What should I ask Sujatha Gidla?

by on October 3, 2017 at 1:16 am in Books, History, Law, Philosophy, Political Science, Religion | Permalink

She is the author of the new and superb Ants Among Elephants: An Untouchable Family and the Making of Modern India.  I will be interviewing her later in the month, with a podcast and transcript forthcoming, no public event.  Here is her Macmillan bio:

Sujatha Gidla was born an untouchable in Andhra Pradesh, India. She studied physics at the Regional Engineering College, Warangal. The author of Ants Among the Elephants, her writing has appeared in The Oxford India Anthology of Telugu Dalit Writing. She lives in New York and works as a conductor on the subway.

Here is BBC coverage of her work.  Here is the NYT review of her book.  Here are further links about herThe Economist wrote: “Ants Among Elephants is an arresting, affecting and ultimately enlightening memoir. It is quite possibly the most striking work of non-fiction set in India since Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo, and heralds the arrival of a formidable new writer.”

So what should I ask her?

1 Ray Lopez October 3, 2017 at 1:35 am

Does she consider herself a writer or an engineer and what she thinks of V.S. Naipaul and Orientalism (1978) by Edward W. Said, vis-a-vis Bernard Lewis?

2 Ray Lopez October 3, 2017 at 1:43 am

Bonus trivia: if she’s ever heard of this guy (invented shampoo for England): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sake_Dean_Mahomed

3 Benjamin Cole October 3, 2017 at 8:37 am

“Is the L-line the best subway for getting to Brooklyn from midtown?”

4 Prakash October 3, 2017 at 2:58 am

What does she think of Chandra Bhan Prasad and other pro-capitalism Dalits? What are her disagreements with them?

5 Shobha October 3, 2017 at 10:26 pm

How is it not?

6 Ray Lopez October 4, 2017 at 12:43 am

It’s very relevant, the fake Ray Lopez struck again.

7 So Much For Subtlety October 3, 2017 at 3:22 am

I guess you have to ask a caste question.

How about the obvious – India lobbied very hard to get Caste kept out of the 2001 Durban World Conference Against Racism. Was it a mistake to exclude it? Is caste a historical injustice on the same scale as Trans-Atlantic Slavery and are reparations due?

8 blah October 3, 2017 at 6:07 am

Do you know that there are caste-based quotas in India? US doesn’t have anything of the kind; affirmative action doesn’t even come close.

9 Kris October 3, 2017 at 6:20 am

injustice on the same scale as Trans-Atlantic Slavery

I’m no supporter of the caste system, but really? The Middle Passage, chattel slavery, breaking up of slave families, forced labor, whippings: none of these have any equivalents in the Indian caste system, even including the abhorrent practice of untouchability.

So again, really?

10 shrikanthk October 3, 2017 at 6:25 am

Even untouchability has greatly varied in its rigors in traditional India, by time and space. The practice of Untouchability in northern India never quite approached the inhumane levels it scaled in say Kerala or even Maharashtra.

11 blah October 3, 2017 at 7:07 am

I don’t know your views or where this thread is heading, but it does strongly remind one of the following sort of development that one gets the privilege to witness every once in a while: an ultra-liberal Indian vocal critique of caste, in a certain blue moon, questions a westerner’s bad analogy/simplistic reasoning on caste, and instead of getting critiqued on the merit of her arguments, gets *automatically and implicitly* slotted as brahminical. In other words, an Indian liberal once in a while gets from the westerner what she had been giving to fellow Indians.

Again, while I don’t know you, just the similarities with the present situation is enough to make my day 😛

12 Kris October 3, 2017 at 11:43 am

I don’t fit the profile you describe. I’m not a uber-liberal, I dislike the caste system but I’m not a vocal critic of it. I’m kind of a libertarian, which is what drew me to this blog in the first place. My distaste for the caste system is of a piece with my distaste for all tribal attachments; I am an individualist.

13 shrikanthk October 3, 2017 at 11:56 am

There are no individualists in this world. No man is an island.

To get along in this world, you need a network – that network starts with your mum and dad, maybe your siblings, your cousins, your clan, leading up to your caste. And yes, this network will support you in lieu of your adherence to the values the network espouses. It is reciprocal.

If you say – to hell with this network, then you’re on your own. The outcastes of India were just that. They weren’t regarded as evil. They just had to meet their own ends. Nobody cares for them. Nor is there any reason why anybody should care.

And yes, individualists who hate family and community, do need support of some kind in hard times. Which is why you have gargantuan states – a feature of modernity. Social security, unemployment insurance, Welfare, labor laws, among other things are the crutches the “individualist” needs to avoid seeking the support of his kith and kin.

14 shrikanthk October 3, 2017 at 12:05 pm

The current opiod epidemic in US is a classic example of cultural individualism that nevertheless seeks “state support” to sustain itself. In traditional societies, these opioid addicts would be nudged against such behavior by strong ostracism and stigmatization, to bring them in line.

Or take the example of single mothers. In a traditional society, just one word “bastard” was sufficient to act as a strong nudge against unwed pregnancies.

Modernity is uncomfortable with social signals and nudging as these mechanisms are in conflict with the liberal shibboleth of “to each his own”. Nevertheless modernity is comfortable with the state assuming a large size to subsidize irresponsible behavior. Even libertarians have stopped railing against that.

15 So Much For Subtlety October 3, 2017 at 7:16 pm

Of course the Caste system had many of those equivalents. Muslims used to force their Hindu slaves to eat beef because they knew that there was no going back after that. That is, the caste was broken and so was the family. Breaking up of families has been normal for most of Indian history due to caste. Caste is a form of forced labor and it appears to have started as chattel slavery. With the conquest and subjugation of populations kept in a form of apartheid ever since.

It is not exactly the same but why Trans-Atlantic slavery was a very short lived phenomenon, Indians have been doing this to more people for a hell of a lot longer.

Hence the reasonable question of why it was not included at Durban

16 Annie October 3, 2017 at 8:14 pm

Responding to Kris.
What is this? A match, a competition in whose more oppressed, who suffered/suffers most?
Why do you have to bring this up? Are you a black American who is offended that there are people equally oppressed as you?
or Are you a self-flagellating white American
or Are you a brahmin who wants to diminish the oppression of outcastes?

