being clubbed under "white" and "christian".

On paper discrimination shouldn't happen but IRL it does everywhere.

It doesn't say it was fine - nor that it wasn't reprimanded or that they weren't told to stop. ...only that it ultimately continued anyway.

We shouldn't jump to conclusions. If it went to legal, I would venture to guess that people were at least told to cut that shit out. Legal isn't very tolerant of these things because they know there's liability exposure even if it's not illegal.

I'm a very white guy living in California and I often get the impression that caste is something that Indian folks living here are aware of amongst each other, but they don't really discuss it with white people.

On some level it feels to me like it's something Indian folks don't share because they feel it would be misunderstood (which makes a lot of sense). Or maybe it's a kind of "not airing out the laundry in public."

I would love feedback on this. Thanks.

I am someone who was born a hindu dalit and I am so ashamed of sharing that identity of mine that I am posting anonymously.

Hindus believe that humans are like dogs and they have a breed. So a person who is born in a higher caste is of a better breed than a person born in a lower caste. Numerous genetic studies have found no significant difference amongst Indian castes. The moment an upper caste person realizes that you are a lower caste, you will be made fun of and ridiculed. Caste is also tied to your last name, so when a Hindu person says his full name he is telling his First name and his Caste. Which is why brahmins will be the first ones in a group to say their full name, while dalits will only meekly say their first name. The entire religion and caste system was built to make people feel shameful of their last name. In fact, some last names of lower castes are commonly used as abuses by upper caste.

It is the worst form of discrimination known to man and it's horrible how hindu society openly supports and promotes it. While slavery lasted only for a couple of hundred years, caste system has been going on for millennia. Dalit atrocities are common in India even today and everyday 10s of lower castes dalits are raped, killed , tortured and humiliated just because they were born a lower caste Hindu. Upper caste hindu managers openly look down on lower caste hindus, even in the US , and will discriminate against them. Caste shame is also inbuilt in a lot of Dalit hindus and they themselves feel embarrassed while even saying their full name.

One of the best things I did after coming to this country was to convert to christianity and a few of my dalit hindu friends have done too. Upper caste hindus have no problem seeing a converted christian as their equal, but they would still regard a hindu dalit as inferior. Hinduism has a huge conversion problem even in India, and it is the fastest shrinking religion in the world.

Easy for me to say, but if I were you, assuming you’re in the USA, I’d own the hell out of it. To be ashamed of it here is to give power needlessly to whole populations who do not own you. And the States love an underdog.

This is the country where “Yankee Doodle” started out as an anti-American insult by the Brits and ended up being one of the nation’s favorite songs. The nation that used the N-word seriously until around 1965, then by 1975 it had been completely co-opted by people like Richard Prior, and later hip-hop artists. Just so you know, I am married to someone whose parents forbade her to go out with me because of my race. Before I married her another girlfriend stopped dating me because I wasn’t black. Before that, another girlfriend’s parents tried to stop her relationship with me because I wasn’t Jewish. Now that I have a passel of mixed-race kids... guess who makes endless racial jokes? All of us. It drives our friends crazy.

I’d have a DALIT license plate. I’d have a line of DALIT T-shirts. I’d shove it right in people’s faces for the sheer enjoyment of it. I would totally kill it with the DALIT merch.

My heart goes out to you, and my best to you and yours. What a nightmare.

I have seen a DALIT license plate in the bay area. It was on an Audi A4, I think. Anyways a luxury car.

I can with fair certainity say that he/she may have earned the wealth to afford one by promoting caste based christian evangelism or politics.

Caste based conflicts are the highest among the Christians, because the church was way too successful in exploiting social divisions, just like they did elsewhere in the world like Rwanda.

Caste is a poisson, but when it is bread and butter for some people they would like nothing better than to keep it alive.

This has been tried in India many times. The trouble is that it has always been done with the intention to polarize people for political gains. It completely skews the conversation, and most people automatically steer clear of anyone flaunting their "social identity" (not necessarily caste) like that.

EDIT: Replaced "origin" with "social identity", which seems like a better fit.

This is one of those replies that rekindles my faith in the always double-edged HN spirit for another few months :) "Dalit and proud" could literally be the baseball cap powered cultural revolution India needs to be swept up by, assuming it didn't lead to more civil unrest along the lines of cow vigilantism

I'm thinking DALIT STRONG T-shirts.

I feel your pain. This is the very reason for which Dr.Ambedkar converted himself, along with 380,000 followers to Buddhism. Having studied Hinduism for years and realizing that caste is the inseparable from the religion, he declared “I had the misfortune of being born with the stigma of an Untouchable. However, it is not my fault; but I will not die a Hindu, for this is in my power.” Source: https://time.com/5770511/india-protests-br-ambedkar/

I am sorry that you had to face it.

> how hindu society openly supports and promotes it

My 'high class' friends always bring up their caste even when it is not related at all.

'in Bramhins we don't do x'm 'In us Rajputs, we don't do x'

They can easily say, 'I am a veg or I dont' drink or my family is xyz'. But no. their caste _has_ to come up.

A friend of mine had asked one of her friends who used to do this: 'okay, we get it that you are a Bramhin, there is no need to bring it up in every other sentence.' She was shell shocked and never ever did I hear her say "oh we Bramhins we do xyz".

Replace Bramhins with any other identifier (GenX, Californians, British) and you will understand why it happened. It's not about flaunting the caste, but a term to identify the group from other groups. From your own example it shows the groups had different people who approached things differently. Not every mention of caste is about caste discrimination.

Yeah, but those who are 'proud' of their caste are the upper caste ones.

After centuries of cast discrimination, do you think that lower caste people will be 'proud' of their caste? No. they were brainwashed into thinking that they're subhuman, that they are not worthy of it.

Dr Ambedkar was a LSE scholar and he was treated as crap. he was a distinguished scholar, not just any other who was treated as crap because he was a Dalit.

Here is why your equation to GenX and California/British is a false equivalence:

GenX didn't treat GenW like shit for a century

California/British: it is about being proud of _where_ you live. I am proud of India, I was born here and I'll die here. I am sure that all Indians, irrespective of their gender or caste or religion are proud to associate themselves to India.

> Not every mention of caste is about caste discrimination.

