Controversy Over Prevention of Caste Atrocities and Equality Act in the UK (Part 3) »« Controversy Over Prevention of Caste Atrocities and Equality Act in the UK (Part 1)

Controversy Over Prevention of Caste Atrocities and Equality Act in the UK (Part 2)

(Continued from Part 1. Link to Part 3.)

Now let us take a look at the newly formed ‘Alliance of Hindu Organisations’ (AHO). It was formed in April 2013, only when it seemed like the upper caste or savarnas will be facing the wrath of the law for continuing discrimination. The domain name of their website is, ironically, ‘my caste is hindu.org’. Can there be anything such as society made of only one caste? Caste as a division of labourers organized individuals in different groups and closed them through endogamy. Every caste was assigned different functions and occupations in village socio-economy. Every caste had to depend on the other. The AHO wants to hide this exact hideous reality that the UK Hindus are divided in many castes. Even the names of the groups which are part of AHO give away the fact that they are exclusive for certain castes. One simply can’t be a casteless Hindu. In urban India, when people introduce themselves to each other, they are curious to know the surname of a person. Just knowing the given name does not satisfy them. They want to figure out religion and caste through family name. Many times even by observing physical features, they assume caste  of a person. Fair skin is usually attached to being born in ‘pure’ upper caste, while having darker skin doesn’t hold any social status and is usually connected to being born in ‘unclean’ castes. It wouldn’t be surprising to find the migrants in UK following this tradition.

Another piece of evidence to assert the fact that caste exists in the UK is a brief look at the matrimonial websites. As said above, it is endogamy which maintains boundaries of castes.

A screenshot showing caste options taken from the UK section of the matrimonial website shaadi.com.

A screenshot showing caste options taken from the UK section of the matrimonial website shaadi.com. It shows a search dropdown called “Community”, which contains various Hindu castes, like Agarwal, Arora, Baniya, as well as sub-categories of Brahmins. Some regional markers like Gujarati and Punjabi are included too.

These websites are more honest than the AHO as they only supply what is demanded from them by society.

Screenshot showing UK groom search results from shaadi.com. They contain caste identifiers like Arora, Prajapati, Patel-Leva, Kapu, Sutar etc.

A second screenshot from shaadi.com, showing the search results for grooms in the UK. Under the Religion column, most of the Hindu results have caste identifiers mentioned, like Arora, Prajapati, Patel-Leva, Kapu, Sutar etc.

Let us take another example of victimisation in the UK. This is the case of inter-caste marriage between a high caste Sikh woman and and exterior caste man. Both were working in a law firm which turned hostile towards them as they fell in love and got married:

Mrs Begraj told the Birmingham tribunal she was warned by a senior colleague. ‘He said I should reconsider the step I was taking of marrying Vijay because people of his caste were different creatures. Marriage would be very different from dating.  Vijay was told a number of times that his position had been compromised for entering into a relationship with me.’

She also claimed that her workload increased and secretarial support was reduced ‘as a punishment’, and she was paid less than colleagues.

The couple married at a Gurdwara, or Sikh temple, in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, three years ago, when a colleague raised a toast to ‘Jat girls going down the drain’.

When the couple had their first child, the firm did not send flowers, although this was standard practice.

Mr Begraj, who worked as a practice manager for the firm for seven years, was sacked last year. His wife resigned in January.

By considering the former untouchables as different creatures, calling them unclean, unworthy, and unmeritorious the Hindu elites in the UK are displaying to the world how civilised they are. This is the religion taking away empathy which is supposed to be intrinsic to human nature.

(To be Continued.)

Comments

  1. Pen says

    the Hindu elites in the UK are displaying to the world how civilised they are

    Alas, they are in good company! But seriously, I’m finding this very interesting and I hope you keep writing about it. One of the things I find at the interface between Hindu and white culture in Britain is that the topic of caste rarely comes up informally, but there’s a kind of social elitism among some of my Asian* friends and acquaintances that’s disturbing even in Cameron’s Britain. It feels like a manifestation of the same thing on a broader level and I never know quite what to do with it. They demean other people as though their inferiority were self-evident.

    I’m saying Asian because some of them are Catholics or Muslims originally from India but regardless, they’ve got a lot of noticeably Hindu culture.

  2. CaitieCat says

    As so often, Pen saves me the trouble of making a long comment, but I’m going to make one anyway.

    Fascinating look at something I hadn’t known very much about. Is there a resource somewhere which would indicate what names are associated how? I have a feeling that if I want to be able to see (not that it hasn’t existed, that my privilege has allowed me to overlook it) this here in Canada, I’m going to need more information than my current privilege has prepared me with. I can think already of a few cases of people I’ve known from South Asian backgrounds where this might well have been a large factor in their having few friends of “similar” background, because I wouldn’t have known caste at the time.

    This is a big thing for me, because I’m from a very working-class family – we’re economic migrants too – and always hated the classism represented in the bullies’ knowledge of which schools were filled with which people, among other very visible ways our class had it differently. And i don’t think I can be a useful ally on this particular form of classism without knowing more about it.

  3. Sumit says

    @CatieCat, Hi, Unfortunately I haven’t come across such resources detailing caste surnames and their historical background. There are more than 5000 castes in India. It will be extraordinarily difficult to find out origins of surnames for each of them. Again, in each society the lower classes try to imitate the elite classes. In India, the lower castes have adopted some rituals, customs, and surnames of elite castes in order to achieve a better social standing. This makes it more complex.
    Some surnames describe the traditional occupation and caste name. For example, ‘Bhangi’ is the surname of a traditionally working manual scavengers. It is also their caste name. AND it is also used as a verbal abuse for the entire community. At its exact opposite, you will find upper caste hindus proudly telling others their surname.
    I don’t have much information about upper caste hindus living in other countries. May be you could get in touch with some activists based in Canada and interact with them personally.

    http://www.dalitfreedom.net/default.aspx

    http://www.vancouverdesi.com/news/nridiaspora/persecution-dalit-activists-gear-up-their-activities-in-greater-vancouver/474984/

  4. CaitieCat says

    Excellent idea, thank you; if there are no easy answers, then I will start looking for the hard ones. :)

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