When does caste integration bring greater understanding?

by on November 18, 2017 at 7:56 am in Economics, Education, Sports | Permalink

It should be collaborative rather than adversarial:

Integration is a common policy used to reduce discrimination, but different types of integration may have different effects. This paper estimates the effects of two types of integration: collaborative and adversarial. I recruited 1,261 young Indian men from different castes and randomly assigned them either to participate in month-long cricket leagues or to serve as a control group. Players faced variation in collaborative contact, through random assignment to homogeneous-caste or mixed-caste teams, and adversarial contact, through random assignment of opponents. Collaborative contact reduces discrimination, leading to more cross-caste friendships and 33% less own-caste favoritism when voting to allocate cricket rewards. These effects have efficiency consequences, increasing both the quality of teammates chosen for a future match, and cross-caste trade and payouts in a real-stakes trading exercise. In contrast, adversarial contact generally has no, or even harmful, effects. Together these findings show that the economic effects of integration depend on the type of contact.

That is from a new paper by Matt Lowe, and Matt is a job market candidate coming out of MIT.

And here is a recent paper by Devesh Kapur, Chandra Bhan Prasad, Lant Pritchett and D. Shyam Babu, on the benefits of modernity for Dalits, here is one short bit of the abstract:

The survey results show substantial changes in a wide variety of social practices affecting Dalit well-being—increased personal consumption patterns of status goods (e.g. grooming, eating), widespread adoption of ―elite‖ practices around social events (e.g. weddings, births), less stigmatising personal relations of individuals across castes (e.g. economic and social interactions), and more expansion into nontraditional economic activities and occupations.

That said, please do not confuse “big improvements” with “no serious problem.”

1 rayward November 18, 2017 at 8:03 am

One doesn’t have to go to India to observe the phenomenon, the NBA and the NFL provide the same short-term results from integration. Short-term? Yes, because in the long-term the caste with the greater natural talent will eventually dominate the leagues. Segregation, Integration, segregation, the natural order of things I suppose.


2 So Much For Subtlety November 19, 2017 at 12:16 am

Yes, because in the long-term the caste with the greater natural talent will eventually dominate the leagues.

That is very interesting Ray. So, please tell me, in your opinion is that why there are so few Black people in Silicon Valley or in Harvard University’s Law School?


3 shrikanthk November 18, 2017 at 8:48 am

There has been a great deal of progress in the past 20-30 years, what with rapid urbanization.

I am some 20 years younger than Gidla. And I can vouch for the progress on the ground. During all my years of schooling in Bangalore, Kerala and northern Karnataka, I don’t recall a single instance of Dalits being snubbed or derided.

A lot of the discourse on caste is led by people like Gidla as well as middle aged Indians who quit India several decades ago and are not quite willing to accept the progress on the ground.

Sure, you don’t see a lot of upper-caste – Dalit marriages yet. That, in my view, will take a few more decades. But nevertheless the progress is undeniable. And the secret sauce for emancipation lies, as I said before, in two things – a) Rapid urbanization b) Hindu nationalism.


4 charlie November 18, 2017 at 11:46 am

My cousin (nair) married a med school classmate who I think is a Ezhava.

Larger family is “accepting”; her father — who is a prominent communist — is very upset. Various rumors go around that he is a wife beater. The biggest problem seems to be gentlemen in question who refuses to come to family functions although he is invited.

So where I think that Gidla is correct is sex and gender relations control a lost of the caste dialgoue. Go look at Shadi.com and the clear preference for marrying someone like yourself.

(Much like the midwest, in a a strange way.)

Where Gidla is incorrect — as you identify – is that she is talking of an india 20 or 30 years ago.

Globalization is far larger. A relative moved to England in about 1915 and married an English girl; that was considered quite usual. Out of my grandmothers 20 grandchildren, all but one live abroad now.

I certainly now have more in common with Gidla than the children of the one cousin child back in India. Although as an IIT grad I am sure he will leave as well .

And that is how caste lives on. Everything much change so that everything may stay the same.


5 shrikanthk November 18, 2017 at 12:10 pm

We can’t get rid of caste.

Caste reflects diversity in society. If you don’t want caste, then you have to homogenize society by force. That’s ethnic cleansing for you. Nobody wants that.

I am looking for a girl myself. Though I am open to a wide range of castes, I prefer brahmin because it ensures greater cultural compatibility. In terms of religious preferences, food habits, common culture etc.

These preferences won’t go away unless you get rid of the underlying diversity. Abrahamic societies have managed to do that with force! How on earth do you think Christianity managed to turn every European into a CHristian? Through peaceful preaching? No. Force was involved. I am opposed to that.