It is. How else do you explain that only Bramhins and Rajputs do it? I didn't see any Mahar or Jain or Parsi say "in us Parsis we do x" or "in us Jains we do x" or "in us Mahars we do x"

Mahars were fierce warriors from Shivaji Maharaj's times, they defeated the Peshwas in Koregaon Bhima in 1818.

Only them upper caste folks flaunt it, just like the 'south Bombay' folks can't shut up about where they live

I am sorry for your experience. Do you mind sharing what part of India you're from? It is really surprising to me that relatively better off Dalits would still find the need to convert to a different religion to avoid discrimination. Even more surprising that this is happening at a wider scale.

I respect your personal choice, of course, but curious why people choose to convert to a different religion instead of just shunning the Hindu identity, given Christianity also tends to have problematic beliefs. Is it because sharing religious beliefs makes it easier to share a common identity?

Not Indian, but I suspect that Christianity has a lot of bits and pieces that would be extremely attractive to Dalits. Early Christianity was the religion of slaves, soldiers, and other low status individuals in Roman society. Thus the scriptures are packed full of positive references towards the poor, the meek, and the downtrodden. But even more important, christian teachings emphasis a lot about moral equality in life and death; all people are inherently sinners, and all believers get the same treatment in death regardless of status or wealth. This is, I assume, an extremely attractive proposition if you feel burned by a religion that says that your low status is the fault of a past you, and that in death your best hope is a slightly higher status the next time around.

I do find it fascinating how a converted Dalit is basically freed from the social burdens of their class. I would not have expected that, as most religious groups heap scorn or actual punishments on those who convert to another religion.

> I do find it fascinating how a converted Dalit is basically freed from the social burdens of their class. I would not have expected that, as most religious groups heap scorn or actual punishments on those who convert to another religion.

Based on what I've read so far in people's responses to my question it makes a kind of sense. If you convert to a different religion, historically speaking, you are now "out of competition" in terms of marriages, allocation of dowry, so on. So since many people historically never married across religion, there's no problem being nice to people who aren't competing for your same economic resources.

Please note that I don't mean to indicate approval for any of these things, just that historically that's how it has played out.

Right, but often groups are extremely hostile to apostates because apostasy represents an existential threat towards the religion itself. This is why many religions require a formal shunning of apostates, if not explicit punishment. Talleyrand famously had a meal of ice wine and cold meat after being excommunicated in 1791 since good Christians were supposed to deny him “fire and water”; a cute anecdote at the time, but a potentially fatal prescription during medieval or ancient times.

Hearing about a benefit of apostasy, from members of ones former religion no less, is quite surprising.

Hinduism has no concept of apostasy. You are free to believe in as many gods as you wish (Atheism is a legitimate school in Hinduism), so changing which god your claim to believe in isn't a big deal.

The perceived threat is from the claim that all other gods are false, which is one of the major factors in the anti Muslim/anti Christian sentiments playing out currently in India.

Agree with the larger point being made.

However, the attitude of muslims & Christians towards nonbelievers, idol worship and the historical violence and destruction wrought on them plays a bigger role.

A modern western atheist might carry the same "all gods are false", the vast majority of the Hindus will not have any problem with that.

Very interesting, I did not anticipate how polytheism would affect such interactions. Thank you.

I would think that is true of atheism too.

It might, but atheism, or strains of it, are pretty deeply rooted in Indian culture from at least the time of the Buddha, and not seen as much as external threats like Christianity or Islam. I'm a Hindu atheist, but my extended family is far less concerned with that than they would be if I converted to Christianity or Islam.

> I do find it fascinating how a converted Dalit is basically freed from the social burdens of their class. I would not have expected that, as most religious groups heap scorn or actual punishments on those who convert to another religion.

I wouldn't take that statement at face value. They are definitely not freed from the social burdens of their station of birth.

They might achieve some sort of better treatment through their association with a larger group of Christians who together wield some political power and influence, but in matters of marriage and other aspects of domestic life, they will likely face the same discrimination that they did before conversion. Consider, for example, the caste system of Roman Catholic Indians in Goa:


I'm from the northern part of India. Well it actually hits you harder once you are better off. You could drive a BMW, live in a big house and have all the luxuries of being an upper class person, but hindus would still see you as an inferior lower caste. In terms of social hierarchy, a poor brahmin who flips burgers at a burger store is higher caste than a dalit doctor.

Converting is the only way to get rid of your caste. It's common amongst Hindus to ask each other's caste and the only way to say that you have none is to not be a Hindu. If you are a hindu then people will figure out your caste from your last name.

So what would happen if, say, an Australian or Haitian converted to Hinduism? Or is that not possible?

Traditionally, you couldn't convert to Hinduism (Hinduism is literlly the set of religions followed by people in South Asia). In modern times, you can convert to Hinduism.

You would end up without a caste, but with higher or lower social status depending on your original country.

What about abandoning religion altogether as an agnostic or atheist? Does that not count?

You can be an atheist Hindu. Caste and religion have nothing to do with belief in a god, more than one god, or zero gods.

People simply need a way to be looked at as equals under God. They convert to christianity for this main reason. But the Brahmins will claim that they converted for 'rice bags'. Its still a widely used slur in India while referring to converted christians.

A better off dalit is still a dalit. Thats the point. The society will discriminate against you in all ways possible. Right from job applications to finding a partner

The term "rice bags" is not from India but from the west where poor natives who are easily converted with small incentives are termed "rice bowl/bag" christians, meaning they are not true christians.

There used to be some kind of exclusivity in being a christian in India. This might no longer true.

I am from Chennai where Christianity has spread rapidly in recent years, a christian doctor who died of covid had to be cremated in a Hindu cemetery because of conflicts between the different christian denominations.

This has been the case in the North-east of India for several years now, since they are more than 80% christian.

> People simply need a way to be looked at as equals under God.

Christianity doesn't seem like a great choice then since it teaches God will burn all non-Christians eternally in Hell.

This is a belief that is associated with Christianity, but doesn't have a lot of support in the scriptures.

What Christian beliefs do you think are problematic?

I'm an atheist myself but I don't see many things in Christianity that are particularly bad (...I just don't believe in the supernatural).

At least in America, evangelicalism and its voting bloc has been soundly contributing to the polarization of the country. Additionally, evangelicalism and its voting bloc are extremely politically active on matters such as abortion. (Catholicism has also been increasingly buying up hospitals and then denying women birth control and other reproductive-oriented resolutions like uterus and ovary removal to resolve healthcare conditions.)