17 shrikanthk October 3, 2017 at 8:59 pm

Well, none of the things you mention. He is just concerned with accuracy.

18 Shobha October 3, 2017 at 10:29 pm

How does one talk about accuracy when there are two separate systems? Why does he object to “equally”? There are some aspects worse in caste than racism/slavery, and then there are others worse in slavery and racism.

19 Shobha October 3, 2017 at 9:25 pm

Really?
Are you a black guy in America?
Are you a white guy in America?
Are you a Brahmin from India?

20 Shobha October 3, 2017 at 9:26 pm

That was for guy named Kris

21 blah October 3, 2017 at 9:50 pm

Most of the morality of you or Annie above can be explained by this paper:

https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/5d7b/1cc30d2337cd00dd45055da305aea2c44149.pdf

22 Ben October 3, 2017 at 11:02 pm

Caste is slavery +. A slave can be master. A slave is not an untouchable keeping away from very honorable thing. Caste is birth based, there is no escape when you are born into a caste. Your education, social status, economic status doesn’t matter much. Caste is religiously sactioned psychological disorder and hard to break. A slave can rebel for his freedom, but an untouchable thinks it is his karma to be born so and willingly suffer for better life in the future as a believer of karma theory. Caste is a hierarchical ladder like system and every caste bows down to the castes above his and look down on castes below his. Caste is subdevided into thousands of subcastes and they never think they are equal innany sense in the caste heirarchy. Caste system is centuries old. Caste system is the mother of all discriminated systems in the world. Nazis admired it and are proponents of it.

Caste system is designed by a tiny percent to have everything for them at the cost of others.

Yes, there is an affirmative action (called reservations) for them in the modern constitution piloted by Dr Ambedkar, himself an untouchable. But it rendered useless by the all govts for the past 70 years by not properly implementing, finding loopholes to avoid recruiting them in positions of power, and applying everything possible trick to avoid implementing it. They were denyied proper education from the beginning by creating dual educational system- private and better education for the beneficiaries of the caste system and the rich and inferior public educational system for the poor and the disadvantaged. Without proper education it’s impossible to find a honorable job. A tiny few can only use this opportunity whereas the majority settle for menials jobs like servants, scavengers, garbage collectors etc. A well designed reservation system rendered useless to these castes by none other than the politicians, bureaucrats, and people on power.

23 Pramod October 4, 2017 at 12:09 am

1. ” caste is birth based ” and slavery is based on merit?
2. There are many ways to escape caste if a group or person feels it’s too oppressive. They can change their religion as Ambedkar did by converting to Buddhism or many others who converted to Christianity. It’s another matter that despite exiting Hindu fold, these new converts still have their dalit status in tact. Historically they had many opportunities to convert bit they did not. Powerful emperors like Aurangzeb were very proactively carrying out conversion campaigns but could never convert Dalits in big number. For all your incoherent ranting. Dalits love their gods and traditions. In fact there were more Muslim converts in relatively stronger castes Like Jats, Kayasthas and Khatris. Today almost 1/3 of all Jats are Muslims ( Mostly in Pakistan) and almost 1/3 of Khatris are Muslims. If % Dalit converts was much lesser than that. In fact dalirs like Suhaildev were integral part of long Hindu resistance to Jihadi invaders.
3. Even your god Ambedkar says that birth based castes system came into being not earlier than 2nd century AD whereas slavery started thousands of years earlier .so what’s your freaking point?
4. Not only slaves but even untouchables can rebel. Only idiots think that they didn’t rebel because of some belief in Karma theory. Untouchables despite numerous disabilities imposed on them were free people who were assured a livelihood and means of subsistence through caste system. They were not * owned * by other humans. If you had read history, you’d know that most of the kings in Indian history have been shudras. And throughout history many castes have moved higher or lower depending upon what true economic and political strength was.
5. As far as education goes, all castes were illiterate at the time of independence. So it was not a specifically Dalit disadvantage.
6. Thanks for the early morning humour.

24 Ben October 7, 2017 at 7:08 pm

No surprise for you pointed misguided ranting. I expected it. Those who live in fools paradice and thosr who brlong to the beneficiary castes can’t understand the disabilities caused by caste. It’s a waste of my time to rebuke your ranting. But a few points. Sorry to use the same language you used.
1. Slavery is not birth based. There are slaves in blacks and whites. There were black slave owners. Caste is one sided. Never they had upper hand.
2. Fools dont know how many hinderances caste Hindu politicians created from the beginning of tge Independence to arrest conversion of dalits to other religions, starting with 1950s presidential order limiting reservations only to Hindu dalits. Even today what is happening in India is known to everyone who follow the news. What about any conversion laws and the atrocities committed by Hindu thugs on converted dalits? Are you deaf and blind?
3. Caste system is originated from rigveda. The age of it is given as suited depending on situation by scholars representating your philosophy. It’s not denyable that caste system is at least as old as it.
4. Anyone can understand why there was no rebellion from untouchables for centuries. It’s because they were denied weapons, wealth, and education from the beginning. they were made to believe in karma theory. Even an educated fools of today can believe in it, it’s not difficult to understand why do they believe in it. What rebellion are you talking about?
5. Only twice borns (you may be one) consituting 15% were allowed education with strict laws. I am talking about the rest of the 85%, dalits being the worse.

Don’t misguide people with your self centered agenda. Speak the truth or shut up.

25 SMith October 3, 2017 at 4:06 am

I haven’t read the book, but I’d like to hear more about her experiences about the discrimation she faced from fellow Indian Americans in the states. Also about the political leanings of Indian American (tend to be largely conservative) given her communist background. Does she ever discuss politics back in India with fellow Indian Americans, given that those belonging to upper castes tend to be more educated and represented among the high flyers of Indian American society?

26 shrikanthk October 3, 2017 at 6:04 am

In fact most Indian Americans tend to lean Democratic.

27 blah October 3, 2017 at 7:09 am

And for that reason it delights me when Indian Americans are labeled brahminical. After all they are Boston Brahmins.