While caste will remain, caste oppression is clearly going down. And that’s a very very good thing. And it’s going down because of Hindu consolidation and economic growth. Period.


6 charlie November 18, 2017 at 12:58 pm

what I am suggesting is that caste is a way of encoding those differences.

And that “Race” as we know is in the US is slowly turning into caste. I could take your statement on brahmin preferences for a spouse and re-label it as “Ivy League” in the US. The creation of a new caste.

Back to India — yes as you have said caste based oppression is down.

But I’d go back and so some of the critical reception to Gidla’s book is a recognition that caste is overcoming race. Hence the widespread condemnation of Obama’s comment on Travyon Martin. If he had a son he’s look like an Ivy Leaguer — as does his daughter.


7 shrikanthk November 18, 2017 at 1:19 pm

” I could take your statement on brahmin preferences for a spouse and re-label it as “Ivy League” in the US. The creation of a new caste.”

There is a difference. People who have an “Ivy league” preference have it because they believe “Ivy leaguers” to be superior to others. While caste preferences in Indian marriage bureaus does not stem from a sense of superiority. Not always. It’s often just a tool to ensure compatibility and cultural connect, and also limit the search to more manageable proportions.

8 anony November 18, 2017 at 12:24 pm

Certainly true of urban environments or better schools and colleges. Only 40 years after school, meeting in Southern CA I realized that my classmate and I were the same caste, only of academic interest . Never struck us to care for that then or now.
May be not that true in other environments.
A lot of your comments on Caste are through your lens of socialization. But
“there are more things on heaven and earth…….:


9 shrikanthk November 18, 2017 at 12:28 pm

“I realized that my classmate and I were the same caste, only of academic interest”

That’s my point. It is of “academic interest” to you because you are probably westernized and not as much invested or even aware of your community’s culture specifically. Which is why caste is just an academic thing.

But for the people who live the culture, caste is not “academic”. It matters. And it matters for a reason. And I don’t see that as a bad thing. I view it neutrally. As long as there is no oppression and the law treats everyone the same (which it does), I don’t mind these preferences.


10 reply to a racist November 18, 2017 at 7:21 pm

But you are a racist, and racists are like that.


11 reply to a racist November 18, 2017 at 7:47 pm

Or you are not a racist, and racists are not like that. The way to answer the question is this: say God asked you if you would mind if your next child could be switched out for another child, in a pre-born switch, and your real child would be born to someone of another race and the real child born in your family would actually be a child of another race. Would you feel guilty, going forward, to have accepted that bargain?

12 reply to a racist November 18, 2017 at 7:49 pm

And don’t respond ‘but caste is not at all about race’. None of us here are that gullible.

13 shrikanthk November 18, 2017 at 7:56 pm

Not a racist. But am definitely a champion of diversity 🙂 Not the superficial diversity that is sought by liberals in organizations. But more genuine diversity of speech and thought and culture.


14 reply November 18, 2017 at 8:40 pm

Glad to hear it. Perhaps though, Wodehouse (who spent a lifetime writing about an England that had not fought in the European civil war that started in that beautiful summer of 1914) and Tagore (not a bad poet – and shrikanthk, my friend, at a distance, I do not know any better compliment than ‘not a bad poet’) , and the millions and millions of people who understand this issue and are faced with the question: forgive, because they are confused, or forgive not, for other reasons: Wodehouse, who lived a life without the rewards of a beautiful wife, Tagore, who missed, just missed, the word combinations that real poets deserve not to miss, and the millions of millions of people, many of them friends of mine, faced with the question: what is right? Well, God knows what is right, and God loves every one of us tremendously. Forgiveness is always the proper alternative, when it is available. Tomorrow we will build a better world. Right?

15 shrikanthk November 18, 2017 at 9:09 pm

I can’t figure your comment 🙂

I am a huge fan of Wodeouse. Though I haven’t read Tagore.

Anyway all I have to say is that I value diversity. Wodehouse did too. He was a conservative, through and through. Knowing Wodehouse as well as I do, I don’t think he would call for “eradication” of castes. He’d defend caste as a manifestation of intellectual, cultural and moral diversity.

