Casteing about

Over the centuries, the poison of caste has been variously sung about, lamented, protested, outlawed and adjudicated in this region. During that time, the economic and cultural foundations of – and, most of all, the religious sanction for – this abhorrent practice have all been sculpted to 'perfection', spawning replicas in all corners of the world. Yet while the new economic order and emerging professions have tended to blur the rigid lines, modernity and education have not done away with caste. Instead, the locus has changed, the forms have morphed, and upward mobility and reservation have allowed former 'untouchables' to pursue new vocations. Now, there are Dalit doctors and teachers to discriminate against. In the aftermath of the Mandal Commission recommendations, the emergent caste groupings have strengthened and even exalted caste identity across the spectrum. As the articles in this issue of Himal spotlight, before we have less of caste, we evidently must have more of it. Our cover, by Vadodara artist Lokesh Khodke, depicts caste dynamics and the related social tension. He visualises the three worlds, swarga, naraka and mrityuloka, (heaven, hell and the mortal world),  governed by homogenising forces. Yet simultaneously, Khodke suggests other spaces, which constantly struggle to articulate themselves. Perhaps, someday, the curtain will lift and caste will be equalised – if not annihilated altogether.
Equalisation to annihilation-and beyond
By: S Anand

A further fragmentation of caste identities would rule out the possibility of solidarity across

We can only look forward…

By: Meena Kandasamy


…when we no longer have to look back.

Kandasamy poetically and passoinately argues that extirpating the entrenched caste system will need more than changes in sytems of production. It requires a militant and personal commitment to erase the institution.

Basavas lesson
By: Githa Hariharan

The 12th-century poet offers potential 'meeting points' for caste reconciliation.

New order
By: Chandra Bhan Prasad

As India urbanises, caste is losing, and will continue to lose, its strength.

The caste train
By: Gail Omvedt

Waiting for an India when caste names will have lost their meaning.

Well beyond Khairlanji
By: Ashley Tellis

Questioning our personal contradictions is essential to any discussion on caste. 

Completing the insult
By: Rakesh Shukla

Underlying caste bias remains strong within the Indian judiciary.

No reform
By: Kancha Ilaiah

Hinduism's rigidity is forcing it to cede ground to Islam, Christianity and Buddhism.

Refreshing the soil
By: Shiva Shankar

The path of Buddhism can end the curse of caste.

The changing face
By: Desraj Kali

In Indian Punjab, caste discrimination is subtle while caste assertion is loud.

Caste articulation
By: Satish Deshpande

Three lessons from the creation of the OBC category.

Dangerous sedative
By: Anand Teltumbde

Despite their wide acceptance within the Dalit movement (and many others), NGOs today are functioning as a diversionary palliative

Dominating the diaspora
By: Priyamvada Gopal

The vehement arguments of some high-profile Hindu groups notwithstanding, the UK's new Equality Bill will include some reference to caste.

How caste came to America
By: Vijay Prashad

The mid-20th century saw intense caste discussions in US academia.
Waiting for spring
By: Nirupama Dutt

The emergence of a Dalit identity in Punjab is a recent development, spurred in part by the failure of Sikhism to abandon caste discrimination as it initially averred to do.
By: N D Rajkumar

 "Hey, sister, you can't enter the house
Through the front door
Our living is a backdoor affair"

The tree series

Sculptures from the collection of renowned artist A K Sivadas.

Click here for the rest of the content in our April issue

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Himal Southasian