The murder of George Floyd by the police has led to angry protests in the US (representational image) | Photo: Fibonacci Blue | Wikimedia Commons
The murder of George Floyd by the police has led to angry protests in the US | Fibonacci Blue | Wikimedia Commons File Photo
Text Size:

The George Floyd murder case has shaken up the Americans like never before. One important factor in these protests has been the large participation of the United States’ White population.

But this is not a novelty. Back in the 19th century, during the American Civil War, more than a million White young men — at the time, women were not allowed to take part in military operations — perished in the war to end slavery in the southern Confederate States of America.

The impact of White people fighting for the abolition of slavery was so great that Jyotiba Phule, the foremost Indian social reformer, dedicated his famous 1873 treatise Gulamgiri (Slavery) to the good people of United States of America.

As White Americans once again join the protesting Black people against the custodial murder of George Floyd, a pertinent question arises for India.

Can we imagine the savarna (‘twice-born’ upper caste) Indian men and women at the forefront of the Bahujans’ struggle to abolish caste-related violence and discrimination? 

The upper caste woke Indians are perturbed by the events unfolding in the US. From Disha Patani to Priyanka Chopra to Google CEO Sunder Pichai, all have spoken up in support of #BlackLivesMatter. Can we except such outrage from them when a Dalit is murdered in a hate crime, or when a lower caste woman is raped, or when someone is denied a job or admission because of her/his caste affiliation?


Also read: Indians who support Kapil Mishra are saying #BlackLivesMatter. Let that sink in


Such public figures are rare

One of the major issues with India’s battle against caste supremacy and social hierarchy is that there aren’t enough savarna men and women — many of whom occupy positions of power — ready or even willing to join the fight to end caste-based discrimination. There are only a few exceptions to this general statement in India’s entire modern history, people who harmed the privileges enjoyed by their own social groups to empower the lower castes. My list so far includes only three names: Ram Manohar Lohia, V.P. Singh, and Arjun Singh.

Lohia ushered a political process that culminated in increased participation of backward and peasant castes in political space, the process christened as the ‘Silent Revolution’ by political scientist Christophe Jaffrelot.

Former Prime Minister V.P. Singh, probably the most hated person in India, implemented the Mandal Commission report that gave 27 per cent reservation in central government jobs to the OBCs, who constitute 52 per cent of India’s population, according to the Mandal report.

Former union HRD minister Arjun Singh is also remembered as a villain by the upper caste people, because he implemented the proposal to give 27 per cent reservation to the OBCs in central higher education institutions.


Also read: South Asians in the US must support #BlackLivesMatter, but first undo your own anti-Blackness


The silence of the upper caste

Now let us look at some of the recent events.

1. Following the brutal 2006 Khairlanji massacre in Maharashtra, when members of a Dalit family were dragged out of their homes, raped, and murdered in broad daylight, the onus to agitate for justice fell upon the Dalit community.

2. It was the same after the institutional murder of Rohith Vemula (although students across universities in India had come out to protest) or when Dr Payal Tadvi or Delta Meghwal committed suicide, or the public flogging of four Dalit men in Gujarat’s Una (who were attacked again two years after the incident), the upper caste woke were mostly silent, and their activism was limited to Twitter and Facebook.

3. The victimised families of Bhagana village in Haryana sat on a dharna for more than a year at Jantar Mantar in Delhi but failed to get any support from non-Dalit organisations.

4. When the SC/ST Act was diluted by an order of the Supreme Court in 2018, only Dalits protested. Twelve of them died during the protests but it didn’t stir the upper caste Indians. Finally, the Modi government was forced to bring an amendment, which the Supreme Court then upheld.

5. Whenever there is any attempt to dilute the provisions of reservation in educational institutes or government jobs, the protests are always undertaken by the SC, ST and OBC groups. This has been noted in the recent case of new roster system in university recruitments.

6. When the Modi government brought the bill to amend the Constitution to give 10 per cent reservation to the economically weaker section (EWS) among the upper castes, no savarna leader opposed it, even though it was considered against the premise of the constitutional provisions such as Article 15(4) and 16(4). These provisions have been amended to fit the savarnas in the affirmative-action policies.