16 reply to a friend November 18, 2017 at 9:23 pm

Dude, Wodehouse was a neighbor of mine, he used to throw a few bucks to the local dog shelter and I, who write this comment, welcomed one of those dogs to my home. Good times! Tagore was a good poet, not the poet he could have been, but good nevertheless. The thing is, I am a dying, sick, and old person, and I basically understand every simplistic thing in this world (I am not saying I understand the deep and mystical truths, but I understand simple things like racism and crime and stupidity as well as they will ever be understood. You do not want to be like me in that respect! Oh well, I can live with that.). That being said, what I was trying to say in my comment was this: do not rejoice at your good luck, and if you do rejoice in your good luck, meditate, at some future hour, on the basic fact that such rejoicing may have been uncalled for, to a degree: but, at the same time, do not fail to try to take care of those you love. If you still do not understand what I am trying to say, I am sorry. I have failed before in attempts at communication, and it was, I know this now, nobody’s fault but mine. Still – fireflies, baby, chebere, we understand each other, me and the fireflies, early summer night, a decade ago. I remember. I have seen the beauty of those who were despised. Thanks for reading, my friend.

17 shrikanthk November 18, 2017 at 9:48 pm

I am all for love. So we aver 🙂

18 reply to a friend November 18, 2017 at 9:56 pm

Every once in a while, watching the fireflies, you get the feeling that – lights on, lights off, lights procrastinated, or lights just quietly rushed, the confidence of a charming evanescent array of lights in a large dark field, a field that evocates all the details of summer, and the smell of fresh grass on a quiet humid night after a hot sunny day – you get the feeling that there are beautiful true equations out there that those we respect, whether they go by the name of Ramanujan or the name of Newton, just did not competently follow. Lots of lights, in amazing patterns, on and off, on a dark summer night, long long ago. Heart speaks to heart, on such nights, cor ad cor loquitur: I remember: no, we cannot leave anybody alone if they ask to follow the true road with us. Thanks for reading. They would not leave us, either.

19 reply to a friend November 18, 2017 at 9:59 pm

Sorrry for calling you “Dude”. I spoke without thinking.

20 reply to a friend November 18, 2017 at 10:25 pm

Ramanujan, Hardy, and even Littlewood, were all bright young men: but, remember: cor ad cor loquitur. Nunca mas. Remember that specific night, that specific field, with its smell of sun-kissed grass in the evening, an hour after sunset, and those fireflies, tracing those lines that Ramanujan and his pals, with all their talent, did not and could not retrace, not that they still did not deserve to live in a decent home in a decent neighborhood, with mockingbirds singing in the afternoon and robins early in the morning. Well, who could argue otherwise? I have seen the worst that people can show, and still, I would like for most of them (not all of them – like you, I have no choice but to be a realist) to live happily, in a home with a few nice trees in the yard, where they can raise their family, with the protection of people who care. July, 1927. Better days are ahead – dias mejores estan adelantes (!!!) . July, any year, including 1927. Of course you remember: not perfectly, not completely: but you remember. Maybe you don’t remember 1927 (but if you do, God bless you): but you remember. July, fireflies, and the unforgettable desire to understand.

21 reply to a friend November 18, 2017 at 10:54 pm

Either there is a true road we can follow in our ordinary days, or there isn’t. I say there is. Thanks for reading. Tyler and Alex are nice enough to let us say what we want to say: and I say, there is a true road we can follow in our ordinary days. I remember the summer of 1927, indirectly, and what followed: you remember something else. Just saying. Philippians 1:3: I wish I could explain, in a way that you would not be sarcastic about, how well I understand that verse. Fireflies and their humble lights, long-ago summers, the rights and wrongs of Straussian public arrangements – those things I can not fully explain (who could?)…. Philippians 1:3 – the central verse in the best of all books – imagine you understand what someone could say about that – well, that, I could explain. Imagine this world, in that context. Imagine I fully explained Philippians 1:3 …. I thank God every time I remember you. I explained it once, long ago, to someone who looked at me with the kind of appreciation one sees, if one is lucky, once in one’s life. But now I am old, sick, and dying, and I know how rare it is that anyone cares, in that way, and how precious that innocent memory is. Let’s hope the ordinary ways of caring are enough for most of us. I care about that.

22 So Much For Subtlety November 18, 2017 at 11:39 pm

And I can vouch for the progress on the ground. During all my years of schooling in Bangalore, Kerala and northern Karnataka, I don’t recall a single instance of Dalits being snubbed or derided.

Umm, no offense dude, but I don’t really think you should go around saying these sort of things. You understand why we don’t ask White people if Black people are having a miserable time? As stupid as most Professional African American’s complaints are.

It is probably a bad idea to ask an Upper Caste Hindu at the best of times. It is worse to ask an Upper Class Hindu with distinct Upper Caste preferences in marriage. It is worse to ask a younger Upper Caste Hindu with distinct Caste preferences because of their limited life experiences. And it is worst of all to ask an Upper Caste Hindu with distinct Caste preferences and a strong and often expressed belief in Hindutva.

