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Has Caste Discrimination Followed Indians Overseas? by Priyanka Mogul

Has Caste Discrimination Followed Indians Overseas?

Has Caste Discrimination Followed Indians Overseas?

by

Priyanka Mogul

diplomat.com

 

“One is of the opinion that you leave behind all the trappings of the caste system once you leave India, but perhaps I was naive.”

Saunvedan Aparanti, an Indian student studying in London, has found himself at the center of a heated campaign to introduce caste discrimination legislation in the United Kingdom. Having moved to Britain for university, Aparanti was surprised to find himself at the receiving end of “caste supremacy” from his new flatmates. The caste system he speaks of — and its trappings — is one that the world has, unfortunately, become familiar with. Stories relating to caste violence frequently emerge from some South Asian countries, particularly India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Nepal. Headlines featuring the rape and murder of so-called “lower caste” people, or Dalits, are no longer rare.

Everyone is in agreement that this mistreatment of people based on an ancient social hierarchy is horrific and that it must be combatted. But when Indians say caste discrimination has followed them overseas, the solution doesn’t appear as straightforward anymore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Across the UK, a fierce debate has been playing out within the British-Indian community over whether there is a need to introduce legislation for caste discrimination. In 2011, the employment tribunal heard its first claim of caste discrimination when a couple alleged they had been wrongfully dismissed by their employers because of their inter-caste marriage. Vijay Begraj claimed he was told by a “higher caste” colleague that he was lucky to be working in a law firm as his caste would have made him a cleaner in India. The tribunal also heard that Begraj had been assaulted by relatives of one of the firm’s partners and had been called derogatory caste names. The law firm in question, Heer Manak, denied the allegations until the case was ultimately abandoned in 2013.

Stories such as Begraj’s have united Dalit rights campaigners in the U.K. in the fight for caste law. Caste Watch UK, the Dalit Solidarity Network UK, and the Anti-Caste Discrimination Alliance are a few who have taken center stage in the campaign, with support from a number of academics. The United Nations has also lent a voice to the debate, urging the UK government to implement caste discrimination law.

Manifestations of Caste in the UK

So who is experiencing caste discrimination in the UK? And where and how are they experiencing it?

Numerous reports have been put together, each compiling a number of U.K.-based case studies of caste discrimination. Due to the stigma that comes along with being a “lower caste” person, many are afraid to speak out publicly. Instead, they choose to isolate themselves from the Indian community in the UK and live among non-Indians who have little understanding of caste dynamics.

Research conducted by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research and the Equality and Human Rights Commission has detailed various incidents of caste discrimination in the UK. The majority of these appear to occur in the personal sphere, which falls outside the reach of the Equality Act 2010, which relates to education, employment, and provision of goods and services. This has led some to question whether the implementation of caste under the Equality Act would do very much to combat instances of discrimination among social circles.

However, Dr. Meena Dhanda, a leading academic in diaspora Dalit studies, has noted that there is crossover between what happens in the private and public spheres. She argues that if prejudice exists, it cannot always be assumed that this prejudice does not cross over into the areas of employment and education.

Reena Jaisiah, a young woman of Dalit ancestry, illustrates how this crossover is possible. Her experience saw her become the victim of caste discrimination on the school playground, where students would bully her and call her derogatory names relating to her caste. This then carried on into her adult life, when she was running her shop and found that an elderly “upper caste” woman consistently refused to put money in her hand, instead placing it on the counter.

“That is exercising untouchability here in the U.K.,” Jaisiah said in Caste Aside, a documentary that sees her recount her life as a “lower caste” woman in Britain. Jaisiah’s experience doesn’t appear to be an isolated one, with caste rights groups such as the Dalit Solidarity Network UK and Caste Watch UK noting that they receive calls from people across Britain who say they too have become victims of caste discrimination.

“This is a rights issue that’s happening across South Asia,” said Meena Varma, director of Dalit Solidarity Network UK. “In fact it’s happening globally, because wherever the diaspora go, they take their caste with them, and so, therefore, that discrimination goes with them.”

Arguments Against Caste Legislation

However, not everyone in the British-Indian community believes that caste legislation is necessary in the U.K. The Hindu Council UK and the National Council of Hindu Temples UK have both opposed the calls for caste legislation, with politicians such as MP Bob Blackman backing them.

“Caste legislation simply doesn’t stand ground,” said Anil Bhanot, director of interfaith relations at the Hindu Council UK. “Dalits have become rich now here because there’s no discrimination.”