7. We will not find a single editorial in any of the so-called national newspapers arguing in favour of caste census, despite this issue being at the top of public and parliamentary discourse. All the masters of Indian sociology — from G.S. Ghurye, M.N. Srinivas, S.C. Dube to Andre Beteille — have written extensively about caste but never asked for the caste data. Practising sociology without data about society is a unique feature of the Indian sociology academia, again dominated by the upper castes. This has been pointed out by Professor Vivek Kumar in an article in EPW.


Also read: My teacher once asked how could I be good in Sanskrit: Tribal woman scholar who’s now a V-C


What explains the silence

There are two possible explanations for why this is the case.

1. The US is still dominated by White people (Black people, including multiracial, hardly account for 14 per cent of the US population), and it may remain so for centuries to come. White people can afford to barter some of their privileges and still retain the dominant racial position. In India, the savarnas are numerically in minority. It will be difficult for them to be as benevolent as the White people in the US, because that will dent their dominant position.

2. This situation was beautifully articulated by B.R. Ambedkar in the introduction of his book The Untouchables. While answering the question as to “why no Brahmin scholar has so far come forward to play the part of a Voltaire who had the intellectual honesty to rise against the doctrines of the Catholic Church,” Ambedkar argued: “The question can be answered only by another question. Why did the Sultan of Turkey not abolish the religion of the Mohammedan World? Why has no Pope denounced Catholicism? Why has the British Parliament not made a law ordering the killing of all blue-eyed babies?” 

Ambedkar had summed up his argument by saying that “it must be recognised that the selfish interest of a person or of the class to which he belongs always acts as an internal limitation which regulates the direction of his intellect.”

The author is the former managing editor of India Today Hindi magazine, and has authored books on media and sociology. Views are personal.

Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it

India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.

But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.

ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.

Support Our Journalism

38 Comments Share Your Views

38 COMMENTS

  1. Because most of indians who go to USA are from Upper Caste community.
    They face RACISM when they go to USA.
    Few years ago Shilpa Shetty had to face the same.
    Hypocrisy at its best.

  2. Reservation is not meant for solving unemployment .It is for representation of the deprived in the state administration .
    However reservation benefits should be limited to 2 generation of a family . The next generation should be excluded from reservation and be treated as general category .So that cornering reservation tradionally by few sub castes could be avoided .

  3. Unless and untill this baman and mythology stories are there in India its not possible..
    Because science graduate we become but we don’t want to realise the truth which is practical comparing to the stories which is illogical.

  4. One of the basic premise of the ‘black lives matter’ agitation is equality. Whereas, in India, most of the agitation by SC, ST or OBC, is not for equality. It is for reservation – in education, in jobs, in promotion. Each attempt to fight for such reservation on the grounds of caste simply reiterates and enforces the belief that such castes are inferior, that they cannot compete at par. Now, when any person or group voluntarily agitates for classifying themselves as backward or inferior, it is difficult for anyone else to convince them that they are equal. This is not to say that benefit should not be given to the marginalized. Of course socio-economic barriers exist and everyone should get access to a good education, jobs, equal opportunity. However, if we wish to genuinely eliminate caste, then caste needs to be taken out of this equation. Eg. Give additional points for children studying in government schools, more points for schools in rural areas and more for tribal areas, additional points for children whose parents are working as manual labour, who are below certain income level, or where parents are uneducated. Let all these points be added to a child’s score and let that child be given preference over another coming from a private, urban school and privileged background. Once we add such layers for addressing socio-economic inequality, each child will earn their seat on merit. Let the educational institutions give scholarships to help children from underprivileged backgrounds and let the fees be recovered from others studying in that educational institution or by grants from corporates. There are many corporates who can support underprivileged children as part of their CSR.

    Similarly, all government jobs are based on entrance exams. Let these also have similar extra points for education, parental background, residence etc at an entry level. Thereafter, let everything be on merit.

