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India is a place where people from different communities, religions live together. More than 80% (around 1 Billion) of country's total population (1.2 Billion) is of Hinduism religion. Our country has many good things but some drawbacks also. I want to speak on of most important drawback of the Indian society which is "people's caste based discrimination". I will speak in brief about this so that it will help to understand my problem.

In Hinduism, there is caste based system which is carried forward generations by generations from thousands of years. There are thousands (around 7000!) of "castes" present in the Indian society. People are divided into "upper caste" and "lower caste". Upper caste people have prestige, respect, power in the society. Lower caste is considered as contemn and treated with disrespect. Before independence (the year 1947) from British rule lower caste people were treated as slaves of the upper caste. After independence, some people have changed their behavior but most of the people are still stick to this caste based mentality. Not only this, both "upper caste" and "lower caste" people are again divided into sub-castes.

A person is identified according to his/her caste but not with his/her ability. Each person gives favors to his/her own caste people. I think the Caste system is totally dissolved in everyone's blood.

I am from a lower caste and work as an officer in one of government offices with more than 50 people. Here, some people are from my caste and other are from different castes. My co-workers give more importance to my caste than my working ability. It happens in mostly in every office. Many juniors work under my supervision.

  1. If I try to take action against any lazy, shirker junior person (I want to first of all clear that I don't discriminate people by his/her caste), that person pressurizes me from my seniors who are from his caste.

  2. Even some of my juniors who are from upper caste don't respect me as I am from a lower caste. They taunt regarding my caste.

  3. Few of juniors who are from my caste demands concessions in work, leave with pay and other unauthorized work by blackmailing me by saying that "we are from the same caste and we should "adjust" and "support" our caste people".

  4. There are other officers also equivalent to my post but from different castes. Here also caste-based behavior is there.

Note: Please try to understand that above cases 1 to 4 given above happens with me as I am from lower caste. These cases can be faced by upper caste officers as well but from " opposite " people.

This kind of racism politics, division based on caste taking place in most of the offices in India. I am fade of all such things.

So

A.what should be my behavior at my workplace? How should I respond to both my as well as other caste people?

Or

B.Should I leave them as it is and make a habit of bearing all such things?

Your thoughtful suggestions could be very useful for me in my entire professional as well as social life.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jane S May 11 '16 at 12:40
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    People in Eastern Europe also face a lot of corruption and unfair treatment from those "above them" (corrupt government officials and beaurocrats). The solution most find is simply moving out West. You speak English, and practice a well respected (in the West) career. Have you considered leaving all that crap behind and moving abroad? Because, realistically, the caste system is not going away any time soon. – AndreiROM May 13 '16 at 18:34
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    @AndreiROM you are giving a good suggestion of moving out from India to abroad. Many people have chosen this option. But my friends and relatives are here. Also,I have not enough money to shift to other country with my family. Another thing is that, it's like escapism. I am runawaying with my social problems. – devraj May 14 '16 at 5:49
  • @AndreiROM, Unfortunately, We cannot completely escape even we move out of India. I am working in Canada for some years and realize indian people are maintaining this caste system here as well. I can see the discrimination during annual appraisals, promotion etc. Wherever you are, an Indian seeing you as an Indian – NiceGuy Jun 13 at 15:19
58

Firstly, you have excellently written about the problems faced by a significant chunk of people in India.

Fortunately, I haven't faced any. But, my dad faced the same situations at his workplace early in his career. So, the following is from him:

