Despite being officially outlawed by the Indian constitution, the caste system is alive and well in India. According to Neeta Lal, writing in The Diplomat:
40 percent of the schools across sample districts in Uttar Pradesh — India’s most populous state, with 199 million people — teachers and students refuse to partake of government-sponsored free midday meals because they are cooked by dalits (once known as untouchables).
I should probably steer clear of writing about the caste system. I don’t know the first thing about it, really.
Is caste a form of apartheid? Slavery? In the US, slavery was not always racially based. It was economically based – poor Europeans, blacks, and Native Americans were all treated as slaves (or indentured servants) in colonial times. White European indentured servants could gain their freedom after a time; blacks could buy their way out of slavery.
Only after Bacon’s Rebellion (in 1676) did the ruling class begin to wise up and eventually harden the racial caste of slavery in the United States…giving rise to an attitude of “I might be low on the totem pole, but at least I’m not as low as you.”
Look, there is no black and white – no easy right and wrong – in this case. But taken independently and out of full context, the idea that 40% of people from one of the poorer states in India (Uttar Pradesh) would refuse to eat perfectly good food simply because it was polluted by SC cooks…that just seems crazy to me.
Hat tip (for the Dipolmat article) to Hanna Ingber Win (via Twitter).