The Persistence of Caste  -  The Khairlanji Murders and India’s Hidden Apartheid

The Persistence of Caste - The Khairlanji Murders and India’s Hidden Apartheid

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Author: Anand Teltumbde
Publisher: Navayana
Year: 2010
Language: English
Pages: 192
ISBN/UPC (if available): 9788189059286


While the caste system has been formally abolished under the Indian Constitution, according to official statistics, every eighteen minutes a crime is committed on a dalit. The gouging out of eyes, the hacking off of limbs and being burned alive or stoned to death are routine in the atrocities perpetrated against India's 170 million dalits. What drives people to commit such inhuman crimes?

The Persistence of Caste uses the shocking case of Khairlanji, the brutal murder of four members of a dalit family in 2006, to explode the myth that caste no longer matters. Analyzing context and crime, it seeks to locate this event in the political economy of the development process India has followed after Independence.

Teltumbde demonstrates how caste has shown amazing resilience – surviving feudalism, capitalist industrialization and a republican Constitution – to still be alive and well today, despite all denial, under neoliberal globalization.


Anand Teltumbde’s analysis of the public, ritualistic massacre of a dalit family in 21st century India exposes the gangrenous heart of our society. It contextualizes the massacre and describes the manner in which the social, political and state machinery, the police, the mass media and the judiciary all collude to first create the climate for such bestiality, and then cover it up. This is not a book about the last days of relict feudalism, but a book about what modernity means in India. It discusses one of the most important issues in contemporary India.
--- Arundhati Roy, author of The God of Small Things

This book is finally the perfect demonstration that the caste system of India is the best tool to perpetuate divisions among the popular classes to the benefit of the rulers, thus annihilating in fact the efficiency of their struggles against exploitation and oppression.

Capitalist modernization is not gradually reducing that reality but in the opposite aggravating its violence. This pattern of modernization permits segments of the peasant shudras to accede to better conditions through the over-exploitation of the dalits. The Indian Left must face this major challenge.

It must have the courage to move into struggles for the complete abolition of caste system, no less. This is the prerequisite for the eventual emerging of a united front of the exploited classes, the very first condition for the coming to reality of any authentic popular democratic alternative for social progress. This book provides a wonderful analysis towards this understanding. I would hope to see it read by every Indian activist and also foreigners who do not see how odious the caste system is.
--- Samir Amin, Director of Third World Forum, Dakar, Senegal

Teltumbde has created a solid corpus of work that bears witness to the degradation of Indian democracy, and to the capacity of Indian socialism. India’s revolution… is sharpened on the anvil of Teltumbde’s thoughts.
--- Vijay Prashad, author of The Darker Nations – A People’s History of the Third World


1. Introduction – Caste: A Historical Outline
2. Beyond Varna – Caste in the 21st Century
3. The Political Economy – The Shaping of the Macabre Spectacle
4. Anti-Atrocity Law – Mitigation and its Malcontents
5. The Khairlanji Murders – Genealogy and Aftermath
6. Post-Khairlanji – A Chronicle of Repression
7. Mass Media – Massive Prejudice
8. Atrocities by the State – Neoliberalism, Naxalism and Dalits
9. Exploding Myths – Globalization, Civil Society and the Bahujan