Casteism In India: We Don’t Give Birth To A Child, But To Surnames

This article isn’t to breed hatred among people, rather, my focus is to provide a clear picture of what is actually happening.

The opinion on, or solution to, any problem lies in the way we see it. I think reservation is a subjective matter, and one’s personal perspective plays a crucial role in understanding the subject. People favoring it have their own set of perceptions, and the people against it have their own. We find various views regarding reservation, various thoughts, and various suggestions. But, are we really ready to give up reservation?

Representational image. Ravi Chaudhary/Hindustan Times via Getty Images.

Let’s just not recall history, and not remind ourselves of the fact that casteism had been a curse to people not falling under the Swarna category or people from Dalit communities. But wait! If we are really done with casteism, then why do we still use ‘Swarna’ which translates to ‘gold’ and ‘Dalit‘ which is supposed to mean ‘broken’? So, if we are not willing to shut our eyes over what’s happening in our beloved nation, we might see that casteism is still a thing, a really big thing!

Reservation was implemented for a reason and we all know it. So let’s just save some time, and move directly into the present scenario.

  1. Does one compare because an SC/ST student attends the same school and they manage to crack an exam, although they have supposedly scored less?
  2. The demand is to provide reservation on an economic basis, since casteism does not prevail?

So, in India, we don’t give birth to a child, rather, we give birth to a Sharma, Gupta, Thakur, Bhatia, Rajpoot, Rana, Jaswal, Bhardwaj, and so on. This should not be a problem unless the last name becomes an identity.

I mean, have you ever felt you are being judged based on your last name?  The answer to this will help me know which section of society you belong to. Because, a person who does not belong to the Swarna category, no matter how high a position they hold, has for sure felt this at least once.

You don’t believe me? Ok, for one second, let us believe that casteism is the past and not in the present. Then, why aren’t inter-caste marriages more common? Suggest an answer, cultural barriers? We all belong to the same religion, so yes, we share a common culture and just to be clear, ‘culture’ in India varies from place to place. So yes, two families of the same caste might have different cultures, agreed? No? Then probably you don’t want to believe that casteism is still a thing.

In that case, the best I can do is to talk about the example of a temple being cleaned after the President’s, Ramnath Kovind, visit. Or maybe, I can tell you the fact that the names of caste are used to cuss, to belittle the fellow friend. Or maybe, I should refer to the fact that the words ‘Churas‘ and ‘Chamars‘ are often used to show disgust by the ‘blue-blooded’ or the Swarnas. Is that enough to make you believe casteism still prevails?

Now talking about cut-offs, I won’t go into numbers and try to tell you only 15% of seats are for SCs and 7.5% for STs. And yes, the student studying in your class might have got admission on lesser marks, but, here’s a thing. If not for reservation, do you think that these ‘Not-Swarna’ people might have ever gotten access to education? Ok, I know that didn’t satisfy you, So, here’s another explanation.

No matter, I repeat, no matter, how high a person is posted, they are always, and always, judged on the basis of their caste and, maybe if not to their face, are cussed at for their caste at their back. And, it might have never come into your notice, but Indians have this very unique and special soft corner for the person who belongs to their caste.

So yes, if you don’t provide reservation at the job level, then those who don’t belong to so-called privileged castes won’t be hired, basic fact check. And….. you.. don’t agree with me, right? Because you are a person of the present generation, you don’t think casteism prevails.

Now your mind would be like, what kind of an absurd writer is he? Does he not know that it was a different time and now the time has changed? If your mind though the above statement, trust me I’m damn sure you’ve skipped my whole set of examples and incidents that would have helped you understand the fact that casteism is still at peak.

Regarding the economic basis, maybe you’re again ignorant of the fact that it’s easy to get a fake income certificate, and those from certain castes will be left behind because, hey, if an interviewer is Swarna, they will most probably select a Swarna. Now, I know exceptions are there. Good people are all around and these good people are the ones who support inter-caste marriage. But ask yourself, will you be allowed to have an inter-caste marriage?

Featured image for representation only.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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