POSTED BY Buzz ON Mar 10, 2014 AT 23:56 IST ,  Edited At: Mar 10, 2014 23:56 IST

In her introduction to the annotated critical edition of Dr B.R. Ambedkar's Annihilation of Caste, Arundhati Roy looks at the ways in which caste plays out in modern India, and how the conflict between Ambedkar and Gandhi continues to resonate into the present day. Here she is in conversation with Suryakant Waghmore, author of Caste Against Civility, and Asst Professor, TISS, Mumbai.

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POSTED BY Buzz ON Mar 10, 2014 AT 23:56 IST, Edited At: Mar 10, 2014 23:56 IST
POSTED BY Buzz ON Apr 02, 2012 AT 19:54 IST ,  Edited At: Apr 02, 2012 19:54 IST

First came Aakar Patel's column in the Mint: Why is it better to live in the south, which, was followed by the introduction: "The south’s urban culture is more intellectual and much more tolerant."

The intro, originally, went on to say, "My hypothesis is that this is so because its culture is dominated by the Brahmin." (This part has since been removed)

And now comes the riposte:

Your article was a serious stereotype of both South Indians and North Indians, generously free of facts, and patronizing. It was also clichéd like the masala dosa in a Udupi restaurant...

I understand that you have friendly feelings towards my tribe and you would expect me to ha-ha your story and ho-ho it because it should please me to be praised.


It didn’t. Your article was a serious stereotype of both South Indians and North Indians, generously free of facts, and patronizing. It was also clichéd like the masala dosa in a Udupi restaurant.

Read the full blogpost

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POSTED BY Buzz ON Apr 02, 2012 AT 19:54 IST, Edited At: Apr 02, 2012 19:54 IST
POSTED BY Buzz ON Dec 27, 2011 AT 07:48 IST ,  Edited At: Dec 27, 2011 07:48 IST

Pratap Bhanu Mehta in the Indian Express:

Ashis Nandy once made the powerful point that communalism was not about the “facts of religion”. It was about its self-conscious use as a political tool, often by people who did not believe in it. Casteism, is also not about the fact of caste. It is about the use of caste to make three claims. First, that people have compulsory identities which they cannot transcend, ever. Institutions should act as if no one can be more or less than their caste. Second, the point of social policy is not to empower individuals to escape the deprivations of caste, but to trap them in it. Third, that the only possible test of the legitimacy of institutions is if they mirror social reality, not if they transform it into something better. All of the Congress’s actions, from its support of the methodologically dubious caste census to its policies on reservation, suggest that it has become casteist in this sense.

It has also become communal in the sense that Hamid Dalwai so presciently diagnosed decades ago. It perpetuates the idea of minority as a political category, so that it can keep them in its place and use them. And, in the context of the Lokpal bill, it has cynically used them again. The Congress has ruled India for more than 50 years. But if India is more unjust along caste lines, minorities are more marginalised, surely the Congress is to blame. What is it about its paradigm of politics that it can effectively help neither Muslims nor Dalits? The caste parties may have narrow agendas; sections of the BJP may be pathologically incapable of thinking beyond identity. But what is the Congress’s excuse?

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POSTED BY Buzz ON Dec 27, 2011 AT 07:48 IST, Edited At: Dec 27, 2011 07:48 IST
POSTED BY Sundeep Dougal ON Jun 11, 2010 AT 05:00 IST ,  Edited At: Jun 11, 2010 05:00 IST

Padmanabh Samarendra, in the Indian Express, recalls the historical problems with counting castes in the census till 1931:

From the very beginning, overwhelming discrepancies marked the counting and classification of castes. In 1871-82, for example, Bengal presidency listed just 69 castes. But by 1901, that number had swollen to 380. Meanwhile in Bombay Presidency, the numbers were greater — going up from 140 in 1871-72 to 690 in 1901.

