Skip to main content

Gujarat govt-sponsored study justifies caste discrimination an issue of perceptions

By Rajiv Shah 
A Gujarat government-sponsored study, “Impact of Caste Discrimination and Distinctions on Equal Opportunities”, put out in May 2013, has sought to give the impression that issues of caste discrimination in Gujarat “are largely related to perceptions”, suggesting these should therefore be taken with a pinch of salt. At best, it underlines, caste discrimination is an issue related with “past practices involving a historically determined context”. Carried out by a team of experts led by Prof R Parthasarathy of the CEPT University, Ahmedabad, one of its declared purposes was to “review” a report, “Understanding Untouchability”, one of the most comprehensive surveys on untouchability carried out ever in India, involving 1,589 Gujarat villages and 5,462 respondents.
The Gujarat government decided to sponsor the review of “Understanding Untouchability” following widespread unease in the state corridors of power following three news stories in the “Times of India” on untouchability in Gujarat – “No temple entry for Dalits in Gujarat” (December 7, 2009), “Vibrant Gujarat? 98% Dalits have to drink tea in separate cups” (December 8, 2009), and “Dalit kids shamed at mid-day meals” (December 9, 2009). All three reports were largely based on facts which were to later become part of “Understanding Untouchability”, already in the process of being finalized. “Understanding Untouchability” was officially released a few days later – on January 27, 2010.
From the very outset, Parthasarathy and his team seem to undermine the authoritative nature of the “Understanding Untouchability”. For instance, they say, the report was prepared by the Navsarjan Trust, an Ahmedabad-based Dalit rights NGO, yet they refuse to mention the organization or experts behind it. They casually mention that the report is based on “diverse set of practices defined by an international team of experts” without recalling that it was sponsored by Robert F Kennedy (RFK) Center for Justice and Human Rights, and the authors included David Armstrong, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Department of Political Science; Christian Davenport, University of Notre Dame Kroc Institute for Peace Studies; Amanda M. Klasing, RFK Center for Justice and Human Rights; Martin Macwan, Navsarjan Trust; Manjula Pradeep, Navsarjan Trust; Sushma Vania, Navsarjan Trust; Allan Stam, University of Michigan; and Monika Kalra Varma, RFK Center for Justice and Human Rights.
Now, about the scale of the study by Parthasarathy and the team. As against the Navsarjan report involving a survey of 1,589 Gujarat villages and five times as many respondents, the state-sponsored study was carried out in just five villages – Khavda in Kutch district, Kherva in Surendranagar district, Nava Nesda in Banakantha district, Transad in Ahmedabad district, and Menpura in Kheda district. Even then, it seeks to question the methodology, saying “public opinion” survey in “Undertanding Untouchability” is an “inappropriate method for community-based surveys, especially with regards to the socio-economic factors and qualitative/subjective issues under scrutiny”. Hence, the decision of the Parthasarathy and team to go in for what it calls “participant observation methodology” – based on what was “observed” by field level observers.
Ironically, while the CEPT University team rejects what it calls “numerator analysis” of the Navsarjan Trust’s report, saying it has a “high possibility of over-reporting or biased reporting”, it resorts to the same quantitative methodology in order to arrive at conclusions regarding educational status among different castes as also caste-wise distribution of government-sponsored schemes, including free uniform, books and scholarship among children, and disbursement of midday meal scheme. It also uses the same quantitative method to identify occupation and wages. In fact, as one scans through the CEPT University study, one feels that the scholars accept caste discrimination as something almost normal to Indian or Gujarati society, which should not necessarily be questioned.
One has only to offer quotable quotes to prove this. Thus, while referring to the reference of discrimination against Dalits in “Understanding Untouchability” during participation in social and religious functions, Partharasarathy and the team justify it by saying, “It is very important to understand social transactions at the overall village level as well as amongst different social groups such as which members participate to what extent in the marriages, birth and death events of the other communities. Even two families of the same community might not be participating in each others’ events while there would be some considered more intimate or acquainted with from other social groups.” This is a clear case where either the scholars deliberately mix up dynamics of caste discrimination with family affairs.