Bhanot goes on to note that the instances of caste discrimination that have been brought up so far relate to prejudice within social circles, rather than discrimination that would fall under the realm of equality law. He also argued that implementing this legislation will make caste more prominent among British-Indians, bringing awareness of caste where he says there is currently none.

Satish Sharma, general secretary of the National Council of Hindu Temples UK, takes a similar perspective on the legislation. When asked to characterize the Hindu community in the UK, Sharma commended the “harmonious” nature of the community and emphasized that the current generation of British-Hindus have been free from the understandings of the caste system and do not discriminate against each other in any way. He fears that this legislation, if implemented, will automatically presume certain members of the community — anyone who isn’t a Dalit — are “prejudiced by birth.” He strongly opposed this notion and restated his belief that caste is not an aspect of the Hindu religion. Instead, he argues, caste, as it exists today, is a Euro-Christian concept imposed on Indian people.

“Where does this notion that there is some sort of superiority being played out in the British-Hindu community come from?” Sharma questioned. “It’s purely an act of mischief. And if that isn’t a recipe for friction, then I don’t know what is.”

What Happens Next

On September 18, the British government ended a public consultation on caste and equality law in Great Britain, which invited the public to submit their views on “how to ensure that there is appropriate and proportionate legal protection” against caste discrimination. Groups on both sides of the debate rallied supporters to submit their thoughts on the issue.

Sat Pal Muman, Chairman of Caste Watch UK, has hit back at those opposing the legislation, saying: “They are afraid that if caste discrimination law does kick in, somehow it will affect their religion. They may have something to hide, there may be some skeletons in their cupboard.”

As the debate continues, campaigners are hoping that a decision will be made on the legislation in early 2018. Hindus groups remain concerned that bringing caste into U.K. law will send a message that caste is becoming a prominent feature in British-Indian society; something that they believe is far from true. Meanwhile, Dalit rights groups remain anxious about what will happen to the thousands of caste discrimination victims they say they know in the UK.

Future cohesion of the British-Indian community hangs in the balance as the UK government mulls its next move.

Priyanka Mogul is a freelance journalist based in London. She is the producer of Caste Aside, a documentary about the British government’s controversial decision to introduce legislation against caste discrimination in the U.K.

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Should the West be worried? Hindu nationalists are gaining power in India- Sunny Hundal, The Independent, UK

Hindu nationalists are gaining power in India – and silencing enemies along the way

Should the West be worried, asks Sunny Hundal

The Independent, UK

When Penguin abruptly accepted defeat in an Indian court and withdrew a controversial book a fortnight ago, the backlash was so ferocious it took almost everyone by surprise.

A small, hardline Hindu group said it had found the book, The Hindus: An Alternative History, by the academic Wendy Doniger offensive towards their religion, forcing the mighty conglomerate to retreat in the face of a lawsuit. Two authors subsequently asked the publisher to cancel contracts and pulp their books, too, a move called “unprecedented” by one Indian newspaper.

Other famous writers in its stable protested at Penguin, including the activist Arundhati Roy, who accused it of succumbing to “fascists”. On Twitter, images of the Penguin logo circulated with its name replaced by “Chicken”.

In the same week, the United States ended its decade-long boycott of the controversial politician Narendra Modi after its envoy met him to discuss bilateral relations. Modi is the Prime Ministerial candidate of the opposition party, the BJP, and favourite to win the elections in April. The State Department had cancelled his visa in 2005 on grounds of “severe violations of religious freedom” and had repeatedly refused to review its policy until pragmatism forced it hand.

The withdrawal of Doniger’s book and the US rapprochement with Modi are not unrelated. Liberals in India say they feel under attack and more despondent than ever before about the right to expression as religious groups increasingly flex their muscles. Many fear that Hindu nationalists will be further emboldened if Modi, their most demagogic leader, is elected prime minister.

The fact that it is 25 years to the month since Salman Rushdie received a fatwa for The Satanic Verses has not been lost on some. “We are in the middle of a cultural emergency and the levels of oppression in the cultural area should worry us as much as the political oppression [in India] of the 1970s,” Rushdie said at a debate last week. A columnist at the Indian Express newspaper said Penguin’s capitulation represented “the pulping of liberal India”.

Just a week earlier, a mob calling itself the Hindu Sena (Hindu Army) burnt copies of Caravan, the Delhi-based magazine, over an interview with a Hindu extremist who alleged that a prominent religious leader had sanctioned attacks across India that killed more than 100 people between 2006 and 2008. “Groups of all stripes have been emboldened by the fact that, in India, freedom to take offence routinely trumps freedom of expression or freedom of academic research,” Sandip Roy, a senior editor at FirstPost.com, says.

