Joseph Cotto, 6/16/2015 [Archive]

Past the Left-Right Divide, Real Issues Persist

By Joseph Cotto

Here in the United States, we tend to make much ado about nothing, losing perspective of what is truly a hardship in the world.

Other than genuinely pressing matters such as an outsourced economy and catastrophic immigration policy, our politics revolve around purely social topics, like gay marriage or abortion rights.

This is not so in every corner of the globe. There are real injustices in countless societies, even ones as successful as India.

Yogesh Varhade is president of the Ambedkar Centre for Justice and Peace. He and his organization fight tirelessly for the interests of those stuck at the bottom of India's ages-old caste system.

While every country does have a class structure of some kind, the sort that has prevailed in India is unique. According to ancient tradition, those born into a certain caste are mandated to remain in it for life. This designation has nothing to do with race, ethnicity or even religious differentiation. It is a social construct that has endured well into the modern day, preventing untold millions from looking up at the stars, let alone reaching for them.

The politics Varhade discussed with me have nothing to do with left or right. Rather, they are the stuff of life trapped in oppression and violence. A particularly brutal story was of a young man who fell in love with an upper-caste woman. He asked for her hand in marriage, and an assailant hacked him to death along with two others.

"Nowhere in the world [are] such brutalities seen for loving somebody as in India due to (the) caste system and practice of untouchability," Varhade said.

Said brutalities are not limited to murder, however. In April of 2013, as the Indian Express reported, a ten-year-old girl was sexually assaulted by an upper-caste man. After reporting the crime, she was incarcerated for one night. The horrid nature of his crime brought attention to the strife of Dalits, or untouchables, who are members of India's longstanding underclass., Nonetheless, Varhade mentioned that "the high caste rape poor Dalit girls and many times get away with it".

So, how does a system like this perpetuate itself?

"Even though the laws are good to protect Dalits or Scheduled Caste[s] and Tribes," Varhade explained, "the corruption and political power defeats it.

"STEP ONE: When high caste Hindus cannot tolerate the low caste living a better life or [having a] good education due to [an] affirmative action programme, they commit an atrocity. When a Dalit goes to register the complaint against perpetrator, police take bribes from the culprit and refuse to register the atrocity.

"STEP TWO: When pressure mounts, police register a complaint....with a lot of loopholes so that when the culprit goes before the court after 3-6 years systematic delay to destroy the witness and constant threatening, he can get no punishment due, to a lack of clear proof.

"STEP THREE: It is also common that with the filing of a complaint by the victim, the culprit also files one to accuse the victim (like stealing or killing a chicken as a false complaint) and the police get bribed. Plus caste prejudice tries to punish the victim faster than the culprit with a false police report.

"Because of this, the National Crime Bureau of India (NCBI) states that 95 percent (of) criminals committing even rapes and murders go scott free."

Now this, obviously, is real corruption, as well as the violation of basic human rights.

So often, we hear about some assault rifle owner claiming his or her liberty is at risk because of potential background checks. Likewise, when the power of personal merit exceeds that of political correctness, many reflexively blame foul play. A great many earnestly believe that their personal freedom is on the line due to an imminent Armageddon of some kind.

Perhaps if more knew about what goes on across the world, they would then realize that their fears are not reasonable, but petty. After all, how many of us born-and-raised Americans even know about a caste system, let alone understand what it is like to live in one?

I rest my case.


Copyright 2015 Joseph Cotto, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Joseph Cotto is a historical and social journalist, and writes about politics, economics and social issues. Email him at

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