28 shrikanthk October 3, 2017 at 5:19 am

1. Most atrocities against Dalits in modern India are led by dominant landed castes which enjoy the status of being among “backward castes”.
Most low caste regional political parties in modern India (with one exception in Uttar Pradesh) are also controlled by these “other backward castes” which are fashionably anti-brahmin but also hostile to Dalit emancipation. Has the modern Indian state with its anti-upper caste orientation, ironically made discrimination against Dalits worse, by propping up these backward castes, which have traditionally been anti-Dalit?

2. The Hindutva movement has done a lot to weaken caste conflict by seeking a unity across India based on adherence to the Hindu religion. The current Indian president is a Dalit from Bihar, who belongs to the BJP (Modi’s party). The rise of Modi, a low caste man (albeit not Dalit) to power, could not have possibly happened without the rise of the Hindu Right. Doesn’t the secret sauce for Dalit emancipation ultimately lie in the strengthening of the Hindu glue which will drive the homogenisation of Hindu society?

3. Shouldn’t affirmative action be based on the relative material status of different castes, if at all? There is no caste based census in India right now, and as a result, we don’t have a report card for any of the castes. Several brahmin castes of North India are arguably poorer than many “reserved” landed castes of the south (which enjoy affirmative action). Do we even know if affirmative action has worked in the past 60 years? We don’t, because caste outcomes have not been tracked over time. And communities enjoying affirmative action want to remain “backward” for natural reasons.

29 blah October 3, 2017 at 6:11 am

Good questions (these and many of the ones below). Just don’t expect any Westerner to understand or appreciate these, much less raise these in an interview.

30 shrikanthk October 3, 2017 at 6:18 am

Yes. It is strange that the close connect between Hindu consolidation and Dalit emancipation is not appreciated sufficiently even within India. It is the rise of Hindu nationalism accompanied by breakneck urbanization that will eventually be the deathknell of the caste system in India. Hindu nationalism is a radical force that will eventually transform society. Hardly a conservative force.

Neither liberals nor the old-style Hindu conservatives have come to terms with this.

31 Brian Donohue October 3, 2017 at 9:14 am

No need to be a douche. Nothing particularly difficult to understand or appreciate there. #2 is a good question.

32 blah October 3, 2017 at 10:10 am

Don’t get me wrong: my point was neither that these points were conceptually intricate, nor that Westerners have comprehension issues (if anything they have much better reading and listening comprehension than Indians like me on an average). But on matters related to Indian society I have consistently encountered among Westerners a frustrating tendency to stick to a simplistic stereotype-filled narrative, and I have seen the politest attempts to introduce nuance instinctively ignored with the often anti-casteist attempter branded as casteist for the crime of introducing nuance. You are the *first* westerner I have ever seen in a comment thread here or in any other blog acknowledging that there may be something to a point like #2 above, which goes outside the usual narrative.

33 Black dalit October 3, 2017 at 12:43 pm

“Don’t get me wrong: if anything they [Westerners] have much better reading and listening comprehension than Indians like me on an average”…Haha, the typical Brahmin racist licking his white masters’ boots, repeat 17th to 20th century Indian history. You guys crack me up.

34 blah October 3, 2017 at 8:52 pm

I am not a brahmin, nor one of those sacred-thread-wearing neo-brahmins. And unlike someone who calls themselves “black dalit” to dishonestly get for themselves sympathies reserved for two completely differently exploited groups of people, I don’t believe denying reality is helpful.

35 shrikanthk October 4, 2017 at 12:39 pm

People who subscribe to comforting lies like “all men are equal” and don’t want to face reality, wouldn’t like what “blah” said.

But it is true that educated westerners read / write better than even most educated Indians. I don’t deny that. Indians can be very smart, but they are horrible at articulation. Even more horrible at writing. Fact.

The problem with modern democratic societies is that nobody wants to point out the shortcomings of different groups. Hey…how will you ever improve unless somebody jeers at you!

I am all for jeering. All for social stigma. All for trading insults. That’s how people improve.

36 Pramod October 3, 2017 at 9:14 pm

Add one more question here. What are her views about ” Dalit Christians ” .Does she support reservation quotas for Dalit Christians? Does she advocate conversion of lower caste Hindus to Christianity given the fact that caste divisions exist within Christians too?

37 Pramod October 4, 2017 at 8:32 am

She must have cheated and lied in her forms. She was a Christian at birth. So not a Hindu and not eligible for Scheduled caste quota. She cheated.
https://scroll.in/article/849340/an-indian-familys-encounter-with-caste-and-untouchability-that-no-one-should-ignore-even-in-2017

“Gidla’s account of her untouchable family begins from the pre-independence India in coastal Andhra, then a part of the Madras Presidency. Converted to Christianity by Canadian Baptist missionaries, her grandfather Prasanna Rao became a teacher, adept at the English he learnt in missionary schools. It was his dying wife’s wish that her children – Satyam, Carey (named after the British Baptist missionary at Serampore in Bengal) and Manjula – be educated. A wish her husband did his best to fulfil despite his abandonment of his young children – an abandonment that would have lingering consequences on his children, especially Manjula, who grew into adulthood and later living in one temporary home after another.”

38 shrikanthk October 3, 2017 at 5:30 am

4. Gidla did her engineering in Warangal REC. Which is one of the top engineering colleges in the country. (Definitely in the top 25). How difficult was it for her to get in? Did she leverage the Dalit quota? Could she have got a seat in Warangal REC without the quota? Roughly 20% of seats in most engineering colleges in the country are reserved for Dalits and Scheduled tribes. Yet we don’t see too many Dalit engineers / managers of note in the Indian industry. Why is that? Has the Dalit community introspected on its relative intellectual failure? Has the mentality of victimhood held them back? Or is it all “society”‘s fault? (the same society which has agreed unanimously to give them 20% reserved seats across most seats of higher learning in the country)

5. Are all Dalit castes the same? Does the law today distinguish between the relatively better-off Dalit castes and the more destitute Dalit castes? No. Is that a bad thing? Northern Dalits, enjoy better economic outcomes than Southern Dalits. Could this have something to do with the relative dominance of the middle castes in South (which enjoy “backward” status) and the lesser influence wielded by these “middle castes” in the North?

