Saturday, 3 December, 2022
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Payal Tadvi case isn’t the only one. Many upper caste women harass others, overlooking gender

It’s time for Indian feminists, especially upper caste ones, to accept that all women suffer under patriarchy, but some more than others.

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Dr Payal Tadvi was an aspiring gynaecologist from the Bhil Muslim tribal community, working in the prestigious BYL Nair Hospital in Mumbai. Tadvi reaching the postgraduate course was in itself an example of the success story of India’s reservation policy enshrined in the Constitution and followed by successive governments. But this happy story came to a tragic end.

Payal Tadvi committed suicide after facing casteist slurs and harassment, according to media reports. She was stopped from conducting an operation by three of her colleagues, all of them upper castes. All three accused have now been arrested.

This is not an isolated incident where the perpetrators of caste atrocity were upper caste women. This brings us to the question: Are all women equal? All women are victims of patriarchy and should have equal access to the affirmative action policies of the state.

Also read: Are Dalit women less or more mobile than upper caste women in India? Jatis hold the answer

But here’s a list that feminist writer Komal Rajak, a doctoral fellow at Delhi University, recently compiled:

-A few days back, in Gujarat, when a Dalit marriage procession was passing through a colony of Patidars, the women residents blocked the road and started singing bhajans and even performed a yagna. This was their tactic to halt the baraat because stopping it directly would have invoked the provisions of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act. In this case, the upper caste women prioritised their caste identity over their identity as citizens.

-In the brutal Khairlanji murder incident, the non-Dalit women of the perpetrators’ families dragged out and stripped Surekha and Priyanka Bhotmange, who were later allegedly raped and murdered by several men. Here the women were co-conspirators and partners in the crime against Dalit women. They were rape enablers. Their identity as women was subservient to their identity as upper castes.

-When Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey held the ‘Smash Brahmanical Patriarchy’ placard, many of those who opposed this act were upper caste women like Smita Barooah and Advaita Kala. They saw it as an act of ‘hate speech’ against their caste. That placard was never meant to target any community and those women who opposed it were themselves victims of Brahmanical patriarchy.

-In 2016, when BJP leader Dayashankar Singh hurled sexist abuses against BSP chief Mayawati, it was his wife Swati Singh who stood by him and defended him.

-During the #MeToo movement, when Raya Sarkar produced a list of sexual harassers in the academic community, most of them were coincidently from the upper caste background. Indian academia is dominated by upper castes anyway. A statement was released by Kafila distancing the feminist movement from the list. Many of the signatories in that statement were women academicians and vocal feminists, but they preferred to stand up for the male academics of their own castes. They too were upper caste women.

-Over two decades ago, the Women’s Reservation Bill was opposed by politicians like Sharad Yadav who said there should be sub-reservation for OBC and Dalit women too. At that time, women activists outside the House had angrily countered saying women are one and cannot be divided along caste lines.

Also read: Why Dimple Yadav touching Mayawati’s feet still riles upper caste Indians

The Indian feminist movement has largely been led by upper caste women, who speak on behalf of Dalit women. But women’s organisations have rarely given them leadership positions.

This is not unique to India. In the United States and Canada, the women’s movement was largely White. When women of colour spoke against this hierarchy – with slogans like ‘nobody’s free until everybody’s free’ and ‘feminism is for everybody’ – they too were accused of dividing women and hurting the movement.

Being a woman is in itself not sufficient enough to help them transcend their other identities. Caste and race can and do override gender identity. When gender is not wired into the consciousness, the woman may act against the interest of ‘other’ women.

That is the genesis of the whole debate on intersectionality that dominated third wave feminism. In the US, the issue of race was (and still is) very prominent. The difference in the lived experience of a Black woman from that of a white Caucasian woman was/is so startling that it overwhelmed the simplistic and superficial idea of gender-sameness.

Also read: Why India’s politicians get away with casteist slurs and abuses on Dalit leaders

It’s time for Indian feminists, especially those who belong to the upper strata of society, to accept that though all of them suffer patriarchy, all Indian women are not the same and their level of deprivation is also not the same. Accepting this reality will not break the unity of women, as feared by some feminists. Rather it will fortify the idea of the differential principle, which should form the core of distributive justice.

If India passes the Women’s Reservation Bill, without any sub-quota, the benefits will mostly be cornered by upper caste women, because the lower caste women lack social and cultural capital. The idea of sub-quota for lower caste women should not be debunked just because it was proposed by Sharad Yadav.

