Saturday, March 4, 2006

THE OTHER INDIA

This week, President Bush was right to talk about 300 million Indians who are approaching middle class earning and spending capacity, people who have interest in Amercian-made technology and products. But the President did not care to mention the fact that there are another 330 million Indian people who are not only living in abject poverty, but who are considered beyond caste, untouchables, Dalits (meaning, in Hindi, "crushed," "stepped on," "oppressed.") or Harijans (a well-intended designation given by Mahatma Gandhi, meaning "people of God"). To compare America to India as somehow co-equal in the exercise of democracy and justice, and to not even acknowlege the fact that 330 million Indian people continue to be utterly left behind and disregarded by a middle class clamoring for a place in the secular economic sun, is, at best, insensitive and dishonest. Dalits are discriminated against routinely and openly in Indian society. It is as if the American leader just overlooked a third of India's population who are treated and regarded worse than African-Americans prior to the Civil Rights movement. The history of American democracy and integrity of leadership calls for something better than this dismal representation.

Read about oppression against the Dalits in India.

5 comments:

  1. India, since independence, criminalized practice of untouchability, and took many actions for the welfare of dalits.
    Now:
    · 25 percent of the elected members of the govt, from regional level to national level, are dalits.
    · 25 percent of the government jobholders--at all levels from starter to top level, are dalits. In fact, constitution of India is written by a dalit.
    There are few regions, where discrimination based on caste still exists; we have a long way to go in rectifying historic blunders. In a democratic society, social engineering is not possible; changing hearts and minds is slow.
    Comparing dalits to african americans in USA is in-correct, dalits are undistinguishable from non-dalits in India, where as african americans are of different (distinguishable) races, So intense discrimination is not possible.
    Are African Americans on par with white Americans, how many black senators are in American senete? african american representation in elected bodies, govt jobs, or private jobs, is far less than their percentage.

    Certainly, India’s middle class dishonestly ignores it’s poor. However, class is not same as caste, anymore.

    Indians and Americans are thousands of miles apart geographically, in civic sense, in standards of living—yet in practice of democracy, in the power to change their rulers, in having fundamental freedoms they are co-equals.

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  2. May God bless India as it, as you say, rectifies historic blunders. May hearts and minds change in India...and also in America. My point is that American leadership is whitewashing the real situation for the sake of selling to the American public what it thinks is an advantageous economic pact with India. To speak opportunistically of 300 million upwardly mobile people in a democratic India and not mention 330 million Dalits and the desperation of their daily existence is, in American and Christian terms, insensitive and dishonest. That's not what we count on from those in our nation's highest offices. Our worldview is not defined by business opportunity and free market economy; our worldview is based on deeper principles of human freedom and dignity.

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  3. Crazy Barrone6:35 AM

    America does things in our self interest and not because we have this great big love for democracy. Bush's Democracy pronouncements make me sick. If true Democracy prevailed, than Al Gore would have made the trip to India. And probable several years earlier.

    Dalits are treated like scum in India that is something that an economy smoking at 8% growth can probably rectify with in another 10 years. India remains a poor nation and no amount if wise ass sentiments (like yours) can change cultures or create prosperity. On the other hand a prosperous economy can solve a lot of these problems.

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  4. It's been my observation (9 visits to India) that caste discrimination DOES still exist (pulihora's coments). My friends in India tell me that one can identify caste even by last name, which then still contributes (at least to some degree) how that person is treated. Has that been your experience Pulihora? Perhaps I misunderstood your comment. There's a long article about India in Newsweek ... link on my blog: ericspangler.typepad.com. Here's a quote: "The country might have several Silicon Valleys, but it also has three Nigerias within it, more than 300 million people living on less than a dollar a day. India is home to 40 percent of the world's poor and has the world's second largest HIV population." I'd suggest that these issues are as much spiritual as they are socio-economic.

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