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Young urban Indians who say ‘I am not casteist bro’ enable Sambit Patra’s gotra comments

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For all the talk of not being casteist, young urban Indians are still listening to mummy papa when it comes to marriage.

In a move reminiscent of every other neighbourhood rishta-maker, BJP’s Sambit Patra recently demanded that Rahul Gandhi tell the world what his gotra is, lest Rahul is hiding some deep, dark secret about his religion that India absolutely need to know. Apparently, it’s fundamental that we know the caste, gotra, jati of everyone around us. Maybe this is where Sambit Patra will inform us that our Aadhaar cards will also now have to include this information.

The comment led to a lot of jokes on the internet as usual and pointed criticism from many including Omar Abdullah, Rajdeep Sardesai and Karuna Nandy. But overall, the public reaction was muffled. May be we are just used to this nonsense. Or have become immune to it. Most young Indians, however, have another worldview: ‘People like us’ don’t really care about caste and gotra, they say.

I personally leaned towards the whole ‘people like us’ thing till a short while ago when I realised we are the privileged people who not only allow, but also give impetus to the cruelty of caste that we are born with.

Also read: Inter-caste marriages are good for health of Indians. That’s what DNA testing tells us

Recently, I spent a car ride to the airport with a student from one of India’s top tech schools. He was obviously astonishingly smart, articulate, and very charming when he wanted to be. He was also convinced that caste wasn’t an issue anymore because only “villages think of caste now”. He then began the usual diatribe about reservations vs merit in Indian education. “My roommate got through with reservation, didn’t he? Not like he’s doing well and not like he can keep up. What’s the point of doing this anymore?” he asked. Just as I was recovering from this bombshell, I got another one about how “some restrictions are good for a culture” from another young person I was speaking with, specifically in the context of marriage and love.

Personal seething aside, I wanted to think of this as an anomaly. These two people were obviously total outliers, right? Wrong, this is actually a worrying trend in India. Nearly 36 per cent of young Indians are against inter-caste marriages, and while a large number of them support reservations, they think caste doesn’t matter anymore. Here’s the funny bit: If you asked any of these people point blank, they would say that they’re not casteist, and that “gotra doesn’t matter to me bro, but you know how moms can be”.

And that’s the issue, isn’t it? We’re so complacent in our little bubbles where caste and gotra and jati are all just terms we hear from our parents and brush off as though they don’t matter. We young and privileged Indians convince ourselves that we’re above such ‘backward’ thinking. We truly believe that we can leave these ‘traps’ behind as and when we wish to, completely disregarding the fact that it is our caste status and privilege which allows us to disregard caste in the first place.

But for all the talk of not being casteist, young urban Indians are still listening to mummy papa when it comes to marriage – the key institution that propagates caste hierarchy.  In a recent study, only 22 per cent said that they could marry someone their parents did not entirely approve of. And, only 10 per cent of urban respondents said in another study that someone in their family had married outside their caste.

Also read: She’s my first & last girlfriend: An inter-caste school love story that’s ended up in ICU

And what best exposes our casteist mindsets than our matrimonial ads. A study of more than 10,000 matrimonial ads that appeared across major newspapers between 1970 and 2010 found that applications for “inter-caste marriages fell from 30 per cent (1970-80) to 19 per cent (2000-10)” in a few decades.

We have, in refusing to engage with age-old discriminations, allowed them legitimacy.

The fundamental disconnect in what young Indians do and what we feel creates an atmosphere where the spokesperson of the ruling party can ask about the opposition leader’s gotra and get away with it—achche din and vikas be damned. Sambit isn’t the first and he won’t be the last. Remember when the Congress jumped to claim that Rahul Gandhi was a janue-dhari Hindu, and not just any Hindu?

We might think this has nothing to do with us, but we’re wrong. Liberal arrogance and apathy have led us to the point of chaos we are at now, and I don’t know if we have the tools or the skills to bring our society back from the brink it’s almost fallen off.

We young urban Indians are a generation of people who grew up on a steady diet of MUNs, and classroom debates that convinced us that we can stand up for our truths. We’re also a generation of people who decided, instead, to be comfortable with our cosy positions in the caste hierarchy, mostly because ‘we are like this only’.

The author is a poet.

