How prejudice rooted in an historical social system has migrated from India to Canada


When Gurpreet Singh packed his luggage final fall and arrived in Ontario from India, he quickly realized there was one factor some fellow Indians in Canada hadn’t left behind of their residence nation — their prejudices.

The human useful resource administration scholar at Durham Faculty in Oshawa, Ont., mentioned he’s seen as an outcast within the historical South Asian social construction often known as the caste system, however faces extra discrimination from Indians in Canada than he did in India.

“I’ve been right here for roughly 5 months and I’ve confronted it in a far more aggressive or aggravated kind on this nation from my very own Punjabi neighborhood,” Singh mentioned. “They beat their chest with satisfaction that they arrive from this caste or that caste.” 

India is a major supply of immigrants to Canada. It is also an enormous pipeline for worldwide college students each to Canada and the US, and a few universities are paying attention to considerations round discrimination based mostly on caste.

California State College, the most important four-year public college system within the U.S., particularly added caste to its non-discrimination insurance policies in January. In Ottawa, the educational employees affiliation at Carleton College handed a movement in November to incorporate caste-based discrimination in its insurance policies.

In November, the Carleton College Tutorial Employees Affiliation handed a movement calling for caste discrimination to be added to its anti-discrimination insurance policies. (Danny Globerman/CBC)

Singh recalled a dialog with an acquaintance in Oshawa that shocked him after she used a casteist slur to handle him.

“I confronted her that you just’d be behind bars if you happen to had been in India proper now … The lady who uttered that phrase acted as if she did not know something, why it is offensive, and many others.,” Singh mentioned. “To place it in her mind within the best potential means, I equated the phrase with the N-word.”

He mentioned it was “unusual” that she knew the N-word was a slur for Black folks, “however even after residing in India for 23 years, she had no thought, or not less than pretended to do not know, concerning the factor she simply mentioned so casually.”

The Hindu caste system divides folks into 4 sub-communities based mostly on ancestry — Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras — and the caste of an individual can typically be recognized by their final title. The 4 major castes are additional divided into 3,000 castes and 25,000 sub-castes.

The caste custom transcends faith. Many Indians with Hindu lineage whose ancestors adopted Sikhism or Christianity retained their final names, and their caste designations.

Singh belongs to a scheduled caste, members of that are also referred to as Dalits. In keeping with the caste system, scheduled castes are outcasts and don’t belong to the social order.

Singh mentioned he has been requested for his full title as a way to determine his caste. (Submitted by Gurpreet Singh)

In keeping with the 2011 census, scheduled castes made up for 16.2 per cent of the Indian inhabitants. From 2018 to 2020, India’s Nationwide Crime Information Bureau recorded 50,202 registered instances of crimes or “atrocities” towards scheduled castes. Activists from the neighborhood have lengthy fought towards caste oppression.

Singh’s final title was initially Badhan, which indicated his caste. He stopped utilizing it, even on official paperwork, however he mentioned in Canada he is been requested for his full title so folks may determine his neighborhood.

“I’ve needed to conceal my id a variety of instances,” Singh mentioned. “I needed to lie twice. I advised them I come from the Jatt neighborhood and my surname is one thing else as a result of I felt that I is likely to be remoted, and nobody desires to really feel that means when you’re so far-off from residence.”

Casteism could cause hurt

Chinnaiah Jangam, an affiliate professor within the division of historical past at Carleton College and an advocate for the rights of individuals from scheduled castes, believes casteism can harm immigrants long run.

“A scholar or an worker coming from these backgrounds won’t really feel comfy to specific their very own id and so they will not really feel comfy being themselves,” mentioned Jangam, who’s the creator of Dalits and the making of contemporary India and spearheaded the push so as to add caste to the anti-discrimination insurance policies of Carleton’s educational affiliation.

Meera Estrada, the Toronto co-host of the popular culture present kultur’D on World Information radio, was born in Canada however mentioned she was conscious she was a Dalit since childhood. She typically hid her id as a result of different folks of Indian background regarded down on her neighborhood.

She recalled going to Gujarati language lessons and folks asking what samaj, or neighborhood, she belonged to. “And other people had been fairly proud in saying which group they belong to, however it was at all times the Brahmin group or the so-called higher caste,” Estrada mentioned.

India handed a regulation in 1955 to abolish “untouchability,” a time period as soon as used to explain the apply of ostracizing scheduled castes. However Estrada believes the social stigma towards Dalits stays, one thing that grew to become extra obvious to her in her 20s.

“Aunties in mandirs [temples] attempting to play matchmakers would at all times say, ‘Oh, it is a good boy from a superb household.’ The implication there was that he’s from a better caste, and I might simply really feel like if that’s the equal of excellent, who am I? Am I not good?”

Brahmin-only group

One non-public matchmaking Fb group, the Samast Brahman Society of Canada, has 4,100 members. The group’s description says its “objective is to unite all Brahmins beneath one roof whereas they will serve in all different Brahmin organizations.” 

Its administrator, Jagruti Bhatt, mentioned in an interview in Gujarati that the Fb group solely accepts members of the Brahmin caste, though she later added that every one castes are allowed at occasions organized by the group.

“We solely enable Brahmins to enter the group. Totally different organizations exist to handle completely different communities. Likewise, ours is just for one explicit caste,” Bhatt mentioned. She shunned commenting on accusations casteism is promoted by her group.

Estrada mentioned it is “fairly disgusting” that such teams exist. “Think about, for instance, it was a whites-only sort of factor. I virtually do not even see the distinction there,” she mentioned.

Sailaja Krishnamurti, affiliate professor of non secular research and girls and gender research at Saint Mary’s College in Halifax, mentioned the impression of such networks is regarding.

“It is a well-known, well-established actuality that individuals typically use their neighborhood and household networks to assist get employment as they’re migrating. So, that may have a direct impression on what occurs by way of entry to employment,” she mentioned.

It is lengthy been predicted that with migration, caste would attain past South Asia.

Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, an Indian jurist who would chair the committee that drafted the Indian structure, warned in 1916 that caste may doubtlessly grow to be a worldwide difficulty. He was against the idea of untouchability and burned a replica of the Manusmriti, an historical Hindu regulation e-book.

“If Hindus migrate to different areas on earth, Indian caste would grow to be a world drawback,” Ambedkar wrote in his thesis Castes in India.


Replace, Could 19, 2022: A earlier model of this story didn’t specify that the Samast Brahman Society of Canada Fb group is non-public. CBC Information didn’t view the contents of the Fb group however interviewed the administrator. This story has been up to date. 



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