Current Events: India THe persistence of Caste by Natalie Sweet

For my current events project, I investigated the question "How has the government reacted to caste discrimination?" I investigated this question because I wanted to learn more about the rules the government of India has created to stop caste discrimination, and how they have responded to various protests and acts of caste violence. I want to share with the class how in India, the ways your caste can negatively affect your life, and how the government has tried to interfere with that.

Caste discrimination is very common, and very often too. According to the UN Commitee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, 165 million Dalits still are segregated in housing, schools, and access to public service. The committee criticized the Indian government for not taking action against this.

Caste discrimination can become very violent. On the June 4th, 2010, a teenage girl and her boyfriend were killed by the girl's father and uncle because of the boyfriend's caste. The couple was beaten and electrocuted to death. They were killed because the girl's family did not approve of their relationship because her boyfriend was in a caste that was lower than hers. The uncle and father were arrested.

The government has taken several measures to prevent caste discrimination like the examples shown above. For instance, there are caste quotas for education, business, and more to help ensure that people in the lower castes can get jobs too, not just the higher castes. These quotas help level the playing field for the lower castes. Indian government leaders have made their stand in public before, too. After an attack on four Dalits, members of India’s lowest caste, in Gujarat State, Mr. Modi, the prime leader, spoke out against the violence.

In April 2011, the supreme court told the states of India that they had to stop honor killings and told them that if there was a senior state official who didn't appropriately react to the people who performed honor killings, they would face prosecution.

Not all castes are happy with the government's action towards caste discrimination. The Patel's protest to be classified as an OBC (other backwards caste) is not going to the supreme court. However, this shows that the government's "affirmative action" towards caste discrimination is still not perfect, since some castes are being left out of the deal

A Dalit, Jitan Ram Manjihi was elected as Chief Minister of Bihar State in May 2014. He helped the lower classes with discrimination, but this increases caste tensions in Bihar. The same year, but in October, men from a high caste raped five Dalit women. Also, also in October 2014, upper caste men beat and burned a Dalit goatherd alive when his goats went on to the property of one of the men who killed him.

What I found is that the government has made measures to prevent caste discrimination, however, they are not perfect. For example, some castes, such as the Patel caste, are unhappy because they are not being included in the laws to prevent discrimination to lower castes. Also, these rules can cause tensions between the higher and lower castes, and violence has surfaced from the creation of these laws.

The answer to my question, or what I learned is that the traditions of caste from Ancient India still carry on to the present. Today, the legacy of Hinduism is still showing in the daily lives of many- through caste discrimination, caste privilege, and more. It is very important for Americans to know about the legacy of Hinduism because this is a real world problem that is an issue for so many people in India. Even though laws are made to prevent caste discrimination, it still happens because of how Hinduism affect the India we know today.

I had several questions that surfaced from researching my question. They are:

Do most people from higher castes generally prefer the caste system because it favors them?

Are there any members from higher castes who have tried to speak out against caste discrimination?

Are most of people in the Indian government of a high caste? Does this affect what rules are made about caste prevention?

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