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  1. Sambit Patra HAD to ask Rahul for his ‘Gotra’ ONLY because Congress, the self proclaimed “Secular” party (which is out to oust the ‘communal’ BJP) speaking on Rahul’s behalf, boasted that Rahul is not merely a Hindu, but a “Janeu” wearing Brahmin. Why was THIS necessary for the party which claims to be ABOVE such claims and jeers at the BJP for it ? Sambit Patra was ONLY exposing this HYPOCRISY and was least concerned about Rahul’s gotra. It is the Congress that has to shed its insincere stance and show clarity in its beliefs and ideology. Congress wants to run with the hares and hunt with the hounds, and the hollowness is evident to all.

  2. Gothra matters genetically. A fine way from keeping the population from inbreeding. The north Indian system of not marrying from either father’s or mother’s gotra is a sound one. Though, it is a lot patriarchal; as it does not trace gotra along matriarchal lines. The idea that matrimonial alliance from the same village are taboo is also a good one – just in case (wink, wink).

  3. The current BJP belongs to the NM & ASs.
    But when Patras, Jaitleys talk like them it hurts
    Because they do belong to the educated ‘caste’ of free India.

  4. The country has to move forward with an idea of casteless society where all these old thought of gotra and other things which only devide the society has no importance to uplift the general conditions of human life where they will get their basic minimum to make life happy and feel pride to become the citizen of this great country.Better all the political parties work in that direction can make this country great once again.

  5. जातिव्यवस्था के बारे में बहुत कुछ लिखा जा सकता है।लेकिन राहुल गांधी कह चुके है कि मंदिर लोग लड़किया छेड़ने जाते है अब वही राहुल गाँधी मन्दिरों की खाक छान रहे है तो क्या लड़किया छेड़ने जाते है।प्रश्न तो बनता है।भारत मे जति का निर्धारण बाप दादा पर होता है अतः राहुल गांधी का धर्म पारसी हुआ।यदि राहुल धर्म बदल कर हिन्दू बन जाये तो भी ब्राह्मण नही बन सकतेक्योकि जाति नही बदल सकती है।जो जाति फिरोज गांधी की थी वही रहेगी।जाति का निरधारण नाना से नही होता है यह सर्वमान्य तथ्य है।संबित पात्रा की यह बात बिल्कुल सत्य है।

  6. Funny, a “Kaur” is so much concerned about the castes and gotras. One would like to believe that these Pagdidhari Lions and Chunaridhari Kaurs were beyond such mundane thoughts.Do they continue to believe in castes and purdahs? Simply writing a column and practicing differently are poles apart mindset. Check II up.

  7. I am a medical doctor by profession belonging to the ‘unreserved’ category and my wife belongs to so-called ‘dalit’ category. I married against the wishes of my family because I believe in our holy scriptures which proclaim that all beings are equal in the eyes of The Almighty. If we really desire harmony and equality in the society then we must propagate the true message of Godhead which teaches us to respect all beings be it human or animal and only then the world shall be a better place to live.

  8. बात को घुमाने मे माहिर हो पर जिन्हे सम्बित का सवाल समझना है वो समझ गये हैं।
    पारसी दादा केथोलीक मा की संतान जब जनेऊधारी ब्राह्मन होने का दावा करे तब तो सम्बित का प्रश्न सही प्रश्न बन जाता है।
    तुम जेसे बात घुमाने वाले चमचे पहले राहुल को कहें कि रोमन कथोलिक बनने मे नुक्सान नही है।
    ब्राम्हन्ण बनने का ढोंग क्यों????
    हम खुद सम्बित को मौका देते हैं
    उससे भी बुरी बात ये कि इस आर्टिकल जैसी बकवास करते हैं।

  9. Madam you are highly uneducated. You may only have literacy to utter a few words of poor English. The importance and use of Gotra and significance of marrying in the same caste is beyond your understanding. Hence no use of explaining to you. Don’t spend your energy writing such nonsense things.

      • “Liberal Indians” ? Like, Rahul being hailed as a “Janeu dhari Brahmin” by the Congress TOP spokesperson, speaking on his behalf? Is this, and his convenient rush of Temple visiting and bowing before Muth Heads on the eve of every election, a “LIBERAL thought and ideology”? What, and whose, then is HYPOCRISY? Congress pretends to shy away even from supporting anything mentioned as Hindutva and Hinduism, attributing all that to BJP’s ‘COMMUNALISM’. How do they explain that ‘Janeu’ statement for Rahul? Why was that even necessary? It is such blatant Congress hypocrisy that provokes questions from the BJP.

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