    When we start taking caste out of the equation, we will achieve equality. However, if certain castes insist on proclaiming generation after generation their own inferiority and inability to compete at every step of the way, it is futile to blame anyone for their predicament. In fact, it dilutes the achievements of truly meritorious students and hardworking employees within their own group. Even though such student or employee may have earned the seat or promotion on merit, their achievements are tarnished/ diluted with the ‘reservation’ tag, which can be very demoralising and further lead to inferiority complex.

    As regards other instances quoted by the author – rape, murder, lynching, assault – these need to be protested against, but not because the victim was a dalit or scheduled caste but because he or she is/ was a human being. These are acts against humanity and need to be treated as such.

  5. One of the basic premise of the ‘black lives matter’ agitation is equality. Whereas, in India, most of the agitation by any reserved class, be it SC, ST or OBC, is not for equality. It is for reservation – in education, in jobs, in promotion. Each attempt to fight for such reservation on the grounds of caste simply reiterates and enforces the belief that such castes are inferior, that they cannot compete at par. Now when any person or group voluntarily agitates for classifying themselves as backward or inferior, it is difficult to sympathize with them. This is not to say that benefit should not be given to the marginalized. Of course socio-economic barriers exist and everyone should get access to a good education, jobs, equal opportunity. However, if we wish to genuinely eliminate caste, then caste needs to be taken out of this equation. Eg. Give additional points for children studying in government schools, more points for schools in rural areas and more for tribal areas, additional points for children whose parents are working as manual labour, who are below certain income level, or where parents are uneducated. Let all these points be added to a child’s score and let that child be given preference over another coming from a private, urban school and privileged background. Once we add such layers for addressing socio-economic inequality, each child will earn their seat on merit. Let the educational institutions give scholarships to help children from underprivileged backgrounds and let the fees be recovered from others studying in that educational institution or by grants from corporates. There are many corporates who can support underprivileged children as part of their CSR.

    Similarly, all government jobs are based on entrance exams. Let these also have similar extra points for education, parental background, residence etc at an entry level. Thereafter, let everything be on merit.

    When we start taking caste out of the equation, we will achieve equality. However, if certain castes insist on proclaiming their own inferiority and inability to compete at every step of the way, it is futile to blame anyone for their predicament. In fact it dilutes the truly meritorious students and hardworking employees within their own group. Even though such student or employee may have earned the seat or promotion on merit, their achievements are tarnished/ diluted with the ‘reservation’ tag, which can be very demoralising and further lead to inferiority complex.

    As regards other instances quoted by the author – rape, murder, lynching, assault – these need to be protested against, but not because the victim was a dalit or scheduled caste but because he or she was a human being. These are acts against humanity and need to be treated as such.

  6. Poor आशुतोष बाजपेई.
    Please take a look at your scriptures which Hindus consider divine. They are not divine they are product of concoction, fabrication and deception and what are there for the lowest strata of the society?
    So, you feel angered at the attack against तिलक तराजू और तलवार.
    Many Hindus, with modern education and learning, live in the caves yet.

  7. Nothing can be shameless than a person even after rising to average social status when a person still projects oneself as dalit and spread hate.

  8. Can low caste people come forward an talk about how we upper caste loose so many jobs / medical seats due to ginkcuf caste reservation.bloody post.

  9. Why do you think the poor among Savarna castes donot deserve helping hand from the government? It is highly contradictory. And you speak as though hatred against dalita is direct hatred. It is not. The scriptures which have advocated hatred have been banned a long time ago.

  10. Kashmiri pandito pe bhi bol le koi dalit kyu nahi nikala streets pe jab unhe mara gaya to pandit kyu aayenge tumhare support mai

  11. When Swamijis got murdered in Maharashtra is SC/ST /OBCs are doing any Dharna or protest since they constitute majority in India we have to abolish caste system no.Get the data if possible with out data you can claim what you are claiming from past 65 years. Instead blaming others do some introspection.

