Monday, October 31, 2005

Feedback: Prejudice Beyond Borders

By Gail Omvedt in Times Of India, November 01, 2005
(http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/msid-1280164,curpg-1.cms)

The article fails to substantiate it’s basic goal that there are significant incidences of caste based discrimination within Indo American community. Whatever incidences are mentioned, those seem corner cases not worth wasting such ink on this web page as well as not worth wasting reader’s time.

The real dirty thing which comes out of this article is how social organizations are taking root or attempting to be active in USA who caters to Dalit grievances exclusively. Such a sectarian and divisive approach does not make much sense. If at all there is any stratification manifest among various layers of Indian Americans, in most of the cases it is based on profession, mother tongue, success and achievements of Indians. Successful entrepreneurs, VCs or business people may not interact with lesser mortals even if those are from Indian sub-continent. Successful academicians may not interact with common Indian engineers and so on. Is it any different than what stratification is in American societies? I doubt. The point is most Indian Americans are subject to such usual stratification of Indo American community instead of caste. Reading caste angle into such normal phenomenon of society is like refusing to keep aside one’s prejudices and attempting to insert bad blood for one’s own sake.

This means any organization which kind of perceives such discrimination and takes upon itself the onerous responsibility of addressing such grievances as the main reason to exist; is looking into something which may not be a substantive problem. Then, can one suspect that all the so called Dalit organizations in USA or corresponding incarnations in USA are indeed trying to spread the cancer of Indian society in places where it is not there? True, North American branches of RSS and VHP are disgrace and are worst ways of creating issues where there are none. Solution to that is not to have North American branches of BSP and extremist cast based social organizations. The real solution to all these social group problems of Indo American society is to have secular grass root movements, the kinds of which successfully stopped Narendra Modi’s visit this year to USA. It is no one’s case that there are no problems with Indo American society or that it does not have any tensions due to ties back in the home land. But in all cases such tensions should be addressed purely on humanitarian basis, on the basis of individual’s right, rights granted by American Constitution and any encroachment of the same. It is improper to have any approach which subsumes Dalit versus Upper Caste context; the context prevalent in India from which affirmative actions emerge as a strong policy prescription. The other way to look at this is – once you leave the shores of India, not only you leave behind any advantages you might have accrued due to your position in Indian social hierarchy; but you also give up the inclination of expecting any favors because you or your fore parents have been at the receiving end. No point trying to procure favors where there are none or where others from whom you are demanding such favors have not been at all involved in perpetuating any such discriminations in the first place.

Alas, but as this author shows; people are unlikely to avoid this temptation and will try to create such Dalit – Upper Caste issues in Indo American Society too. That is shameful. It is sad that people want to bring bad aspects of Indian society outside India as well. This article does not help but rather puts some flimsy arguments in a way to justify such ‘us and them’ mentality. All such people are in the end social dividers.


Umesh Patil
San Jose, CA 95110
November 01, 2005.

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