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Travails of Caste in the Corporate Sector
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The Guilty Warrior

After a long hiatus, I am writing something. I work in the Indian Corporate Sector in a fairly decent global multinational corporation (MNC). I work at a leadership level. This sector is supposed to be of people of integrity, secularism, respect for other cultures, diversity etc.

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It all sounds good on Paper. But how real is this? Once you see the inside of most of the organisations, you will find they are full of caste hatred, religious hatred etc. Let me share some specific examples at my own workplace for this.

1. Every year on the 1st of January 2018, several people mostly from Scheduled Caste (SCs) Communities, and also Scheduled Tribes (STs), Other Backward Classes(OBCs) and other religious minorities come and pay reverence at Bhima Koregaon, Pune, to commemorate the War of Bhima Koregaon. This year, i.e 2018, there was large-scale stone pelting, violence on people peacefully congregating at the memorial. Their vehicles were also burnt. I myself was a witness to it. However, at my workplace and at most workplaces, there would not have been any discussions going around on this.[1]

2. On the 2nd of January 2018, there was a Maharashtra Bandh called by followers of Dr. Ambedkar as a mark of protest. The protests till afternoon were primarily peaceful. However, after lunchtime, there were some incidents of violence in some areas. Many have alleged that these were done by elements who had infiltrated the ranks of the protesters and were out to malign the protests.[2]

3. There were instant forward messages in many Whatsapp, Facebook groups about the violence going on. There were comments made like “These drunkards have nothing else to do”, “How much more Reservation they need”, “They have no respect for Public Property”, etc, while conveniently forgetting what happened in the past few days.

4. In one of the corporate organisations, the security department was discussing how to manage the Bandh and the subject line of the email was “Jai Bhim Violence”. There has been violence by many other people in recent history and the one which comes to mind prominently is the Mumbai riots in the 90s. But nowhere was that violence called as Ram Mandir violence or Jai Shri Ram violence. So what makes people working in corporates to normalize such terms? Isn’t that caste discrimination running through their veins?

Now, this is a clear way of racializing entire communities. This is an old way to break the confidence and self-esteem of a community (SCs especially) that has faced discrimination of the worst sort in human history.

Another example is the recent furor over the Hindi movie Padmavat directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, before its release. There have been many protests going on against the movie, primarily by the Rajput community which claims that Queen Padmavati has been shown in a derogatory manner in the film.[1], [2]

While I am not going into the merits/demerits of the issue, I would like to show the stark difference in the behavior of people in the corporate sector while dealing with it. There have been several cases of violence during the protests. Most of them in states like Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, which by sheer coincidence are also ruled by the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP). But there was no word spoken by my office colleagues on the violence. I asked one colleague about his views on the same and he just brushed it off saying “It’s their issue”. But none have condemned the violence.

The question arises again: why would the same set of people who were so vocal on the issue of Bhima Koregaon be so quiet on the violence around Padmavat?

There are several other instances that we have seen in the corporate sector. They may have all policies of Diversity & Inclusion etc., but when it comes to living it, they fail miserably as the monster of caste overpowers them. Be it lunchtime discussions or even casual discussions, it goes that way. If your own ideology is of Ambedkar, then it becomes doubly worse. Jokes are targeted at you, sarcastic comments are passed. Even the work that you do is scrutinized with every failure doubly highlighted.

In this scenario, I have some practical tips as well that might be useful, based on my experience.

1. Be ready to accept the fact that once your ideology is known, you might have to have lunch/food alone in your office cafeteria. Do not feel guilty about it.

2. You and the community will be made to feel like a victim on various occasions. Be ready to isolate yourself from this. This is a trap. They will lash out at Reservations/Caste at every opportunity.

3. So avoid sharing your personal story with anyone, unless you are 100% sure of the person.

4. If you are in a global organisation, there will always be a Helpline and Code of Conduct/Business Principles guide in place. If anyone is sharing casteist/sexist jokes, do not hesitate to say you are not comfortable with that. If these offensive actions increase, do not feel shy to write to their Global helpline. Trust me, this is taken seriously in most organisations. Keep soft copies of all legal provisions in the Constitution, Labour Laws related to harassment as that will provide strong evidence to support your claims.

6. Most organisations do a background verification before any new employee joins them. This screening includes a criminal check. Once you are cleared in that, they should not ask for any historical data from you. If they do ask later, ask them to send you an official email stating reasons for what/why they need it.

 7. If anyone still passes a casteist remark, record it on email/phone and file a case under the SC/ST (Prevention of Attrocities) Act.

 “Ours is a battle not for wealth; nor for power, ours is a battle for freedom; for reclamation of human personality.” Dr.B.R.Ambedkar

Jai Bhim, Jai Phule!

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 References

 1. https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/day-before-padmaavats-release-high-alert-at-cinemas-in-3-states-1803980

2. http://indianexpress.com/article/india/padmavati-protests-turn-violent-karni-sena-members-vandalise-cinema-hall-in-kota-sanjay-leela-bhansali-deepika-padukone/
The Guilty Warrior is a follower of Phule-Ambedkar philosophy working in the Corporate Sector in India.

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 Cartoon by Unnamati Syama Sundar.

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