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The Oppression of Shudras in India: A Marxist and Hindu Perspective, Part I

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

I recently read a disturbing article on Al Jazeera about protests by hundreds of students in New Delhi, India which happened on August 22, 2006. The students were high caste Indians (the Brahmin and Kshatriya caste) who were protesting a government proposal to increase the number of allotted spaces in India’s universities for people of the lower castes (the Shudra caste) from 22.5% to 49.5%. It was very upsetting to see college educated students actively participating in a protest in favor of an oppressive caste system and in favor of keeping lower caste Indians out of Indian universities, especially since Indians of lower caste status make up 77% of the country (so giving them only 49.5% of allotted spots in the university system, while an improvement, is still far below the 77% of the countries population). I’ve given you a link to the article above and I’ve pasted the article below as well. In response to these protests I will be starting a seven or eight part weekly blog series on the situation of India and the oppressive caste system that is still in place. This article from Al Jazeera makes up part I, parts II through IV will be a reprint of a paper entitled “Resolution Adopted at the All India Convention on Problems of Dalits” (a Dalit is a person who comprises the lowest ring in the caste system, the so called “untouchables,” also called Harijan by Ghandi which means “children of God,” technically though, according to blogger Bhupinder Sing, dalits are not at the bottom of the caste system since they are outcasts, they are outside the caste system, so its even worse than I thought, thanks again to Mr. Sing) by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) which has many members in the Indian parliament (43 MPs to be exact, with the Speaker of Parliament a member of the party as well, Shri Somnath Chatterjee) and also holds government in the Indian states of Kerala, West Bengal, and Tripura. This paper will mostly be a Marxist and economic perspective on the caste system in India. Part V will be my own piece on the religious perspective of the situation of the caste system. I will be taking a theological liberationist perspective on the caste system and will apply arguments of Hinduism, in the Upanishadic tradition (as supposed to Christian liberation theology, which I adhere to), refuting the present day oppressive situation of the caste system in India.
Change in caste rules angers students
August 22, 2006

Indian police have used tear gas and water canons to disperse students protesting against a government move to reserve more college places for lower caste candidates.

The protests by hundreds of students in New Delhi on Tuesday came a day after the Indian cabinet approved a draft law to boost the number of university places allotted to lower caste candidates to 49.5% from 22.5%.

Lower castes account for about 77% of India’s 1.1 billion population.

The protesters said that the government’s proposal does not reward merit and will reduce their chances of gaining a higher education.

The violence began after hundreds of students began marching to the house of Sonia Gandhi, head of the ruling Congress party.

They broke through a police cordon which led to a scuffle with policemen. Police then fired tear-gas shells and used water cannons to push the students back.

A leaflet distributed by the protesters said a nationwide strike would be launched within 24 hours of a bill being tabled.

The bill is expected to be placed before parliament this week.

The controversial proposal, which faced similar nationwide protests when it was first mooted four months ago, affects federally funded universities, medical, engineering and management schools.

Impoverished and underdeveloped India introduced reservations for the lower castes soon after independence from Britain in 1947, but the present bill widens the scope of earlier laws.

In 1990, a similar move to increase quotas in government jobs also led to widespread protests in which dozens of upper-caste students deliberately burnt themselves to death.

India’s predominantly Hindu society is riven with social divides ranging from high caste priestly Brahmins to low caste “untouchables”. (Reuters)

One Comment
  1. bhupinder singh permalink
    Sunday, September 3, 2006 7:26 pm

    Thanks for the news item. Look forward to the series of posts on the issue.

    A small technicality- the Dalits are not those at the bottom of the caste hierarchy, they are excluded from the caste system altogether- they are the outcastes. Also till recently the reservation policy was limited to the Dalits (aka Scheduled Castes) and is about 15%, reservation for the scheduled castes makes up about 7%, the new reservation policy extend the reservations to the ther Backward Castes (roughly the Shudras).

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