“Whether it’s Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasrin being hounded out of West Bengal, Salman Rushdie not being allowed to make a tele-appearance at Jaipur, or Rohinton Mistry’s Such a Long Journey being taken out of the Mumbai university syllabus, India’s political parties have routinely allowed fringe groups to grab the limelight. If they feel the party in power is more ideologically sympathetic to it, of course it will feel as Dinanath Batra [the man behind the lawsuit against Doniger] did, that ‘the good times are coming’.”

The BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi with the US ambassador to India Nancy Powell (AP)

The BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi with the US ambassador to India Nancy Powell (AP)

Hindus don’t have a reputation for religious extremism, but over the past 25 years an increasingly aggressive movement has grown and started flexing its muscles. The list of authors who have faced ruinous lawsuits, had books banned or lives threatened in India is growing alarmingly long. (Not all of the bans relate to Hindu groups; Muslims and Christians have demanded censorship, too.)

It is also less understood that the rise of this movement in India has been partly fuelled by activists in the UK and US, who in turn have pushed similar agendas. If Modi is voted in as prime minister, there are fears that his election would have repercussions not only in India but abroad, too.

Hindu fundamentalism, also called Hindutva, is driven by a trio of organisations in India called the Sangh Parivar – the family. The RSS is an ultra-conservative group that demands unflinching patriotism and preservation of Hindu culture; the VHP is their religious arm; the BJP is the political arm and India’s main opposition party. There are smaller offshoots too including a violent paramilitary wing called the Bajrang Dal and the hardline Shiv Sena party in Mumbai whose founder adored Hitler.

“Hindu nationalism is built on the idea that India is a Hindu majoritarian nation, with Muslims and Christians cast as the minority, ‘other’,” Rahul Verma, a journalist and researcher on the subject, says. He says Hindu nationalism in recent years has fed off the Islamophobic, post-9/11 “Muslim terrorist” narrative.

Chetan Bhatt, the director at the Centre for the Study of Human Rights at the London School of Economics, has also spent years studying this movement. “Narendra Modi has been an activist for the Hindu far-right paramilitary RSS and its affiliates for the entirety of his political life. He remains committed to the supremacist ideology of Hindutva which says that India should be an exclusive Hindu nation state in which minorities are treated as second-class citizens or worse.”

The movement mushroomed in 1984 when the VHP launched a campaign to reclaim a mosque it said was built on the birthplace of Lord Ram. In 1992, it incited activists to demolish the mosque, sparking riots between Hindus and Muslims across India and propelling the BJP, which took advantage of the controversy, into national consciousness and into government in 1998.

But Narendra Modi became a controversial figure in 2002, when a train with Hindu pilgrims coming from the site of the mosque was set on fire by Muslims, killing 58. That incident immediately sparked riots across the state of Gujarat, where he was still Chief Minister, and more than 2,000 Muslims were killed and thousands made homeless. Reports by various groups including Human Rights Watch found extensive evidence of state participation and complicity in the violence. One of Modi’s cabinet ministers, Maya Kodnani, was convicted of orchestrating a massacre and seen handing out swords to Hindus exhorting them to kill Muslims.

A large part of Modi’s popularity abroad comes from his message that Gujarat can be a beacon for India’s economic development. This Gujarati pride resonates strongly in the UK and United States, where large proportions of Indians are of Gujarati origin. In December 2002, an investigation by Channel 4 News found that some funds from a UK-based aid organisation were going to Hindu groups blamed for the 2002 riots in India. Channel 4’s Jonathan Miller reported: “Several inquiries, including one by the British High Commission, saw the hand of the RSS and its associated organisations behind the violence.”

Earlier that year, a US campaign called Stop Funding Hate published a report alleging that an American non-profit group was linked to Hindu nationalists in India and had funnelled money to them. Two years later, a report by a British group called Awaaz also illustrated how some British Hindu charities had sent money to extremist organisations in India that preached hatred against Muslims and Christians. The reports were partly the basis for ban on Modi entering Britain or the US.

British and American Hindus are an important source of support, canvassing and even postal votes for the BJP in India. More recently, they have helped to normalise Modi’s reputation after the fallout from 2002. On Sunday afternoon, about 20 Gujaratis gathered at the back of a small restaurant in north-west London to discuss how they could help Modi spread his message. I had been told about it by a friend and decided simply to turn up and observe.

At their regular “Modi Tea Club” events, they raise funds and recruit volunteers. One group member, who is planning to run as a local councillor, applauded the US decision to meet Modi and said British Gujaratis had played an instrumental part. “The pressure we put [on the government] in the UK makes a difference around the world,” he says, to applause. Next month, their idol will speak to them and hundreds of other groups around the world via satellite to energise them before the elections.