39 Anonymous October 3, 2017 at 8:03 am

4. I think she studied Physics at REC , not Engineering. At IITs (Indian institutes of Technology , the premier engineering institutions) and IIMs (Indian institute of management , India’s premier Mgmt institutions) about 22.5% of seats are reserved for those at the lower rungs of the caste system , but its my experience that those who leverage it are careful not to stand out as having taken advantage of it. Very often they are economically better off compared to their caste-peers , but continue to get these benefits, whereas the benefits were really meant to go to those who had suffered economic oppression.
I knew only one classmate at IIM who had got in through this quota and only because he mentioned it ; all the others did not try to make it obvious that they may not have gone through merit alone, and often they have performed better academically than their “open quota” peers.

40 shrikanthk October 3, 2017 at 8:08 am

In my experience, it was seldom a secret on who the “quota” students were. And they very very rarely performed better than any open quota student. I can say this based on both my engg college experience (non IIT but still premier) as well as IIM experience.

41 Ben October 9, 2017 at 5:08 pm

“And they very very rarely performed better than any open quota student.”

I bet if you were gone through the deprivation they go through everyday, you wouldn’t have finished your elementary school, leave alone writing on this forum. You are born with a silver plate provided freely by the caste system. Your statement is disgusting.

42 Black dalit October 3, 2017 at 12:45 pm

Hahaha, our host is interviewing an accomplished author with a well-received and critically acclaimed book and all you brahmin racists can think of is whether she got into college because of affirmative action. You racists are so predictable.

43 parvez October 3, 2017 at 3:19 pm

Christians don’t get reservations. Nor did Muslims- then, at any rate. Sujatha was by no means brilliant but then brilliant people went in for the IAS exam or Medicine. Studying Maths or Physics in India is no great feather in one’s cap. It was America’s appetite for a certain sort of plodding which made these losers into objects of emulation.

44 Pramod October 3, 2017 at 8:59 pm

Wrong. Almost 40-45 % Muslims get reservation benefits under other backward classes ( OBC) quota. Even many Christian groups eligible for OBC category. In addition most of the Christians from North East come under Scheduled Tribes ( ST) and get reservation benefits. Apart from this, many Christians who were earlier lower caste Hindus, don’t officially declare their new religion to continue getting benefits of Scheduled castes ( SC) quota benefits. Existence of ” crypto Christians ” is a well established fact.

45 Pramod October 4, 2017 at 6:44 am

It’s a not a racist question because there is no “race” involved here. You probably intended to say “casteist” but it’s not even casteist. It would be casteist if he attacked her due to her caste. Where has he done that ? He has simply suggested asking a question which quite relevant to the blog. What’s wrong in asking that ? This will highlight how quotas have helped to achieve social empowerment of dalits in india. I like this question for one more reason. It will tell us whether she used SC quota despite being a Christian. Did she lie about her religion to make use of that quota ?

46 Pramod October 3, 2017 at 9:20 pm

And if she did use dalit quota , Scheduled caste quota to be more precise, did she do that before becoming a Christian? Because as per the law, a Christian cannot belong to scheduled caste category.

47 shrikanthk October 3, 2017 at 5:38 am

6. Why is she a conductor in an NY subway after having studied Physics in one of the top institutes of India? Isn’t that odd? Are the upper castes of the United States of America keeping her from engaging in professions better suited to her educational profile?

48 Anonymous October 3, 2017 at 8:10 am

May be by choice.

“But after studying physics in school, she came to America at age 26 in 1990. She worked in tech and eventually found her way to the New York subway system, where she is now a conductor”

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/interrogation/2017/08/sujatha_gidla_on_india_s_caste_system_and_ants_among_elephants.html

49 shrikanthk October 3, 2017 at 8:22 am

By the same token, do we say Dalits in India clean latrines by choice? I suppose many do it by choice. Yet it enrages the social-justice-warrior in us. Correct?

One is apt to be surprised when one sees a Physics undergraduate from a top Indian college conducting NY subway trains. Especially someone who is talented and enterprising enough to write a book.

50 Anonymous October 3, 2017 at 9:01 am

Guess it can go both ways.

The US is not necessarily always kind to pure science. A brilliant IIT classmate with a Physics PhD from a premier US university still doesn’t have tenure after 30 years.

Another ( though a Maths M.S from IIT) stunned us by joining Air-India as a Cabin attendant.

And a National science talent scholar I know chose English Literature instead.

Your first half of question 6 is good ; I found the second half snide.

I have a Physics degree from an IIT ; if today I am far removed from Physics and not doing anything really more challenging than “conducting” I don’t blame the “upper castes” here .A classmate has won a Nobel (you can easily guess who) , so clearly there are Physics students and Physics students.

51 Tom Hynes October 3, 2017 at 11:09 am

She probably makes about $100k a year, and has time to write. http://nypost.com/2011/07/13/mtas-too-nice-pay/

52 Black dalit October 3, 2017 at 12:48 pm

“Why is she a conductor in an NY subway…” May be because it is a unionized job with decent pay, great benefits and work she enjoys? It’s always so funny the Brahmin disdain for physical/blue collar work. No wonder you guys just leeched off of the productive labor of “lower” castes for millennia.

53 parvez October 3, 2017 at 3:21 pm

Exactly! Better pension plan than many ‘rocket scientists’ in Fintech will enjoy.

54 Pramod October 4, 2017 at 8:14 am

This is the current state of casteism in India. No one except this guy with ” dalit’ in his name has attacked anyone else because of their caste while this guy has been repeatedly attacking one particular commentator he assumes to be Brahmin. What can be more casteist than this ?

55 shrikanthk October 3, 2017 at 5:52 am

7. What are her thoughts on right wing conservative and nationalist Dalits like Abhinav Prakash who enjoy a lot of limelight in twitter and social media in general, and are widely followed by Modi acolytes?

https://newsd.in/abhinav-prakash-the-right-wing-ambedkarite/

56 rayward October 3, 2017 at 6:54 am

Question: Does India have much to learn from America or does America have much to learn from India?

57 chrisare October 3, 2017 at 7:03 am

What if any parallels does she see between social justice movements in the US and India?

58 Anonymous October 3, 2017 at 7:49 am

Conversion to Christianity ( or in the case of Ambedkar and his followers to Buddhism ) is often seen as a solution for those in the lower rungs of the caste system . But to what extent does caste persist even among Indian christians?

