22/09/08

3,000 drops in an ocean

i'd written to a friend (a year ago, while discussing a news report that said less than 3,000 inter-caste marriages were reported from across india in 2005-06- here's the link but it doesn't seem to work now):
just look at the numbers- on a single 'good muhurat' day more than 30,000 couples could get married in any of the top 10 cities in india. and inter-caste marriages don't number more than 3000 in the whole country in a whole year.
those are marriages reported to certain government agencies which provide incentives to couples who go in for inter-caste marriages- yes, the actual number could be higher, but how much higher? twice that figure? ten times that figure? would a number ten times that figure indicate a significant trend? i don't think so.

but across the media, you notice one significant trend: a growing tendency to paint the lower castes as the only people steeped in caste. for the media, the term upper caste seems to indicate a higher value system. does the above example reveal any significant change in people's attitudes, especially of those belonging to the upper castes, towards caste? does it show how the upper castes have progressed from caste to class and the lower castes have clung to caste as many sociologists, journalists etc., have argued in the recent past? have the surnames shastri, sharma, iyer, reddy, deshpande etc., disappeared significantly or fused together to form new secular identities such as sharma-reddy, deshpande-chaudhury etc., in significant numbers?

one piece of pseudo-knowledge that the media believes in strongly (as do the experts from other knowledge producing fields who write for it): the position of women becomes weaker as you go down the caste ladder. does it?
In a recently completed study in Mehsana district in Gujarat and Kurukshetra district in Haryana, undertaken with the support of HealthWatch Trust, it was observed that the last births had a stronger preponderance of boys than all other births. Although more than twice as many boys as girls were reported among the last births by most groups of women, among those women who belonged to upper castes, whose families were landed and who were literate, there were more than 240 males for every 100 girls in the last births (Visaria 2003) [...]
However, we observed some differences between women belonging to higher social groups and those who belonged to scheduled caste and other backward communities with regard to the influence of the in-laws in these matters. The high caste women had to inform and consult their in-laws but the low caste women had to obtain the consent of only their husbands for abortion. The influence of the extended joint family was not so strong on the decision of the women from lower caste groups. (italics mine).

4 comments:

gaddeswarup said...

Kuffir,
I have been wondering about this too. Here are some prelminary thoughts. The post by Sraivini you linked in Blogbharti indicated part of the mechanism involved. Some 'traditions', some of which are superstitions, are drilled in to one and prejudices passed on about habits of other castes by elders and books. ( See Sumati Satakam about which Telugus still speak highly and how it talks about various castes. I understand from "Colonial Lists" by William Katten that some stanzas were changed like 'komati' to ;komali' as some castes became more prominent). I have noticed these habits are quite strong in NRIs too (observing 'varalakshmi vratam'etc or generally sticking to one's caste in social relationships). Luckily, the next generation seems to be relatively free of these. So, uprooting seems to help. I saw even advertisements in Telugu discussion sites asking for information about brides of particular denomonation. When I expressed shock, the answer was that they were not descriminating others but wanted preserve traditions dear to them.
About tradition in different castes, I recently read some Bernard Cohn's books. At one stage he discusses 'female infanticide' in a particular high caste clan. Apparently, girls should be married in to higher status families which invoved high financial strain and started the process. He says that nothing could be asserted about a whole group all over India, but one can try to identify habits, problems in specific denomonations and specific areas and study them.
May be omitting family names, or caste type names can help in an urban set up.

gaddeswarup said...

On the recent trip to A.P. I was told that one of the famous Telugu singers had two wives, one from a 'lower' caste. It seems that he had 3 children by this marriage ( I am not sure which was the first marriage). One of these children is a Bharatanatyam exponent, gave a perforance in Hyderabad Ravindrabharati and was interoduced as his daughter. I do not find any reference to this marriage or children in any of the biographies which we see every year.

Praveen said...

Hello sir,

How are you?

How long do you think it takes for the caste system to get extinct? Is there something a common man like me do to get there?

Praveen

kuffir said...

praveen,

i'm fine praveen.. and how are you?:)

 
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