'India obsessed with lower castes’

CHENNAI: There is an obsession with so-called lower castes while resolving caste issues, which has given them a "hyper visibility", whereas the so-called upper castes are relatively "invisible", observed eminent sociologist Satish Deshpande. 

Delivering the annual Malcolm Adiseshiah Memorial Lecture here on Wednesday, Deshpande cited an internet joke which became popular when reservations were introduced for the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) six years ago. It reads: "India decides to send a space exploration team to the moon. Feverish negotiations begin immediately on the composition of the team, and after much haggling it is decided to include nine OBCs, six SCs, three STs, and if there is any place left, two astronauts." 

Prof Deshpande said the import of the joke was that the caste of the astronauts was known without being told but it was irrelevant in the face of their qualifications, while simultaneously agreeing that though the "quota-wallahs" too would presumably have qualifications, these are irrelevant in the face of their caste. The lower caste identity is engraved as their only means of improving their situation in life to the extent that it overwrites all their other identities, he explained. 

Deshpande received an award for distinguished contributions to development studies.


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