  1. Tough it out: People keep pestering you at the beginning so that they can use you for getting things done. So, if you are managing a lazy person and needs to talk or act tough, go ahead and do it, keeping enough proofs with you. Display the proofs/evidence only if asked formally. Don't let the pressure get to you, nor allow them to think that you're taking the pressure bait. People try to intimidate you in the beginning, but they slowly stop abusing/pestering a tough person.
  2. Keep your cool: People who lose their cool quickly are targeted more as they can be easily blamed for being aggressive. It's not wrong, but it works against you most of the times.
  3. Move out if the environment is very toxic: If the seniors are also acting racist, then you have to look out for other options and move out whenever you get one, as the seniors(or your managers) are the only ones who can help you in these situations.
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    I know very little about the caste system, but I'm upvoting because this advice is very similar to what works best for gender discrimination. – Patricia Shanahan May 7 '16 at 15:41
  • @Patricia Shanahan if you want to know more about caste system,please visit the link – devraj May 8 '16 at 11:12
  • @Patricia caste based discrimination is more dangerous than gender discrimination. Because neither your own caste people nor other caste people are with you when you are in trouble. Whereas in gender discrimination, one will be supported at least by people of his/ her own gender without selfishness. – sagar May 10 '16 at 10:13
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    @sagar Caste based discrimination also affects all of a victim's relatives. Gender based discrimination only affects about half one's relatives. – Patricia Shanahan May 10 '16 at 13:59
  • I think this is very idealistic, yet unlikely to work out in favor of the OP'S best interests. – AndreiROM May 13 '16 at 18:31
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I'm a forward caste dude. And outside what I eat, and who I'd eventually potentially marry, it has no affect on the real world. I'm a semi practicing bramin. I'm pretty sure there's folks who're probably closer to their own dharma, or a better bramin than me by faith, not birth, and there's a few folks who give us a bad name, and don't even do the basics. Its nothing more than a label in most aspects of life, and a faded one to boot.

And well your issues have nothing to do with the caste system. Its plain old corruption and nepotism. Your workplace is toxic and these people use this as an excuse.

  • If I try to take action against any lazy, shirker junior person (I want to first of all clear that I don't discriminate people by his/her caste), that person pressurizes me from my seniors who are from his caste.

Its undo pressure that keeps you from doing your job. Treat it exactly as someone who would do it for a brother, cousin or child. If you can do it, do it anyway. If you have a superior who actually values the work you do, let him know this is happening

  • Even some of my juniors who are from upper caste don't respect me as I am from a lower caste. They taunt regarding my caste.

This is simply unacceptable. In most companies this should be reported to HR, or suitable authorities. I'd like to use a certain set of 3 4 letter words to describe this, but I'll settle for "This is unacceptable". If there isn't such a system, don't let them get to you. Be firm, let them know this is unacceptable politely, and don't loose your cool.

  • Few of juniors who are from my caste demands concessions in work, leave with pay and other unauthorized work by blackmailing me by saying that "we are from the same caste and we should "adjust" and "support" our caste people".

    "Brother - People don't respect us. You we need to show everyone else we can work hard. You know other juniors make fun of us? We need to earn respect by being the best we can be, and this wouldn't help at all"

One should not be below using things like this for good ;)

  • There are other officers also equivalent to my post but from different castes. Here also caste-based behavior is there.

Is this the only reason? Is seniority in play? Are there other factors? Any workplace where promotion is not by merit is a little toxic, and politics in most places tends to be more interpercial.

To close - the caste system is a relic of a long time ago, and used and abused by politicians and others for their own ends. Its the cause of many social ills and well, not always how you think it is. How bad it is really depends on the state, and unless you want to go into politics, its going to be a hard slog. There's nothing stopping you from creatively using these elements for good.

At the end of the day though, if its one man swimming against a tide of filth, it might be a better idea to consider getting a transfer to a more enlightened state. This sounds like one of the worse places to be.

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+50

It is a personal issue so most people would come up their own answer. For some it is the way things are and there is nothing you can do. For some others it might be better to try to work around it than to oppose it.

Although things in UK, from which I draw most of my experience are not even remotely so harsh as in India the issue still exists. (Note: a person wrote about exposing this to the world and if this should be kept as a family secret, well the whole world knows because Indians are everywhere and the cast system is maybe the second if not the first thing you learn about the culture. Cast system is more well known than Diwalli or Ganesha or Shiva, moving on).

My answer to your situation was the decision to work only for US based/international companies or for local ones that have specific safeguards against discrimination. Some of these have to do with if there are rules and time-lines or positions, promotions, career paths, etc. The hope is that if people move to companies that do not discriminate, these companies will perform better either because of talent allocation or because the employees are more motivated or even have something to prove. Eventually the ones that behave based on casts or something similar for other countries will be outperformed and they will stop doing business. If these do not operate where you live and work, move (bold statement)!