So, and I mean this in the nicest way possible, what can you really vouch for apart from your belief Modi is the right ruler of India? Keep in mind I have every intention of applying your standard of proof often in the future. So the next time we are discussing British colonial rule anywhere, I will cite a few White District officers and planters to the effect that British colonialism was the best thing ever.


23 shrikanthk November 19, 2017 at 12:00 am

You seem to be having comprehension issues.

Where have I expressed belief that “Modi is the right ruler for India”? First of all, he isn’t India’s ruler. India is a parliamentary democracy, not a divinely ordained monarchy.

And where have I expressed belief in “hindutva”. Hindutva first of all is not a belief system. And I am no fan of Hindutva. I just said Hindu consolidation aids the process of Dalit emancipation, maybe even hastening it. That doesn’t make me a supporter of all aspects or most aspects of Hindutva.

Improve your reading skills!


24 So Much For Subtlety November 19, 2017 at 12:10 am

That is a very impressive effort at missing the point. Quibble all you like. You have a long record of endorsing certain political points and not others. As, for instance, below where you seem to be saying the solution to the Caste problem is for the Dalits to stop complaining. I do not think my characterization is unfair. But even if it is, it is hardly the important point. Nor is your quibble about India being a Parliamentary democracy.

The point is that an Upper Caste Hindu (who, incidentally, opposes Dalit political emancipation) is hardly in a position to lecture the rest of us about how little discrimination there is against Dalits.


25 shrikanthk November 19, 2017 at 12:15 am

Well Sir, I know you aren’t a fan of subtlety. But I thought you’d atleast read the literal meaning of the lines well, if not between the lines.

“who, incidentally, opposes Dalit political emancipation” : I haven’t said that anywhere. I don’t even have to bat for Dalit emancipation. That was a battle fought in early 20th century. Dalits are arguably more politically emancipated than the upper castes today.

It is a different matter that political emancipation seldom means social and economic emancipation. But we digress. That’s too subtle for your liking. You’d be better off reading more unsubtle arguments and posts.

26 chuck martel November 18, 2017 at 9:03 am

Matt Lowe would have made a more significant contribution to society by becoming an expert in the repair and maintenance of medical diagnostic equipment or acquiring the necessary skills to compete successfully in pocket billiards.


27 shrikanthk November 18, 2017 at 9:54 am

Some of the figures there in that second paper are highly encouraging and astounding –

In the Bulandshahar district survey, % of dalits who responded that only dalits lift dead animals was 72.6% in 1990, 5.3% in 2007. Only 3.6% of non dalits drank / ate in dalit homes upon being offered the same in 1990. In 2007 the figure was 47.8%. In Azamgarh district it was 72%!


28 shrikanthk November 18, 2017 at 9:56 am

However the survey also suggests that despite growing freedom, the levels of angst and confrontation appear to be increasing on the part of the Dalits. Eg : In Azamgarh district, 76% of dalits attended non-Dalit weddings in 1990. That figure is down to 51% in 2007.

That’s not the fault of the traditionalists….but the politicians who have fomented hate against the so-called higher castes.


29 A Truth Seeker November 18, 2017 at 10:07 am

Only the complete destruction of the Indian state and it being replaced by a civilized regime can prevent India from drowning in rivers of blood.


30 Finally November 18, 2017 at 10:42 am

A calm, rational take.


31 A Truth Seeker November 18, 2017 at 10:51 am

In the 1940s, a Brazilian diplomat warned the world that India was not ready for self-rule. Again, Brazil was ignored. Now, apparently, we must pay for being right all along.


32 Exactly November 18, 2017 at 1:26 pm

You are the only truly intelligent poster here.

33 A Truth Seeker November 18, 2017 at 3:16 pm


34 Sarcastically November 18, 2017 at 4:09 pm

You’re very welcome.

35 A Truth Seeker November 18, 2017 at 5:36 pm

So are you.

36 Childishly November 18, 2017 at 10:15 pm

I know you are but what am I?

37 Jaldhar November 18, 2017 at 1:27 pm

It’s not surprising. The word Dalit means “oppressed.” It has a terrific mobilizing and unifying power for the first generation to employ it but then what? There is a real problem for future generations because if you’re identity is “oppressed” then you can never stop being oppressed without losing your identity. Furthermore being oppressed is always in relation to an opressor but an identity which depends on outsiders is no good for Maslowian self-actualization at all. So what is the Dalit yuppie to do?

Reassert your traditional identity. Tyler asked Sujata the question about Malas and Madigas which she brushed off by saying these are terms outsiders have given us but this is bullshit. The various communities lumped together as Dalit had histories of their own with all the fighting, politics, and hierarchy that entails. It goes against the Marxist narrative where the “oppressed” are only victims without agency, a blank slate for history to be written on by other people. Another problem is that Dalit is juxtaposed with “savarna” or “Caste Hindu.” Admitting history means admitting that they were partially integrated into Hindu society which is also bad for the narrative. (Here it is useful for observers to make a distinction between those who are against the system versus those who are against being at the bottom of the system.)

