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.

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Himal Southasian