What you have do deal with in these environments is tick-boxing (how else can we ensure meritocracy?) and being treated as a case rather than a person (to ensure non-discrimination). There is also many times American-centrism on how the rules are being set (aka some of these might be very irrelevant to India) and enforced.

This is the "be the change you want to see in the world"/evolutionary/Darwinian approach. An alternative perspective is to deliberate on which point this "glass wall" becomes visible. I believe that a glass wall is exists in every country but in a different level: In the US you have to be very high in the organizational pyramid to experience, in UK/Europe an in other places you sense it in middle management, and in India, as you mentioned, seems to be everywhere.

  • I'm not sure how many police MNCs hire. – Myles May 18 '16 at 22:56
  • Good point, willing to express my opinion I somehow missed it. – Dimitrios Mistriotis May 19 '16 at 8:32
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If you don't want to confront caste issues head on, then the solution is simple.

Practice a profession that befits your caste.

Anything else in a caste system is confrontational, and that is something you'll need to recognise and deal with. You decided to become a policeman, it's unavoidable the situation you find yourself in.

While I believe things are slowly improving in India (or deteriorating, depending what viewpoint one has), I still think that in reality it is very much caste dominated, and anyone advising you to go against how society works is giving you bad advice. So do the best you can within the limitations of your caste. And take any issues that you can't handle to your superiors until you have the reputation and personal power to transcend the racism.

Favour your caste members where your morals allow you to, these people are the only ones that will stand up for you in a bad situation. If you have caste members in superior positions, befriend them and learn from them how to cope. Support those under you when you can.

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    A pragmatic answer, but realistically the best approach. A chilling reminder of how to get ahead in this world. – AndreiROM May 13 '16 at 18:30
  • @Kilisi but by favouring to my caste members, I am too going to support caste system. – devraj May 16 '16 at 11:36
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    @Kalisi then what will be difference between me and others ? By your suggestions, I'm myself going to do caste discrimination. – devraj May 16 '16 at 11:42
  • Until you have the personal power to step outside it, yes.... – Kilisi May 16 '16 at 11:52
  • Dont think of yourself as a slave... think of yourself as an unwilling volenteer. – IDrinkandIKnowThings May 16 '16 at 16:29
1

I'd agree that the caste system issues are unique to your locale, but being part of a group of people who are low on power and control, and often subject to discrimination from those with the majority of power is NOT. Yes, it's a cultural issue, but how can you change culture if you don't change it one small step at a time, in the workplace and outside of it?

So.. in the interest of providing some alternate options...

Draw inspiration

It's not a perfect analogue (not at all!) but take a look at labor movements around the world where underprivileged groups have gained control and power. Being a US citizen, my first go to would be color based integration initiatives, and then (recently) the formation of diversity groups in companies.

In most cases there's a need for:

  • Groups of the lower-class/caste individuals where they are able to network with each other, find collective answers and mentorship within the community
  • Development of advocates from outside the repressed community who can use their power to raise awareness and action
  • A challenge and analysis of when to assimilate vs. when to fight NOT to have to assimilate the behaviors, appearance and norms of the privileged group

None of this stuff moves fast, and it's usually necessary for real change to come from long effort by a well-organized collective. With that said, when a collective like this is available, or in the process of forming, individuals can often benefit from at least some aspects of the organization before the organization has had a society wide impact.

Given that you've gotten pressure within your caste, you may want to make sure that any organization like this is not aiming to unfairly elevate the pay or status of your caste, but is fighting for fairness for everyone.

Individual Action

I'd agree that tough it out, keep your cool and leaving toxic environments (if you've got a better option) are all acceptable individual options.

I'll throw a few others out there:

Work with Advocates from the Higher Caste

Look for people who don't agree with the system. See if you can get advocates above you in the company who are willing to help change the tone. Some companies offer mentorship programs where you may be able to get matched up with an advocate like this, in other places you may have to do it yourself by watching your superiors and seeing who isn't always comfortable with the status quo.

Your advocate can help advise you on good tricks for getting through your tough situations in a way that jives with your culture. They may also be able to speak up for your objectives and decisions in group contexts.

Ask questions:

Instead of arguing for what's right vs. wrong - ask questions. Get people thinking about why there should be written, common standards for things like performance and pay and why they should be consistently enforced. Then get those around you to question whether the high caste members are really performing to that mark.

