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

I Was Told Alwar Was Free Of Caste Inequality. My Experience Showed The Opposite

More from ISDM

By Arpit Jain, student of PGP in Development Leadership at ISDM:

(Here, Arpit shares his experiences and reflections from his district immersion in Alwar, Rajasthan, as part of the ‘Realising India’ programme.)

I have seen women face opposition for being assertive, outspoken or blunt. I have also seen them beinfg casually asked to tone down (whereas the same qualities in a man may be judged as conviction and strength). Britain’s Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon obviously defy this expectation – and in return, their ‘legs’ are put on display for a ‘best-leg’ vote.

Subtle discrimination normalised by society’s description of women is so insidious that even women find it hard to identify it. As part of a rural immersion programme in Alwar district, I spent two weeks trying to deepen my understanding of social constructs like gender, caste, class and religion.

The women in the villages wake up early in the morning, fetch water, look after all the household activities, and work (often more than men) in the fields. In many instances, I saw young girls and ladies walk away whenever an elder person entered the room. Women often did not enjoy any decision-making rights, let alone living with equal dignity and respect.

Thanaghazi, a village in Alwar, has a dominant population from the Meena tribe. On my bus-ride to this village, several people told me that the Meenas from Alwar were very affluent and occupied several prominent positions in the legislature and the executive. They claimed that caste-based inequality was pretty much absent in Alwar.

However, on reached the village, we were completely aghast by the contradiction between what we were informed and what we saw. We figured out that this affluence was more localised to only a few households of the village. Some of the villages, which had adequate infrastructure and good connectivity, had lifted themselves out of poverty. The others which were far away from the highways and roads, had very poor accessibility to water, health and education services.

A poor Meena from Thanaghazi told us how tired he was of making new cards and linking them to avail governmental services. He did not have a below poverty line (BPL) card yet, and mentioned how corrupt the system to avail a BPL card is. Often, people from the middle and the lower middle classes and impoverished people don’t have this card, as their poverty renders them incapable of paying a ‘fee’ to the surveyor. Caste and class often have a strong correlation – and the Meenas are far from being prosperous legislators and executives only.

I was walking down the many streets of Revali, a village in the industrial region of Alwar district. Both the Dalits and the members of the village’s upper castes told us that they lived in utmost peace and harmony. But, they also said that the Dalits never ate or drank with the members of the upper castes. The Dalits even went on to express their discomfort with the very idea of eating with an upper-caste member of the village.

While trying to map Revali, we found that there was a definitive spatial caste-based divide. There is a separate area for the Dalits called the ‘Harijan basti‘. There, I saw open drains, flies, unclothed kids playing in very unhygienic conditions, open defecation and poorly-constructed pucca houses. This caste-based divide was visible in all the villages of Alwar that I visited over two weeks. For me, these experiences spoke immensely about the normalisation and internalisation of discrimination.

The Muslims of Alampur (a Muslim-majority village in Alwar) derive their major source of income from cattle rearing. I saw chicken, goats and buffaloes in one of the household yards. I asked the family elder why there were no cows. He said that cows give less milk, and are also valued at a lower price than buffaloes. On being asked if any household at Alampur had cows, the elder just responded by saying – “Why would anyone take a risk when there are so many other animals to get milk from?” Clearly, monetary preference was not the only reason this Alampur household had only buffaloes.

Franklin Roosevelt spoke about the four freedoms of an ideal nation state – freedom of worship, expression, freedom from want, and from fear. Clearly, a systemic and a cultural shift is necessary to climb the developmental ladders, especially when it comes to social constructs like caste, class, gender and religion.

Most of the times, these subtle differences and normalised methods of discrimination exist in the society. The legitimisation of such socially-perpetrated norms and values can sometimes become larger concerns than the more overt forms of discrimination, because they can travel generations.

Freedom of choice and expression are often the ‘defences’ used by people to demand ‘respect’ for their private (often bigoted) beliefs or feelings. This allows them to discriminate against whoever they want. They might even argue that to deny them the right to act like bigots is itself bigoted. However, it should be noted that a law that prohibits people from discriminating against others, based on religion, sexual orientation or caste, does not prevent the perpetrators from holding their bigoted views.

Workplace scientists advise managers that one way of limiting subtle biases is to label ‘covert’ discrimination as ‘overt’. Although discrimination is often accepted as ‘normal’ (for whatever reason), the Constitution does not sanction it. Shouldn’t we work within our value systems and guard ourselves against parts of the Constitution continually being used to justify direct and indirect discrimination?


Featured image used for representative purposes only.

Featured image source: Manoj Kumar/ Hindustan Times via Getty Images
You must be to comment.

More from ISDM

Similar Posts

By Imran Khan

By utkarsh tiwari

By Aishwarya Kr

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