A Perspective of a French Scholar on Caste and Dangers ahead for Dalits


As Congress is organising ‘Quest for Equality’ conference on Dr Ambedkar and Dalits in Bangalore, Karnataka and many prominent guest speakers around the world are participating there is one veritable danger about the foreign speakers. Let me relate my own experience.

In 1997, when India turned half a century of independence, many foreign newspapers deputed their correspondents to India to probe and explore the progress the country as a free nation has made. I was visited by a French professor, whose name, regrettably I forget. But he represented most popular Daily newspaper Le Monde published from Paris. Originally he was a professor of political science at the University of Paris and took lien from the University to work for some time as a newsman.

His objective was to explore the Dalits in independent India. At Patna, I was writing a weekly column for The Hindustan Times. So the French journalist was guided to me by a TV journalist posted there for an interview.

We had a long discussion on caste problem, atrocities, discrimination, illiteracy, poverty, and backwardness, violation of human rights, Ranvir Sena and massacres of Dalits in Bihar, injustice, etc.

He told me that his understanding was that caste was on its last leg in India. In fact, he took me by surprise with this observation. I asked him, how he came to such a conclusion, which I found no ground to believe or for justification.

He told me that he has a number of books written by reputed scholars concluding to this effect that caste is dying out. And soon it would be a part of history.

He then brought out a number of excellent volumes on caste in the French language which I did not know or understand. I asked him to tell me who were the writers of those volumes? He told me that some of them were authored by French and others by Indians whose works were translated into French.

My direct question to him was, “Do they refer as a source on caste to Dr B R Ambedkar?”

His reply was short and surprising, “No. None.”

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I told him no discussion on caste in India can be complete – nay even imagined – without a thorough and diligent review and analysis of the works of Dr Ambedkar.

I also added that if Dr. Ambedkar has been avoided, we know the conclusion has to be what you say. The upper caste writers have a vested interest in a project abroad that caste has died out or on deathbed. Because with caste and the abominable atrocities, injustice, discrimination, the practice of untouchability, illiteracy and backwardness and blinding prejudice the Hindus would shame even savage animals.

I also forcefully told him that whether caste is dead or alive and kicking, only Dalit, who are the sufferers can testify, not those who belong to the oppressors or perpetrators of injustice, discrimination, and untouchability on the Dalits could pass the final verdict.

He was surprised. While the professor-journalist tried to draw a parallel between caste and apartheid in the US, I told him while the apartheid will die in few decades in the US, caste will never, ever die in India. Apartheid is man-made, and hence human intervention will end it. Caste has the sanction of Shastras and religion behind it and so upper caste Hindus will not brook human intervention or interference.

The upper castes are huge beneficiaries of caste. The underdogs suffered due to caste but have no way out of it for emancipation and liberation.

Author – A. K. Biswas

Hindutva organisations with the use of money and power are capable of spreading misinformation and same I have observed in the UK and Hungary that Hare Krishna groups are spreading Hindutva agenda. Till the time, Dalits don’t write and speak for themselves such things will continue. We need to come out and speak for ourselves. Every whisper, every word against Brahminism is the nail in the coffin of Brahminism. Come out and speak/write against oppression. Dalits can tell their own stories better than anyone else. – Editor

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