Make up a past identity. “We wuz Boddhisattvaz and sheeit” Dr. Ambedkar spun the notion that the untouchables were the descendents of the (conveniently extinct) Indian Buddhists. Others claim to be indigenous e.g. Adi Dravid, Adi Karnataka. etc. However it is too easy to debunk such claims. Although the conventional wisdom on both left and right is that conversions to Islam or Christianity are made for economic reasons, I think a lot of impetus for them is they provide the convert with an alternative history.

Join the mainstream. In the current year this is so obviously wrong do I need to even explain why? But seriously adopting upper caste customs and mores was the historic route to social mobility and I am willing to bet this is still the case today. Hindu nationalism of both the RSS and Gandhian varieties are modernized versions. Gandhiji advocated the term Harijan (“People of Vishnu or God in general from a hymn by a medieval Gujarati Vaishnava saint.) Nowadays Dalit is politically correct but Harijan is still in popular use. It’s like how everyone says Native American but they themselves are ok with Indian.

Keep insisting that you are oppressed. As conditions improve, there becomes more and more hysteria over smaller and smaller issues. (Has microagression been translated into Indian languages yet?) Or you can pickup the cause of some other purportedly oppressed groups. (e,g, Rohingyas at the moment.) Apart from the psychic toll of permanent victimhood it invites a backlash as the rest of society loses sympathy for you.

I think all of the above will be part of the cultural discourse of the future but it will be interesting to see in which proportions.


38 shrikanthk November 18, 2017 at 1:41 pm

Excellent point about the heterogeneity of Dalit groups and their experiences.

The Adi Karnataka Dalits, for instance, were a land owning group in the Mysore region, who were doing pretty well till the 17th century, following which their fortunes reversed partly due to a persecution drive against them led by the Gowdas (another land-owning shudra caste) who were abetted by the British.

The Dalithood of the Adi Karnataka group is very modern and is a consequence of the events of the past 300 years.


39 Curious November 18, 2017 at 5:42 pm

Srikanth, you seem to have read a lot of interesting literature on the history of castes in various parts of India, like the bit about the Adi Karnataka group you mentioned. Any good books you’d recommend about the evolution of various specific castes and their social status ?


40 shrikanthk November 18, 2017 at 7:33 pm

Curious : I don’t think there is good literature on this subject. I have picked things up from multiple sources, and in some cases anecdote.

The Adi Karnataka history is quite well known and not usually controverted by anyone. Here’s a link that discusses briefly what I just said –


41 shrikanthk November 18, 2017 at 1:46 pm

“Dr. Ambedkar spun the notion that the untouchables were the descendents of the (conveniently extinct) Indian Buddhists.”

Ambedkar also claimed elsewhere that the Shudras were the descendants of former Kshatriyas! Another bogus claim. Also regarding the Buddhist extinction, I am not even sure what proportion of the Indian population was actually “Buddhist” even during Buddhism’s heyday (let’s say 400AD). The ruling classes definitely seem to have been enamored of Buddhism atleast uptil 800 AD or so. But I doubt if Buddhism was ever a rage among the general public. There is not much evidence of that.

I view Buddhism as an intellectual movement among elites that lost the intellectual battle to Vedanta. I strongly suspect these Buddhists were mostly well to do upper castes who reverted to the Hindu religion.


42 shrikanthk November 18, 2017 at 1:56 pm

The only solution I see is for the Indian government, to actively “promote” Dalit castes from SC category to OBC over a period of time based on a census-based assessment of their social / economic status. Eg : Mala vs Madiga….you can get to a stage where Malas graduate to OBC status and leave the Dalit fold.

That takes guts to do. And I hope Dalits welcome such a strategy. So over a period of time, we can aim at reducing the share of Dalit population from 1/6th to 0%, by gradually moving all of them to OBC/BC category.


43 rec1man November 19, 2017 at 5:10 pm

In Tamil Nadu, the Pallar – Dalit caste has demanded to be placed
in Shudra caste, even though their reservation gets reduced

They base their claim that they are shudra because
unlike Untouchables, they never ate beef

They also demand a more respectable sanskritised name for their
caste – Devendra Kula Velala

44 shrikanthk November 19, 2017 at 5:26 pm

That’s encouraging.

Yes, I remember reading about them on Swarajya. Hope others follow suit.