It is well-known that caste has played a major role in forcing a section of Dalits – the Valmikis – to pursue a particular occupation, of scavenging others’ dirt. Shockingly, the CEPT scholars appear to even justify this, saying, it is a “social reality” that “many traditional families in rural India … still follow their conventional livelihood patterns through the form of enterprise might have changed with changing technology, knowledge and access to information and facilitation.” The scholars could have as well added, but do not, for some strange reason – that changing technology has forced the manual scavengers into the dangerous trap of cleaning gutter, which has led to the death of a large number of Valmikis. Not once do they recall the plight of the Valmikis in their 300-odd page study.
Not that the scholars do not mention cases of caste-based discrimination, but there is a clear effort to undermine it. Giving the example of Transad village, they point towards how a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva has the Patel community as its main patron. As for the scheduled castes (SC), they told the scholars that there was “no restriction” for them to go there, but “they did not visit this temple.” Nor did the SCs “visit” another temple, Ramji Mandir, situated in the Patel faliya. Further, SC people were found to be “distance observers” at the time of Holika Dahan ritual on the eve of the Holi festival.
Yet, the scholars seem to believe, all this is something absolutely normal, as seen from the following quotation: “Dr BR Ambedkar, Father of Indian Constitution, has assumed a great significance for the Harijan community who celebrate his birth anniversary by carrying out a procession through the village. There is also an Ambedkar Chowk in the Vankar vaas which is an important place for congregation. A very interesting observation of the field investigator in Transad was that the Harijan community as a whole was not found to be very religious and visiting public temples like others. Usually, there were very small private shrines in their hamlets”. Here, it is not clear why the scholars do not mention the reason for the obvious clout of the Dalits in Transad – they form 31 per cent of the village population!
At one place the study cites “continuing inaccessibility” of a new religious shrine, Ramji Temple, though saying it is part of the “social dynamics” of Kherva village. The scholars give in some detail the instance of how SC households were called to bring their own utensils during the inaugural function of the temple. “There was a call for boycott by SC youth as a sign of protest”, the scholars say, but this was thankfully amicably “resolved” by the elders. After all, the Dalits were “bound by social transactions”, and agreed to carry “their vessels to the feast while being served in the end.”
Here, the scholars see nothing wrong if the Dalits are forced to carry their own vessels or are made to be served at fag end of the festivity! In fact, if the scholars are to be believed, senior SC fellows advise “younger ones” not to participate in village festivals like Navratri or Garba, being celebrated in other localities, “for fear of possible quarrel with non-SCs.” And here the scholars add on a positive note: “Those SC youth who go there, do so as spectators and not participate in Garba…” And, as in the case of Transad village, in Kherva, too, the scholars celebrate, Dr Ambedkar jayanti is observed as a “community specific festival celebrated by SC when they carry out procession through the village”!
The scholars mention how in Nava Nesda “people belonging to SC and Vaghari communities” do not visit the Doodheshwar Mahadev temple, even though here “during the Hindu calendar month of Shraavan Janmashtami and Mahashivratri are celebrated.” Same is the case with Menpura, where “people belonging to the SC community do not visit the Radha Krishna temple”, which receives “major contributions from the affluent households.” Even then, they comment, in the village, “all festivals are celebrated in a harmonious atmosphere” – whether it is “Ganesh Chaturthi, Janmasthanami, Navratri, Diwali, Uttarayan and Holi.” Nor do they see anything wrong when, during marriage, Patels invite “Harijans” with their vessels. “They take meals in their vessels to their home and eat it there”.
The scholars conclude, it is “evident” from these descriptions that “celebration of festivals by different communities is confined to their respective localities and especially SC and non-SC usually do not mingle apart from remaining spectators.” But all this happens, they scholars conclude, because the elderly members of the SC community “do not want to create any tension between them and non-SC.”