Narendra Modi's supporters participate in a rally in Kolkata (Getty Images)

Narendra Modi’s supporters participate in a rally in Kolkata (Getty Images)

The British Government ended its boycott in October, though a visa is yet to be granted. Among Modi’s ardent supporters are the Tory MP Bob Blackman and Labour MP Barry Gardiner, both of whom have large numbers of Hindu-Gujarati constituents. Kamaljeet Jandu, chair of Labour’s Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic society, says he was dismayed when Gardiner invited Modi and accuses him of attempting to “whitewash” his past. “Inviting Modi here sends out a dangerous signal that the UK does not care about human rights or religious minorities in India when it doesn’t suit us,” he says.

The US government faced sustained lobbying in favour of Modi, particularly from the Hindu American Foundation. But he has another ally: the Asian American Hotel Owners Association, which has 10,000 members representing 22,000 hotels across America, 98 per cent of whom have roots in Gujarat.

Zahir Janmohamed, a former US Congressional aide and Amnesty director who was part of coalition to keep Modi out, says: “The Obama administration wanted to meet at the 11th hour so Modi couldn’t campaign on the issue.” The ban in 2005 was “an effort to stop Modi”, he says, but “they’ve realised they can’t stop him now”. The coalition focused too much on keeping him out and not enough on India’s broader slide towards illiberalism, he says.

A former US State department official, who was willing to comment under condition of anonymity, says the US is in a difficult position. “It becomes harder to not deal with certain leaders as they move higher up their domestic political ladder, so a meeting in India seems to be a middle-of-the-road option. But you can be sure the various groups in the US opposed to normal relations with Modi will not back down. If anything, they will be energised.”

This is partly because there are fears of repercussions. “A Modi win in India would undoubtedly strengthen intolerant Hinduism here,” Gita Sahgal, a veteran campaigner with Southall Black Sisters who is also the director of the Centre for Secular Space, says. “There will certainly be increased threats to scholarship, and free expression.”

Not long after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Hindu and Sikh groups, including the VHP some say, campaigned for Asian radio stations in London to drop the word “Asian” so Hindus and Sikhs would not be lumped together with Muslims. An umbrella group called the Hindu Forum of Britain, earlier led by the VHP and the HSS, has campaigned against exhibitions and even Royal Mail stamps for supposedly insulting Hindus. Its former general-secretary, Ramesh Kallidai, also alleged that British Muslims were “aggressively” converting hundreds of British Hindu girls to Islam through intimidation and beatings, even though no such evidence was found by the Metropolitan Police.

“It’s imperative to mobilise against the Hindutva organisations in Britain,” Sahgal says. “All Indian political parties have played communal politics and fallen short of their ideals but religious and gender inequality is at the heart of the Hindu right agenda.”

That agenda could become mainstream if Modi’s likely victory strengthens such groups in India and the UK. Twenty-five years on from Rushdie’s fatwa, it is paradoxical that some Hindu groups are pushing an ancient religion towards a mirror image of the same hardline Muslim groups that they say they are against. The withdrawal of Wendy Doniger’s book was a small milestone in what they hope will be that “pulping of liberal India”. Tragically, for those of us who believe in liberal, secular values and pluralism, these events may herald an even more terrifying future.

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Absolutely Wicked Kashmiris will Destroy the Land they Rule

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No One People Are All Evil.

Evil Exists in Degrees in Every People.

Among Kashmiris there Are Great & Saintly People.

But within certain clans of

Kashmiris, Hinduism Casteism Dominates, where Caste Loyalty is Greater Than Loyalty to Faith or Country 

This is particularly prominent among lower Caste Kashmiris like Nawaz Sharif and his Cabinet of Kashmiris,

who have succeeded in Hijacking a Nation of 180 Million People.

They have brought shame to the good name of Muslims of Kashmiri Heritage, who have produced Scholars, Saints, & Scientists of Global Repute

This Article is Not Directed at Them.

Absolutely Wicked Kashmiris will Destroy the Land they Rule

From Shaikh Saadi Shirazi to Colonials-All warned about the Absolute Untrustworthiness & Treacherous Nature of Kashmiris, like Nawaz Sharif, Ishaq Dar, Khwaja Asif, Pervaiz Rashid,Khwaja Saad Rafiq, Abid Sher Ali 

&

General Raheel Shabbir, a Clone of Ziauddin Butt

 
Image: Indian memories (1915) by Robert Baden-Powell

Agar kahat ul rijal uftad, azeshan uns kamgiri
Eke Afghan, doyam Kamboh soyam badzat Kashmiri |

Although a scarcity of men should happen, do not cultivate the acquaintance of these three people:

the 1st, an Afghan, the 2nd, a Kumboh, and the 3d, a wicked Kashmiri.

