Untouchability is Aparthied

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18 Responses to “Untouchability is Aparthied”

  1. Nitin Says:

    Polite Indian,

    Your argument is at best uninformed and at worst perverse.

    Untouchability, unlike apartheid, is not state policy. The comparison itself is invalid. International sanctions are designed to compel a government to change its policies: since untouchability is not state policy, the question of sanctions is irrelevant. The comparison with apartheid is further invalid because you will not find anyone in India who will defend the continuation of untouchability.

    Sanctions may theoretically be imposed to coerce entire populations. The morality of this is suspect—would you deny essential medicines to save a child’s life? Even if the child is too young to support/oppose untouchability. What would you say about the morality of punishing those who actually oppose untouchability? If the opposition to untouchability is on moral grounds, how can indiscriminate collective punishment be morally justified?

    There cannot be any doubt that untouchability is morally reprehensible and has no place in modern society. We don’t need to compare it with apartheid or anything else for us to know how grave the issue is.

    Ultimately this is India’s problem. It is absurd to think that (a) someone else will be bothered about it as much as Indians and (b) that they can do anything about it.

  2. Polite Indian Says:

    Nitin,

    Thanks for stopping by

    Your argument is at best uninformed and at worst perverse

    I have been a regular reader of your blog and I must agree that I might not be as well read and as informed as you are. About the argument being perverse you might have to explain a bit more as I can’t see it why?

    Untouchability, unlike apartheid, is not state policy

    That it true and it is not explicitly a state policy but in practice it is implicit. You can see that in many cases that involve the govt. e.g police.
    And even though we have laws against untouchability it is mostly on paper.

    If the opposition to untouchability is on moral grounds, how can indiscriminate collective punishment be morally justified?

    I agree it is not justified. But the sanctions are not something that is eternal unlike untouchabilty (as it seems now). If pressure is put I believe India has the resource to get rid of this evil maybe in a decade or so but there is not enough will to do it. The Sanctions or even just the threat might provide that push. This is a time where India has to care more about how it is perceived globally and what kind of businesses it attracts. If these come with a rider then why not?

    Ultimately this is India’s problem. It is absurd to think that (a) someone else will be bothered about it as much as Indians and (b) that they can do anything about it.

    Why was the world then concerned about Aparthied? Why did they do something about it?

    On an emotional level I agree that it is India’s problem and only India should deal with it but because India is not dealing with it it cannot be left alone. Such a hideous practice cannot exist in a modern world.
    I am sure you are aware that dalit activists have long tried to get this acknowledged at the UN but with little success.
    I think India will not act sufficiently till international pressure is put on it.

  3. rc Says:

    Polite –

    I agree with Nitin, there is an unfortunate tendency to search for parallels to untouchability. This comparison to apartheid is unfair to the victims of both.

    The reality check about the policies needed to uplift the really backward dalits is _extremely unpleasant_. Are we men enough to face that ?

    What if I told you that the true salvation to the really needy Dalits is disaggregation of the SC group ? Can we stomach this medicine ? Will the upper SC castes allow such disaggregation ?

    You may think I am harking back on the quota policy in all my posts. Unfortunately, we cannot run away from it. If caste is going to be the basis for redressal, we have to be prepared to talk that language.

    I am with the BJP on this one.

  4. Polite Indian Says:

    rc,

    I am for any solution. If you think disaggregation of the SC group is the right solution then so be it. The question then is… why is it not being done? Why is there not enough pressure to choose the right path/solution for this problem?

    As I said to Nitin, I believe that we have the capacity to solve the problem but we don’t have the required will. I will take any solution however bitter it may be and that is why I am willing to have international pressure put on India to solve it.

    In my first few posts on the blog I had mentioned that one cannot make caste irrelevant if policies are based on it and I still think that is true. What I don’t see is any other policy or solution being put forward by anyone that is acceptable.

    Everyone agrees that untouchability is an evil and needs to be abolished but where is the pressure to do so in the true sense of the word?

  5. Nitin Says:

    About the argument being perverse you might have to explain a bit more as I can’t see it why?

    It is perverse because it proposes one immorality to counter another. It proposes collective punishment that does not distinguish between offender, victim and bystander. How can one opposed to untouchability on moral grounds support punishing innocent people?

    I think India will not act sufficiently till international pressure is put on it.

    I’ve pointed out the fallacy of this already. If it is not state policy, the only route is collective punishment, which is immoral.