Comments

TRENDING

Sorry state of Indian academics: why was I thrown out of Delhi varsity interview room?

By Dr. Abhay Kumar*  The interview for the post of political science (Guest) was scheduled on Saturday afternoon, September 10, 2022. Given my previous experience, I was not willing to appear for it. But friends persuaded me to go and fight for our rights. I reached the college well before the time. When my turn came and I entered the room. The first question was asked about my experience. I said that I had taught for four semesters at NCWEB. I mentioned that I had taught ”Comparative politics”, “International Relations”, “Comparative Political Thoughts” and “Indian Government and Politics”. I said that as a teacher I had taught all the articles listed in the syllabus of the same Delhi University and the expert could ask anything about any reading or ideas. Friends, the first question asked by a female member, perhaps she is the principal of the college if I am not wrong, to give the full form of NCWEB! The second question asked by a male expert, perhaps he is the political science dep

Musician and follower of Dr Ambedkar? A top voilinist has this rare combination!

Some time back, a human rights defender, Vidya Bhushan Rawat, who frequently writes for Counterview, forwarded to me a video interview with Guru Prabhakar Dhakade, calling him one of India's well known violinists.  Dhakade is based in Nagpur and has devoted his life for the Hindustani classical music. A number of his disciples have now been part of Hindi cinema world in Mumbai, says Rawat. He has performed live in various parts of the country as well as abroad. What however attracted me was Dhakade's assertions in video about Dr BR Ambedkar, India's undisputed Dalit icon. Recorded several years back at his residence and music school in Nagpur, Dhakade not only speaks candidly about issues he faced, but that he is a believer in Dr Ambedkar's philosophy. It is in this context that Dhakade narrates his problems, even as stating that he is determined to achieve his goal. A violinist and a follower of Ambedkar? This was new to me. Rarely do musicians are found to take a

Tokens, symbols or incipient feminists? : First generation women sociologists in India

By IMPRI Team  The online event on the theme ‘Tokens, Symbols or Incipient Feminists? : The first Generation of Women Sociologists in India’ was held as an initiative of Gender Impact Studies Center (GISC), IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi under the #WebPolicyTalk series of The State of Gender Equality – #GenderGaps. Inaugurating the session, Zubiya Moin welcomed the speaker and participants to the program, followed by an introduction to the eminent panelists. Commencing the program, Prof Vibhuti Patel made her opening remarks welcoming Prof Kamla Ganesh, Feminist Sociologists and then greeted Prof Ratna Naidu and the editors of book ‘Reimaging Sociology in India: Feminist Perspective’, Dr Gita Chadha and Dr. Joseph M.T. along with Prof Arvinder Ansari and also welcomed all participants. She set up the stage by making us familiar with women sociologists and their works. Dr Gita Chadha, Editor of the book ‘Reimaging Sociology in India: Feminist Perspective’ After th

Omission of duty by BSF and police: Hindu forcefully kidnapped, taken to Bangladesh

Kirity Roy, Secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), & National Convenor, Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity (PACTI) writes to the Chairman, National Human Rights Commission: *** I am writing this to focus on the life and situation of the poor and marginalized villagers living alongside the Indo-Bangladesh border of West Bengal. Through the several complaints we made throughout the years to your good office, it is now evident that the people of this border are living in an acute crisis, not only from a financial perspective but also in terrible distress. The people of the border are devoid of their basic rights and are subjected to immense torture, harassment and restrictions mostly enacted by the Border Security Force personnel, who are supposed to be posted at the international borders with intentions to protect the Indian citizenry. However, on the contrary, incidents of victimizing Indian citizens are being witnessed at large by the BSF. 130 Bhot

Tamil Nadu govt claiming to reform Hindu religion, temples. People deserve better

By NS Venkataraman  For the last several decades, there have been hate campaign against Hinduism in Tamil Nadu in a subtle or not so subtle manner. Initially, it was a hate campaign against brahmins and the brahmins were abused, insulted and physically attacked. Fearing such conditions, many brahmin families left Tamil Nadu to settle down in other states in India or have gone abroad. Now, the brahmin population in Tamil Nadu is at microscopic level, for which these hate campaigners against brahmins were responsible. Later on, emboldened by the scenario of scared brahmin families not resisting and running away, the hate campaigners started focusing on Hindus. For some years, when M.G.Ramachandran and Jayalalitha were the chief ministers of the state, the hate Hindu campaigners were not much heard, as both these chief ministers were staunch believers in Hindu philosophy and have been offering prayers in temples in full public view. However, in the last eighteen months in