"Upper caste hindus have no problem seeing a converted christian as their equal"

I know nothing about this at all, if you don't mind answering - how do you signal this? Do you wear a cross in a very visible way? In my experience, opinions about someone are formed when you meet hem and it's hard to change afterwards; what happens when people learn later on that you're Christian? Does their treatment of you change?

By christian names. Hindus mostly look alike and you can't figure out someone's caste by just looking at them. People usually ask for your full name to figure out your caste and if you give them a christian name, they usually understand that you don't have caste. Usually names are the first things everyone exchanges, so people don't end up learning that I am christian later. I am fair and tall ( 6 ft ) so that also works in my favour.

Remnants of Hinduism. These incidents do happen, but they are rare and almost non-existent compared to Hinduism. Churches openly hold discussions on how all humans are equal.

Also Jesus was born in a poor family, which would have made him a lower caste hindu if he was born in India

> Also Jesus was born in a poor family, which would have made him a lower caste hindu if he was born in India

This is not really true. If I recall correctly, Jesus was born in the Davidic line as per the bible, which was important for his claim as the messiah. His high "caste" did matter to his followers. Caste is determined by your pedigree, and not by how rich you are.

It's true that caste-based discrimination is a curse that India must do away with. Perhaps it'd be more helpful to let different communities adhere to whatever traditions are important to them without attaching the concept of highness or lowness associated with it.

That is a really good point. But I would argue that His caste is used here to signal the fulfillment of prophecy and inheritance. Crown of thorns, beatings, ridicule, etc pretty much amounted to huge social disrespect in the end, anyways.

As in most of the world, except perhaps America, rich/poor != high/low social class.

Yes. very true. I'm a christian in India and I have caste. Not sure why your answer is downvoted. Indian Christians are converts from Hinduism and they simply cannot leave their caste behind. The society forms the caste not the Individual. Even if I say I dont want caste, I still have it because of my ancestry and I'll definitely be discriminated.

This whole caste thing sucks. It is, in some ways, even the worst form of racism if you ask me. Because it so subtle and almost invisible to outsiders. I know it is for me, some white person yelling the n-word at a person of colour is easy to spot. Same goes for north-africans in France, Turks in Germany, Pakistanis and Indians in the UK... Little slurs between castes, not so much. And it seems to be almost impossible to hide the caste, it seems.

The worst forms of racism are not very obvious.

Not considering hiring people with non-Biblical or clearly "Black" names is one of those things which you can't see. Not showing Black people houses in good neighbourhoods is another. That behaviour is still racist, but invisible.

Casteism plays out along similar lines, with people not being hired, or promoted.

I have heard that even Muslims have a caste but it is only within India!

That happens because there many Indian states have separate quotas in govt jobs/education for OBC (Other Backward Class)so a even if you are a Muslim and your caste is considered lower class, you can apply.

Are some castes designated as “Backward” ?

The term implies facing the wrong way

Good point, I dont know who came with that term but its in the Indian Constitution, one of the duties of the govt is to help people who are in the Backward class

The irony is that there are some upper caste people fighting to classify their class as backward because they have quotas in govt jobs/education.

Yes, it is facing the wrong way but it is a tad complicated.

You see, eons ago, caste in Indian society was not right, it was your job (warrior = Kshatriya, scholar = bramhin, trader = baniya, labourer = shudra).

The first three called themselves upper class and the last one was the lower class.

Among the first three, the first one think that they're upper than the other two. The second one thinks that they're upper than the third.

But this was never hereditary. if you were born to a Bramhin (basically any person who had the brains to be a scholar) and if you didn't have the knack of being a 'scholar' you could become a warrior if you had the skills, or a trader, if you had those skills. If you had no such skills then you were the labourer.

But what happened is, centuries after this tradition started, it was made hereditary. So only sons of Bramhins can be scholars, only sons of Kshatriyas can be warriors, only sons of Baniyas can be traders and all Shudras were forever shudras.

The architect scholar and almost superman historical Dr Ambedkar was a Mahar aka Dalit aka Shudra. This guy graduated at the top of LSE, has written extensively on India and almost all of his writings were 100% spot on (his thoughts about why it was good that Pakistan formed for Indian Army's balance or what'll happen when Hindu nationalism will rise etc)

But he was treated as shit just because he was born a Mahar.

Now the tragical thing is that Mahars were warriors in Shivaji Maharaj's time (he was a Deccan King who was kinda democratic and not cruel like Mughals. Even actual Gods are below him in my state, people, including atheists like me worship him, not in temples obviously. It is like you can insult Gods and it'd be fine but if you insult him then you are done)

During his reign, Mahars were fierce warriors and had their own regiment in his army. But his descendents weren't exactly great and in the 3rd generation king's army, only 'higher caste' khastriyas could be warriors and others were treated as literally shit. there has been documented evidence (thank God for the documentation) that at the end of the Peshwa rule, the lower class people had to attach a broom at their backside so that they'd sweep the land they walked on because they were considered 'filthy' (not physically). No lower class man or woman or child was allowed in upper class wells, temples. they were not allowed to have horses in their weddings etc. Some of these practices are still rampant in India where upper caste privileged people are blind. you can see quite a few in this thread who are either blind or racist.

basically this was just like slavery without higher caste people owning the lower caste people.

Thanks for the writeup, I appreciate it.

My knowledge of India is very basic. I have indian friends and coworkers and have never thought about this being part of their story.

You are very welcome!

I’m sorry that you had to go through this. I’m east Asian myself, and I often cant tell the ethnicity of other east Asians (Korean, Chinese...). So how does Indians determine the caste of other people? Is it by the lightness of their skin?

Usually name, accent, dialect, food habits. It's not visible upfront, but a few minutes of conversation will get that information.

There is a skin colour bias, but that isn't about caste (darker skin is a sign that you have to work in the sun, which signals poverty and being of a lower economic class).

last names encode a lot of information. Skin color / features etc can also be informative.

Is there blaming going on? Like, for example do the other casts blame the warrior cast(Kshatriya) for screwing up against the British?

What I'm trying to find out is, if these casts are dependent on each other as if profession running in the family or are simply a way to organize within from top down with no cooperation of communities but exploitation. If the latest is the case, I wonder if there were uprisings and such.