59 anon October 3, 2017 at 5:31 pm

As a Hindu, I think conversion to Christianity and its accompanying moral instructions will do wonders for India, quite apart from its impact on caste system. India is a low-trust, deeply immoral society. Christian faith can only ameliorate the situation.

60 Pramod October 3, 2017 at 9:09 pm

Nothing could farther from the truth. Caste exists even among Christians and Muslims. There are separate churches for Upper castes and lower castes Christians in many places. Historically too, we have had Jesuits like Roberto De Nobili who wooed upper castes only in 16th century. Even in Goa ( during Portuguese rule) , a Brahmin’s conversion to Christianity used to be celebrated by the missionaries. Only when the missionaries could not get converts from upper castes , they started focussing on Dalits or the lower castes. Today christian organisations are lobbying for reservations quotas for ” Dalit Christians “. if Christianity doesn’t recognize castes, how do we have a category like ” Dalit Christians ” ?

61 charlie October 3, 2017 at 9:11 am

Does she view the Devyani Khobragade incident in NYC as examples of intra-caste violence?

Khobragade was the diplomat who committed visa fraud and was arrested by Preet Bharara who is high caste.

Likewise if you remember Khobragade was herself an OBC, but she was accused of terrorizing another OBC domestic worker.

62 shrikanthk October 3, 2017 at 9:31 am

I thought Khobargade was Dalit

63 chuck martel October 3, 2017 at 1:05 pm

What’s the story on Rani Mukherji? She isn’t on the top ten list of Bollywood actresses when she’s certainly one of the most talented thespians on earth.

64 So Much For Subtlety October 3, 2017 at 7:28 pm

Well you have to admit she is no Madhuri Dixit.

And you love trains.

65 Pratap October 3, 2017 at 3:50 pm

Question: 1. In your thinking , what makes the Indian immigrants (more so specifically Coastal Andhra) who make a sizable number in a location say ( RTP area of NC, Dallas TX) forming caste groups and have camps among themselves to teach theirs kids born in US and caste and also forming groups based on caste to dominate Hindu temple or influence city council elections.

2. After reading your book one is left with a nagging desire to know about Manniamma side of the story.. did she capture her life struggle as single mother bringing up all the 4 kids without much help and also being a uneducated dalit women ,unlike whole of your family where your grant parents and parents are highly educated from a relative standpoint.

66 shrikanthk October 3, 2017 at 6:20 pm

“In your thinking , what makes the Indian immigrants (more so specifically Coastal Andhra) who make a sizable number in a location say ( RTP area of NC, Dallas TX) forming caste groups and have camps among themselves to teach theirs kids born in US and caste and also forming groups based on caste to dominate Hindu temple or influence city council elections”

Caste is not something people make up in a room. It exists because it reflects real differences among people. Value systems, philosophies, ideas of right and wrong, religious practices, physical appearances, cuisines, among other things vary from one caste to the other. And this diversity is a GOOD thing.

Sure this diversity has its excesses. It can make people confrontational. But it also engenders healthy competition, and makes people less sure of themselves, which is a definite check on fanaticism.

I don’t want India to turn into this monocuture that is US, where despite all the superficial racial diversity, everyone shares the same beliefs, spouts the same Jefferson line on how “all men are equal”, eats the same McDonald burger, go to the same Macy stores in droves on the day following Thanksgiving, watch the same sitcoms, and listen to the same pop numbers at any given time.

That’s casteless society for you.

67 rulleb October 3, 2017 at 4:11 pm

Q. Does shrikanthk represent a standard run of the mill upper caste guy who still hasn’t come to terms with how deep rooted casteism is in India? Also why is he not ashamed when he says let us “hindutva”, in other words, prop up an enemy (muslims) and ill treat them together, instead of ill treating one another

68 Black dalit October 3, 2017 at 4:28 pm

He is one of many Brahmin racists who immigrate from India to work at American technology companies and universities and form a solid support/fundraising base for the BJP. People like him typically hold a hilarious rosy picture of Indian history where everyone in India was living in harmony (read: Dalits cleaning latrines, Brahmins getting fat while doing nothing, everyone happy in their place) until the big mean Muslim invaders came and ruined the party.

69 Black dalit October 3, 2017 at 4:40 pm

What’s even more hilarious is that many of these US-based Hindutva guys like Shrikanth have the same anti-Muslim sentiments as Donald Trump and support similar anti-Muslim policies in India (like keeping Rohingya refugees out under the pretext of national security), while Trump really wants to kick their H1B asses out of this country to cater to his redneck base. LOL.

70 anon October 3, 2017 at 5:26 pm

As a non-practicing secular liberal Hindu working in SV, I have to keep my views in check when I run into these abject racists in work situations. Expect retaliations, if they realize you wish to have nothing to do with their precious Hindutva.

71 Rulleb October 3, 2017 at 8:12 pm

Yup. I am an upper caste graduate in the US and it is pretty depressing to see the sheer number of people who espouse shrikanthk’s views. All that education has given them no sense of perspective or an understanding of their own previlege.

72 shrikanthk October 3, 2017 at 8:46 pm

Oh. you shouldn’t get depressed by reading alternative views. That smacks of very extreme affection to pet ideas. Never a good thing if you want to stay healthy.

73 Ben October 7, 2017 at 7:23 pm

Is it not evident where do they belong in caste ladder by their defense of caste? These are shameless caste Hindus or infouentisl castes (I don’t use words like upper castes and boost their morale) who never learn anything despite higher education and living outside India. They go to any length defend caste system and blame wrong people for it. Even the indisn origin professors (almost entirely dominated by caste Hindus) say that caste was a creation of Muslims and British.
So, the less to say about these guys the better.

74 manfrommadras October 3, 2017 at 6:31 pm

1. Given recent political advances of Dalit-based parties in India, how much has increased political representation benefited the lives of the average Dalit in India, and are these region-specific, or have they improved across India as a whole?

2. How do Dalits in India view the ruling BJP dispensation? Do they see the ruling party as favorable to their issues?

3. Is the Dalit experience in South India qualitatively different from the socio-economic experience of Dalits in North India? South Indian development indicators are better than the Indian average, has that impacted Dalits in a positive manner?

