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California accuses Cisco of job discrimination based on Indian employee's caste (reuters.com)
358 points by sahin on July 1, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 592 comments

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.

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 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 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 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.

The person who responded had a bunch of good points, but one thing they didn't specifically respond to, is how members of my caste (Brahmins, top of the heap) would know how someone is NOT a brahmin.

So if you aren't a brahmin, you probably haven't had the same childhood experiences of temple-going and specific rituals. If I really want to ferret your caste out, I might casually quiz you on this background, maybe even in the context of innocently joshing about, "hey, wasn't that weird our moms would make us do blah blah blah." And if you didn't respond right away with a story about how your parents did that same thing, I'd maybe start to become suspicious ...

If you ever let slip that someone in your family got a job because they utilized an affirmative action program (called "reservations" in India,) it'd sound weird, and I'd get suspicious ...

If I started a joke about how some brahmins are better than other brahmins (yep, that exists. I know because I am the best Brahmin.) and you seemed clueless about the typology, I'd get suspicious ...

You do this enough times, I'm gonna cross you off my party list.

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

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

> 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...

why should David Reich be trusted more than David Frawley ?

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.

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/

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

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 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’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 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

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.

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.

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 :)

> 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.

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

> 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!

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.

> 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.

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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