Sunday, August 31, 2008

Optimism (unfortunately unwarranted...)

Crusader sees wealth as cure for India caste bias - Apparently Chandra Bhan Prasad, born a Dalit (an "untouchable", or as Mahatma Gandhi preferred a Harijan, or "Son of God") has broken out of his 'box' and achieved a position of prominence. He believes that "Economic expansion is going to neutralize caste in 50 years, it will not end caste." He's right about the second part and wrong about the first...

It's true that economic growth can lift Dalits out of poverty and raise their lot in life, but it is by no means clear that this will translate into growing equality. The optimism he feels is similar to that of those who point to the Indian computer industry (e.g. Indian women getting jobs in call centers, working alongside and supervising men, etc.) and their expectations that this will fundamentally change the mores of Indian society. Perhaps, it is to be hoped, but this blogger is less sanguine about the chances of this happening anytime soon. Caste is too embedded in the religion, psyche, being of Indians, and there are too many for whom it provides a solace and an opportunity to have others to look down upon. This blogger fears that it will take many, many, additional generations to attenuate.

Sad to say, despite his success Chandra Ban Prasad himself shows that even he is not free of all of the prejudices and beliefs that underpin the caste system when (as an example of his success no less) he boasts that while he married a woman from his own caste, she is light-skinned!

Previous entries on this topic:

Updates - #3 - (Aug 25th)
Frame of Reference - (June 27th)
Caste - (May 26th)