75 shrikanthk October 3, 2017 at 6:34 pm

North Indian Dalits are better organized than South Indian dalits, politically. And by anecdotal evidence, they face less oppression and enjoy better economic outcomes than their southern counterparts.

76 rec1man October 3, 2017 at 8:22 pm

1) She is from Mala – dalit subcaste ; In her state of Andhra, there are 2 main dalit sub-castes, Mala ( agri worker ) and Madiga ( shit cleaner ) ; and Mala treat Madiga as untouchables – how much did she and her family oppress Madiga ;
2) Also who is oppressing dalits in her state ?
Brahmins or Shudra ( Low Caste ) Landlord castes like Kamma, Reddy
3) 99% of Mala including Sujatha have converted to Xtianity, but still declare themselves as Hindu ; this is because Untouchable quota is only available
for Indian Religion Dalits ; Such as Hindu, Sikh, Jain ; A Dalit who converts to Islam or Xtianity loses untouchable quota – She did avail of
Untouchable quota, by cheating and lying that she was still a Hindu untouchable, and stole her quota seat from deserving Hindu Untouchable
4) She got into STEM in a very high grade Indian Engineering College – was it fair – She did not have IQ to get a STEM job

77 Pramod October 4, 2017 at 6:47 am

Outside India , she is flaunting her true religion. She must be asked the question if she was a Christian when she availed used SC quota to get into REC Warangal and elsewhere ?

78 Anu October 8, 2017 at 7:51 pm

Rec1man, you can go and verify if she used quota or not . It’s very easy. You can complain too if she used any SC quota. As far as I know she stood first in many written and oral exams. She got 3 medals in 10 th grade. Write a book and talk. You know so much about reservations , don’t you know Dalit Christians don’t get any reservations? Escpecially when they compete for central level? Get the facts right man!

79 rec1man October 3, 2017 at 8:32 pm

She was also a member of a Maoist movement ,that attempted violent revolution in India

How did she get her USA visa, despite being a (former ) member of the Indian communist party

80 CounterRacism October 3, 2017 at 11:53 pm

In a Brahmin’s value system learning and education is considered sacred and of utmost value. It is ranked higher than accumulating wealth or power. A Brahmin who does not attempt to get a good education is not looked upon favorably, On the other hand even a pauper but erudite Brahmin will get respect from his community. Many Brahmin kids sacrifice most of their childhood and adolescence studying; lost in books. They fight hard for a chance to get admitted into few of those top colleges in India. Given this, it pains them to see the precious college seats handed freely just on the basis of caste. They feel robbed of their ambition. It is this pain and anger toward the “unjust” reservation policy that has manifested in this blog’s comments. Do not confuse it with racism towards Dalits (black or brown)!

81 Ben October 7, 2017 at 7:28 pm

Another Brahmin talking here? These parasites (sorry to use these words) pose as if merit is theirs and theirs only. That’s the problem.

82 freethinker October 7, 2017 at 8:02 pm

“Another Brahmin talking here? These parasites (sorry to use these words) pose as if merit is theirs and theirs only. That’s the problem.”
If you use such language about a particular caste group in India you can be arrested . One can use the most abusive language against the so-called upper castes and get away. Why these double standards?

83 Prakash October 26, 2017 at 3:12 am

The bigger issue is the lack of capacity. If educational capacity had been allowed to expand as it should have, especially for medical colleges, even after reservations, a hard working OC (“other castes”) student could have got seats. Engineering colleges saw a minor boom, atleast in TN, which has become a bust now. Medical education was the bigger issue.

84 Ben October 4, 2017 at 1:03 am

Caste is slavery +. A slave can be master. A slave is not an untouchable keeping away from every honorable thing in lide. Casteism is birth based, there is no escape when you are born into a caste. Your education, social status, economic status doesn’t matter much. Caste is religiously sactioned psychological disorder and hard to break. A slave can rebel for his freedom, but an untouchable thinks it is his karma to be born so and willingly suffer for better life in the future as a believer of karma theory. Caste is a hierarchical ladder-like system and every caste bows down to the castes above his and looks down on castes below his. Caste is subdevided into thousands of subcastes and they never think they are equal in any sense in the caste heirarchy. Caste system is centuries old. Caste system is the mother of all discriminated systems in the world. Nazis admired it and are proponents of it.

Caste system is designed by a tiny percent of Indians to have everything for them at the cost of others.

Yes, there is an affirmative action (called reservations) for them in the modern constitution piloted by Dr Ambedkar, himself an untouchable. But it is rendered useless by the all govts for the past 70 years by not properly implementing, finding loopholes to avoid recruiting them in positions of power, and applying every possible trick to avoid implementing it. They were denyied proper education from the beginning by creating dual educational system- private and better education for the beneficiaries of the caste system and the rich and inferior public educational system for the poor and the disadvantaged. Without proper education it’s impossible to find a honorable job. A tiny few can only use this opportunity whereas the majority settle for menials jobs like servants, scavengers, garbage collectors etc. A well designed reservation system rendered useless to these castes by none other than the politicians, bureaucrats, and people in power.

Reservations on economic criteria is sham and the very people who benefitted by the evil caste system are in forefront of arguing for it, just as some posts here suggest. A landed caste Hindu (I don’t use upper castes, lower caste terminalocy) can obtain an income certificate with no questions are asked as majority of these officials belong to these castes where as for a dalit it is very difficult to get any cerificate. Sensational Rohit Vemula case is an example.

There is a concept of ” caste currency”. A caste Hindu can sell himself by his name tag (Sharma, sastry, pandir, reddy, Patel , chowdaru etc), caste tag, influence, proximity to power, and well connected network of highly placed people.

Economic condition for reservatoons is a ploy used by these already progressed caste Hindus. A dalit with his poor background, inferior education, and lack of caste currency will find it impossible to get any job when competing with a privately educated caste Hindu.

The solution I propose is to ban all private educational institutes and start a single form of education to every indian. Do it at least two decades sincerily and then talk about economic criteria for reservations. Case in point is “Social welfare school system” in Telugu states in which dalit kids are surpassing every other kid on every activity due to reforms brought in there by a visionary officer.
Dalits or dalit kids are inferior to none in any sense. As Dr Ambedkar said, all Indians (irrespective of caste) ate from the same genetic stock. The only difference is the opportunities available. No opportunity, nothing to prove.