> Upper caste hindus have no problem seeing a converted christian as their equal,

This isn't true everywhere. There is a fair amount of bias embedded in society, and caste markers will follow you around.

I have experienced caste-based "weirdness" of a slightly different flavor - I look like a brahmin (the highest caste), but am not one. Every once in a while I'll meet some indian-origin guy who's brahmin who will come ask me if I am okay with eating that tortilla since it contains lard. Once I let it deliberately slip that I'm not in-fact brahmin, they will be like, "oh" and change topics. The oh always sounds to me like, "oh, I thought you belonged to the ubermensh Aryan class but you don't so I guess I don't care about your depraved ways!" - sounds like an exaggeration but I have worked too long with too many of these people to be confident that this is what they think. The most rewarding thing for me is when I tell that all my exes were brahmin (it's a trope that they're pissed all their women are being stolen by lower caste men).

Also all of this in the US; it's almost like many indian origin American (even second gen) Brahmins are far more racist than the general Indian population of the same group. Definitely a lesson in anthropology for sure.

> eating that tortilla since it contains lard

I'm not a Brahmin (and am technically from a much "lower caste") and I wouldn't eat lard (I'm a vegetarian). IMO caste and vegetarianism are different concepts. While certain castes/communities/regions might promote vegetarianism and some might not, I'm not sure if they're always an identifying marker. A lot of people in India are vegetarian for a multitude of reasons and a lot of them who are new to the States might not know what contains lard and what not, so he might have been looking out for you in case you didn't know. I for one didn't know about rennet until much later, and am much grateful to an American dude who pointed that out to me.

I think it sucks that people conflate two different things, because it gives someone who isn't from an Indian background incorrect details. I'm not saying that that Indian-origin guy isn't casteist (given that he reacted against your "brahmin" comment that way), but certain nuances are lost here.

Vegetarian is a huge identity marker. Quote from a professor from my college to my then girlfriend about me - “I wish he was at least a vegetarian”. I happen to be a vegan now and I have a lighter complexion and I clearly get assumed to be “upper caste” and somehow “smart” goes along with it.

Answering to GP above - I don’t mind talking about it but some bar conversations have opened with it. That’s not pleasant. It’s not a light subject. It’s like me opening with some light chat about racism in America. It requires nuance to understand how deeply and yet subtly embedded caste is in India. You can’t get a house for rent in certain neighbourhoods of even major metros. It’s the reason I don’t use a last name at all. Not even legally. If people shun the practice of disclosing the caste it’ll one day disappear. But that’s not going to happen anytime soon.

I'm a total outsider and don't know a thing about the caste system, so forgive me being ignorant: how do others know to which caste someone belongs? Would it be possible to claim another caste and just roll with it? What if one changed their surname to something usually associated with a certain caste?

> Would it be possible to claim another caste and just roll with it? What if one changed their surname to something usually associated with a certain caste?

It is entirely possible, however it does require you to learn nuances of that caste. Otherwise you will get caught out especially while discussing with elders. That said when it comes to marriage there’s no way to hide your caste. The priest knows your parents their relatives and what not. Their surnames being different will cause all kinds of red lights to go off.

Also, for governmental purposes you are expected to produce “caste certificate” which you can’t forge. So it’s not unusual for people in India to marry into lower caste to reap the benefits of governmental reservation.

So, the answer is nuanced. If you want to take advantage of surname in a private company like say Cisco then go for it. For any other purpose, changing surname alone isn’t sufficient. In fact it’s impossible to hide your caste.

While we are at it, it’s worth noting that “caste” refers to two distinct and intertwined hierarchical structures called “varna” and “jati”. Which means even among Brahmins (the upper most caste, intact Brahmin is a Varna and not Jati) there’s a hierarchy, priest being the top most. Jatis are sometimes referred as “sub-caste”.

This Jati is so pervasive in India that even the non-Hindu religions such as Sikhism and “Lingayat” which were explicitly formed to be away from the Hindu caste system couldn’t escape it. So we now have a few dozen Jati within Sikhism and Lingayats with an overly of Verna.

As an academic topic it’s a fascinating one. The roots of this codified structure is still not clear, it’s an active area of research. Recent advancements in human evolutionary genetics is revealing some interesting insights but long way to go.

This might be related. Supposedly these were "sketches used by the police in the USSR to identify suspects based on race" - https://i.redd.it/4qzg51sezz751.jpg

No intermarriage for thousands of years. People look different because the genetics are different.

> It requires nuance to understand how deeply and yet subtly embedded caste is in India

And this is the nuance I'm talking about. I understand vegetarianism definitely has positive connotations in India, but it's rarely about caste, which is what we're looking at here.

There's a lot of different opinions in a country of a billion people, but just labeling it as caste isn't going to do any of it favors.

> It’s not a light subject

None of it is. It's not fun being a vegetarian in the States; doesn't mean people have ostracized vegetarianism because they love their meat burgers. Two different things here, we can't get to the root of things if we don't parse them properly.

> vegetarianism definitely has positive connotations in India, but it's rarely about caste,

I’m not sure which part of India does this apply to. As an Indian living in India (born brought up, working now etc), almost every single instance vegetarianism was brought up in a discussion, it was immediately followed up with caste.

Sure, India is vast, but I just don’t know a place where diet is decoupled from caste.

Talking about myself, though I’m a Maratha Kshatriya my parents somehow didn’t prefer non vegetarian. So I ended up growing up a vegetarian dude. Only to be mocked by my relatives later in life “what kind of a Maratha are you who doesn’t eat meat”

It's not 1:1, but there's a clear correlation. To caricature a bit, the Brahmins at the top of the hierarchy can afford to have an elaborate "pure" vegetarian diet with lots of ghee etc (the Jains, mentioned earlier, even exclude root vegetables that would kill the plant), somewhere around the middle of the pile you start eating animals because you need to get your protein where you can, and at the very bottom are the outcastes who do the dirty jobs like butchering animals.

Yes well if we want to go all Veblen, we can see that throughout the world, not just India.

But let us be real here, there are a lot of people in poverty following vegetarian diets, especially because meat doesn't always come cheap in India, and dal/milk relatively are. Some follow it because they were raised in a vegetarian culture. Some do it because they dislike the thought of eating animals.

Brahmins aren't always rich/powerful, and the "lower castes" aren't always that hard off, and this has been the case throughout history.

