Battles for Equality in Hindu India
‘With telling detail and incisive argument, Manoj Mitta’s Caste Pride offers a fresh and penetrating addition to the literature on India’s caste system and on India’s remarkable effort to regulate and transform it.’ —MARC GALANTER, Author of Competing Equalities: Law and the Backward Classes in 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.