Parallels between Indian casteism and American racism

BY NIDHI SINGH

Casteism in India is no new revelation and has continued to exist and at times even strengthen itself despite constitutional limitations. This shows how deep-rooted the entire caste system is , at the same time when we look at the other part of the world we see a similar problem there, the problem of racism.

While the USA may claim to be one of the most powerful and progressive nation of all time, the evil problem of racism is still persistent and the recent incidents that sparked the ‘Black Lives Matter’ Movement speaks enough about the current status of Racism in the west.

While drawing similarities between the two, one has to be extremely careful considering caste and race are two completely different ways in which people are marginalised and excluded in two different lands and contexts.

The Dalits also known as the untouchables or the depressed classes have experienced and continue to experience discrimination in day to day life ranging from economic to social spheres. A large population of the Dalits are still thrust into the lowest occupation of the society and forced into doing menial jobs like scavenging, etc with little mobility to the upward section of the society.

Even after abolition of the practice of ‘Untouchability’ under article 17 of the Indian constitution, there still exist examples of cases where Dalits are mistreated and are not allowed to enter public spaces, temples.

There has been a sudden increase in the number of mob lynching cases against Dalits in the recent past. Amnesty International in its report in 2019 stated that almost 70 percent of the hate crimes in India are committed on the basis of caste. Similarly, between 2016 to 2019, as many as 2,008 cases were registered by the National Human Rights Commission, which were committed against the minorities/ Dalits. These data highlight the real picture of the ‘caste problem’ in India.

The number of reported criminal cases against the Dalits has increased during the regime of BJP/NDA and Uttar Pradesh has succeeded in securing first position for itself.

On looking towards the west, we can draw some parallels in the system of oppression, marginalisation of one section of the society.

The tragic death of George Floyd has forced United states to reflect on the kind of society they have built and the kind of progress they have had despite the struggles of the African Americans in the last 50 years.

Even though equality has been promised and the Declaration of Independence states that “all men are created equal,”, people continue to face social, economic, political discrimination in different spheres of life.

A clear manifestation of the conditions of African Americans is that it was only in 2008 that US elected its First ever Black President, Mr. Barack Obama. Though it was a moment of celebration but at the same time it also shed light on the ugly truth.

Even while looking in the economic sphere one has to remember that the rate of black unemployment is much more than that of white people and there exists a huge wealth gap between the black and the white household. They sometimes are also subjected to poor health facilities.

Even today, the conditions of the African Americans is just deteriorating day by day and this has resulted into polarisation of the party structure driven by the ‘race politics’. The murder of George Floyd initiated a whole new movement to fulfil the age old dream of attaining equality in true essence and the 2020 election has further created a battlefield for the same.

Although the context of both the problems ,i.e., casteism and racism are completely different but both highlight how social evils have continued to exist and at times also strengthen themselves and the political structure has failed to curb them. It’s high time we realise our responsibility as a society and become active in politics to voice out our disagreement with the situation.

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