This article focuses on practices among us—that is, among seemingly liberal, educated Savarnas who seem to decry casteism in theory, in principle, and even in practice (i.e. academically-transmitted critiques bolstering our claims to caste innocence). But, we are simultaneously deeply invested in unseeing, denying, deflecting or defending our casteist practices in everyday and institutional life. My goal is to highlight these practices of denial and deflection as acts of caste terror and I want to suggest that everyday caste terror and everyday claims to caste innocence are two sides of the same coin, both of which help liberal savarnas project upper caste castelessness.
Attacks on Dalits are often viewed only from the perspective of violation of their basic rights and dignity. A lot of attention this time has been paid to the political context of Dalit mobilization, and the recent state of their relation with the dominant Maratha caste in the area. Analyses from such perspectives often miss the actual elephant in the room, namely the caste Hindu society to whom their attackers belong, and from whose normative world they derive their justifications. Confronting this elephant is crucial at present.
We have every right to protest against categories that limit our political spectrum, but we only do a disservice to our politics by choosing to remain under the guise of neutral universalisms, negative self-references and the sedimented banalities of protest.
Surely, #NotinMyName as a name and event does in certain ways imply an assertion of one’s place in mainstream elitist spaces, this type of Naming is indeed veiled and nuanced but there is a problem to see this as entirely Brahminical and thus absolutely evil.
In last few days there have been several attempts to create a dogma that Krish allegedly committed suicide for personal reasons, but this argument neglects the story of Krish’s life, his thoughts shared in different blogs and even the trajectory of earlier Dalit students suicide cases. Many Dalits students in different university campuses have committed suicide, but if the casteist institutions, upper-caste faculty and peers are responsible for continuously alienating the marginalised studies, equally responsible are we as Dalit organisations members, faculty and students for not being able to provide timely help to the needy students.
The story of Nangeli is a disputed one. Academic historians have yet to find sufficient external evidence of the events the story describes. For me, the veracity of the facts is less important than the singular fact that the story exists, and continues to be told. It narrates the protest, anguish and anger of those who are excluded from the reach of our collective conscience because they have no text, and therefore no ‘history’. This comics story first appeared in Art Review Asia and is dedicated to Rohith Vemula (1989-2016), who, like Nangeli, chose death over a life of indignity.
Dear Mr. Mishra,
So I heard you beheaded a Dalit today and axed his wife to death. What a pity that all this is doing the rounds on social media, alternative media and on all international media except our own of course. Don’t worry Mr. Mishra, our media love you but they are compelled to run this story for fear of being labelled as anti-human, which they are but only when it comes to Dalits, mind. They’ll run the story as a token and claim that you did it in a fit of insanity and that you are quick to anger, not because of the casteist animosity that courses through the country’s veins…
What comes to your mind when you think of India? If you’ve been seduced by films, books, pictures and anglophile Indians over the last century then you will no doubt paint a happy picture. You might romanticise the poor yet happy people, the colours, the cuisine, the attire, the mystics, the music, the dance, the cacophony, the heat and the sensory overload of this one country. The only colour missing in your picture will be any shade of black because black is a colour that India hides. Black is a colour that India detests whether it be the colour of your skin or the colour of the sewer that you’re lowered in. A bottomless pit is where you will find the true colour of India.
In the latest survey conducted by India Human Development Surveys (IHDS) II in 2011 to 2012 which is a continuation of their last survey IHDS I held in 2004 to 2005 tells a staggering claim on inter-caste marriages. The survey is a collaboration between National Council of Applied Economic Research and University of Maryland funded by the U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and the Ford Foundation, and it is headed by sociologists and economist[i]. The analysis of the survey as reported by IndiaSpend[ii] presents data on inter-caste marriages in India. The findings tell that 95 per cent of marriages took place among same caste, and the remaining 5 per cent practiced inter-caste marriages. Break-up of this data places Mizoram as the state with highest incidence of inter-caste marriages at 55 per cent of its population, and Madhya Pradesh at the opposite end with same caste marriages at 99 per cent of its population. The data portrays the whole population of India under Hindu society by overlooking various communities who fall outside ‘caste system’ especially tribal communities.
“Please serve 10mg Sodium Azide to all the Dalit students at the time of admission. With direction to use when they feel like reading Ambedkar.”
ROHITH VEMULA’s letter of 18/12/2015 to the Vice Chancellor of Hyderabad Central University
(for Rohith Vemula) they pushed you to the edge of their village but, you broke into the cellars of their Agrahaaras they sealed your lips…
The value of a man was reduced to his immediate identity and nearest possibility. To a vote. To a number. To a thing. Never was a man treated as a mind. As a glorious thing made up of star dust. In very field, in studies, in streets, in politics, and in dying and living.