Do caste names propagate the caste divide?
#1
http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/article596313.ece
http://shunya.net/Text/Blog/OnCastePrivilege.htm

The first of the two links talks primarily about caste names, and the second one which is also about caste, mentions caste names. I would like to discuss the effects of caste names in our society.

1) While it is obvious that in Indian villages, caste names play a huge role in segregating people socially, what about Indian cities?

2) I certainly don't think that everyone with a caste name is casteist. However, does it play an unintended role that the person with the name does not realize?

3) Are caste names prevalent across *all* castes? I have the impression, that only people from upper castes tend to have caste suffixes or surnames. If caste names are confined only to upper castes, then isn't the caste name primarily a way to show caste pride and superiority?

NOTE: I know that there may be a lot of disagreements here, and passions may run high, but please keep in mind that we are only discussing civilly here, and we will not tolerate personal attacks. Consider refreshing your memory of the Code of Conduct for these forums.
Aditya Manthramurthy
Web Administrator & Associate Editor
Nirmukta.com
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#2
[yes]
"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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#3
(03-Oct-2010, 12:58 PM)donatello Wrote: http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/article596313.ece
http://shunya.net/Text/Blog/OnCastePrivilege.htm

The first of the two links talks primarily about caste names, and the second one which is also about caste, mentions caste names. I would like to discuss the effects of caste names in our society.

1) While it is obvious that in Indian villages, caste names play a huge role in segregating people socially, what about Indian cities?

2) I certainly don't think that everyone with a caste name is casteist. However, does it play an unintended role that the person with the name does not realize?

3) Are caste names prevalent across *all* castes? I have the impression, that only people from upper castes tend to have caste suffixes or surnames. If caste names are confined only to upper castes, then isn't the caste name primarily a way to show caste pride and superiority?

NOTE: I know that there may be a lot of disagreements here, and passions may run high, but please keep in mind that we are only discussing civilly here, and we will not tolerate personal attacks. Consider refreshing your memory of the Code of Conduct for these forums.

1) Up until recently, I used to believe that caste names were something that came into consideration only in villages. However a recent event made me dispute my own belief. While I was having lunch with one of my newest office members and happened to order non-veg, he mentioned that people of my caste were not supposed to be eating non-veg and asked me why I was breaking the norm. He must have come to know my caste only by my surname and had already made some assumptions about me! I asked these questions to others and soon found out that almost everyone at my workplace seemed to know each other’s caste. So Caste names definitely play a huge role in segregating people socially even in Indian cities

2) All of us are given names by birth. Most of the people carry their family surnames or their father’s name as a part of their Full name. Carrying forward a family name is kind of a sentiment and breaking that sentiment can lead to a lot of alienation. Till people stop associating caste with names, we are definitely guilty of promoting our caste through our names. This is of course why most of us choose to reply in Forums with non-descript names as we think that others will assume that our names have something to do with our ideas/thoughts.

3) Most of the people who debate for the caste system are from the supposedly better castes. So they use it primarily to show caste pride and superiority. Others are just left with a burden which they can never be relieved of.
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#4
Yes. It is quite easy to determine a person's caste by their name. That is one reason why I don't give out my last name unless it is absolutely necessary.
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#5
(03-Oct-2010, 06:45 PM)Lije Wrote: Yes. It is quite easy to determine a person's caste by their name. That is one reason why I don't give out my last name unless it is absolutely necessary.

This is a dicey issue. We may get rid of 'surnames' or 'last names' but often due to cultural reasons, castes can be discerned from first-names as well! So the long-term solution is to defang all names rather than merely truncate them. Last names are common in America but they are simply strings to be spelt rather than surreptitious declarations of ancestral professions. A grown-up society will know better than to read too much into last names. During intermediate stages in this process of growing-up, last names maybe useful for one reason: to convey that the accident of birth that led to a certain name being affixed on us does not in any way prevent us from being freethinkers. There is too much real work to do in freethought promotion, than to get entangled in a mess of red-tape, affidavits and announcements to truncate names.
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#6
Yes, in general they do.
I was brought up without the word caste ever being mentioned at home, so I cannot recognise caste names. I'm learning more as the caste debate rages on in India.
What about the tribals? Are their children taught about caste?