The author is a senior journalist. Views are personal.

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  1. Question is of caste. Caste is a cause, reservation a effect. Remove caste, reservation is removed automatically. But no one wants to leave caste. The hierarchy of caste is such that the upper castes gets social advantage.( They may deny it, bit it is a fact). They feel that someone is below them whom they can control. But because of little awakening amongst lower caste, they try to improve socially, culturally, economically. This is a direct challenge to upper caste mentality. Remember, Caste is a Notion and not physical barrier. So wherever upper caste people get opportunity they mail these lower caste, by neglecting,marginalising, depriving, not communicating, giving lower marks, boycotting, etc. It takes any form.
    Now the question is are upper caste people ready to.leave their caste.? I have asked so many people directly and they say no without giving reason. My thinking is that they will have to leave Rights of Passages which they don’t want to. A Brahmin will perform his thread ceremony, which gives him knowingly or unknowingly that he is superior to others and gives him confidence over others. This is about other upper caste also. In lower caste, there is isolated incident that someone is a doctor or a businessman or engineer or into higher post. There is no community with him, but for upper caste all the members of the community are at equal level. Imagine what goes in the mind of lower caste person when he is subjugated by the weight of upper caste community.
    Again is it not a fact that not all upper caste persons who study do not necessarily are meritorious. They miss harassment. One can understand harassment based on caste and other factors. If someone feels there is no harassment, then he should become a lower caste person and then speak

  2. These type of cases are only exception , truth is that sc/st are in real general caste and general are treated like sc/st , but we will speak which is true

  3. Yes, let us have sub quotas & sub sub quotas & allow the reservation to go upto 90%.

    Because apparently every community (except the general category) in this country needs to be well educated & be well represented in every sector, in every institution, in every sphere. There should be no such thing as merit. Development would come not by merit, but by adequate representation of every community.

    Which is why almost 7 decades later, the underprivileged still feel marginalised & the clamour for reservation has only increased.
    Seems like reservation policy has worked well.

  4. Now ,time has come that India should abolish caste from its constitution.All the human being should be treated equally.Only deserving candidates should occupy the seat.Not the people who shows their caste certificates

    • lets first eradicate reservation for backward castes and upper castes amongst the dalits.

      Oh, forgot about reservation for 10% ebc

  5. Well written article. All proponents of work pressure suicide ignoring the caste angle of this murder are simply living in a make believe world where they assume that reservations have made India a caste free society and all “lower” castes are now equally evolved. Important to note is some “higher” castes have already taken undue undeserving reservations forcibly (Jats, Marathas). Both these communities have been traditionally and the even now dominant castes holding key positions, lands, businesses and in true sense the benefactors of the caste hierarchies. Calling them backward and giving them reservations is truly unjust. Still now in India caste is a very prominent feature in society influencing key decisions like marriage, associations etc. The atrocities against SC/ST is cruel to say the least and very high in count too. Don’t try to equate that and nullify that by saying reservations has now made India a rqual society. We still have a long long way to go. Stop casteism when marrying your kids for next 20 years and we would have already made a good progress in being a equal society. Think over it insted of just giving a prejudiced reply.

  6. I think you had just written the coloumn just to show that upper caste people are greedy and lack in humanity. We had no problems with reservation given to sc/st or obc but the people who are taking benefits of the reservation are not the aadvasis they are son and daughter of ips, ias other government staff who get paid high discrimination is not because of caste it because of wealth we had never heard of any film stars or bussineesman belonging to sc/st or OBC or upper caste we see them as rich people no one ask them about their caste because they are rich.Being a senior editor I think you should write news of how to make our society better not writing a hate speech . Reservation should be given to sc/st and OBC students but on the basis of family income we will not mind anything if reservation is not given to upper caste students.But taking birth in a particular community doesn’t mean that you are born with a silver spoon

