Thursday, May 29, 2008

Don't worry, I don't get it either ...

[Via Fr. B] Rioters demand a lower caste status in India.
Members of the Gujjar tribe blocked roads into the city and clashed with police as they demanded to be moved to the bottom of society to gain preferential treatment for university placements and government jobs.

More than 45,000 police fired tear gas as Gujjar mobs burnt tyres, hurled stones at passing cars and squatted on roads.

The rioting began last week in Rajasthan, when 39 members of the Gujjar tribe died in clashes with police while protesting the government's refusal to "downgrade" their caste.
This isn't the first time Gujjars have caused trouble ... last year similar protests erupted. That BBC story gives some idea of the complex social reality of caste, and how it intersects with a democratic political system.

The problem, of course, is the hugely over-bloated paternalistic Indian state ... everyone wants a piece of the pie that the sarkar wields, for his or her own clan, and the influence that the sarkar has in the lives of most Indians would make a Stalinist proud.

This week, my conversations with my Jesuit friend (to be blogged on soon) have been a huge education in some aspects of life in rural India, especially the rock solid grip of caste identity in the lives of the people, which is a foreign country to this city-dweller, raised with Western liberal values of human dignity and liberty. Just how alien these values remain to the bulk of Indian society, is now starkly clear.

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