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#7
Removing caste names is a good step, but removing the socio-economic and socio-political barriers that exist between castes would be a better step to remove caste divide forever.

On another note, in fact, it would be interesting to see as inter-caste marriages grow in number, as to how such "caste names" can continue to be valid. IMHO in the future, if inter-caste marriages are encouraged more and arranged/caste marriages are discouraged or banned altogether in our society, we would definitely see the caste barriers seriously weakened.

Finally, the fight against the caste divide has to take the form of a broad social initiative on a mass basis. Mere isolated individual actions like persons removing their caste from their surname cannot really help the caste situation as caste is a socio-economic and socio-political question.

In reality, the socio-economic and socio-political barriers between castes are a bigger worry than just caste surnames. I see reservations and other economic actions as a positive step in this direction as they help in reducing the socio-economic and socio-political divide among castes to different extents based on different circumstances.
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#8
yes i strongly believe in this .caste names propagate the caste divide.
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#9
Ha
Even the recruiters in IT offices use this caste names to do favour. What is that we can expect from a caste ridden society for ages ?
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#10
I just saw that Sanjay Kumar posted a nice article on facebook about how there is a new generation of Indians who are casting off their caste-ridden surnames.
http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/unca...48626.html

Full article follows:

Quote:Crossing caste lines, they cast off surnames

New Delhi, July 10 (IANS) Upon entering the cold room and extending the formal niceties, Reshma, 30, introduces herself to her prospective employer. A pregnant pause and a puzzled look later she’s asked the indispensable question - ‘Reshma what’? That she doesn’t have a surname always has the same effect on people-a long reluctant silence.

In a nation where identity comes in a rigid two column template, where a mandatory surname box greets you in documents, where everyone inherits a last name if not a fortune, not having a surname is considered the greatest of all misfortunes.

But there’s a niche tribe which is happily shunning the excess baggage and sticking to strict first-name basis-in order to set a precedent for a casteless society or just to sound cool.

Or for no peculiar reason as is the case with Reshma, a PR professional. When she decided to get rid of her Rajput identity five years back, she knew it won’t be a cakewalk and a crash course in deep breathing will come in handy.

“It’s very difficult for people to digest that someone cannot have a surname. I have to do it day in and out, explain that I’m just Reshma and if they are trying to figure out my pedigree, they won’t get anywhere,” Reshma, who migrated to Delhi from the freshly carved out Jharkhand in 2001, told IANS.

While on one hand the caste census has become a living reality, in a symbolic move 100 people on April 14 (Ambedkar Jayanti) gave up their last names in an event organised by the NGO Swaraj in Delhi.

“Everyone gave up their surnames and took up caste neutral names like Swaraj or Hindustani. Our idea is to create a casteless society,” said Sambit, who heads the NGO which works for Dalit upliftment.

While many would dismiss the concept of a casteless society as a utopian idea, Bharat Bhushan, who has done away with the Sharma in his name and adopted a Bharatiya, is optimistic.

“Earlier, people used to address me as Sharmaji or Panditji knowing that I was a Brahmin. It doesn’t happen anymore. I feel more proud of my identity this way,” said Bharat, who own an advertising agency.

Ask him what prompted him to take the extreme step and he does a little flashback. “I am from Uttar Pradesh and I’ve seen caste politics from very close. No one decides which family you are born to, it’s unfair to be in an advantageous position just because of your second name.”

However, sociology professor Satish Deshpande believes there’s more to the act than just the token dropping of the surname.

“Mere dropping a surname is a very small thing if you remain conscious of your caste, you also have to give up the privileges… otherwise it doesn’t make a difference.”

“Talk of a casteless society has to be serious. There’s a lot of humbug that is going in its name,” the Delhi School of Economics professor told IANS.

However, 25-year-old Manish Sawarkar is unperturbed. He believes the act is the stepping stone to an ideal society, though it hasn’t been a smooth ride for him after he parted with the Mishra in his name.