45 Jaldhar November 18, 2017 at 2:24 pm

Off topic but Buddhism did have a mass following although it was already in decline by 500AD or so. As evidenced by Buddhist polemics, its principle opponents were Samkhya and Nyaya. Vedanta barely gets mentioned. On the popular level it was supplanted by Shaivism and Vaishnavism.

The principle argument against the idea that Dalits are the descendents of egalitarian Buddhists persecuted into slavery and extinction by jealous Hindus is the continuing presence of Jains. Jains are just as heretical from the Vedic viewpoint as Buddhists and for exactly the same reasons. So why do they still exist? They were also criticized by philosophers. There is also evidence of sometimes violent rivalry between the Jains and Shaivas etc. Yet in the 21st century there are Jains in India but not Buddhists. Jains are not particularly different in their mores (including on the subject of caste) than the people around them. In fact the man in the street probably thinks of them as just another Hindu sect. So why should we assume Buddhist behavior would have been any different? Why should we assume the Hindu attitude towards them would have been any different?


46 shrikanthk November 18, 2017 at 3:19 pm

Fair enough. With you here.

But I am not very sure if Buddhism had a mass following. Do we have evidence of that? Sure there are N number of Buddhist philosophical texts – mostly intellectual works. You had monarchs like the late Mauryan kings who were Buddhist. The Guptas, though brahminical, did sponsor many Buddhist constructions. So I am not sure if Buddhism was already in decline by 400AD. After all, the great Buddhist university at Nalanda was constructed towards the end of the Gupta period (circa 400-500AD. And that university lasted for over 500 years. Harsha too was Buddhist and he dates to 7th century.

However, were the masses Buddhist? I don’t see much evidence of that in Indian literature. Do you?

47 A Truth Seeker November 18, 2017 at 5:37 pm

Jains are not particularly different in their mores (including on the subject of caste) than the people around them.
Doesn’t it explain why Jains survived?

48 Jaldhar November 18, 2017 at 6:49 pm

“Doesn’t it explain why Jains survived?”

The question is why were the Jains not particularly different? They reject the validity of the Vedas as a source for dharma just like the Buddhists so they have no theological basis for being pro-caste just like the Buddhists and yet they are. So why should we assume the Buddhists were modern liberal egalitarians? And if it was Hindu hostility that drove the former into oblivion then why not the Jains too when we have just as much evidence of hostility against them.

There is one important structural difference between the religions. To be a proper Buddhist meant to be a member of the monastic sangha. Certainly they had their lay supporters but they had no theological status. (There are lay Buddhist movements now but they are post-Indian developments in East Asia.) The Jains on the other hand formally allow for the concept of lay followers. They may be subordinate and inferior to the monks but they do exist. The upcoming Hindu Bhakti movements Shaivism, Vaishnavism, and Shaktism downplayed asceticism altogether.

“Harsha too was Buddhist and he dates to 7th century.”

The primary evidence for his Buddhism comes from a Chinese pilgrim Hsuen-Tang who journeyed to India via what is know Uzbekistan and Afghanistan (but which were culturally Indian in those days) and visited the court of Harsha. On the way he notes many Buddhist monasteries which were moribund or empty. He praises Harsha for his lavish spending on renovating vihars and other Buddhist centers and relics but renovation would not be necessary if Buddhism was in a good state. While the emperors personal liking may have been for Buddhism, only one of the three plays ascribed to him has a specifically Buddhist theme. The state cult was Shaiva and the important cultural figures associated with his patronage such as the poet Bana Bhatta were Hindus.

The existence of places like Nalanda is actually evidence of decline. As Buddhism shrank it consolidated in fewer and bigger centers all dependent on royal patronage. As that dried up and then the Muslim invaders gave them the coup de grace, they vanished and Buddhism vanished with them. Whereas Hinduism and Jainism could survive the changing winds of political fortune because they had a non-institutional base of support to fall back on.

49 shrikanthk November 18, 2017 at 7:14 pm

Fair. Don’t have much to disagree there.

But coming back to my original point – is there reason to believe Buddhism was ever a mass religion across large parts of India? Or was it merely an intellectual religious movement?

I don’t know the answer for sure. But I haven’t seen much evidence to suggest Buddhism was ever the predominant religion of North India or any other part of India for that matter.

50 shrikanthk November 18, 2017 at 7:28 pm

“So why should we assume the Buddhists were modern liberal egalitarians? ”

The term “Brahmin buddhist”, I think, occurs fairly often in traditional literature. Asvaghosha, the great Buddhist philosopher poet, was a brahmin born in Ayodhya (Saketa then). A few centuries later, the great buddhist philosopher, Buddhaghosa, was reputedly a brahmin from Kanchi. Nagarjuna, arguably the most important Buddhist thinker, was a brahmin from Vidarbha / AP.

