This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Allika Naresh. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

‘Bhaiya, What Is Your Caste?’

More from Allika Naresh

By Allika Naresh:

Nobody can talk about rural India without bringing caste into the conversation. Everyone has some perspective on caste. Caste in rural India is far more prevalent compared to urban areas. People have been following this system since ancient times. In this article I’m going to share my experiences of caste and region in rural Rajasthan.

I come from a village. Facing challenges regarding caste was not something new to me. Yet, it turned out to be much more in case of Rajasthan. I worked in Sujangarh, Churu district in Rajasthan in July, 2015 as a Gandhi fellow. Rajasthan is very different culturally from where I come. Everything from food habits to language is very different.

On the first day of my fellowship I decided to face challenges even though I didn’t know the language. After some days, the leader of our program assigned schools for us to work in. On the first day of my work, I went to the school I was assigned and tried to converse with the teachers. I began by introducing my name and where I come from.

The first question they asked me was about which caste I belonged to. I was shocked. Teachers, who are entrusted with the role of educating children were asking about my caste. I did not tell them. After ten minutes, I went to interact with students studying in class V. They were very funny and I enjoyed a lot.

There was one girl in class V who didn’t like touching my hand while we were playing. After a few days I got to know that she believed that my touch would make her skin as dark as mine. It made me laugh.  Teachers need to work on the thinking of the students or else they will not change. I proceeded to class III to interact with the students. In the middle of class, one student asked me, “Bhaiyya (I had asked them to call me as bhaiyya and not guruji), aap ka jaat kya hai?” It translates to, “Elder brother, what is your caste?” I was shocked again. When teachers, students and people enquired about my caste, I felt embarrassed. I faced these experiences on the first day itself.

After some days I got accustomed to facing this question. Everyone I mingled with in Sujangarh block was curious to know about my caste. It made me understand that caste matters a lot here. In rural Rajasthan, every person you talk to will invite you for tea and food but the hospitality you receive will be based on your caste.

In one of the schools I used to go, the students sit according to their caste. Brahmins will sit in the first row, Rajput and Jats in the subsequent ones. Students lower down the caste hierarchy sit even further behind. After a few days I discussed this with the teachers and tried a lot to change this practice. Sometimes I planned certain activities, but all students did not  participate. Higher-caste students pointed out that they should not be playing with lower-caste students. There was nothing left to say. I tried a lot to change their thinking about caste, but in vain. If society around them is practising such things how can they leave such practices.

I didn’t just face questions related to my caste but also faced challenges because of where I come from. I stayed in one village as part of village immersion. During the time in the village, we had to arrange food for ourselves. It meant that we had to request the people from the village to provide food for us. I ate many times in the houses of Dalits and people belonging to backward castes. The youth in the village used to ask me differences between where I come from (South India) and North India. They had certain negative notions regarding South India.

We are considered impure as we consume non-vegetarian food. I clarified a lot things. On one fine day, they questioned, “Bhai, you are from Hyderabad. There are many Muslims in that area. Do you like PakistanIf there is a match between Pakistan and India, which team will you support?” These questions struck me hard. I didn’t know how to confront such prejudice. The questions are still ringing in my mind. Like these, I faced many challenges related to caste and religion. Throughout my work, I never revealed my caste to anyone except my house owner. I don’t know when such prejudices will be erased from the minds of  people. I hope the day comes soon.


 Image Source: ganuullu/ Flickr
You must be to comment.
  1. Rakeysh Roy

    Naresh you feeling of groud reality is very true. and also a reality of not only Rajashtan, but many parts of our counrty, i am thankfull to you, that you shared your life experiances here, so that many people can get introduces from this reality, but naw adays i have positive feeling regarding castism, and people are not dicriminating eachother on larege scale like untouchablity or any cases like that. they are accepting and sharing their common paltform, with some lavel of castism, i think in comming decades all individual will on the same lavel without castims preferences. wait and watch.
    thanks again for sharing your valuable life experiances.

More from Allika Naresh

Similar Posts

By Rishabh Kumar Mishra

By Ajay Amitabh Suman

By Afzal Rabbani

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below