Are these ecpnpmic creteria advocates ready? No. They want it both ways. They cry about merit, though merit is subjective. You can’t judge merit between two inequal partners. These mischief monger are very depressed for a few are able to raise in life.

85 freethinker October 7, 2017 at 8:04 pm

Ben please tell me when those who are enjoying the benefits of reservation in India will agree to relinquish the privilege. I know the answer but I would like to hear it from you

86 Ben October 7, 2017 at 10:42 pm

If you know, why should there be a question? Shsm reservations never implemented properly in 70 years. It has to be started now. Those who enjoyed 100% reservations for centuries should be able to share the resources with others. How long? I have no answer.
On the other hand. The influential castes should start an agitation
1. To abolish caste names, caste tags etc. There should be no Sharmas, pandits, Reddys, cjoedaries, purihits, Patels at the end of the name.
2. To abolish private education completely and giving the same education to everyone
3. To abolish marraiages within the same caates. Anyone can marry anyone.
4. To implement laws on the books impartially
5. To eliminate political interference in the other branches of govt. Now, an Is officer is fearful of a ward member. That atmosphere should be eliminated.
This should be done a few more decades and then may be thought of eliminating reservations.

In the most complex indisn society with 1.3 billion population, solutions are not easy. Caste system was a many headed Hydra nurtured for centuries by the governing castes. Solutions are easy.

87 freethinker October 8, 2017 at 5:04 am

I said ” I know the answer but I would like to hear it from you”. The answer is NEVER will those enjoying affirmative action agree to relinquish the privilege even if all discrimination is removed. The vested interests will always find some reason or other to continue with reservation policy.
You say there should be no Sharmas, Reddys etc. OK. But the same should apply to people whose caste name shows they are dalit. Including “Ambedkar”. Finally I know university faculty in one campus in India who prominently display a portrait of Ambedkar in their rooms and when I asked them about it they said they want people to know they are dalit. From your perspective, this is also immoral isn’t it? If names should not indicate one’s caste, the symbols you display should not reveal caste too, right? Or is Ambedkar an exception as always?

88 freethinker October 8, 2017 at 5:06 am

I know Ambedkar can be a name for anyone but for all practical purposes only dalits have that name. You think that also should be banned?

89 Ben October 8, 2017 at 6:20 am

It seems freethinker is unable to think freely, partly due to wearing caste privilege glasses.
1.Ambedkar wanted to have a time limit for reservations. He thought that the wise ruling class implement them with sincerity and the set period was enough to bring dalits at par with others to some extent. But they used all tricks not to implement them in letter and spirit. Now it became a political tool where even the brahmins are asking for them. So, don’t blame Ambedkar or the policy. Blame your privileged caste fellow rulers to make it a mockery.
2.No comparison of having caste names and Ambedkar name. There is a concept of caste currency. All business in India happens using it. A sharms, a Reddy, a Patel do everything using it to get favors in every area. Dalits and other marginalized don’t have that luxary. In a way it is a disadvsntage for their caste people don’t enjoy real power in at higher positions. So, what you say is meaningless.
3.If you and your caste fellows bit by reservations, just start a movement as I said above. I will join you. Caste Hindus shamelessly sweezed the marginalized people for centuries. When they were the real producers of the wealth, you enjoyed it by starving them, economically, educationally, psychologically. Now, thanks to Dr Ambedkar’s unrelenting work. They know what lost, why they lost, how they lost. Have little shame to feel agitated for their progress, of course reservations helped them in tiny way. But, they are not inferior to none. Give them equal opportunity, they will surpass every other caste. I challenge and they are already marching forward.

The dispicable comments here inficate the hatred these privileged caste fellows harbored against dalits. I generally don’t use harsh words, but some of the comments forced me to use them in my replies.

Any more queries, Mr Freethinker. PL try to think freely, at least on public forum.

90 shrikanthk October 8, 2017 at 5:23 pm

Well, in most of South India, people don’t even use surnames. So I just don’t understand your claims of discrimination. Just use father’s name as the second name, and people wouldn’t know your caste.

“But the same should apply to people whose caste name shows they are dalit.”

It is very very very difficult to figure that someone is a dalit from his surname! This is a ridiculous claim. Even a name like Ambedkar can be used by even Brahmins. It is hardly an exclusively Dalit surname.

91 Ben October 8, 2017 at 6:08 pm

srikanthk,
Ignorance is bliss and forgivable, but lying on purpose isnt. Where you belong, you know.
Aren’t iyers, iyangars in Tamil Nadu; nambutripads, nairs, pillays in kerala; Reddys, chiwdarys in Andhra; nayaks, gouds, patils etc in Karnataka- not south indian names? Sastry, Sharma, Rao etc are found everywhere.

Ambedkar was not his original name, it was Ambavadekar. He took the name of his Brahmin teacher out of respect for he treated him good. This for sure you may be ignorant for many caste Hindus don’t know a,,b,cs of Ambedkar.

Either equip yourself with minimum knowledge before opening mouth on public forums or shut up. Don’t try to miguide people who don’t know anything, like many readers of this site.
Remember: old days where you don’t find any knowledgeable dalit is gone. You find them everywhere these days and they will rebuke you when said something wrong to firiegn audience.

92 shrikanthk October 8, 2017 at 7:10 pm

Sure. Nevertheless the fact remains caste based surnames are a minority in southern India. Particularly in TN and Kerala.

And you shouldn’t get emotional. Ofcourse there are many knowledgable dalits. I respect them. I would be the first person to aver that Dalits have received a very raw deal in Indian history. That doesn’t detract anything from my arguments, however.

93 Ben October 9, 2017 at 10:17 am

Srikanthk, There is nothing emotional in it. It’s to counter misinformation people like you spreading on internet as not many contradict you as most dalits lack knowledge and skills in English.

94 Dan O October 4, 2017 at 7:32 am

Ask her what part of economics always fascinated her; and as a follow up, if she would like to write a book with you on the topic?

95 JB October 4, 2017 at 9:23 am

Ask her about diversity. People say that diversity is America’s greatest strength, but India is probably much more diverse.