Emerging dimensions of India’s foreign policy in the context of global politics

By IMPRI Team  The three-day course took place recently, providing participants with an understanding of the development of Indian foreign policy, the complexity of geopolitics, and its flexibility to adjust to and even shape global outcomes. Many distinguished academics, senior scholars, former Indian diplomats, and journalists who are skilled observers and commentators of India’s foreign policy will serve as instructors for this course. Day 1 The three-day immersive online certificate training on “Emerging Dimensions of India’s Foreign Policy and Global Politics”, an initiative by the Center for International Relations and Strategic Studies (CIRSS) at IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), began on July 14th, 2022 at 5:00 PM (IST) on Zoom platform. Dr Souravie Ghimiray served as the emcee throughout the 3 days of the event and welcomed the distinguished speakers of Day 1. The esteemed panel on Day 1 consisted of, Dr Soumita Basu, Associate Professor, Department of Intern

Demographic parameters of India@75: resource allocation, political representation

By IMPRI Team  As per UN Population Prospects 2022, India is going to be the most populous country in the world. In this regard, IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi with #IMPRI Center for Human Dignity and Development (CHDD) , organized a panel discussion, #WebPolicyTalk, as part of the series The State of Population Development- #PopulationAnd Development on India@75: Most Populous Country? The moderator of the event was Mr Devender Singh, Global Studies Programme, University of Freiburg and a Visiting Senior Fellow at IMPRI. The panellists for the event were Prof P.M Kulkarni, Demographer, Retired Professor of Population Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University(JNU) , New Delhi; Dr U.V Somayajulu, Co-Founder, CEO and Executive Director, Sigma Research and Consulting ; Dr Sonia George, General Secretary, Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), Kerala; Prof K.S James, Director and Senior Professor, International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), Mumbai. Th

Bhagawat Gita shows the way for the attitude to life and desirable goal of life

By NS Venkataraman*  When a mother delivers a human body, this body has no identity. Then, parents, relatives, friends consult each other and discuss the alternate appropriate names and arrive at a suitable name for this human body and this body is known and identified by this name. This human body, which steadily grow just like animals, plants and others and after experiencing the pleasures and pains of worldly life alternately for several years, perish one day, for the body to be burnt or buried. This body, bearing a name as it’s identity, comes in to the world and goes away from the world and the name that is the identity for the body also goes away along with the body. This is the scenario for several thousands of years that have gone by. The question: One question that does not seem to be still “convincingly explained” in a way that will appeal to the brain in the human body, is as to whether this human body only consists of flesh, bone and blood with well

Implementing misleading govt order to pollute Hyderabad's 100 year old reservoirs

Senior activists* represent to the Telangana Governor on GO Ms 69 dated 12.4.2022 issued by the Municipal Administration and Urban Development (MA&UD), Government of Telangana: ‘...restrictions imposed under para 3 of said GO Ms 111 dated 8.3.1996 are removed...’: *** Ref: GO Ms 111 dated 8.3.1996: ‘To prohibit polluting industries, major hotels, residential colonies or other establishments that generate pollution in the catchment of the lakes upto 10kms from full tank level as per list in Annexure-I...’ We come to your office with grievance that GO Ms 69 dated 12.4.2022 issued by Government of Telangana not only contains false information issued ‘By Order and in the name of the Governor of Telangana’ , without any scientific or expert reports, but also that implementation of the said GO is detrimental and can be catastrophic to the Hyderabad city as two 100 year old reservoirs Osman Sagar and Himayath Sagar were constructed as dams on river Moosa and river Esa, with the first and

Tattoos and intimidating gestures can't always win cricket matches for India

By Sudhansu R Das  Team India waited with baited breath for the outcome of the Pakistan vs Afghanistan match. Speculation was on about India’s return to the game if Pakistan loses to Afghanistan until Pakistan’s tailender, Naseem hit two massive sixes to win the match for Pakistan. Unfortunately, Afghanistan lost the match after being in a strong position till the last over of the game; two full touch balls in the final over turned the match into Pakistan side. The Afghanistan team would never forget this blunder and shock for a long time. India’s team management should introspect and take tough decision keeping in view of the tough match situation in the world cup matches. India lost two crucial matches in the Asia Cup. It could not defend a big total of 176 against Pakistan due to mediocre bowling attack, sloppy fielding and unimaginative captainship. It failed against Sri Lanka in similar fashion; it could not defend another respectable T 20 total of 171 runs. It was a pat