India as a nation is known to the world for its diversity, rich culture, divisions between rich and poor, and, more recently, the art of yoga. However, among all these aspects that characterize India, one reality that affects every Indian and many South Asians is caste. Caste is a social system operating in India that divides every person and the occupation they perform, where and how they live and are perceived by the society, by a person’s birth.
Generally, it is assumed that caste was a matter of the past that does not exist in India today. Yet as much as one wants to believe it, this remains untrue, as caste still adversely dominates the lives of various marginalized communities in India, especially lower-caste communities like the Dalits. While being born as upper-caste gives an individual social, economic, and political capital, birth as lower-caste deters an individual from accessing even fundamental human rights. Thus, the caste-based social system created by humans to determine that some communities enjoy privileges which remain intact only within and for these communities still structures every individual life in India. To keep this system intact, inhumane and brutal crimes are committed against the lower-castes, especially the Dalits and indigenous communities.
While there are constitutional provisions to protect these communities and increase their representation in the state and educational institutions, they remain dominated by the upper-castes communities. Dalits also resist the social domination practiced by the upper-castes; however, they often get more victimized in fighting for their rights and against caste dominance. But the struggles of Dalits are continuing despite the backlash.
The caste system is based on the premise of structural social inequality. Consequently, Dalits (formerly called “Untouchables”) are relegated to a status as inferior human beings and ostracized socially, politically, and economically. This is not just a South Asian phenomenon—it affects approximately 260 million people worldwide. Experiences of caste-based discrimination among South Asian migrants in the UK, Europe, and North America have increasingly become the subject of public discussion as more and more Dalits assert themselves.
The month of April is celebrated as Dalit History Month in honour of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, a dedicated human rights activist and founding father of modern India. To mark the occasion, South Asian Scholars and Activists Solidarity (SASAS Germany) in cooperation with the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung is organizing a lecture series that aims to underline the various dimensions related to Caste and Dalits. Five Dalit and anti-caste scholars and activists from India will be invited to share their research and thoughts on caste in an effort to foster discussion about the ongoing Dalit struggle and their discourses.
All of the discussions will be held as online seminars in English with optional German translation. Preregistration is necessary.
Caste and Caste-Based Sexual Violence
with Rupali Bansode
9 April, 18:00 CET
Dalit Women’s Activism and Their Influence on the Policy Process
with Swati Kamble
12 April, 18:00 CET
Dalit Christianity as a Path for Self-Determination: Contemporary Perspectives
with Christina Dhanaraj
16 April, 18:00 CET
The Queer in Ambedkar
with Aroh Akunth
21 April, 18:00 CET
In Their Own Terms, for Their Own Sake: The Deep Vernacular History of Casteless Indians
with Gajendran Ayyathurai
30 April, 18:00 CET