96 RK October 4, 2017 at 2:09 pm

Does she know her name means ‘well born’? Its a weird and sad irony….
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sujata_(name)

97 Ben October 7, 2017 at 10:44 pm

What do you mean? Do you think she shouldn’t have that name? Do dalits have many prescribed names?

98 Ben October 9, 2017 at 10:12 am

I mean Manu prescribed names? People like you belong to stonel age, not this age. Your thought process defines your arrogance constructed around beastly Manu smriti.

99 Anu October 8, 2017 at 7:57 pm

RK, be happy that she did not use laxmi, saraswathi, Durga, who had pretty bad reputation in terms of charecter. Sujatha is a Buddhist name FYI and plz don’t control what names we should use , what we should eat etc etc.

100 KC October 8, 2017 at 10:39 pm

Anyone born to a sane person with good nature is well born….. what is weird about that……every fool today has a name Raj and they are not kings either…..I know many guys who carry Dwivedi, trivedi, chaturvedi as last names and they are illiterate…..There is nothing sad about a dalit woman having a name of Sujata…..what is sad is the thought process of the people….

101 Anu October 9, 2017 at 12:34 am

RK, people are people whether they are born to sane people or insane people.the problem comes when you think that insane people cannot have children. Grow up. There is a bigger world out there. It’s the problem with you arrogant casteistic people to dictate what name a person should have . Yeah, there are rajas with out kingdoms. What to do? The selection of name by parents show what their aspirations are about that child and what their child really mean to them. Hindu society encourages arranged marriages where you match only caste. As such you give any name to your kidyour coz they products of just caste , not love.

102 Shobha October 4, 2017 at 6:37 pm

Tyler, is this going to be a free event?

103 freethinker October 8, 2017 at 5:21 pm

Ben, Your observations are saturated with abuse and allegations about me “wearing caste privilege glasses” without knowing what caste I belong to. If you do, you may accuse me of thinking too freely and of being a traitor to my caste since I refuse to spit venom against those who oppose reservations. The fact is, I could have been a beneficiary of the policy. My mother felt it is immoral for me and my sisters to do so since we are well-off and with well-educated parents.
You have not addressed my queries. The truth is even those who don’t need reservations thanks to their privileged status make full use of them. I should know. I belong to a caste which is eligible for reservations and even those people of my community who have the financial and intellectual resources to compete with the upper castes shamelessly insist on using the caste card, arguing that we will always be underprivileged! I bet that even if all discrimination is removed the groups who enjoy reservations will always find reasons to continue with the policy. And since they are a huge vote bank, the politicians will cave in.
About caste names: you say names which indicate caste should be banned. My query is if you want to ban the use of only upper caste names or also of those names associated with any caste, including dalit. Which means naming kids after Ambedkar should also be banned since it shows they are dalit. You have also evaded my query about whether you think it is ethical to display one’s caste identity in a pubic institution. When academics display a big portrait of Ambedkar in their university office, and brazenly say that they do it because they want everyone to know they are dalit, they are loudly displaying their caste . My query to you is whether you also condemn this brazen display of caste or if dalits and Ambedkar are always exceptions to your condemnation of showing off one’s caste identity. personally I condemn all public display of caste by all communities, dalit, Brahmin etc. In a democracy, however, it cannot be banned.
I request you to answer my questions without resorting to personal abuse

104 shrikanthk October 8, 2017 at 5:32 pm

“personally I condemn all public display of caste by all communities, dalit, Brahmin etc.”

I don’t see anything wrong at all. Very often the caste surname is indicative of a sect or an ideology. For instance a surname like “Iyer” or “Iyengar” doesn’t connote just a caste but a theological sect. These sects are no different from Presbyterians, or Anglicans or Methodists. Caste is not always based on ethnic difference, sometimes it has an ideological / religious basis.

By the way, surnames have often indicated difference in social status across the world. It is not unique to India. For eg : In the UK, someone with a surname like Mandeville or Osborne is likelier to be wealthy and educated than a Smith or a Johnson.

To dislike surnames implies a deep dislike for any kind of diversity in society. The only logical end to Ben’s reasoning is to mandate that people can only have culture-free, identity free names like A, B, C, XYZ, PQR etc!

105 Ben October 8, 2017 at 6:44 pm

No need to reply to this idiotic argument. Calomparing iyer, iyanger with Christian sects? What to say. Further matter is still more objectionable.

106 shrikanthk October 8, 2017 at 7:07 pm

Nothing idiotic about it. You can read up on the sects. The basis of their formation is theological, not ethnic. If you have a problem with the argument, please argue with facts. Not ad hominem remarks coupled with hand wringing.

107 Ben October 8, 2017 at 6:41 pm

Freethinker,
As Ambedkar said all indians are genetically identical and it’s difficult to say who you are even if I sit beside you. So, once identity is revealed by what he thinks and writes. I have seen many of your type. They emit venom on reservation policy and when confronted says they belong to reserved catogery and don’t agree with it. In this virtual space anyone can say anything and get away with it.
Here two things. If you are well-off, that doesn’t mean all your caste people are well -off. Opposing them is foolish. Second, for your caste it may not be required at all. These are the days of reservations based on the strength of the caste, not need. Even
Modi’s caste gets reservations under obc and he showers love for reserved castes though his mind is different. His caste was included in OBC during his own term as CM.

Reservations we’re desigbed originally due to the social backwardness not economic backwardness. Now it bacame a political farse. Even brahmins are asking for it and it’s a different matter.
Now come to caste names. For dalits having a dalit name is a liability, not an asset. For a caste Hindu it’s a “currency” that can be used anywhere to get things done by flaunting it. That’s is the reality of India. Anything used to manipulate things is bad.
How Ambedkar’s photo anyehere is a problem? After all he was the architect of the consitution. When Gandhi is everywhere why not Ambedkar?
I haven’t seen dalit caste identity names till recently in Andhra. When all power is concentrated in the hands of dalit-hated caste Hindus who can they benefit by identifying themselves so? Think a bit before asking a question.
Fyi, I was born dalit, but none in.my family availed SC reservations, not because we were rich, but because our parents were Christians. We were as poor as any other dalit in our dalit ghetto. But, I support reservations 100% for it is the right thing in a most discriminated society like India. There s no alternative. How long will it continue, I don’t know.
Did i.miss anything else?

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