  12. Inconsistencies galore in the article. You claim whites are a majority. Shows that you see the world in black and white. The truth is that the white people are already less than 50% of the US population. So your argument is moot. Secondly the question why no upper caste has come forward in India. Many have. Even Kanshi Ram was a brahmin. So was Ram Mohan Roy. But I guess the author is himself struck with the disease he blames the upper castes to have – that of internal limitations due to membership of a group. I guess that too must be the reason why he has never written about talented poor kids from ‘upper castes’ losing opportunity due to reservations. I guess it cuts both ways sir.

    • How come there is so much violence against sadhus by muslims. Remember you are talking about muslims who dont even consider you as their part. How come abdul kalam even though muslim became president of a nation which is called to be intolerant by you? How come there is love jihaad all over india. How come our sacred cows killed by bloody jihadis?

  13. We are stopped from competing on half the seats and you want us to join you in upholding this discriminatory policy. You should be working towards trying to stop branding everyone by their caste instead. Work at the grassroots to stop casteism by removing the reservation system which reminds us every generation that our efforts are worth less than SC/ST.

  14. first learn the history of why black people came and their role in americas independence. They did Nothing
    2 ) Andrew floyd got murdered that is wrong BUT isn’t it bigger wrong to produce Fake receipts and bills . Thus andrew wasn’t Innocent either .3) Caste system is NOT anyway concerned and similar than racism. Racism is on color Caste system is misconstrued by By birth . That means even a Fair looking Dalit will be mistreated than a black Brahmin . In US racism has come as blacks try to overpower a country which was discovered by a white got independence from english due to whites . Don’t forget that . Priyanka chopra and pichai are doing coz they want mileage being Non whites . Sundar pichai wants more IIT graduates to come and hijack roles and Priyanka wants to get in Hollywood rather staying as a Saas bahu Telestar that too the role given to her in Quantico was meant for an South Asian only . They are using this race thing for their own interest.

    • Are you illiterate or mentally ill? Blacks tried to overpower the country? Do you even know anything about the history of USA or the Blacks? You sound like a person who dropped out if school in the 2nd standard.

      And producing fake receipt is bigger crime than a murder??

      You should go to a doctor, you’re mentally unstable.

  15. Only one if a family should get reservation for one or two generations as all are cornered by a few literate families, depriving others among them who are less privileged. Already most govt offices are full of reserved categories that led Patels kind of agitations of Gujarat. They should give chance less privileged among them.

    • Reservation is only 50%. Backwards are 65% .of the total population . 35% of upper castes get 50% of jobs while 65% backwards get only 50% jobs .Yet upper castes make hues and cries .In my openion reservation should be given to every caste in propotion to the percentage of population,whether forward or backwards ,to assure due representation for each caste in administration .

  16. Yes.Evry one resist if one losses one’s benefits. Ambedkar thought that 10 years reservations is enough. Though he might have gone wrong in calculating only 10 years reservation but, what about 70,80 and permanent reservation that they want , by brow beating parties and not applying creamy layer thus depriving the less privileged of among themselves the benefits and opposing Madigas when they are fighting their part in total reservation for themselves and even attacking them. All being said if population is not controlled any amount of reservations could not employ all. Even rich countries like Amrica has unemployment problem.

  17. क्योंकि वहां अश्वेत किसी भी श्वेत को टारगेट करके प्रदर्शन नहीं करते हैं लेकिन हमारे देश में अगर कोई भी दलित प्रदर्शन या रैली हो तो उसमे तो सवर्णों के लिए अभद्र टिप्पणी लिख के पोस्टर लाते हैं और नारे लगाते हैं, जैसे तिलक तराजू और तलवार इनके मारो जूते चार या ब्राह्मण लोग विदेशी हैं इनका खून यूरेशी है।

  18. You have hit the nail on its head. The great religion that we practice: a way of life, oppressing the dalit and the adivasis. No one wants to talk about casteism in our country.

  19. The author also needs to look down south where the impoverished castes were promoted to improve their status by leaders of the upper castes , particularly in Tamizh Nadu way before such thought took roots in the north. Caste annihilation, women’s emancipation and self respect were some of the hall marks of such a movement.