    Besides India is not exactly a country that can be so pressured. The history of independent India is replete with instances where it has resisted pressure (in the face of sanctions) for this or that. Sanctions against India hurt the countries that impose the sanctions and that’s enough reason for them not to like it. Remember the post-Pokhran II sanctions?

    Besides, what are you talking about? Everybody, from the PM down, agrees that it needs to end.

    Why was the world then concerned about Aparthied? Why did they do something about it?

    Because apartheid was state policy. And it was an exception. The world didn’t bother about the official discrimination against blacks in America until the Americans themselves acted against it. The world didn’t bother when Mao Zedong starved and killed millions of Chinese. It didn’t bother when China, Pakistan, Indonesia etc used forced migrations to bring about a favourable demography. It does not impose sanctions on countries where women are officially discriminated against. It did not care when there was a genocide in Rwanda.

    No, you won’t find morality in the actions of the international community. But you’ll find it in the Indian constitution.

    A final note: to beat off a social evil you need to make common cause with all Indians who abhor that practice. Arguments like the one you have made just turn off people who might otherwise have agreed with you.

  6. Nitin Says:

    About the argument being perverse you might have to explain a bit more as I can’t see it why?

    It is perverse because it proposes one immorality to counter another. It proposes collective punishment that does not distinguish between offender, victim and bystander. How can one opposed to untouchability on moral grounds support punishing innocent people?

    I think India will not act sufficiently till international pressure is put on it.

    I’ve pointed out the fallacy of this already. If it is not state policy, the only route is collective punishment, which is immoral.

    Besides India is not exactly a country that can be so pressured. The history of independent India is replete with instances where it has resisted pressure (in the face of sanctions) for this or that. Sanctions against India hurt the countries that impose the sanctions and that’s enough reason for them not to like it. Remember the post-Pokhran II sanctions?

    Besides, what are you talking about? Everybody, from the PM down, agrees that it needs to end.

    Why was the world then concerned about Aparthied? Why did they do something about it?

    Because apartheid was state policy. And it was an exception. The world didn’t bother about the official discrimination against blacks in America until the Americans themselves acted against it. The world didn’t bother when Mao Zedong starved and killed millions of Chinese. It didn’t bother when China, Pakistan, Indonesia etc used forced migrations to bring about a favourable demography. It does not impose sanctions on countries where women are officially discriminated against. It did not care when there was a genocide in Rwanda.

    No, you won’t find morality in the actions of the international community. But you’ll find it in the Indian constitution.

    A final note: to beat off a social evil you need to make common cause with all Indians who abhor that practice. Arguments like the one you have made just turn off people who might otherwise have agreed with you.

  7. rc Says:

    Untouchability has been abolished officially. It is not a phenomenon atleast in the urban areas.

    What has not been abolished is the adhoc policy of determining backwardness ? What has not been abolished is the desire for many groups to extend the “oppression script” to themselves ?

    Only real data can abolish these things and drive some sense into our policies.

    I know you have been claiming that caste must be abolished for a long time. However, you cannot put the cart in front of the horse like that. You are trying to jump straight to the dessert without having the meal. If you do that, you may smack your lips after the dessert, but will be hungry again in a few minutes.

    Aggregation of communities flies in the face of social justice. In order to administer a group treatment, we must first establish that the group is homogeneous.

    Disaggregation of both the SCs and OBCs are the key. For OBCs, there is an extra burden. Each caste that seeks to be a member of the OBC group must have real data to prove they are socially AND educationally backward (not the word AND, not OR).

    So, in short “data” is the biggest friend of social justice – the “lack of data” is the biggest enemy. N

  8. Polite Indian Says:

    Nitin,

    I see why someone can think of this as perverse but if you look at it in a way it is a collective crime. But I do see your point.

    Besides, what are you talking about? Everybody, from the PM down, agrees that it needs to end.

    I know everybody is talking but that’s about it. Nobody is doing anything as far as implementing any concrete policy or even monitoring the effectiveness of current policies. I guess they don’t feel enough heat to do it. I think international pressure would be one way to achieve the required push.
    Or else at some point dalits will have to take up arms to bring about the desired revolution.

    No, you won’t find morality in the actions of the international community. But you’ll find it in the Indian constitution.

    You don’t know that and you don’t even know my views on these topics so why make such statements? I think it was unnecessary.

    A final note: to beat off a social evil you need to make common cause with all Indians who abhor that practice. Arguments like the one you have made just turn off people who might otherwise have agreed with you.

