In rising, shining India, the great leap backward

Andre Beteille, professor emeritus of sociology at the Delhi School of Economics, in The Telegraph:

“Politics in India is coming to be driven increasingly by the competition for backwardness. The principal contenders in this competition are not individuals, households, or even classes, but castes and tribes. Even the religious minorities, whose proud forbears once ruled much of the land, are learning to recognize the advantages to be gained from being designated as backward.

“Sociologists of an earlier generation had drawn attention to the wide prevalence of ‘Sanskritization’, whereby a caste of middle or inferior social rank claimed a higher status by adopting the habits, practices and rites of the twice-born castes and calling themselves Kshatriyas or even Brahmins. Today, such castes are less eager to represent themselves as Brahmins and Kshatriyas than to claim that they are backward….

Read the full article: Tribes and castes