Some of my friends my well-to-do friends eat meat (sometimes including beef) just fine, some don't. Same with people from different socio-economic levels. This just doesn't reflect reality any more.

I straddled a lot of classes growing up in India, and I can assure you that most people don't eat meat "to get their protein". If they are culturally inclined to do so, they'll eat it because it's tasty, it's a delicacy. I know a couple families which used to be able to afford chicken only once every few months. They were definitely impoverished, but when you're impoverished in India you definitely can't afford meat (the government has rations of rice, sugar etc, and you barely afford some basic veggies -meat is typically 5-10x more expensive). Heck, even eggs are too expensive for a large fraction of the poor here.

Sure, we're generalizing about over a billion people here. But I still contend that if you were to take statistically significant samples across the caste hierarchy, you'd find more vegetarians up top.

There's actually a huge regional aspect to it - western states have a large veggie population that traverses many classes.

Possibly. Wish we had numbers, but I'm not sure if survey respondents would always speak the truth :)

That would not capture Bengali and Kerala brahmins. In Kerala its kosher and common for a brahmins to have beef. Meat is a regular part of diet of Bengali brahmins, to the extent that they can afford it.

> the Jains, mentioned earlier, even exclude root vegetables that would kill the plant

Really? So no haldi?

Correct. No haldi, no ginger, no onions, no potatoes, no carrots, ...

True, I suppose I should have been just as surprised by garlic/ginger/onion - the four just seem such basic staples in Indian cooking (and garlic/onion more generally).

The funny thing about infiniteness is that half of it is still pretty infinite - and that also works with garlic, ginger, and potatoes, at least (I don't know if it's true of all roots and bulbs though) in that they'll sprout from a part.

Although I appreciate that's probably not the point. But if it were, one could have parts packaged for sale, with the regulated promise that the rest of it was replanted, analogously to religiously-compatible slaughter.

> you start eating animals because you need to get your protein where you can

Animal protein is more expensive to produce than plant protein, the result of nothing less than thermodynamics.

You are the only one talking about vegetarianism.

It's fairly obvious that from the traditionalist point of view of the poster's friend a Brahmin is expected to care more than inferior people from no-good castes about religious and semi-religious precepts like not eating lard (to avoid eating inappropriate animals, not because lard isn't vegetarian).

Not always. As I mentioned, an American (not of Indian origin, and presumably without thinking about caste) warned me about rennet when he knew I was a vegetarian. Please don't misunderstand my words.

I talk about vegetarianism because the GP talked about it through the lens of caste, and I stated that I thought otherwise.

I'm actually vegetarian myself, though I typically don't assume tortillas contain lard (unless the places name is actually in spanish lol). This particular example (because we had a deeper conversation) was definitely about how Brahmins were supposed to be pure.

Heh, have had some similar conversations myself (how people like me are "supposed to be more X/less Y"). I've had little patience for those, and have let my own opinions be known. Thanks for adding some more colour.

Interesting, I never knew the different caste had any distinguishing physical characteristics. What does a “brahmin look” entail?

In the south, it means looking fairer. There is inherent racism basis skin tone. It is not just how you look though, it is your name which can have case based surname or a first name variant common to a caste. Eating habits, how you speak the language - dialect and kind of words you use and so on.

Not just in South India, although the pattern is perhaps more distinctively visible there.

All over South Asia - India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, from Punjab to Tamil Nadu, Gujarat to Bengal - you will find a rough correlation of class/caste along skin complexion lines with higher class/caste people generally being fairer complexioned, and a broad based folk understanding and rationalization of this. Almost every region has a complexion/caste based folk cultural model for interpreting the phenotypical variation among themselves, a variation which is often vast even over small distances - and it's independent of religion.

What you are seeing is the aftermath of thousands of years of collision of peoples who migrated from various parts of the old world with differing phenotypes. Though they all mixed, they did so in differing proportions that were correlated with the dominant power structures and associated mores of beauty, defined by the new rulers, who were frequently people of fair complexion, culminating in the situation you see today. This pre-existing situation was then keenly exploited by the last group of fair skinned rulers of foreign origin, the British.

Would it be similar to how a British person might recognize a posh individual?


Yes there is a difference in South India. The Brahmins are descendants from central Asia[1]. But this is often refuted by the Brahmins in India as they claim to be from an authentic Indian origin. The natives in South India which includes me are darker skinned than the Brahmins. So people here can figure out that someone is from a caste if they are light skinned. A person with proper scientific understanding can explain in more detail but this is the overall view.

[1] https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/science/steppe-mig...

Brahmins generally have lighter skin tone. I am guessing this is because they usually marry people lighter skin tone. There is probably some inbreeding too historically and even now https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/950239/

Not completely dark + looking dorky I think? I make it a point to ask why they thought I was one but no one ever has an answer.

Frappuccino skin, long and slender bone structure. And yes, a bit dorky.

Thats because Brahmin women are most good looking ones ;)

There's not much to misunderstand, actually. The caste system is a highly discriminatory and unfair classification of people based on their birth. For a major part of Indian history, it was the upper castes that abused it. But since independence, politicians from both higher and lower castes have managed to keep it running for their own gains.

Consider these lyrics: "They cut me out for a baking bread, but I had other dreams instead".

Now imagine a system designed to completely ignore your dreams and force you to bake bread for now and future generations! And you are not even in chains!

Your guess about not airing the laundry in public is pretty close. "caste awareness" is ingrained from a young age, and you can't lose those circuits even if you yourself don't agree with them. A lot of people, especially higher caste, "understand" at a logical level that this is all wrong, but find it very difficult to change. So discrimination continues in all social spheres, but it's covert.

The silver lining is that there are also those who have distanced themselves from that system, and their number keeps increasing.

I’m ethnically Indian but was born in and have lived in the US my entire life. I also happen to be a Brahmin, which I assume some of the people here could probably figure out from my name but I only learned about because of some random ritual thing when I was a child where I had to shave my hair and wear some sort of symbolic thread or something like that. Aside from family, who I am sure are the same caste, I think I can count on my hand the number of times I have ever had caste come up in a discussion or learned someone’s caste, and being in the Bay Area I talk to a lot of Indians. And that’s always been along the lines of “You know about the caste system? That’s kind of messed up. By the way do you have a caste?” Maybe I just never see it as a Brahmin but I have never once seen anyone change their attitude based on caste. I think it’d go as well as calling yourself descended from royalty, or having an ancestor who was a pirate: cool, but if you’re going to make it a part of your identity or judge people on it you need to get on with the times.

