Caste discrimination: Campaigners vow to fight for legislation

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Campaigners have vowed to continue their fight for legislation after MPs voted against banning caste discrimination.


Hundreds protested outside Parliament on Tuesday afternoon as the House of Commons debated the issue.

They said legislation was badly needed as thousands suffer abuse and prejudice because they are considered low caste.

But ministers said there were concerns in the Hindu and Sikh communities that legislation could increase the stigma.

MPs voted against adding caste discrimination to the Equality Act by 307 to 243, a majority 64.

Meena Varma of the Dalit Solidarity Network said: "I am very disappointed. But we'll keep going until we get this legislation."

'Demanding equality'

Campaigners say current laws offer no protection from discrimination.

They say caste divides society unfairly, with those at the bottom – often called untouchables – expected to do dirty, poorly paid work.

They complain they are also expected to – and forced to – look up to and respect higher castes.

Written By: Dil Neiyyar
continue to source article at bbc.co.uk

25 COMMENTS

    • In reply to #1 by Alternative Carpark:

      Instant deportation for ‘caste’ snobs. Who’s with me?

      Only if it includes the self-serving, self-entitled, duplicitous, and above all SPINELESS political caste, who decided against legislation based on concerns raised by the very sects that promulgate this heinous system. Gaaah! GAAAAH!!

  1. Stories like this leave me shaking my head at the screen. Sadly, apart from the caste system, there is also a “tribe” system operating in some countries. So you have people of one tribe or language group, say in some part of Africa, not mixing (socially or professionally) with others from a separate tribe/cultural group but from the same part of the continent. What’s worse is this form of tribal/cultural prejudice is often exported to other countries, away from its original location. Sad, but often true. It will take both legislation and education to correct these wrongs.

  2. This is the outcome I predicted but I’m not here crowing about it. On the contrary, I’m worried that it’s the thin edge of a very nasty religious wedge.

    No sooner is aunty COE persuaded to calm down than the hydra headed monster religion sprouts two more ugly mugs: one Muslim, the other Hindu, both, in the time honoured way of religions, inimical to each other; or to speak plainly, loathing each others guts, and it’s known full well what that sort of situation can lead to.

  3. “She warned of concern that legislation could increase stigma rather than ease the problem”

    What’s the ‘logic’ supporting this (fallacious, to me) claim? Just don’ t get it…
    But then Britain won’t rid itself of its own cherished caste/class system so what hope for those ‘dirty foreign Johnnies’?

  4. This is a strange one.

    Whatever anyone may think of our politicians and the government in particular, I can’t believe any member of parliament is actually in favour of caste discrimination. Yet I haven’t heard what the detailed explanation is for not wanting to outlaw this type of discrimination. Does anyone have any links to a detailed argument against legislation.

    The government’s position that education is the key may well be right, but why not a belt and braces approach and have both education and a ban?

    • It is what I call the bleeding-heart-liberal syndrome. To ban a practice that is entrenched in a cult would obviously be a reflection on the cult. That is why banning burqas or FGM or male-circumcision or caste or misogyny gets so much opposition from the left as it does from the right.

      The left has to show some spine. In pursuit of progress and well-being of all sentient beings, we would have to offend a lot of people.

      In reply to #6 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee:

      This is a strange one.

      Whatever anyone may think of our politicians and the government in particular, I can’t believe any member of parliament is actually in favour of caste discrimination. Yet I haven’t heard what the detailed explanation is for not wanting to outlaw this type of discrimination. Does anyone have any links to a detailed argument against legislation.

      The government’s position that education is the key may well be right, but why not a belt and braces approach and have both education and a ban?

      • In reply to #7 by kbala:

        It is what I call the bleeding-heart-liberal syndrome. To ban a practice that is entrenched in a cult would obviously be a reflection on the cult. That is why banning burqas or FGM or male-circumcision or caste or misogyny gets so much opposition from the left as it does from the right.The left has to show some spine. In pursuit of progress and well-being of all sentient beings, we would have to offend a lot of people.

        Yes, I see. I suppose the best comparable example would be allowing Sharia courts. Why give equal rights to all Hindus when we don’t give equal rights to all Muslims (50% in fact)?

        By the way, I am curious to know how Hindus who abide by the caste system regard non-Hindus (e.g. the majority of UK citizens). Are we elevated by default to the equivalent of the highest caste, or to the equivalent of the lowest caste? Or somewhere in the middle? Or even higher than the highest caste, or even lower than the lowest caste? I.E. Does the discrimination affect everyone and not just those within the Hindu community?

        • In reply to #11 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee:

          By the way, I am curious to know how Hindus who abide by the caste system regard non-Hindus (e.g. the majority of UK citizens). Are we elevated by default to the equivalent of the highest caste, or to the equivalent of the lowest caste? Or somewhere in the middle? Or even higher than the highest caste, or even lower than the lowest caste?

