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Updated: August 5, 2013 02:05 IST

‘Caste no bar’, in words if not in action

Rukmini S
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While many young Indians are showing an interest in marrying across caste, indications are that not many actually go ahead and cross caste boundaries.

Recent research by Amit Ahuja, assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of California — Santa Barbara, and Susan L. Ostermann, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of California — Berkeley, showed that more than half of the prospective brides contacted by the researchers through matrimonial websites expressed an interest in potential partners belonging to caste groups other than their own. Responding to an expression of interest from three men — one upper caste, one backward caste (BC) and one scheduled caste (SC) but with otherwise nearly identical profiles — 54% of upper caste women and 72% of scheduled caste women expressed an interest in a man outside their own caste. But nearly all the women who responded, including those who showed an interest in men of other castes, expressed an interest in men of their own caste.

Mr. Ahuja and Ms. Ostermann found that preference for “boundary-crossing” was higher among less affluent upper caste women and more affluent scheduled caste women, and conclude that “[t]he…findings point to the fact that in the urban, Indian, middle-class marriage market, a significant proportion of participants and their families is willing to consider crossing caste boundaries if it allows them to upgrade their caste or SE [socio-economic] status.”

The heads of some of India’s most successful matrimonial websites agree that there is a rising stated preference for partners outside the applicant’s own caste. “The majority of our users now state ‘caste no bar’ in their profiles. It would be around 60%, I think,” Gourav Rakshit, Chief Operating Officer of Shaadi.com told The Hindu. For bharatmatrimony.com, the proportion is around 20%, Murugavel Janakiraman, founder and CEO, Matrimony.com Pvt Ltd, said. Mr. Ahuja and Ms. Ostermann found that even in newspaper matrimonial columns, the number of those looking for partners outside their castes was increasing.

But there is a distinct gap between stated preference and action, said Mr. Rakshit, who takes a keen interest in shaadi.com’s data trends; people who say ‘caste no bar’ are looking at those within their own castes as well as others, their number show. When asked whether such people look for those of higher or lower castes than themselves, Mr. Rakshit preferred not to use the terms ‘upper’ and ‘lower’, but said, “They’re looking at a basket of castes, for people with a similar culture and shared traditions.” Moreover, while the option to not state one’s own caste exists on shaadi.com, just about 10% of users choose not to state their own castes.

This is consistent with both micro and macro data that seems to indicate that inter-caste marriage isn’t growing in India. Inter-caste marriages remained fairly constant at around 10% according to the last National Family Health Survey; the proportion is highest among Muslims. In 2009, MIT economist Abhijit Banerjee led a study of 783 families who had placed matrimonial advertisements in Bengali newspapers which showed that “the bride’s side would be willing to trade off the difference between no education and a masters degree in the prospective husband to avoid marrying outside their caste.” The Centre for the Study of Developing Society’s 2009 National Election Study of over 30,000 respondents showed that those who believed inter-caste marriage should be banned outnumbered those who supported it.

It also isn’t yet apparent that the hierarchy of the caste system has changed. In Mr. Ahuja and Ms. Ostermann’s study, the scheduled caste man was least likely to be contacted, despite all other variables — including educational qualifications, salary and even skin colour being nearly the same. These findings are strikingly similar to a 2010 labour market study by economist Sukhadeo Thorat, who is now chairman of the Indian Council of Social Science Research, and sociologist Paul Attewell, who posted fictitious resumes in response to job advertisements for private sector companies, and found that the fictitious applicant with a scheduled caste last name was by far the least likely to be called for an interview, despite being qualified. While Mr. Thorat hadn’t studied the marriage market, his work in rural Maharashtra had shown nearly no change in intercaste marriage rates, Mr. Thorat said.

I endorse the comments of Ms. Lakshmi. Very balanced, practical and sensible. We can not get over casteism by inter-caste marriages, which only creates more serious problems to all concerned. It also beats me as to why people fall in love only with those of other castes ?! India has 100 crores people in various castes and religions. We can have all these and still live harmoniously with each other. And what is love ? When I was in college I had regularly fallen in "love" (if you can call it) with a whole lot of girls. But the one person whom I really love, in the true sense of the word, is my wife, and no other !

from:  V. Vedagiri
Posted on: Aug 6, 2013 at 15:02 IST

It's time we recognize the fact that we are a failed nation with a culture that has not adapted itself to the modern world. The first step to reform is accepting there is a problem.

from:  abhi
Posted on: Aug 6, 2013 at 07:07 IST

Firstly, the caste based last names should not be taken during admissions in schools, so that no one can know their caste until and unless told. And it is due to the reservations offered to some castes other castes are developing a kind of hatred towards these people, and this is a serious issue to be dealt with.