I’ll second this - I was born in India and moved to US at young age. Never had caste come up ever with my family or relatives, but the only time I had to think about it was when someone asked me about it (out of curiosity, not in any other way).

Lately, I picked up one of the introductory courses from Audible - “Great World Religions: Hinduism from The Great Courses”. It was well put together - a whole chapter dedicated to caste system in India. Particularly talks about restriction of mobility and exceptions when it can happen. Highly recommend it for anyone who wants to learn more about the good, the bad and the ugly of Hinduism.

Apparently, I was born in the artisanal caste of India, specifically Blacksmiths: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panchal

> I can count on my hand the number of times I have ever had caste come up in a discussion

That is because your not "Indian" you are an American, these caste based discussions happen among first gen Indians who were born in India and then moved to another country. The kids of these immigrants dont usually care about caste.

I lived in India for a bit, and no shit they wouldn't share it. It's a horrible form of discrimination, worse than racism in some ways, IMO.

You could, historically, spread your "untouchableness" by contacting people of other castes, for example. Marrying your child to someone from a lower caste is seen as a shameful move to many people.

White people would absolutely not understand this, yes, but what is there to understand? This is just discrimination based on your family + skin tone to some extent, and the sooner it dies, the better.

Discriminating based on caste is racism. Actually, the Brits used the caste system to their own advantage* and discrimination based on caste didn't become outlawed until the Indian constitution was written post-independence.

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caste_system_in_India

Britain has had a very strong class system, which was perhaps at its peak around the time of the empire, so it would not have been a big leap at all to understand the Indian caste system.

They wanted to divide the country so they used it. They didn't actually need to understand it.

Didn't realise! I'll edit my comment to remove that part. I was going to mention sati, but decided against it.

Well, I'm glad you didn't mention Sati, because it would have really dated your knowledge of Indian society.

It was going to be in relation to the British rule helping abolish it, but it's not completely gone still, is it? During travels through small towns in the western part of India, I heard about a local case around 2010, but allegedly the widow did it voluntarily, and without outside influence.

Thank you. People are very much misleading today.

Brits also developed the concept 'Martial race' in India, which meant that certain castes are capable of fighting and others are not.


Today it's widely understood that this was done to reward those who supported the British during the 1857 rebellion and to utilise caste-based segregation in British Indian army against any future rebellion.

In many ways, it’s similar to the hierarchy if feudal titles in medieval Europe, with the serfs being legally tied to the land. It’s just shocking to see such a feudal anachronism continuing so long after the initial conditions that created it have ceased to exist.

> I'm a very white guy living in California and I often get the impression that caste is something that Indian folks living here are aware of amongst each other, but they don't really discuss it with white people.

The level of conformance (or even awareness!) to caste is different for different Indians even. Some don't even know much about the system apart from what has been taught in the textbook, being raised in a liberal environment. Some are steeped into it. Most are in the middle, and many are very very confused about the whole thing, which would mean that even if they tell you, their interpretation might be different from someone else.

In my opinion a lot of caste stuff is just hogwash. But certain remnants remain, and these remnants vary from person to person and place to place (some might put an emphasis on diet/religion, some on the education you receive, some on the gods you worship, etc). A lot of it has been used to divide people in the locality against each other, which is essentially just classic politics. But much of the new generation (depending on where they're from) is quite ignorant of/against all this, which is good.

Its not just remnants. In major cities like Bangalore caste is regularly a part of who people will rent their house or sell their property to and is definitely a major part of marriage discussions. All Indian dating portals have caste up front and center in their selection criteria.

As I said, ~not all places~ varies from place to place. Haven't myself had an issue yet, coming from a not-so-desirable caste, and I know plenty who haven't either.

> definitely a major part of marriage discussions

Again, not all of them; speaking from personal experiences. Most of those sites have a "don't know/don't care" field, and many have that option set :) I agree that the field itself shouldn't be there, but I tend to highlight progress wherever possible

I don't deny this happens, but it doesn't happen _all_ the time, or even the majority of the times nowadays (I can only say what I've experienced, I know others would have seen differently).

Maybe your experiences are different but from my friends and personal experiences it happens all the time. Two brahmin friend of mine who were looking to rent in a posh locality in Bangalore had to provide their contacts in the village to make it clear to the landlords that they were genuine brahmins from the right caste. Incidentally, both were PhDs from US institutes so that did not prevent the checks. Remember, Bangalore is a reasonably progressive city. Caste checks are routine and frequent in smaller towns and villages.

Which part of Bangalore did this happen? Landlords usually use veg-only as a dogwhistle to select brahmins. Also they are wary to let out to other religions, muslims especially.

They were vegetarian TamBrahms, they just needed the additional details to be totally sure. This was in J P Nagar/Jayanagar area.

Not surprised at all because Old South Bangalore (Basavanagudi, Jayanagar, JP Nagar) is Brahmin Central.

Haha. I am getting downvoted here for just mentioning this :)

It is difficult to fully understand as it deeply part of the religion and culture so they may not be able to easily explain it to you. Many political parties win elections on caste based politics, so it is large part of people's concisenesses

There are always layers within every layer whether someone is higher or lower and even within a caste it depends on genealogy(which mythical ancestor your family originates), sub varieties, socio-economic status locality, education, organizations , roles you worked at etc.

It is persistent and systemic discrimination, while things have improved in the last 70 years, there are still a lot problems. Easiest way to to figure out who someone marries especially if it is an arranged marriage

> Indian folks living here are aware of amongst each other, but they don't really discuss it with white people

In my experience, it's informally reinforced. I haven't met an Indian American who actively contemplates caste. But family connections; shared customs, rituals and language; and economic disparities reinforce in-group over out-of-group relationships.

These informal factors conspire to cause generations of young Americans of Indian descent to have their Indian-origin friends be, predominantly, of a similar caste to themselves. They aren't selecting for it. They may not even know how to see it. But hidden social factors guide their relationships.

It reminds me of my friends from the South. Subtle social factors that reinforce racist hierarchies. Recognizing, discussing and actively subverting those mechanisms takes personal ownership of the problem. This has not happened, broadly, in the Indian American community.

> I haven't met an Indian American who actively contemplates caste.