Caste lists found in the colonial census reports were clearly inconsistent. In fact, what might come as a surprise to many is that between 1871-72 and 1931, no exhaustive list of castes could be prepared for any province, let alone for the country as a whole. Every list was concluded with entries such as “miscellaneous castes”, “other castes”, “caste not stated”, and so on. In addition, there existed the problem of identifying castes. After all, how do we know that communities named as Bhad Bhunja (1901 caste list, Bombay), Oraon, Marwari (1901 caste list, Bengal) or Lingayat (1901 caste list, Madras) are actually caste groups?

He also raises the basic questions about even trying to assess the strength of the OBCs, for example: on what criteria at the pan-Indian level would someone qualify as belonging to this class? As he points out, this is necessary because not all states have an OBC list.

Further, one may ask whether the government is going to include in the census questionnaire an OBC column for the Muslims? We know that many castes from the Muslim community figure in the OBC list prepared by the states. However, would the government be willing to introduce the principle of subdividing Muslims, or for that matter the Christian population, along caste lines?

Read the full piece at the Indian Express

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FILED IN:  Caste|Census
POSTED BY Sundeep Dougal ON Jun 11, 2010 AT 05:00 IST, Edited At: Jun 11, 2010 05:00 IST
POSTED BY Sundeep Dougal ON May 13, 2010 AT 14:26 IST ,  Edited At: May 13, 2010 14:26 IST

In the Telegraph, Radhika Ramaseshan  recalls Govind Vallabh Pant's reason for rejecting the report of the first backward classes commission headed by Kaka Kalelkar:

“The recognition of specified castes as backward may serve to maintain and perpetuate the existing caste distinctions.”

She recalls how Jawaharlal Nehru rejected the report for its unverified findings and “unexplained adherence to caste as the principal index”.

Incidentally, this  report, submitted in 1955, listed 2,399 OBCs, classifying 837 of these as “most backward”. It put the OBCs at about 32 per cent of the population.

She goes on to point out how

Mandal’s data-gathering was random: he covered only two villages and one urban block in each district, for the rest depending on the states’ lists and the 1931 census.

His findings were a little of this and a little of that, raising the number of OBCs to 3,743 castes while sticking to the 1931 figure of 43.7 per cent of the population.

Read the full piece at the Telegraph

Meanwhile, Pratap Bhanu Mehta, in a searing critique in the Indian Express, demolishes the decision to enumerate caste in the census, going beyond the practical difficulties of the exercise illustrated in the Telegraph piece, calling it "nothing but a raw assertion of power wearing the garb of social justice, an ideological projection of Indian society masquerading under the colour of social science, and a politics of bad faith being projected as a concern for the poor". After providing seven devastating reasons against it, he concludes:

Finally, the manner in which the Congress took the decision betrays its fundamental casualness about all the values that form our moral compass. A well-considered decision, taken by nationalist leaders whose understandings of both moral values and our infirmities as a nation far surpassed ours, was overturned in a matter of minutes at the altar of political expediency. It sends the message of crass political instrumentalism. The backlash may not be immediately apparent, in part because the opposition has also stopped thinking. But the Congress’s casual caving in to a retrograde demand is reminiscent of all reactionary politics it spawned in the ’80s, pitting one group against another. And what does it say about its character, that its young MPs, exemplars of India’s modernity, have no will to resist? It is already a sign of how small caste makes it. And now we will count it at every step.

Read the full piece at the Indian Express

In the Hindu, Nandini Sundar had earlier pointed out the same:

On the surface, caste enumeration appears to be a UPA concession to its OBC allies, but more fundamentally, it fits with the larger political agenda of moving people off the land, holding out the illusory promise of formal employment. For social justice, we are made to believe there is no alternative to reservation, and for reservation, no alternative to counting caste. With over 90 per cent of people in the informal sector, reservation can hardly be the primary solution to greater equality. There is no doubt that stringent affirmative action policies are required to make formal institutions more socially inclusive, but to shackle the census to this agenda betrays a failure to learn from the past or to think imaginatively about the future.

It's a hurried post, so will just add links for further reading and hope to offer commentary later:

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FILED IN:  Caste|Census|Congress
POSTED BY Sundeep Dougal ON May 13, 2010 AT 14:26 IST, Edited At: May 13, 2010 14:26 IST
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