Project

A Question of Caste in a Globalizing India

India, seen as a rising economic giant, is a place of increasing opportunity. In this "new" India, as the Indian media call it, caste is presumed to have been left behind. However, caste persists, and not just as discrimination against the "former untouchables." This project addresses caste as it exists in various forms -- and across religions -- and how it affects life and opportunities in the new India.

There are broadly three caste groups – the upper castes, the middle castes, and the lowest, the former untouchables. The sub-castes are into the thousands. Globalization and multi-party politics in the ‘90s have been producing new challenges for what is called "caste society." This has led to greater violence between groups and individuals, and between caste groups and the state.

The only time caste really comes into mainstream discourse in India is with the issue of affirmative action, vehemently opposed by upper caste elites as compromising "merit." But affirmative action in India has had some success, largely undocumented.

Urban, middle-class Indians who benefit from the new economy insist caste is going away – so why then are crimes against the former untouchables increasing? We’re told education and modernity are answers to caste – so why then are caste associations led by their educated elites? Journalist Shivam Vij sheds light on these questions, showing that caste is not only alive but thriving in the new India.

Shaheen is reporting for the Pulitzer Center as a 2011 recipient of the Persephone Miel fellowship.

February 23, 2012|

India: Misreading the Elections

Too often obscured by the media’s penchant for prediction, ground realities in India's state of Uttar Pradesh reveal the issues that truly determine results.

September 12, 2011|

In Allahpur, a Moment of Truth

Like nearly every village in South Asia, Allahpur, in the east Indian state of Bihar, is geographically divided on the lines of caste. On one side of a dirt track live the upper-caste Muslims (Syeds, Sheikhs and Pathans) and on the other side live the lower-caste Muslims (Ansaris, Dhunias and Raains). There are only four Hindu families in Allahpur, and they are all lower castes, their houses amid the low-caste Muslim houses.

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