It may not work quickly, but it's almost always better to get people thinking.

Pick your manager to the extent possible

I realize that this may not be reasonable - if every manager is biased, then you don't have an option of finding and unbiased manager.

But where possible, when interviewing, ask your manager some hypothetical questions and look for signs of bias against low-caste people. Be ware of anyone who says "we don't have those problems here" - since society-wide problems can be very hard to detect in oneself or others. But ask for an look for someone who you can speak with honestly (even if they aren't in your caste) and not be worried about negative reactions.

0

This is not a workplace/ office issue but the whole country's social issue. So I am not convinced by the answers that are given without taking into mind past of the Indian society.

In India ,it is said that home argues / issues should be composed within the home itself. As I am too an Indian and you have decided to open our society's problem in front of the international masses through forum like stackexchange forum , it seems me good as well as bad too. I think that International masses could be hardly unaware of it . I would like to share my real life experiences and observations .

The cases that you discussed in points 1 to 4 are not related only to your office but in the whole Indian society. So my opinion to you is that before finding any solution you should understand Indian community first.

Let's have some background about Indian society

  1. As per my knowledge ,India has never united as a country neither in its past nor in present because of this caste system. Please see how caste system was created.Here the base was to divide people and rule people. So people were divided among thousands of tribes/communities/castes. Each tribe thought about its "own" community benefits. As the people were divided among themselves, outsiders could easily attack on India and rule over India for hundreds of years. Sometimes the outsiders used one tribe against other tribe to win the land / region/ part of India . They used divide and rule policy to control the huge population of India.

  2. Yes,you said right that in ancient India there was a varna system present for thousands of years and it is present in the form of caste system .This verna system had many advantages for upper caste people in terms of political as well as social power,social prestige. So as per human mentality nobody tries to rejects things of benefits . So people try to keep things which are in favor of them and oppose things which are not in favor. Also, as this caste based system is supported by country's religion ,the bonds of this system became tighter and tighter on religious Indian society. The caste comes with your birth.

  3. Lower caste people were considered as slaves of upper castes. There job was housekeeping,servant or as a shit cleaner .They had no right to educate ,no right to do business or do farming. Whereas upper caste were capitalist,lenders ,big farmers. Here,I want to say that lower caste had always a low status in the Indian community. There was socially inequality among people of Indian community.

  4. There could be many reasons by which caste system is tried to be maintained as it in there country like keeping one illiterate,slavery,make use of religion's unethical principles. But I think the most important reason is the marriages which are done in only within caste. It is the main factor in Indian society through which caste system is maintained year after years because you get your caste from your parents and your children will get caste from you and so on.

  5. There are thousands of castes present in both upper as well as lower caste present in India .The very interesting point is that no person from one upper caste gives his daughter/son to son/daughter of other upper caste community. This things happens between 2 different lower caste communities too. And there is no question of marriages between upper caste and lower caste people. Few marriages are exceptions .Inter-caste marriage percentage is extremely extremely low compared marriages within the castes .

So what could be solution for your problem of concern?

  1. The cases that you discussed in points 1 to 4 are not related only to your office but in the whole Indian society. Please see some answers given to the question How can we end caste discrimination in India?

  2. The caste based discrimination mentality is there from thousands of years.So it will not get vanished from people's mind instantly .It will take some time.

  3. Government ,electronic and social media as well as renowned persons and celebrities should consistently and purposely try to demolish caste system from peoples mind.They should tell that caste system has more disadvantages than advantages. You should start with yourself.

  4. Also, keep in mind that ,there will be people who will never change their attitude . In this case, you should behave practically. Don't indulge in them too much. Always focus on your goals. In any case don't loose your temper. If it reaches out of your control complaint to higher authority directly. If this also doesn't work ,try to find new job .

At the end ,I just want to say that battle with thoughts is always better than battle by swords. In first one,at least you will get solution without any violence or killings.

