ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

Durban ConferenceSubscribe to Durban Conference

Caste and Race: Discrimination Based on Descent

In 2001, Dalit non-governmental organisations pushed for the inclusion of caste-based discrimination in the United Nations conference on racism and other forms of descent-based discriminations. How did the Government of India respond to the internationalisation of casteism? Why did Dalits want casteism to be treated on par with racism in the first place? Did they succeed? And above all, is caste the same as race?

Durban and After

Having successfully brought up the debate of dalit emancipation at the international level, it is necessary now to firstly contextualise the movement in the rising tide of Hindutva and secondly, within the logic of economic liberalisation. For, the movement for dalit emancipation has arisen as a major political discourse at the same time that Hindutva and economic liberalisation have emerged on the Indian political stage.

Wheels within Wheels, Castes within Castes

Whatever be the manner in which dalits and adivasis are classified - as belonging to a race or a caste - it is a fact that caste-induced oppression has been as agonising to a large mass of Indians as has been racial violence in South Africa. However, it is also time the intolerance, discrimination and divisions existing among the oppressed castes that have bred a great deal of violence and have thrown up unscrupulous leaders is confronted and acknowledged.

Caste and Durban

The Durban conference will be over before the publication of this letter. But if the NDA government fails to address the question of dalits in the conference, it will stand accused of committing a crime against humanity.

Caste, Race and Human Rights

The idea that 'caste is race plus' may prove effective in drawing world attention to bear on the practice of caste. The practice of caste cannot, however, be eradicated by strategies that merely legitimise caste and caste-based politics. Hence, if we are intent on gaining more than mere political mileage from the proceedings of the Durban conference, it is time to recognise that non-caste secular strategies need to be innovative to eliminate the social evils of caste.

Durban and Dalit Discourse

Just as the Mandal report challenged the amiable sociology of the day, and the middle class dreams of mobility, the prospect of the Durban conference on race is doing something similar to the discipline of sociology by juxtaposing and even assimilating the categories of caste and race. There is a danger that social scientists, so involved with pursuing their particular point in the debate, are in fact condemning themselves to their own ghettos of illiteracy. What is needed is a different point of entry that sees dalit sociology not through the eyes of the academe but in terms of its own emic categories.

The Race for Caste

Until now, in international conferences on apartheid and racism India saw itself as a fighter of freedom and was the official advocate condemning racism, colonialism, apartheid. Suddenly this great role is being threatened, and from within. India is being condemned in the name of universal freedoms as a violator and for what we all along glibly thought was 'an internal affair', caste. Why is caste like race? What are the claims for entry and the objections? What is the method and manner of the argument? And will the move to get caste discrimination to be read as racial discrimination succeed as politics?
Back to Top