The traditional literature makes no attempt to hide or de-emphasize the caste of these men.

So, there is little reason to believe Buddhism was ever anti-Varna (or caste). Though one may argue that Buddhism’s heyday in India preceded the mature development of modern Indian Jaatis. At any rate, Buddhism clearly wasn’t anti-varna.

51 shrikanthk November 18, 2017 at 1:53 pm

Among the options you suggest, being the conservative that I am, I would be an advocate “Join the mainstream”.

I think that is already afoot. But the “Dalit” tag is still a big deadweight burden there. Also no matter how much Dalits sanskritize (like for instance, visiting temples, or eating less meat, etc), there will still be resistance to sexual inter-mingling with them from the castes immediately above them in the hierarchy – the so-called “other backward castes” (Yadavs for instance).

That I think, is the source of most Dalit tensions today. Which castes will let Dalits into their fold? I don’t think that will be a smooth transition. So I do understand some of the dalit angst here against this option you suggest.


52 Jaldhar November 18, 2017 at 2:35 pm

Joining the mainstream doesn’t require intermingling of sexual or any other kind. In fact endogamy is one of the mores that is mainstream. It just requires thinking of oneself as participating in society from the inside rather than the outside.


53 shrikanthk November 18, 2017 at 7:19 pm

I agree. I don’t think Dalits have a fundamental problem with endogamy. It is an aspect of Indian society that has universal support, except perhaps the tiny English speaking uber-elites who find it frustrating and quiant.

But the Dalit tag is a problem. As long as an individual has that “oppressed” tag, he won’t feel good about himself. Which is why I feel it is important to get rid of this label. That’s not politically feasible. So the next best thing, as I suggested, is to work towards eliminating the label over say a 50 year period – gradually eliminate one Jaati after another from the Dalit category, starting with the best performing Dalit castes.

54 So Much For Subtlety November 18, 2017 at 11:51 pm

And this is why we should not ask Higher Castes about these things. We have a population that has suffered one of the most extreme and long lasting forms of social discrimination, that lives in utter poverty and is subject to regular acts of violence – often hand in hand with the state and its security forces – and you blame them? You blame the Dalits because people don’t want them at their weddings?

OK. So the acceptableness of Dalits atr weddings has gone down a lot since 1990 and 2007. Could, perhaps, anything of happened between those two dates that would drive this? Well, it is not Dalits complaining about being treated as Dalits. They have been doing that since the 1940s at least.

What else happened? Well in 1992, of course, the Babri Mosque was destroyed by Hindutva activists. Following the BJP’s adoption of Hindutva as their official ideology in 1989. The BJP then came to power in 1996 briefly before returning in 1998 to form a stable and long lasting government. Then in 2002 the present Prime Minister used murderous sectarian riots riots in Gujarat to come to national prominence.

In other words this period has not been marked by any new level of Dalit resistance but unprecedented High Caste assertiveness. Taking them all the way to power in New Delhi. Yet you blame the victims.


55 shrikanthk November 19, 2017 at 12:25 am

“OK. So the acceptableness of Dalits atr weddings has gone down a lot since 1990 and 2007”

Again you are missing the point. This too was a straightforward statistic that you couldn’t “get”. Nothing subtle here.

Dalit acceptability in weddings hasn’t gone down for Pete’s sake!!! Dalit willingness to attend non Dalit weddings has gone down.


56 Very subtle November 19, 2017 at 8:40 pm

how about they are not willing because they are not welcome?!


57 shrikanthk November 19, 2017 at 8:56 pm

Ah. So they were welcome in non dalit weddings in 1990, but not welcome today? Why would that be the case. Given that all other indicators in that survey point to greater friendliness towards dalits on the part of non dalits.

I see a lot of wilful idiocy on the part of some pretty bright people on this thread.

58 Observer November 18, 2017 at 11:59 am

Am I the only one unsettled by West-based academics going to India to run experiments on poor people??


59 cliff arroyo November 18, 2017 at 12:21 pm

Why yes, yes you are. The rest of us are giddy about the possibilities….


60 Thor November 18, 2017 at 12:31 pm

It’s a good way to learn about others, so don’t knock it, snowflake.


61 Anonymous November 18, 2017 at 12:46 pm

I just listened to the “Sujatha Gidla on being an Ant amongst the Elephants” podcast. It was very good. A foreign problem from the American perspective, and from the American perspective a surprisingly sticky one.

Relatedly, we don’t even teach civics here anymore? Horrible. Teach civics if you want an egalitarian civil society.