  • I think it's good you opened it up, as it gives you folks some mirror and feedback as to how crazy your society is. – Rigolletto May 10 '16 at 7:36
  • @Rigolletto let's hope people of my country will change their mentality as early as possible. After all, it is said that, "no country is perfect . people of the country have to make it perfect". – sagar May 10 '16 at 9:00
  • When approaching a problem, I always wonder why the problem came about. Why was this system created in the first place? Surely someone sometime must have had reason of creating this system. Is it perhaps connected to poverty and overpopulation? – Rigolletto May 10 '16 at 9:02
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    @Rigolletto no. poverty or overpopulation were not the reason. I am adding one link where you can get relevant information .please see origin of caste system – sagar May 10 '16 at 9:28
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    @Rigolletto please have a look at different answers of the question how can we end caste discrimination in India – sagar May 13 '16 at 13:52
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If you can't take it, then you have 2 options. First is if you have financial security and alternative source of income, then fight back and bluntly say no to people of your caste asking for favor and convey that you don't believe in caste but merit.

Second option if you do not have financial security, then look for a job where people are valued based on their skillset, this is relatively easy if you are from IT. You can move into a high demand skill where people are evaluated based on their intellectual capacity.

I assume that you are young, you will get used to it Bitter reality of India is that we need to turn a blind eye and ignore with passiveness. Listen to everything, but don't yield. For taunts from other caste, do some Google search and you will be able to find casteist jokes for all castes. Reply taunt with equal taunt in a joking manner. Pretend as if you are trying to make the team laugh and get easy with your jokes. Pick your tone and pitch so that it does not appears that you are being rude, but instead funny. It works.

I have been in somewhat similar situation. I was taunted, bullied and harassed continuously for years by a senior and my manager for my religion and also because i am single, i was taunted for my marital status too. I absorbed everything as my parents are ageing and i had an unemployed brother whom i was supporting partially. I realized that it was his sheer professional rivalry that he couldn't express in any other way.

In my current job there are people of right wing affiliation. They might have hatred towards non-Hindus, but i do not bring politics/religion into discussion. If ever they bring in politics, i turn an yes man. I have lived in poverty and wasn't able to attain higher education. Making friendship even with those who hate you seems only solution for me.

I hope and pray you have a good life ahead!!

-2

This happens more or less everywhere. For example, in the US workers from ivy colleges will often get favoritism. In the UK public school boys and sons of nobility get all sorts of advantages and special treatment. In Germany better hope you are not African or Turkish. In Japan discrimination is a fine art and who your ancestors were 400 years ago affects whether you get hired and promoted. Wherever you go in the world you will find problems like this.

For a Hindu, the key thing to remember is that Brahma does not care about your caste, only about your devotion and conduct. The castes are that way because historically some castes were more devoted and pure than others. Of course, it is totally wrong to assume that just because a person comes from a caste that they have the purity of that caste. You cannot inherit purity. It is far better to be a pure and devoted kshatriya than a corrupt brahmin.

Your primary defense against a caste-based prejudice is to be pure and devoted, because if that is the case then you will be favored by Brahma over all the others, no matter what their caste is, and that is the only thing that is important.

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    Discrimination happens everywhere, but would Ivy League graduates refuse orders from their superiors who attended less prestigious colleges and get higher-ups to back them on it? I think we should be respectful of the particulars of the OP's situation. – Casey May 8 '16 at 13:00
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    @Socrates what are saying about in the 2nd and 3rd paragraph of your answer? I don't think it's related to my problem of concern. What is role/ aim of Brahma deviding people on the basis of caste or Varna? Can he unite the people now among themselves rather than unite within their caste.? Please give any practical solution to my question asked above. – devraj May 8 '16 at 17:58
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    @Casey : in the USA, I don't know, but in France, the Ivy league equivalent, the "grandes ecoles", has quite a few people who behave so, and who will refer only to people from a school at least as prestigious as theirs. Not all of them, fortunately. But no devotion will save you if you come from a lesser school, or, worse, from the university. – gazzz0x2z May 9 '16 at 9:22
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    I have certainly seen white men refuse to take orders from female supervisors or African-American ones. I have even been the female supervisor in question. I have seen people in those categories passed over for promotion specifically because we couldn't expect white men to work for them. – HLGEM May 10 '16 at 18:42
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    @HLGEM i've seen the exact opposite as well. Sorry, too many white men in the company (even though asian men are 200x as representated against population size). we need more POC, female, lgbtqa+, white males can keep moving! – hownowbrowncow May 10 '16 at 18:56

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