          That would be a difficult question to answer. Purely based on anecdotal experience, (having born in India, grew up in India and did my undergrad in India before moving to Europe) white Europeans are treated differently to other races. In fact most Hindus would consider Caucasians to be of higher caste, while East Asians to be some where in the middle and the Africans to be of lower caste. I believe India is the only country where the term “negro” is still being used. There are many African students (from Kenya, Ghana) who come to India to study due to lower cost of education. They are treated with contempt by most Indians. This is consistent with the general view held by many Hindus such as Gandhi,

          However, the new statue has prompted bitter recollections about some of Gandhi’s writings. Forced to share a cell with black people, Gandhi wrote: “Many of the native prisoners are only one degree removed from the animal and often created rows and fought among themselves.” He was quoted at a meeting in Bombay in 1896 saying that Europeans sought to degrade Indians to the level of the “raw kaffir, whose occupation is hunting and whose sole ambition is to collect a certain number of cattle to buy a wife with, and then pass his life in indolence and nakedness”.

          Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2003/oct/17/southafrica.india

          I.E. Does the discrimination affect everyone and not just those within the Hindu community?

          According to Indian law, one can renounce or change their religion freely, but they can only renounce their caste but cannot change it. Children are issued a community certificate along with a birth certificate which describes their caste and sub caste. e.g. http://goo.gl/iMBt7

  5. I’m kind of struggling to get my head around this – both how it works in practice and how you would outlaw it.

    When you apply for a job or enter a shop, there’s no question box or requirement to state your caste. It’s not a legal title or attribute as far as I’m aware, it’s not obvious to look at (in the way gender or skin colour is) so the only way you could be discriminated against for this is if your caste is known – i.e. within your local community. And if that’s the case, if it’s intangible and invisible and it’s never asked then it’s impossible to mitigate discrimination against.

    If someone looks down on you because you’re a lower caste than they are then why would you want to work for them? Why would you want any part of a society that treats you like that? If you’re in the UK then you’re not trapped by laws prohibiting caste or social mobility so why not take advantage of that. Move somewhere where people don’t care about caste, apply for jobs where caste isn’t even an issue.

    The number of people in the UK who discriminate based upon caste must be vanishingly small as a percentage of the population but probably quite high as a percentage of a few local social groups. Leave those groups. Even if a law is brought in to prevent caste discrimination (which I think will be utterly impractical for the reasons I said above) you cannot change peoples’ beliefs by acts of parliament. They will still despise you.

    The UK provides incredible opportunity; if your community expects you to do terrible, low paid work because of your caste then ditch your community. Let them do the terrible jobs themselves, watch the community wither as you go and get real employment in a broader community that values everyone.

    And for those who say ‘Oh, it’s hard to leave your family and friends behind’ just consider how these people or their predecessors got to the UK in the first place. If they have the gumption and drive to move halfway around the world for a better life, it seems madness not to do it properly and leave behind archaic and obsolete social prejudices.

    • Yep. That would be the rational response. Why would some women suffer under the tyranny of catholicism, hinduism or islam? A lot of it has to do with the indoctrination in childhood.

      Even the little progress that India has made in combating caste in the last century can be attributed to the ideas you stated. Have you heard of the Self-Respect movement in the early 20th century?

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-Respect_Movement

      Unfortunately, with the increase in wealth and affluence in India, people have stated to regress into caste based practices. What is astonishing is the fact that, you can still find people with retrograde caste notions in the Silicon Valley, California and in Cambridge & Oxford, and in Sydney and Melbourne.

      Hinduism is the most ridiculous, repressive and vile religion ever concocted by ignorant iron age peasants. The only way forward is banning its practice and mocking it outright in the public discourse.

      In reply to #8 by BenS:

      I’m kind of struggling to get my head around this – both how it works in practice and how you would outlaw it.

      When you apply for a job or enter a shop, there’s no question box or requirement to state your caste. It’s not a legal title or attribute as far as I’m aware, it’s not obvious to look at (in the way gender or skin colour is) so the only way you could be discriminated against for this is if your caste is known – i.e. within your local community. And if that’s the case, if it’s intangible and invisible and it’s never asked then it’s impossible to mitigate discrimination against.

      If someone looks down on you because you’re a lower caste than they are then why would you want to work for them? Why would you want any part of a society that treats you like that? If you’re in the UK then you’re not trapped by laws prohibiting caste or social mobility so why not take advantage of that. Move somewhere where people don’t care about caste, apply for jobs where caste isn’t even an issue.