62 A Truth Seeker November 18, 2017 at 3:22 pm

So that’s what America has become: a narion with stupid and that Russians play like a balalaika…


63 Conversa Real November 18, 2017 at 4:18 pm

Você é o estúpido


64 A Truth Seeker November 18, 2017 at 5:38 pm

No, I am not. I am considered intelligent and well-versed in many matters by people who know me well.


65 Tom G November 18, 2017 at 1:07 pm

Gandhi wanted to get rid of caste, but wanted to get rid of the British Empire more. Too many top Indians, like Gidla, are socialists / communists wanting a better society thru having people be different than they are, and often act against their own material well being. Like in Zimbabwe and Venezuela.

India has been getting better as they’ve had less socialism and more capitalism, with hesitant reforms for the last 20 years. There has also been an increase in Hindu nationalism. Probably both help reduce the power of castes, as people identify more as “Indian” rather than as “Dalit”, and see their neighbors more as a possible source of money thru a deal, rather than one to avoid for caste reasons.

The competent Indian business folk who serve all castes well will, over time, make more money than the ones who discriminate (at least most of them). This should be visible in statistics about restaurants and how many are caste neutral vs caste selective (even if illegal).


66 shrikanthk November 18, 2017 at 4:57 pm

I don’t think you have caste-selective restaurants in any part of India.


67 shrikanthk November 18, 2017 at 10:51 pm

By the way, coming back to the first paper, integration of people from different cultural backgrounds in cricket teams isn’t something new. It has been a feature of Indian cricket teams for over a 100 years.

The first great Indian cricket stalwart was Palwankar Baloo, an “untouchable” from a town named Dharwar in Karnataka. He toured England with the Indian team back in 1911. He was a left-arm spinner and the wicket keeper who kept wickets for him was one Mr Sheshachari, an orthodox Vaishnavite brahmin from Madras.

More recently, one of the great duos in Indian cricket were Tendulkar and Kambli – two great cricketers from the 1990s. Tendulkar ofcourse had a very long career and retired just four years ago. He is widely regarded as the greatest Indian batsman ever. Tendulkar was the son of a Marathi poet, and a brahmin boy. Kambli on the other hand was an untouchable from Mumbai and Tendulkar’s best friend at school. The two set many batting records for their school. Kambli played for India for over 4 years, but then lost his motivation and his career faded away.


68 So Much For Subtlety November 19, 2017 at 12:13 am

Well anecdote is not data, but I don’t think your story about a Brahmin having one of the longest careers in Indian cricket while his similarly talented Untouchable friend was squeezed out after just four years is quite telling the story you want to tell.

Someone might read that as reflecting the enormous discrimination and barriers facing Untouchables.


69 shrikanthk November 19, 2017 at 12:23 am

Haha. Kambli was one of the 5-6 most popular people in India between 1993 and 1996. And you claim he was “oppressed”?

Again, I do understand your issues with subtlety. But here you have problems even with plain facts grasping which doesn’t require subtle reasoning at all!


70 Very subtle November 19, 2017 at 8:45 pm

“Kambli was one of the 5-6 most popular people in India between 1993 and 1996. And you claim he was “oppressed”?”

You got to be kidding me?! Is this level of ignorance honed through deliberate practise?

what are your thoughts about 10000 hours rule?


71 shrikanthk November 19, 2017 at 12:50 am

Sure. Anecdote is not data.

But I wasn’t making an argument with anecdotes. I wasn’t making an argument at all in the comment in question. But merely recounting some Indian cricket tidbits for those who might be interested.


72 rec1man November 19, 2017 at 5:12 pm

Kambli had serious behavior problems like black Athletes
Alcholism and womanising ( esp white women ) during and before cricket matches

He did not have the self-control that a brahmin like Tendulkar had


73 Very subtle November 19, 2017 at 8:46 pm

shrikanthk would definitely dig that take of yours


74 rec1man November 20, 2017 at 11:59 am

For thousands of years, Brahmins have been subject to severe self-control, such as no extramarital sex, no alchohol, no drugs, all types of abstinence, including no meats

vs Dalits , inc dalit women free to drink, take drugs, fornicate etc

75 Noah Carl November 19, 2017 at 8:59 am

Can we infer from this that left-wing identity politics will tend to reduce social harmony, insofar as it promotes adversarial relations between groups, and that civic nationalism will tend to do the opposite?


76 John Saunders November 20, 2017 at 5:26 am

This echoes the conclusion of one of the most famous social psychology experiments: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Realistic_conflict_theory#Robbers_cave_study
“friction between groups can be reduced along with positive intergroup relations maintained, only in the presence of superordinate goals that promote united, cooperative action”.


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