  7. It is time that every person strives to compete as equal. This is true for the’dalit’ or ‘backward class’ or ‘women’ identity. Let us stop expecting concessions or quotas or representation for the sake of matching numbers with the overall population. The narrative needs to change where ‘upper caste’ is encouraged to treat others as equal, men are encouraged to treat women as equal etc. For this all people need to behave as equals. This includes leaving household chores to men and leaving jobs that are not considered ‘acceptable’ to others, if required. At the same time government and corporate and NGOs need to support the underprivileged, irrespective of caste or gender to achieve their ambitions through financial aid. No concessions in education and equal competition in workplace. A person should not get a seat in an educational institution or a promotion in a job simply because he / she belongs to a particular caste or gender in the name of diversity. He or she should get it because he / she is the best person for the job. Narendra Modi did not have become PM because of his caste, Mamata Banerjee or Mayavati do not lead political parties on account of their gender or caste, Obama did not become President of the US on account of his ansestry. They became successful despite it. Let us claim equality in the true sense and not as a handout. This will develop a sense of pride and self-esteem which is continually erroded every time a person accepts a ‘quota’.

  8. Is reservation is only in form of constitutional right than why India’s 80% wealth belong to general category and still only brahmins performes the religious rituals .This is also a reservation and you have to accept it.

    • 1) Dalits are becoming priests. Please see

      2) No one is opposed to supporting anyone based on financial criteria. Such aid comes in the form of fee waiver, support to attend coaching available to other students etc.

      The only point is reservation should not be based on caste as it is re-enforcing the same ‘backward-ness’ that is being sought to be abolished. A person can raise from poverty but not from caste. So result is the same ‘well to do people’ are availing benefits of reservation generation after generation and leaving the masses behind. This will explain the reason for inequitable wealth distribution.

  9. No doubt that reservation and caste or “prestige associated with it” is reinforcing divisive lines. “But it is latter that is predominant.” Giving reservation a cause of death over discrimination ” itself shows the hatredness. People are blindly supporting their own thesis on cause of death without even knowing what actually happened. I think In course of time there will be a clear divisive line on the basis of caste in society.

  10. This is directed at THE PRINT. I am a physician and have also been a medical teacher. I have nothing to comment on the Payal Tadvi suicide but can tell you one thing – whatever the personal prejudices of any individual, once they have entered the medical profession, it is the first thing that is replaced with professionalism and it requires very hard work. Secondly, this supposed ragging incident happened at a post graduate level which is very difficult to believe because frankly speaking, postgraduate medical residency does not have any time for such tomfoolery.
    Even a single PG does not cooperate with the rest, it is a huge burden on the rest.
    My main complaint directed against THE PRINT [I have mentioned in comments on earlier articles by this author also] is this. If you believe a doctor should not be prejudiced in their thought or action even before they have finished their education, what is your comment on this author whose bias pours out in every sentence and all his facts are selected to back his prejudice after decades of journalism experience? Frankly, has he even seen the inside of a medical college and how work is done there? Has he spoken with any medical professionals on this matter to gather information? Why is he comparing this particular incident to every other crime in the country?
    Your selection of authors needs to be more mature. Every person has some form of prejudice but it is your education, training and experience that replaces this prejudices with professionalism and agnostic analysis of the facts in every profession such as medicine, law, journalism etc. This particular author is the complete antithesis of a good journalist.

  11. Good stuff. Unfortunately yadav is unable to think beyond his left of center grove, even though the semi-literate Indian voters have moved on.
    Selling just entitlements, without extras is not viable as in the good old days. Crezywal of Delhi and Siddaramayya of Karnataka are prime examples. Siddaramayya could not get a second term with so many entitlements, that too, with pretty good delivery.
    Midi seems to deliver good governance, despite his fuzzy ideology.
    As far as Muslims are concerned- a group of people who are reluctant to even place a single step away from sexual inequality need to be placed under adult supervision.

  12. Are there cases of upper caste people committing suicide due to caste “discrimination” by lower caste people at the work place?

    May be they will create one, and their trolls will market it on the basis of its “merit” over other cases of under privileged suicides.

  13. People can’t handle work pressure and die .it’s plain suicide and family trying to gain sympathy n publicity.

    • Lol, wow how can you be caste ignorant, you should acknowledge that caste exist. There are caste based violence. You can’t bluntly reject caste based atrocities with such work pressure arguments.

  14. Can the enlighted author please also share innumerous case of exploitation of caste based reservation and sc/st act and preference of undeserving candidate in prestigious institutions .

    • not all upper caste are great and some have been pushed to higher position because..and by someone from same group. you could see lot of examples of your near by.

  15. You should seriously get some better columnists (hint: not diversity hires)

    PS- I know this comment won’t be published, but oh well…

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