South Asian Studies Council: “Caste Pride - Battles for equality in Hindu India”

Event time: 
Monday, October 30, 2023 - 4:30pm
Henry R. Luce Hall, Room 202 See map
34 Hillhouse Avenue
New Haven, CT 06520
Event description: 

South Asian Studies Council presents Manoj Mitta, Delhi-based journalist focusing on law, human rights and social justice and Steven Wilkinson, Nilekani Professor of India and South Asian Studies and Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at Yale University:

“Caste Pride - Battles for equality in Hindu India.”

In this masterful work, Manoj Mitta examines the endurance and violence of the Hindu caste system through the lens of the law. Linking two centuries of legal reform with social movements, he unearths the characters, speeches, confusions and decisions that have shaped the war on caste, mitigating how this ancient institution discriminated between Hindus across the board. Where they could live, how they could dress, whether they could go to a shop, a stream, walk a street or mingle, enter a temple, whom and how they could marry, which scriptures applied to whom, whether their actions, innocent or criminal, would attract punishment or impunity.

Describing brilliantly the passage of Hinduism into its modern avatar, the book celebrates women and men across the caste spectrum—pioneers Savitribai Phule, M.C. Rajah, R. Veerian, B.R. Ambedkar, Periyar, Vithalbhai Patel and others—and outside of the caste system, such as non-Hindu legislators and administrators, including Maneckji Dadabhoy, William Bentinck and Lord Willingdon. It re-examines the positions of leading lights such as Motilal Nehru, Thomas Munro, Mahatma Gandhi and C. Rajagopalachari, and shows why caste prejudice cleaves to names like Madan Mohan Malviya and Surendra Nath Banerjea.

Through these histories of reform, Mitta establishes that untouchability is merely the best-known aspect of varna, an elusive purity-based hierarchy that affects the freedoms of all. With ground-breaking discoveries and incisive insight, Caste Pride is at once moving, enlightening and transformative.

Manoj Mitta is a Delhi-based journalist focusing on law, human rights and social justice. A law graduate from Hyderabad, he has worked with the Times of India, the Indian Express and India Today. Mitta has written two critically acclaimed books on impunity for mass violence: When a Tree Shook Delhi: The 1984 Carnage and Its Aftermath, co-authored with H.S. Phoolka (2007), and The Fiction of Fact-finding: Modi and Godhra (2014). His article on caste was published in 2007 in Writing a Nation: An Anthology of Indian Journalism, edited by Nirmala Lakshman.

Steven I. Wilkinson is Nilekani Professor of India and South Asian Studies and Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at Yale University, where he is also Henry R. Luce Director of the Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies. In addition he serves as Vice Provost for Global Strategy. From 2021-22, he served as Acting Dean of Social Science. Before coming to Yale, he taught at the University of Chicago and at Duke University. He has worked on political conflict in India, and his first book on that topic, Votes and Violence (Cambridge, 2004), won the 2005 Woodrow Wilson Award for the best book on Politics, Government and International Affairs. He is also interested in corruption in politics, and co-edited the book Patrons, Clients or Politics: Patterns of Political Accountability and Competition (Cambridge, 2007) with Herbert Kitschelt. His most recent book is Army and Nation, which came out in January 2015 from Harvard University Press (Permanent Black in South Asia), and examines India’s success in managing the imbalanced colonial army it inherited in 1947. He is currently working with Saumitra Jha (Stanford GSB) on a book on War and Political Change, and with Sushant Singh (CPR) on a new book on India’s changing defence structure.

He is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Open to: 
General Public