from:  manoj
Posted on: Aug 6, 2013 at 01:26 IST

It is interesting to note the class biases of the author herself. It is
possible that she simply wasnt aware of Srinivas Goli's work on caste,
religion and marriage in India, one cant help but notice that she has
only contacted scholars based abroad. While everyone's perspective is
welcome, it is telling that the author neglected a much more detailed
and revealing study by Srinivas Goli.

from:  Vikram
Posted on: Aug 6, 2013 at 00:05 IST

@kumar: Another idea to pull food from General category candidates? as far as we bind ourselves to this kind of mean ideas to change things we remain in/go to abyss.

from:  Raju
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 23:00 IST

But the ‘caste no bar’ proposal was proposed by the so called economical elites. Doesn’t matter about SC or OBC or others . . . My question is where is the indications of annihilation of caste proposed via ‘caste no bar’? If there any formulations given route that ‘caste no bar’ that is not matter. Unless ‘caste no bar’ it’s certainly made a way of moving up the socio-economic ladder by the beneficiaries.

from:  Anbuselvam
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 20:36 IST

It is not easy life when one marry inter-caste or inter-religion.
There are many things that cause friction. The main reason for
opposing such marriages are while any marriage needs more adjudsement
from couples particularly from the brides even now, why one take risk
to some more to them. Reason beyond all doubts some of the main
trouble come in the form of food, custom, regious functins etc.One can
argue one can easily over come them but in reality it is difficult.
And more the children of such marriages are getting affected in many
ways once again during their marriage. The simple fact is that caste
and religion will be there till the world lost but it should be
practiced without causing any hurt to others.

from:  S.Lakshmi
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 18:10 IST

Of note is that in the meanwhile there is huge surge in the interracial marriages. A lot of NRIs and recent entrants into foreign lands are shedding the age old practice of marrying 'hindus only' and crossing over to the native men and women seeking their hands in matrimony. All the 5 marriages that took place in the last 10 yrs in my family remained intercaste in nature and that including one interstate marriage. In all those marriages, same educational status and to some extent same financial status was uniformly observed. The urban scenario is quite different from that of the rural one with the urban families quickly accepting the intercaste alliances so long as the pair belonged to same social status. What would be more interesting is to see the divorce rate in the intercaste unions. Without any doubt intercaste couples are the much needed and all essential bonding elements of hindus. Lets not forget the fact that intercaste marriage stemming from infatuation leads to serious probl

from:  suma
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 17:55 IST

Recently i went to LLB college in K.R Road,Bangalore.

As my name indicates i don't belong that TRUST college caste.

So as soon i stepped in they asked me what caste you are??

I just walked out thinking that if this question arises in begining
only, then what all things i need to face in 3 years of time.

Dono when we'll develop, the people who have done 3 to 4 degree's and
sitting in a good position also giving preference to this CASTE
education.

from:  Doondi Reddy
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 16:18 IST

kumar.. are u saying one more type of reservation..??

from:  sridevi
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 14:36 IST

yes, it true, I'm doing the same, but this is due to of unavailability of good grooms or brides in their caste. 'Good' here stands for Education and Salary for girls looking for grooms outside their community.

from:  karthik
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 13:57 IST

Both State and Central Governments have to declare that the eligibility to apply any government job positions is one who belongs Inter State/Inter Religious/Inter Caste origin so that the backwardness of one's thinking can be wiped out. To adopt it as 100%, the time limit can be fixed with a duration of at least ten to twenty years

from:  Kumar
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 13:43 IST

Not only the boy or girl but the families should be ok on this. Later, after marriage there will be lot of issues based on culture and traditions which is going to be a big headache for the couple..!

from:  sridevi
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 12:28 IST

Yes it is a reality.The so-called love marriages are based on the
"Thickness of the purse".TN caste hindus don't at all cross their
own castes not to speak of muslim/christian/dalits intercaste marriages.But the very caste hindus welcome/prefer if the intercaste union is from brahmin families for obvious reasons.By far in good measure brahmins only esp.TN brahmins 've married not only outside their castes but took also spouses from muslim/christian families

from:  ramachandrasekaran
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 12:13 IST


I think one should bear in mind that more than that of caste,
intercaste marriage that happen mostly via web sites are of class in
nature. It is revealed through the cases of Bangalee matrimonials.
They add post-graduate etc., as conditions to avoid 'other' castes to
hit their profiles. People could identify other caste through the
sensing of the social context, and their educational qualifications in
place. Such is the internalization of the structures of caste in our
minds. The 'caste-no-bars', could be a fashioned term to project
progressiveness. Its underlying meaning might be as 'barring other
castes'. These issues needs much more serious engagement.

from:  RAJESH KOMATH
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 11:24 IST

'caste,colour,community,language etc no bar' only happens once you cross
the marriageable age threshold ,say 30 for women and 35 for men , in
Indian marriage market.I find it really funny that all the 'honour'
really matters till you are young.

from:  Vidhi
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 10:52 IST

Pity on India

Caste which is dominant for the past 5000 years is doing a havoc striking at the core,viz Marriage n Livelihood