At a startup, we had a couple of Indian engineers on the team (pretty common), but they would frequently converse with each other in Hindi. Eventually one of them left the company, and in his exit interview he revealed that the other guy was constantly harassing him about his caste.

> but they don't really discuss it with white people

Because it's a complex topic and one can't condense the lives of 1B+ people so easily. It's also not a solved problem, so most of the folks who speak out do it as form of venting or to bring a change due to some personal experiences.

I just wanted to mention few things because they need be said. I hope it helps.

Caste system and Varna system in India are 2 different things. Many people including Indians fail to understand this. Caste system and what was written in Manusmruti (some guidelines book for Hindus) was debated even in ancient times but some high-caste-people did take advantage of it and it went screwed up in-between years.

Caste system was based on the work you do. As many are talking about "surnames" pointing to your caste - please understand how they got these surnames in the first place! It's not the other way round. Also, traditionally descendants did the same business as it was easily taught to kids and was believed that those skills are genetically transferred as well. Note that I'm stating what was believed - not necessarily facts.

Please try to relate the concept of "untouchables" in today's pandemic times. Do you intent to go and touch those who work in the hospitals? How would you expect the people in those times to be okay with touching those who used to clean up toilets by hand, carry the waste on their backs? Note that I'm not justifying what followed in thousands of years later

Hoping you get the context. Please don't evaluate the origins on today's level of sophistication

I do believe that the caste system exists through out the world even today. Just that castes are different. How about now we have "Software Engineers" as a caste? There too you are higher if you belong to FAANG, no? How many software engineers like to marry software engineers? Isn't it convenient to marry someone who has similar work life, thought process, education background and such? Wasn't it same in the old days? I know people who - if they work at FAANG, then looking for partner working in FAANG because their status matches!

One more example in the context of "untouchable" and Brahmins to help you understand the point of not touching others - If lady in a Brahmin house is preparing food in the morning (she will always take bath first), NOBODY (her parents, kids, husband, whatever) in the house is allowed to go to the kitchen, touch her or even drink water from there until they take bath. Please try to think about this.

I don't know if 'ironic' is the right word but here in comments I read someone mentioning "HR wouldn't support lower level employees" in the comment in the context of "dalit". Guess what "dalit" are? "lower level employees in the society" (those who cleaned up waste).

Importantly, dalit's were not working in lower level because they were untouchables, but they were untouchables because they worked in the lower levels. Indian society let Mr. B R Ambedkar (who was born Dalit) to write constitution of India - that speaks volumes.

Historically speaking, most ancient societies had something similar, one way or the other. What is really interesting, is that India is the only country I know of, that codified that system religiously and carried it into the 21st century.

Not to say that there is an society without discrimination and social disparity. But only a few take it to the level the Indian caste system does.

That shows how tricky racism is, doesn't it? In the US it is African-Americans, in the UK Pakistanis and Indians, in Germany Turks and in France people from the Maghreb states. In India it is Muslims and castes, in China the Uigurs, in the Muslim world Suunits and Shiits (hope I spelled that right). In Turkey Turks and Kurds. And it all sucks. And it goes on and on, where ever you go.

Just saying, only because one Dalit wrote the constitution doesn't make the inherent discrimination and racism go away.

> African-Americans, in the UK Pakistanis and Indians

It’s worth differentiating here. The experiences and outcomes and attitudes towards Pakistanis are very different to those of Indians in the UK. Indians are by far the most successful ethnic minority in the UK while Pakistanis are the least. Three of the most senior positions in the UK government are occupied by people of Indian descent—Priti Patel, Rishi Sunak, and Alok Sharma-all members of the Conservative Party.

There was a striking example of this in the COVID mortality statistics [1]:

> The data shows those males categorised as black are over 4.6 times more likely to die than their white counterparts from the virus. They are followed by Pakistanis/Bangladeshis (just over four times more likely to die), and then Chinese and Indians (just over 2.5 times).

People of Indian and Pakistani background are not significantly genetically different, but there is a substantial difference in how likely they are to die of COVID.

I am a bit skeptical that the difference is due to differential discrimination. I don't think most British racists are smart enough to distinguish people of Indian and Pakistani background. My hunch is that it's due to different patterns of immigration: if Indian immigrants were more likely to be middle-class, and to move to suburbs and small towns, whereas Pakistani and Bangladeshi immigrants were more likely to be working-class, and to move to inner cities, then that would produce the kinds of demographic difference that could explain the COVID disparity.

[1] https://theconversation.com/coronavirus-its-impact-cannot-be...

This mortality question is one that really intrigues me. Minorities have higher rates in the US and the UK for example. I didn't see any numbers for Germany so far, and France isn't collecting data based on "race" (for lack of a better term).

What would really be interessting is to break the mortality down by income and poverty. And than compare it to income an poverty based on race, where such numbers are available (so obviously not France). My hunch tells me mortallity is first related to social and financial circumstances, which are themselves directly related to race / being a minority / being poor. Maybe nitpicking, so, because it still tells us something about discrimination, doesn't it?

This is pretty much what the ONS have done [1]:

> We used binary logistic regression models to estimate whether the risk of dying from COVID-19 is greater among the Black and other minority ethnic groups than among the White ethnic population, after taking into account a number of geographic, demographic, socio-economic, living arrangements and health measures from the 2011 Census.

> Adjusting for these factors substantially reduces the odds of a death involving COVID-19 relative to those of White ethnicity for all ethnic groups. [...] In the fully adjusted model (Panel B), Black males and females are 1.9 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than the White ethnic group. Males of Bangladeshi and Pakistani ethnicity are 1.8 times more likely to die; for females, odds of death are reduced to 1.6 times more likely. Individuals from the Chinese and Mixed ethnic group have similar risks to those with White ethnicity.

Adjusting only for age, black men are 4.2 times more likely to die than white men. Adjusting for all the factors they thought of, they are 1.9 times more likely to die.

The fact that even the fully adjusted model still has a large and significant difference between Indian and Bangladeshi/Pakistani people suggests to me that there are other non-genetic factors that aren't included in the model.

> Maybe nitpicking, so, because it still tells us something about discrimination, doesn't it?

Yes, absolutely.

[1] https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsde...

> I didn't see any numbers for Germany so far, and France isn't collecting data based on "race" (for lack of a better term).