 

— ‘A collection of proverbs, and proverbial phrases’ (1824) by  Thomas Roebuck (1781-1819), Part I. p. 99 [Extracted from Shahid-i-Sadiq]

 

Complete saying is supposed to have following additional lines [unverified/untranslated]:

 

Ze Afghan hila bhi ayad, ze Kamboh kina bhi ayad,
Ze Kashmiri nami ayad bajuz andoho dilgiri ||

Probable transliteration:

If a deceptive Afghan comes
If a tyrannical Kamoh comes
If an infamous Kashmiri comes
Nothing except sorrow follows

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Other variations:

 

Agar khalal mardan ufad, az inan na bagiri: yakam Pathan, duyam Kamboh, seyam badzat Kashmiri

 

If mankind should be coming to an end, do not select (for its restoration) first the Pathan, secondly the

Kamboh, thirdly the wicked Kashmiri.

– ‘Eastern Experiences’ (1871) by Lewin Bentham Bowring, pp.274

Agar kaht-i-mardurn uftad, az ín sih jins kam gírí; Eki Afghán, dovvum Sindí, siyyum badjins-i-Kashmírí

Though of men there be famine yet shun these three First the Afghan, second Sindi, thirdly the sexually perverted Kashmiri.

– Arabian Nights by Richard F. Burton, Vol. 10, pp. 178-219

If folk be scarce as food in dearth ne’er let three lots come near ye: First Sindi, second Jat, and third a rascally Kashmeeree.

– Arabian Nights by Richard F. Burton, Vol. 6, pp. 156

Better have no friends at all than take up with an Afghan, a Kamboh, or a rascally Kashmiri

 

– A meaning given in The People Of India (1908) By Herbert Hope Risley, William Crooke

 
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Other oriental quotes on “Rascally” Kashmiri:

 

If you find a snake don’t kill it;

but if you find a Kashmiri it is another matter

~ Indian memories (1915) by Robert Baden-Powell. Another one from it:

Many chickens in a house befoul it:

many Kashmiris in a country spoil it

 
 
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Kashmiri bas Kashmiri guft
Kash miri ki man khalas shavam
 

Kashmiri desires the destruction of his fellow countryman

 
~ Kashmiri Pandits by Pandit Anand Koul, 1924.

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“a snake in his morals and a fowl in his manners”

The Kashmiri bears an evil reputation in the Panjab, and indeed through-out Asia. Proverbs liken him to a snake in his morals and to a fowl in his manners, and men are warned against admitting a Kashmiri to their friendship. Moorcroft writes of the Kashmiri, ‘ Selfish, superstitious, ignorant, supple, intriguing, dishonest and false, he has great ingenuity as a mechanic and a decided genius for manufactures and commerce; but his transactions are always conducted in a fraudulent spirit, equalled only by the effrontery with which he faces detection;’ and Drew admits that they are ‘ false- tongued, ready with a lie, and given to various forms of deceit.’ Hugel has nothing good to say of the Kashmiris, and it is a matter of history that in the Mutiny the Kashmiris of Ludhiana turned against the English, and in the Settlement Report of the Kangra district the Kashmiris of Nurpur were spoken of unfavourably by Mr Barnes. But it must be remembered that Moorcroft was speaking of the city people, and that the Kashmiris of Ludhiana and Kangra were the shawl-weavers, who are the lowest and meanest of the population, and it would not be fair to apply Moorcroft’s epithets to the villagers as a body. He admits, too, that the vices of the Kashmiris are not innate, but are due to the government under which they lived. ‘ The natives of Kashmir have always been considered as amongst the most lively and ingenious people of Asia, and deservedly so.

The valley of Kashmir (1895) by Sir Walter Roper Lawrence.

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Update:

Some more. These from Seir Mutaqherinor a View of Modern Times, being a History of India from the year 1118 to 1195 of the Hedjirah. From the Persian of Gholam Hussain Khan, V1-4. 1789. A history pf Muslim nobel families of Bengal. Translated by Nota Manus alias Raymond alias Haji Mustapha, a French-born Muslim convert.

Cashmiri, bi Piri; Bengallee, Djendjali. The Cashmirian acts as an Atheist ; but the Bengallee is always one from whom there is no disentangling one’s self. 

and one directed at Kashmiri women

Cashmiri, bi Piri ; ne Lezzet, ne shiri. The faithless Cashmirian affords neither taste nor flavour.

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