Sad to see its going in the wrong way now

It's time we leave bad

from:  Tarun Matteda
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 10:49 IST

If religious conversion is Ok by Law-why cant inter caste conversions?-the Hinduism never allowed caste by birth,the texts clearly say that caste is not by birth-there is something flaw in practice-if law is passed out for caste conversions and ban religious conversion,all this discussion will stop

from:  GLNMurthy
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 10:48 IST

Passing (sociology) is what exactly happening in the marriages. Mostly
when they say "Caste No Bar", what they really mean in some cases is
that they are doing "passing".
Nowadays, with many possibilities in studies, going abroad, earning
money other than conventional work, elevates each of us different
status levels.
Imagine, facebook CEO, he is the youngest billionaires, this wasn't
possible even with sharp minded Indian entrepreneurs.

Given opportunity, time and resources, many would do well in their
field - Kamaraj, Chief Minister Tamilnadu

from:  Krishnakumar G
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 09:27 IST

It is highly unfortunate for social health of any country.Is proving heavier and more immobile than even the Himalayas.
Will the efforts of our reformers for annihilation of CASTE go in vain and our country content with living in dark age even in the times of all round strides in arena of enlightenment?

from:  BMPrasad.
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 09:22 IST

For the first time, Our paper "Exploring Myth of Mixed Marriages in
India" published in Journal of Comparative Family Studies presents a
comprehensive empirical assessment of the extent of mixed marriages by
analyzing nationally representative data from the Indian Human
Development Survey (IHDS, 2005). We consider mixed marriages in the
following key aspects: Inter-caste marriage, Inter-religious marriage
and Inter-economic group marriage (Inter-class marriage). The trend
analyses reveal that the proportion of inter-caste and inter-religious
marriages has doubled in the last two and half decades. With the
exception of inter-class marriages, the absolute level of mixed
marriages is still exceedingly small. Besides, there are substantial
variations across the states. Regression analyses show a significant
socio-economic differential in the occurrence of mixed marriages. The
study reveals that a very few women have the freedom to choose their
spouse.
<

from:  Srinivas Goli
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 08:52 IST

Dear Rukmini ,
Mr. Ahuja and Ms. Ostermann and Abhijit Banerjee findings are can’t
be representive for the General Population as their sampling is
restricted to certain section of the population. The section of the
population using the Matrimony.com or other online website to find a
bride or bridegroom are belong only certain educated section of
society. Therefore, the findings can’t be representative for the
general population. Where as the National Family Health Survey do not
give a direct question about inter-caste marriages. The figure 10% is
derived from the indirect estimates. However, you ignored my study
“Exploring the Myth of Mixed Marriages in India: Evidence from
Nationwide Survey” Published in Journal of Comparative Family Studies.
This paper presents a true picture of trends and pattern of Inter-
caste, inter-religion and inter-economic group marriages.

from:  Srinivas Goli
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 08:40 IST

The findings from the job interview call study are more shocking than the marriage study.
Marriages are somewhat personal decision, but recruitment should be professional. Having
been a recruiter myself for 10 years, i find it extremely stupid and somewhat surprising that
recruiters are more likely to filter or at least give preference based on the caste of the
surnames. Even if there is no malafide intention, this reveals how deeply sub concious our
biases are. This study justifies EVR's clarion call on stopping to use casteist surnames. This
practice now well established in TN should spread to other states for this menace to end.

from:  Gajamani G
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 07:49 IST

After reading this, the first question that pops into my brain is, What apprehensions does one have in marrying outside their own caste? On contemplating, there is a misconception that the behavioral patterns, social culture, etc., all come from one's caste. However, economic status and above all education plays a pivotal role in moulding one's character, culture and behavior . One has to also bear in mind that, these marriages are arranged marriages where the families of both bride and groom have little knowledge about each others' culture, customs, traditions and so on( This doesn't mean an endorsement to same caste marriages)This makes it all the more dicey to marry a person outside their own culture, customs and traditions. The results presented in the cited research may well hold good in arranged marriages in India, but I'm sure this may not be the trend if love marriages were to be studied.

PS I'm pretty sure that this research holds good in the case of dowry as well.

from:  Nikhil
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 03:52 IST

When you say "...upgrade their caste or socio-economic status", you should
have put the upgrade in "". Like "upgrade" their caste. Is The Hindu
really saying that some castes are low-grade and others are high-grade?
Small things like this reinforce the caste system.

from:  Kartikeya
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 03:40 IST

Based on the policy of state government, central government and private schools, the identification of child takes places before entering the school premises, at the time of filling up the admission forms, based on caste and creed and the differentiation keeps happening till the age of retirement. These inter caste marriages if it happens and pick up at any future point of time will be based on the changes in social structures and not because of govt policies.

from:  Mukesh
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 03:14 IST
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