Germany doesn't either (by law, not just policy or habit, since the war) - quite an interesting article I saw recently reported that (in particular) black women in Germany are unhappy about it, because it (is perceived to) stymie support or positive action and such. Which, of course, was not the intended effect of banning the collection of such data at all!

Indians were descendants of middle class and entrepreneurial Kenyans,Ugandans expelled from those countries partly because they dominated them economically. They brought money and expertise with them. The Pakistanis were poor and uneducated by comparison.

However the first non-white chancellor in the Uk, before Rishi Sunak was Sajid Javid, a Pakistani, as is the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. But wouldn’t it be fair to say the most successful Indians in the Uk come from higher castes? How successful are the Gugurati Kuchi background Indians compared to the Ugandan immigrants and higher caste Hindus.

Yes, and there are many prominent people of Pakistani origin in the UK [0]. I think it makes sense that people who immigrate with expertise, capital, and an entrepreneurial mindset are more likely to find financial success in the first couple of generations than those who don't, which correlates with caste and family history etc.

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_British_Pakistanis

Thanks for pointing it out!

You don't have to look all that far back, Japan had a codified and brutally enforced (instant death penalty) case system until the late 1800s:


Virtually nothing of it remains today though, although there are some traces of discrimination against the burakumin (Japan's untouchables) and some (rare) names are associated with the nobility. Generally speaking, though, you can't tell somebody's former caste from the name: a Maeda could be a direct descendent of the samurai clan, a retainer or peasant in the Maeda lands who adopted the name, or some random person anywhere in Japan who happened to live near the front (mae) rice paddy (-da) since Japanese names tend to reflect places, not occupations. Those few who care about "pure blood" have to hire a private investigator to ferret out burakumin traces.

> in the UK Pakistanis and Indians


See here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racism_in_the_United_Kingdom#2...

Especially the part about "Paki-Bashing" in 80s.

I get what you were explaining, but i disagree with these parts

> How would you expect the people in those times to be okay with touching those who used to clean up toilets by hand, carry the waste on their backs?

The trouble is, this wasn't something people chose to do by choice - it was thrust upon them initially and eventually conditioned to accept as "their duty" to the society through religious conditioning. (Read Gandhi's commentary justifying this type of work)

There is enough written about this and if you are interested you can easily look up about this online and in libraries.

> traditionally descendants did the same business as it was easily taught to kids

Even this was thrust through years of conditioning my friend. They were not "allowed" to take up any other profession - they could be dead, if they dared to do this. The references for this go far back to scriptures and other religious literature my friend.

> dalit's were not working in lower level because they were untouchables, but they were untouchables because they worked in the lower levels

Not true, read the comment above, they were forced into lower level work initially.

> Indian society let Mr. B R Ambedkar (who was born Dalit) to write constitution of India - that speaks volumes.

You haven't read Ambedkar have you ? :) Indian society didn't "let" Mr. B R Ambedkar to write the constitution, he rose to that position through sheer intellectual power! He was very very ahead of his times my brother! He faced many many challenges throughout his rise due to his origins being from lower class, he rose in spite of it.

A man of such calibre, resigned when in a position of power because he didn't believe in certain ideas put forth for discussion while making amendments to the constitution etc. He felt that would jeopardize the efforts he had put in to make the constitution equal for all - and undermine democracy! Such was the man!

> I don't know if 'ironic' is the right word but here in comments I read someone mentioning "HR wouldn't support lower level employees" in the comment in the context of "dalit". Guess what "dalit" are? "lower level employees in the society" (those who cleaned up waste).

You need to look within yourself - with the above comment you are putting yourself down in front of people. Such a bad outlook. Reeks of racist / casteist attitude. Seek some help, and read good books to get out of this pathetic attitude towards fellow human beings.

Thanks for your reply. Can you explain this one a little bit?

> One more example in the context of "untouchable" and Brahmins to help you understand the point of not touching others - If lady in a Brahmin house is preparing food in the morning (she will always take bath first), NOBODY (her parents, kids, husband, whatever) in the house is allowed to go to the kitchen, touch her or even drink water from there until they take bath. Please try to think about this.

Are you referring to someone who is a dalit servant in a wealthy house? That's how I'm reading it at the moment but realize you could mean it a few different ways.

Sorry this was confusing bit. As sbmthakur said - in a Brahmin family, when Brahmin lady is cooking stuff - other people in her family who are also Brahmin and blood relatives are not allowed to go near her, touch her, or in short "contaminate" her Kitchen, food etc.

I think parent means that it's not racism and that there are similar activity based segregation rules within the same family living in the same house

It is a kind of racism my friend - it is not mentioned in the Hindu scriptures that those who are born to a Brahmin are also by birth brahmin. But in reality, that's how it is - a person is born into a caste, by birth.

For example, if a brahmin person has a baby, then that baby is brahmin by birth. But this is not what the scriptures prescribe. The scriptures mention the caste system by the nature of work one adopts.

But as you can see, it was easily corruptible. Even in 2020, there are brahmin people who explicitly state that they are the superior caste with no repercussions when the constitution mandates equal rights to its citizens. If this is not racism, what is ? Calling some fellow human being as inferior ?

In a strictly traditional Brahmin household, it's the responsibility of the housewife (who is also a Brahmin) to prepare the food for the family.

Well, the issue is it became hereditary, due to corruption.

As a non-Indian person living in the US, I have wondered about this.

What role does caste still play in the year 2020? And, specifically, in middle-class society in the US and in India? Does it play any role in tech companies in India?

It still exists in 2020. People who live in cities at least don't face it directly - its always indirect, implicit, subtle and ruthless.

People who live in Tier-2, Tier-3 cities and in villages / panchayats - the caste based discrimination is very obvious and explicit. People wear their (upper) caste as a badge of honor all the while discriminating lower caste people openly with no consequences, although the Indian constitution considers all citizens equal.

Tech, Startups where I have worked had no such discrimination

Marriage, If it's an arranged marriage 99.9% of the time, bride and groom will be of same caste.

The reason you don't hear about it much from your Indian friends in Canada is because it isn't a part of daily life for Indians in Canada.

In Canada, even the priest has to wash his clothes, clean his toilets, and feed the pets and pick up their poo. So, for the most part, the caste system dies the moment an Indian leaves India.

It becomes an important piece of consideration for matchmaking. Parents from upper caste families (priests, teachers) try very hard to get their kids to also marry someone from higher up the social pecking order.

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