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

What Savarnas Fail To Understand About Casteism

More from Aishwarya Ghuge

How often have we heard that casteism no longer exists, at least, in the urban areas? In fact, this is what I thought too. Until the past few weeks in which I have tried to research on casteism in an unbiased manner. And now, as a much more informed and opinionated person, I can firmly tell you that casteism continues to exist: it exists in institutions, in offices, and at homes. The only difference is that this form of discrimination is extremely subtle, sophisticated, and so much a part of our upbringing that we fail even to realise that is it wrong in the first place.

For example, I study in one of the top colleges in Delhi University and people I know have told me firsthand that when they enter their class, they can see people from the lowered castes sitting on one side and those from the dominant castes on the other. Discrimination in institutions is exactly why institutional murders take place, and people like Rohith Vemula and Payal Tadvi lose their lives.

Now, before I proceed, there are a few things I would like to explain. Firstly, why do I use the terms ‘lowered’ and ‘dominant’ instead of the more commonly used, ‘lower’, ‘oppressed’, ‘upper’, etc.? I have come to realise that there is no ‘upper’ and ‘lower’. Caste status is something, we as a society are responsible for. It is us collectively who have ‘lowered’ certain castes and avarnas, and also us who have decided that some castes are ‘dominant’ with respect to others.

What Is Savarna And Avarna?

Image via Getty

Savarnas are people who fall within the caste system: in the four main castes of Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra. Avarnas are people who weren’t even given a place in the caste system. These are the outcasts and Dalits. Now, why the term ‘Dalit’ instead of ‘Harijan’? Harijan is the term Mahatma Gandhi conferred upon the Dalit community, and I think it is an absolutely hypocritical term. Firstly, it takes away their identity—an identity that we have reduced to menial work. Calling them ‘Children Of God’ is not going to change the fact that even after hundreds of years, they are being exploited and nothing has been done about it. Secondly, Dalit is the word the lowered community has taken for themselves. They refused to accept ‘Harijan and ‘untouchables’.

On Reservation

I am a supporter of reservation, and I have till date met only two kinds of people who do not support reservation. The first is the people who feel that ‘their’ seats are being taken away to give to others. To such people, I would like to say, on an approximate scale, the dominant castes of our country makes up 30% of the population and the lowered caste, the remaining 70%. And according to the Supreme Court, reservation should not exceed 50%. Now, this clearly means that when you compete for seats, you are doing so with people who have had the same kind of upbringing and a basic level of exposure in their lives. After all, we often fail to take into consideration whether a child goes home after school to tuition or whether he/she goes home to wash utensils for a living.

The second kind of people I have met is those who say that among the lowered caste, only those people avail reservation who already have financial security, and this is not fair. To these people, I would first like to ask: did reservation come into place for economic upliftment? No! The reservation was looked at as a means of uplifting the lowered community socially and culturally, and to undo the decades of historic oppression meted upon them. And these objectives have clearly not been achieved.

Image via Getty

Secondly, reservation is not for an individual, it is for the entire community, it is the only measure which leads to the representation of the lowered community in educational institutions. And most importantly, who are you to have a problem if a relatively well-off lowered community individual avails reservation? Did you even know that the cut-off lists for reserved category don’t even close half the time. This year itself, about 65% of the seats have been left unfilled for the reserved category in DU! And after all this, people want more division in the reservation system?!

What I want to say lastly is also probably the most important thing. What role do we, as Savarnas, have to play in this whole scenario? The problem is that we tend to behave in two manners. Firstly, without understanding the background and consequences, we oppose all the affirmative actions taken for the lowered community, hence, becoming a part of the problem. Secondly, we try to become saviors. We have to understand that we don’t need to ‘become’ their voices and shout out their message. All we need to do is shut up and step out of the way so that their voices can be heard on their own!

Another essential thing we need to realise is that privilege is not a bad thing; however, we need to call out our privileges if they start attacking other people. For example, it is not okay to use casteist slurs because you are a member of the dominant caste. In times like these, it becomes important to call out your privilege. Hence, casteism is very much prevalent in all walks of life, and it has to be fought collectively.

You must be to comment.

More from Aishwarya Ghuge

Similar Posts

By Ankush

By Sujeet Kumar

By Saras Jaiswal

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