  20. Very true Mandal-ji. Just as we women cannot trust men to be our spokes-people, so too can dalits not trust any one else to articulate their struggle. Yet, in all your (justified) bitterness, you know very well that there HAVE been UC women and men who have stood with dalits, and muslims, just like men have stood up for women’s struggles throughout history. just like dalits have stood up for muslims and muslims for dalits. and therein lies our only hope of salvation – only hope of building a future together. if we reject each other’s help (even if meager, and even if necessarily incomplete) , we shall be forever trapped in a vicious circle of hate and violence.

    • Someone pointed out dalit-muslims relationship , I like to say ,read what happened to jogendarnath mandala who joined Pakistan .
      What happened to dalits in kashmir ,their constitution legitimized discrimination agaisnt them.
      Hindus who want citizenship through C.A.A ,more than 90% of them are dalit.
      So it’s important to rethink on dalit-Muslim relation

  21. Wrong comparison. Issues in the US are different than that of India.
    In no way can white ‘race’ can be compared to savarnas — there is no ‘race’ called savarnas in India. DNA analysis has proved that Indians have no different DNA from each other from north to south.

  22. I do agree with the article and Mr virendra Kumar.There are more things and complex one which we are not considering in our system which instead of enabling good relation between hierarchies are more seperating and segregating them.The reservation is itself has become a issue in itself.It is definitely true that our society need reservation for marginalized.bt the definition of marginalized people is not comprehensive when it comes to policy making.it is divided on caste,income criteria.may be that was one of the reason for caste like Marathas are agitating.The caste base reservation has forgotten the economically backwards.And those from upper caste but very poor feel agitated by this and such kind of examples and complexities fueled by the politics throught the country is not enabling the the support that supressed class need.Other reasons include the lack of information.There is wide assumption that Ambedkar wanted to keep reservation for few years and then political parties extended it further.Thus have become a reason for “majority bashing”.This has being printed on the minds on youth trough politics and their own raw understanding without any clarification.
    The history is also the reason which we saw in case if bhima koregaon.we cannot directly compare our system with what whites do etc. Given the complexity and lack of understanding of our own system. the super lack of will power to correct the balance and vested interests which exploits the loopholes further worsening this.
    Though I agree that it is right of minorities to be vocal and when you feel insecure unsafe with lack of trust in society itself the things turn violent.it will be the wrong if we as a society will blame minority for being violent.The education and wisdom is only the key.

  23. Mr. Mandal is up to his usual second rate tricks of trying to establish tenuous links between unrelated events and finally connect it to his pet peeve – his hatred of India and Hindus.
    The author claims to be a former managing editor of India Today Hindi. But from the quality of his thoughts he was better suited to be an office cleaner rather than a “managing editor’.

  24. While I agree with most of the points made by you, there is a valid reason for the upper castes not to participate in Dalit protests. Most of the upper castes feel that in spite of reservation and so many privileges and support of the government, Dalits are yet to come up, in fact, there is a group of Dalits who have cornered all the benefits of facilities given by the government and now they have developed the vested interest in its continuation. As a group, Dalits are the most vocal and most violent and are perceived to take the system for granted. In this violence, they usually get the support of anti-national forces. That is the perception of a major part of society. Now, in addition to that, there are instances in Maharastra where Dalits have perpetuated violence on other sections of society and police cases are there. All these factors have ensured that slowly and steadily they have lost the support of those people who genuinely do want to support them.

    • The literate of them cornering all the benefits by depriving less privileged among themselves benefit of it. Having fought and got benefits they are opposing and even attacking Madigas when they want their part of total reservation. Such is their hypocrisy. Being some of them well of they claim all the benefits by showing some who are less developed and a one or two stray incidents and use people extract more benefits which they again corner by depriving less privileged among themselves. At times they demean even country by depicting condemnable stray incidents as if happening many to put victim fix and extract more benefits and try to divide Hindus by encouraging conversions into now new found Buddhism only to increase vote share and get political mileage and if possible power as Mayavati etc did and do.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here