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July 13, 2003

Caste & quotas

Poor Brahmins want quotas too! One thing the article does not mention is that caste is so complex that it might be hard to generalize from the region in question that is highlighted, Rajasthan, to the rest of India. To make it simple, there is only one upper caste in most of the southern half of India, Brahmins, and they form less than 5% (around 1-2% normally) of the population everywhere. In contrast, in the north, which is where this article is focused, Brahmins can form as much as 10% of the population, and adding other twice-born castes, who do not exist in the south, upper castes can form as much as 30-40% of the population [1]. The last census with caste was taken in 1931, so we draw much of our data from that period-though the current census has resumed the practice.

I am curious what Madhoo and Suman think about this-though it would be nice to have a lower caste opinion too!

Update: Pinko-brown guy Tejas corrects me, they decided against registering caste in the recent census.

[1] A very simplistic summary, Brahmins, Kshatriyas & Vaisyas are upper-castes, or twice-born. Sudras form the lower caste, while Dalits are outcastes. Of course, each of these broad groupings has more relevant sub-levels of organization, most importantly, jatis. And, these categories were traditionally more fluid before the British began taking regular surveys in the 19th century. Government recognition and affirmative action have crystallized the divisions and barriers between groups. The book Castes of Mind is an excellent overview of the issues at hand.

Posted by razib at 09:33 PM

Razib :

The Office of the Registrar General of India decided against caste-based enumeration in the 2001 census. The Asia Times article you linked to was written exactly a week before the census began, which was the 28th of February. Of course, data on the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes has been collected in every single census, though other castes are excluded from this exercise.

Here's an article written at a later date, in the mouth-piece of the Communist Party of India :


Posted by: king kong at July 14, 2003 12:01 AM

Andre Beteille on Caste and colonial rule :


Posted by: king kong at July 14, 2003 12:36 AM