Kumar has raised a vital question: what about the inhuman dignities, injustices and cruelty inflicted on the Dalits in India by the higher castes over 2000 years.

Ambassador Surendra Kumar has spent a life time in the Foreign Services but during his years of diplomacy, he did not forget the issues that afflicted the people at home. This is too clear from a short volume he has come out titled, Who Should Say Sorry for Two Millennia of Injustices?

He has been provoked to write this article by Shashi Tharoor’s demand during his Oxford Union speech that the British should apologise to India for the enormous wrongs they had done to India during the 200 years of the colonial rule.

Surendra Kumar has raised the vital question to his own country: what about the inhuman dignities, injustices and cruelty inflicted on the Dalits in India by the higher castes over 2000 years of its history?

“Should not they own up social, economic, political is provoked by Shas and psychological deprivation they deliberately and systematically caused to them?” he bluntly asks.

He is rightly angry about what wrongs the higher castes in India have done to the lower castes. “High castes of the Hindu society, on the other hand, treated their own countrymen so inhumanly for so long – for no fault of theirs!” Also, “over the years, they created numerous political, social and religious dictums to perpetuate the slavery and subjugation of the low castes forever. For centuries, the lower castes had no right to property, no right to education; their sole purpose in life was to serve the higher castes and without protest.”

The low castes were condemned to live at the outskirts of villages and cities. They were not allowed to draw water from the common wells, nor could they pray in the temples built by higher castes. He adds: “This exploitative system was made hereditary, generation after generation must live in these humiliating conditions on account of their birth in low caste families.  What kind of debilitating and degrading psychological inferiority complex might have been caused in the low castes by this?”

He points out that the constitutional guarantees and affirmative action and various developmental schemes have resulted in some improvement in economic and social conditions of the Dalits, but a lot remains to be done.

He quotes: “Former Home Minister Chidambaram, to point out, had once told Parliament that there were more than 13,500 registered cases of physical assault on the Dalits in India in a single year.  As hardly one out of four cases gets registered, the actual number of assaults might be as high as 50,000!”

Who should say sorry for the injustice done to the low castes in India during the last 2,000 years? “The Upper Castes” is the writer’s answer.

Surendra Kumar’s instinct is right but he has written only on this vital question in a single article and in a couple of others on related issues. He should have spent more time to go into greater depth in a book rather than just touching on serious faultlines of the Indian society and the injustice done to a vast number of people over hundreds of years. Instead, the writer has written an odd combination of articles ranging from Baba Ramdev to Arvind, Kejriwal to Dr B.R. Ambedkar and Swami Vivekanand and music maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar.

Surendra Kumar has been a civil servant and has raised some other questions as: why should there be an irresistible lure of “babudom”, reservsation-cum-meritocracy and the stupidity of cut-off marks which worries the parents and students across the country.

The writer has strangely added two satirical articles at the end. They are: “Oh For A Kiss…” and “Mere Sunder Sapna Toot Gaya…”

May be in a country where humour is drying up, he thought he should add a light touch to his book. Luckily, the right to laugh is optional!

H.K. Dua is a former editor, ambassador, Member of Parliament and Media Advisor to Prime Minister. He is now Advisor in Observer Research Foundation (ORF).


Replies to “Who should apologise for centuries of injustice in India?”

  1. Ambassador Kumar’s book thesis is completely flawed for the following reasons:

    1. From AD 1 thru AD 1000, India had nearly 40% of Global GDP. The wealth was on account of not just natural resources, but knowledge, sciences, technology, education and social-political-economic development.

    2. By all accounts (Megasthenes earlier, Fa Hien, Hieun T’sang), India had an egalitarian society. Brahmins did NOT have wealth NOR are their any accounts of “caste wars” if there were any oppressed sections.

    3. There were over 27 world class Universities in India with students from all over the world. One of them, Nalanda had over 40000 students from across the world & 4000 teachers in a variety of disciplines and had over 9 million texts in its library. Based on Teacher/Student ratios, diversity of subjects, innovation, research, intake methods and unique testing techniques, Nalanda would benchmark with the top 10 modern universities very favorably. Other universities of this period were: Takshila, Vikramshila, Odantapuri, Valabhi, Somapuri, Jagaddala, Pushpagir – to name the most prominent.

    4. Contrast this with accounts of British, French, Dutch traveler accounts of 16-17th Century. They talk of a non-existent middle class AND elite, very rich ruling & administrative class. This transformation from 7th century, 9th century and 11-12th century accounts to the 16-17th century happened due to Islamic colonization AND the policy of taxation that was deliberate in order to leave NO surplus with the working, labor and agriculture sectors.

    5. Hinduism DOES not have any concept of Caste. The caste interpretation came in from European colonizers who saw Indian society from a medieval European Feudal lens with strong segregation & exploitation of the Serf-Peasant working castes. To set the record right and to educate Ambassador Kumar, Hindu Dharma has:

    (a) Varna: One’s profession. This is selected in accordance with one’s nature, competence & skill; an outcome of #Karma
    (b) Jati: own & extended family.
    (c) Gotra: Genetic line, track ancestry, memory & promote healthy off-spring.

    Caste cannot explain why three people from say Kashyap Gotra can be a Temple Priest, A cobbler and A Soldier. However, ask any lay Hindu person, he will tell you at once the reason is on account of Varna, Jati and Gotra. In Hinduism, Karma & Sanskar (loosely Work & Nature) determined the movement of individuals, families and family groups in their movement up & down the socioeconomic planes. If a ruling King’s family became corrupted and degraded with power, they fell from grace. If a learned Brahmin’s progeny did not match the learning & knowledge levels, they lost students at their ashrams.

    Society was fluid and free-flowing and NOT rigid like European caste classes or like European Royalty marrying only other ‘Blue blooded’ royals.

    Ambassador Kumar seems to have written a book that reveals an utter lack of insight. I wonder what kind of work did he do during his years in Indian Foreign Service to represent Indian interests in foreign countries. It is like having soldiers in your armed forces who are happy to shoot their more dutiful comrades and who are willing to open the fortress gates to let the enemy troops in.

  2. What is the evidence? don’t tell me its written in some book. Millions of upper caste people got killed in conflicts. Did’nt lower caste guys supported invadors? Otherwise how could a handful kill millions without local sipport! A lot of things are written in books from Pushpak Viman to Indralok to Atom bombs. If you cite books then you must agree upon all that first.

  3. The landed Agrarian castes are the ones primarily responsible for all the terrible atrocities inflicted on the SC communities. In Tamil Nadu the Dravidianist parties that have come to political power are supported by the landed intermediate castes and the violence against SC people emanate from those groups. The term upper caste is loose and the group’s constituting the upper castes have to be identified

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