‘We drink in our caste with our mother’s milk’

Apropos the news about “Dalit Christians” being barred entry into an “upper caste” Church in a village in Tamil Nadu, Jaithirth Rao writes in The Indian Express:

“From Abbe Dubois to M.N. Srinivas, we have had many analysts and scholars studying caste. Its persistence in our so-called modernising society remains a puzzle to many. Clearly, caste goes much beyond the Hindoo religious fold.

“My friend Richard Pon Arul considers his Nadar identity more important than his Roman Catholic one; the same goes with Steven Pinto who refers all the time to his being a Saraswat; and Mathew Jose, the upper crust Syrian Christian that he is, has maintained that he comes from one of six Namboodri families that befriended the apostle St Thomas.

“Even egalitarian Moslems are not exempt. The Ashrafs, who claim descent from Middle Eastern immigrants, contend that they are superior to indigenous converts and frown on inter-marriage. Some 40 years ago in Madras, my friend Shahul Hamid explained to me that Labbai Moslems will not inter-marry with those of Deccani descent.

“The noted historian, Fr. John Afonse-Correia, once said to me, “In India we drink in our caste with our mother’s milk”.

Read the full article: Caste by another name