      The number of people in the UK who discriminate based upon caste must be vanishingly small as a percentage of the population but probably quite high as a percentage of a few local social groups. Leave those groups. Even if a law is brought in to prevent caste discrimination (which I think will be utterly impractical for the reasons I said above) you cannot change peoples’ beliefs by acts of parliament. They will still despise you.

      The UK provides incredible opportunity; if your community expects you to do terrible, low paid work because of your caste then ditch your community. Let them do the terrible jobs themselves, watch the community wither as you go and get real employment in a broader community that values everyone.

      And for those who say ‘Oh, it’s hard to leave your family and friends behind’ just consider how these people or their predecessors got to the UK in the first place. If they have the gumption and drive to move halfway around the world for a better life, it seems madness not to do it properly and leave behind archaic and obsolete social prejudices.

      • “Hinduism is the most ridiculous, repressive and vile religion ever concocted”

        Be fair, now Kbala- the permanent holder of this title – ISLAM and I won’t let you rob them of it!! :-))

      • I think I would agree with you about early indoctrination as well as whites being somehow considered ‘higher’ than other groups (you mention it in your other post). I noticed the deference of the service personnel, drivers, some lesser officials to their ‘betters’ (and to the Europeans) when I recently visited your country. I found the relationship between the groups quite strained and demeaning, and totally alien to my Western sensibilities. The divisions are quite stark and jarring to the nerves of the outsider, yet seem to be normal to both groups themselves! On occasion I felt that if I were spoken to or was treated in such a demeaning manner, short of punching them in the face, I would simply walk away from the offender (‘Insulter’, really – at least that’s what we would call them here, even if it was my ‘master’). I kept thinking that if such lack of respect was meted out to entire groups here in the West, there would have been a revolution long ago. My fear for India is that that revolution may yet come some day in the future and then the middle classes will get their comeuppance, for nobody can surely be as disrespected in such large numbers for so long without doing something about it.

        This, I’m glad to say, is the only negative thing I can say about my whole experience of India (apart from lack of pavements everywhere! ). Other than that, I had the most wonderful time, especially in Kerala, which was fantastic. Your country has so much beauty and generosity to offer, kbala, I really hope it can sort itself out sooner rather than later, for in places, it already is a Paradise on earth.

        In reply to #9 by kbala:

        Yep. That would be the rational response. Why would some women suffer under the tyranny of catholicism, hinduism or islam? A lot of it has to do with the indoctrination in childhood.

        • In reply to #19 by HenMie:

          I think I would agree with you about early indoctrination as well as whites being somehow considered ‘higher’ than other groups (you mention it in your other post). I noticed the deference of the service personnel, drivers, some lesser officials to their ‘betters’ (and to the Europeans) when I recently visited your country. I found the relationship between the groups quite strained and demeaning, and totally alien to my Western sensibilities. The divisions are quite stark and jarring to the nerves of the outsider, yet seem to be normal to both groups themselves!

          And the Hindus want to do the same in Europe! Treat people like shit and make them feel inferior. There isnt a single Hindu temple in UK that has a priest from a lower caste!

          On occasion I felt that if I were spoken to or was treated in such a demeaning manner, short of punching them in the face, I would simply walk away from the offender (‘Insulter’, really – at least that’s what we would call them here, even if it was my ‘master’). I kept thinking that if such lack of respect was meted out to entire groups here in the West, there would have been a revolution long ago. My fear for India is that that revolution may yet come some day in the future and then the middle classes will get their comeuppance, for nobody can surely be as disrespected in such large numbers for so long without doing something about it.

          Again this faith has been successful in keeping people suppressed for over 2 millenia. Only way a revolution is possible is for the oppressed to give up their faith and take up science and reason.

          This, I’m glad to say, is the only negative thing I can say about my whole experience of India (apart from lack of pavements everywhere! ). Other than that, I had the most wonderful time, especially in Kerala, which was fantastic. Your country has so much beauty and generosity to offer, kbala, I really hope it can sort itself out sooner rather than later, for in places, it already is a Paradise on earth.

          Kerela is my most favorite state as well. Guess why? it has higher percentage of atheists and the only Indian state to have 100% literacy. A decent public education and a decent healthcare system. And not that much income disparity when compared to other parts. But they are getting penalized for having better worker protection and socialist values. Corporates just want to exploit people and Kerela isnt the place in India to do that. They are losing industries and jobs on all direction. The only other region that is comparable would be the north-east India (bordering Burma and China) – the seven sister states. Again predominantly non-hindus and better literacy.

