Coming Out As Dalit: Relooking the Caste Question



Title: Coming Out As Dalit

Author: Yashica Dutt

Publisher: Aleph Book Company

Genre: Non-fiction


The question of caste-based reservation has always plagued India and has been a matter of debate among the middle class youth beginning in the 1990s when a young boy self-immolated himself to protest against the Mandal Commission. I myself have been a part of many such debates regarding caste-based reservation considering the hassle that I had to go through regarding my college admissions last year itself.

My favourite professor, in a class of comparative literature, had told us that literature is about hearing the silences. And that is what made me pick up Coming Out As Dalit. A graduate from Columbia School of Journalism and an established journalist, Yashica Dutt is all that I aspire to be. As a person who’s staunchly against caste-based reservation in educational institutions after a level, to me, this book was about unlearning.

The book is autobiographical in nature and talks about the family background of the author beginning with how her grandfather was forced to come down from his horse on his wedding day for being low caste. Yashica makes a shocking revelation when she talks about how she hid her caste and hence identity throughout her life, even in a metropolitan city like Delhi, right till she reached the US. I have always wondered why Dalits are so sensitive about their caste when I can’t care any less about mine or any others’. This memoir has made me realize how the past plays a role in shaping one’s personality.

However, certain things I could not settle with was the way in which she justified caste-based reservation. Her family was pure since her father was an alcoholic. Her mother was a victim of domestic abuse but could never speak up. What I failed to realize is what these factors have got to do with caste. This could have been any family in any place in the world. Yashica did not deserve reservation because she came from a certain community. She deserved it because she was poor. The fact remains that over 60% of Dalits in this country are below poverty line. So, wouldn’t an economic reservation be more justified and inclusive?

I have seen something in this one year of college that I have never seen in the 14 years of my school- students sneering at each other because of their caste- not because of belonging to an apparently lower caste but because of getting admission in college with marks as low as 30-40 just because of reservations. The caste-based reservation, I believe, solidifies the differences between communities and will never let us rise above the caste system which Ambedkar had wanted to abolish.

Instead of fighting for reservations, why don’t we fight together for the annihilation of this rotten caste system together?

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