    It is possible but you will not always hear what you like. In cases like these you are bound to get views that you might not agree with. What people can do is take whatever positive they can from any idea presented and counter the negatives instead of getting totally turned off. Communication is the key. Nobody makes perfect sense to everybody all the time.

  9. Polite Indian Says:

    rc,

    I have never doubted that data is the key. I agree with whatever you say but my main gripe is, if what you say is the right thing to do then why is it not being done? You can give me all the political answers about vote bank etc but all that just means that abolishing untouchability in the true sens is not on anybody’s mind or agenda. Why is that? Because there is not enough pressure to execute it. Internal pressures are not enough to get the right policies formulated. That is why I made the case for applying international pressure. And International pressure doesn’t necessarily means ugly sanctions.

    As for abolishing caste, I still believe that given the will, it can be achieved but I can’t see that happening for a long time to come.

  10. Nitin Says:

    No, you won’t find morality in the actions of the international community. But you’ll find it in the Indian constitution.

    You don’t know that and you don’t even know my views on these topics so why make such statements? I think it was unnecessary.

    Some misunderstanding here, I would presume. I’ve cited several instances where the action of the international community has been contrary to what morality would prescribe.

    Your views on the subject are implicit. You argue that international sanctions are necessary to achieve a moral objective, and that the Indian constitution itself cannot (even if it ‘talks’ about it).

    This is your argument.

    On your point about untouchability being a collective crime. Let’s assume for a moment that it is. Is collective punishment morally justified to penalise a collective crime? What’s the difference between punishment and retribution? Punishment is imposed from a higher moral ground. Otherwise it is just retribution; an offense to punish another offense.

  11. Nitin Says:

    (sorry for reposting, the formatting did not get through)

    No, you won’t find morality in the actions of the international community. But you’ll find it in the Indian constitution.

    You don’t know that and you don’t even know my views on these topics so why make such statements? I think it was unnecessary.

    Some misunderstanding here, I would presume. I’ve cited several instances where the action of the international community has been contrary to what morality would prescribe.

    Your views on the subject are implicit. You argue that international sanctions are necessary to achieve a moral objective, and that the Indian constitution itself cannot (even if it ‘talks’ about it).

    This is your argument.

    On your point about untouchability being a collective crime. Let’s assume for a moment that it is. Is collective punishment morally justified to penalise a collective crime? What’s the difference between punishment and retribution? Punishment is imposed from a higher moral ground. Otherwise it is just retribution; an offense to punish another offense.

  12. Polite Indian Says:

    Nitin,

    Yes definitely somemisunderstanding there. My bad.

    Maybe you are right in what you are saying but here is how I see it…

    There is a huge immoral issue of untouchability.
    Our constituion provides the safegaurds.
    There are IPC sections to safegaurd the rights of dalits.

    Whenever any nation faces a problem of this magnitude it is the responsibility of the nation to deal with it.

    So far so good.
    Even after all this there is no significant improvement in the condition of the dalits. Untouchability is still prevalent.
    Why? Because India as a nation is not serious in dealing with the issue.

    Now when the nation is not doing enough, what are the options? Of course we should continue working towards the goal and build momentum from inside but if that is not happening then should we not do anything? Is it wrong to appeal to the international community asking them to pressurise India to put the house in order?
    Now as you have pointed out the sactions might not work with India but I think the time when they didn’t work were different times. In this era of globalisation it might have a better chance of working.

    Regarding the morality of punishment, where does anyone derive this authority from? In case of a legal system it is provided by us collectively. If that is justified then why can’t it be that an international body, that has been formed by nations around the globe, be justified in imposing punishment to erring nations? It is not like one country is acting against another. It is a group of countries following a democratic process.

    My main frustration comes from the fact that nothing has been done in the last 60 years and looks like nothing will happen in the next 60 years. Even in the capital city untouchability is practised. Case in point is the Gaurav Apartments case.

    BTW, On moral grounds I totally understand what you are trying to say.
    Also because it is not a state policy, I am not even sure what will the international community ask India to do. It is like saying implement your laws properly and that may sound ridiculous.

    I guess I am just frustrated.

  13. Edward Says:

    Untouchability is far worse than aparthied as it is not enforced by the law, but by society’s norms.

  14. Herbesse Says:

    Will this make my Manmohan Singh stocks on trendio rise? http://www.trendio.com/word.php?language=en&wordid=151

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