          • Yes, I do agree with you on the necessary components for a revolution in India – ‘science and reason’ – and definitely no religion! And although, as you say, religion has been very successful in keeping people under for 2 millenia, never say never. During those millenia there was no exchange of information between people / cultures as there is now thanks to the runaway development of social media. And everyone in India owns a mobile phone – therein lies our hope! After all kinds of revolutions – Red, Velvet, Egyptian Spring one, etc., we might one day witness the Indian Mobile Revolution! ):

            I knew about 100% literacy and atheist connection before I went to Kerala so it felt good being among ‘the godless’, however, the number and size of the huge Christian churches was a surprise. I think it must be Christianity’s last line of defence against all that good education and atheism present in the region – build huge, colourful churches on the hill, the poorer the village, the bigger the church, in order to entice the village folk inside. Let’s hope that strategy will eventually backfire and those massive buildings will become museums of social media in the future.

            However, I was not aware of the loss of jobs and industry that you mention – it’s a pity. Tea/coffee plantations, however lucrative, will not be sufficient to keep things going for everyone. I found the people there lovely, very helpful and happy. I can only hope their education and progressive outlook will secure a good future for them. I can honestly say that being in Kerala among all that wildlife (rode an elephant through the rainforest), spices and exotic fruit, mingling with the lovely people, was the very best holiday I have ever had.

            PS. I like how you ‘cut through the chase’ and succinctly describe the way that Hindus treat other people in order to make them feel inferior; only a native can do that – I couldn’t offer such an explanation, being a guest in your country, although I totally agree…):

            Reply to #20 by kbala:*

            In reply to #19 by HenMie:

            And the Hindus want to do the same in Europe! Treat people like shit and make them feel inferior. There isnt a single Hindu temple in UK that has a priest from a lower caste!

            Again this faith has been successful in keeping people suppressed for over 2 millenia. Only way a revolution is possible is for the oppressed to give up their faith and take up science and reason.

            Kerela is my most favorite state as well. Guess why? it has higher percentage of atheists and the only Indian state to have 100% literacy. A decent public education and a decent healthcare system. And not that much income disparity when compared to other parts. But they are getting penalized for having better worker protection and socialist values. Corporates just want to exploit people and Kerela isnt the place in India to do that. They are losing industries and jobs on all direction. The only other region that is comparable would be the north-east India (bordering Burma and China) – the seven sister states. Again predominantly non-hindus and better literacy.

  6. I have to give kudos to the person or group that thought up caste system or even royalty for that matter. What a sure fire way of ensuring that your bloodline/ancestors have the best life possible maybe at the expense of an entire group or country of people. An invisible, unquestionable God that can never be confronted is then said to be responsible. It’s a positive spin on a very ugly aspect of survival of the fittest.

    Unfortunately, I think nothing should be done to legislate fairness in Britain. The people who are lower caste need to rise up and work this out for themselves. All a country can do is provide the best possible education and perhaps extend employment opportunities. I don’t know how anyone can pick and choose someone from a higher or lower caste.

    I have to wonder if the higher caste has had advantages for many centuries, would they have naturally have more innate intelligence, etc.? This would be tough to show since children of parents of a higher SES typically score higher and excel in school. nature or nurture? Just a thought.

    • I don’t agree since, by the same token, would you deny homosexuals, women or any other disparate group ‘fairness’ as you call it?*

      In reply to #13 by QuestioningKat:*

      Unfortunately, I think nothing should be done to legislate fairness in Britain. The people who are lower caste need to rise up and work this out for themselves. All a country can do is provide the best possible education and perhaps extend employment opportunities. I don’t know how anyone can pick and choose someone from a higher or lower caste.

  7. “There are thought to be around 400,000 low caste people in Britain.”

    Who thought it?

    This was written by the author of the piece, not quoting anyone or any source. Just to think it is to continue the cast idea!
    We should merely think there are 400,000 people in Britain illegally treated as lesser by others. Well in fact, going on that there are about 60 million treated as lesser by the politicians and their masters.

    I’m sure Cameron and his cronies cannot see what is wrong with looking down on others.

    • Stiff penalties for journalists who use the phrase “low caste people” without using scare quotes around ‘low caste” (perhaps with an extra slap on the wrist for not using a hyphen).

      Who’s with me?

      In reply to #16 by Rosbif:

      “There are thought to be around 400,000 low caste people in Britain.”

  8. Hello all,

    I might get censored for doing this, but still…

    Is it possible to elevate this issue by informing Prof Dawkins or Sean Faircloth? May be a tweet from either of them would help support the human rights group – Castewatch UK.

    • It wouldn’t do any harm, I daresay, or maybe a petition from us all? I’m sure many would sign in the face of such horrid discrimination that doesn’t belong in any society in the 21st century. Even in India legislation against it exists; Britain should really lead the way rather than lag behind.

      In reply to #24 by kbala:

      Hello all,

      I might get censored for doing this, but still…

      Is it possible to elevate this issue by informing Prof Dawkins or Sean Faircloth? May be a tweet from either of them would help support the human rights group – Castewatch UK.

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