“Some of my relatives were not very happy with my decision…there were taunts that I had disrespected my community. But thankfully my parents were very supportive,” said Manish, who recently completed his masters from Delhi University.

While the likes of Manish have very consciously alienated themselves from their caste identities, there are some like Arunima who by default grew up without a last name.

“Most people of my generation from Bihar grew up without a surname because our parents thought better of it due to all the Mandal Commission things happening.”

Though she has not faced any startling awkward situation due the singularity of her name, she had her share of problems while getting government work done.

“Getting the passport, visa made was a big pain. At immigration, they check my documents twice. My London School of Economics (LSE) degree even has my name written twice - Arunima Arunima - since they had to write something in the extra space,” she says.

Apart from deciding whether you will worship Ram or Christ, one other thing that fate seals at the very birth in India is how much reservation you can claim at the important junctures of life- thanks to your caste.

Add to that the cosy relationship it shares with politics, and the idea of a casteless society sounds farfetched. But as E.M. Forster once said, “Ideas are fatal to caste.”

(Mohita Nagpal can be contacted at mohita.n@ians.in)
"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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#11
Quote:New Delhi, July 10 (IANS) Upon entering the cold room and extending the formal niceties, Reshma, 30, introduces herself to her prospective employer. A pregnant pause and a puzzled look later she’s asked the indispensable question - ‘Reshma what’?

I myself have faced such question because I don't use my cast title as surname but last word of my name. Now I don't face such questions anymore. Generally people either don't dare to ask this question or if they do, I don't answer it. However I've faced this caste-ist mentality when I applied for my passport (though it save me from some trouble). The police officer who came for the verification was a brahmin and was a very rude old man. He had already kept one person in waiting for the same since last two hours and was going through my application and documents where he observed "Sharma" as my father's last name. Suddenly his behavior was changed, he asked "Oh! you are brahmin, good". And he sent OK in the report of verification.

There were other cases in schooldays when some teachers (specially upper cast) use to ask the surname to students who had dropped the surname from their names. Questions like
- Kaa Naam hai? (what is your name?)
- Amit Kumar
- Amit Kumar kaa? chamaar? dusaadh? ahir? laaj aata hai baap ka naam lagaane me? (Amit Kumar what? chamaar? dusaadh? ahir (these are some dalit castes)? Are you ashamed of your your father's name (caste)?

Yes, dropping surname does not solve the problem as the caste can still be identified by your father's name or some other way. But I am certain that my son's caste name won't be that easy to identify.
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#12
(04-Oct-2010, 09:50 PM)arvindiyer Wrote: Last names are common in America but they are simply strings to be spelt rather than surreptitious declarations of ancestral professions.

I have often wondered at the modern disconnect between European trade names and the surnames that they inspired (Taylor, Weaver etc). I agree that such a situation is ideal. But there are a few complicating factors in the Indian context. Of course I am aware that Arvind's comment above was made in a more general context, but I'd like to compare the American/European situation to the Indian context a little more closely, to see what I can learn.

1. In Europe it was never that much of a demeaning thing to be someone who worked with his/her hands, especially in skilled trades such as the above. In fact, these families were usually proud of associating their family name with a particular trade. Even today in America manual labour is not looked down upon to the extent it is in India. I have worked as a waiter in American restaurants and the biggest assholes I had to wait on were always the wealthy Indians (the only exceptions are Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Sri Lankans- telling, ain't it?), many of whom are conditioned from birth to see those doing manual work as inferior to themselves (in contrast, Americans are almost always extremely polite and friendly to those who wait on them, treating them like actual human beings). But I digress.
2. The Caste system has additional baggage other than the work background, that contributes to the social stigma and conscious/sub-conscious discrimination associated with these names. The caste system is not just about what you do, but also about who you are. The belief system hinges on alleged inherent (genetic?) traits supposedly characteristic to the various castes. So even if in India the prejudice associated with certain 'honest' professions can be discounted, the caste system itself could remain robust. But, of course, the value in dissociating caste and the type of work one does cannot be overstressed, as with the value in ridding the prejudice associated with respectable work involving manual labour.
"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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