August 30, 2008
From the New York Times comes an interesting story about how the market liberalization of India is benefiting the lower castes, who have been spat on for countless generations.
When Chandra Bhan Prasad visits his ancestral village in these feudal badlands of northern India, he dispenses the following advice to his fellow untouchables: Get rid of your cattle, because the care of animals demands children’s labor. Invest in your children’s education instead of in jewelry or land. Cities are good for Dalit outcastes like us, and so is India’s new capitalism.
He has the zeal of an ideological convert: he used to be a Maoist revolutionary who, by his own admission, dressed badly, carried a pistol and recruited his people to kill their upper-caste landlords. He claims to have failed in that mission.
Mr. Prasad is a contrarian. He calls government welfare programs patronizing. He dismisses the countryside as a cesspool. Affirmative action is fine, in his view, but only to advance a small slice into the middle class, who can then act as role models. He calls English “the Dalit goddess,” able to liberate Dalits.
Along with India’s economic policies, once grounded in socialist ideals, Mr. Prasad has moved to the right. He is openly and mischievously contemptuous of leftists. “They have a hatred for those who are happy,” he said.
For the rest of the article, not to be accused of being pro-market, the New York Times reporter endeavors to prove that Mr. Prasad is completely full of shit.
From across India still come reports of brutality against untouchables trying to transcend their destiny.
It is a measure of the hardships of rural India that so many Dalits in recent years are migrating to cities for back-breaking, often unregulated jobs, and that those who remain in their villages consider sharecropping a step up from day labor.
Blah blah. Less of you, more of the plucky Prasad, who would probably feel right at home on the ASC forums.