- From: ww <lbt006@xxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Sun, 6 Jul 2008 16:51:51 -0700 (PDT)
Lu'c tru*o*'c co' 1 ba.n la`m research paper ve^` India va` co' posted
questions tre^n -da^y.
Here's an interesting article:
Many Immigrant Indians Can't Let Feudal Attitudes Go
New America Media, Commentary , Viji Sundaram , Posted: Jun 26, 2008
Editor’s Note: India might be roaring toward becoming an economic
giant, but there are some archaic practices, like feudalism, still
very much a part of the culture, writes NAM editor Viji Sundaram.
Even as millions of Indians today walk around with cell phones clapped
to their ears, and tool around in Toyotas and Hondas, it seems like
some things about the country never change. Like feudalism. It would
be unthinkable for a servant to call his employer by his first name,
or even by his last name for that matter, even if it were prefixed
with such a courtesy title as “mister,” or its Hindi equivalent,
“sahib.” Although employees at many multi-national companies in India
are on a first-name basis with their bosses these days, it would be
considered insolence if domestic workers address their employers by
anything other than sir or madam.
And when Indians migrate to foreign countries, many, even the well-
educated ones, never really leave behind the feudal baggage they grew
up with –even though they might like to think they have.
The New York perfume manufacturing millionaire couple, Mahender and
Varsha Sabhnani, convicted late last year of physically harming their
two servant maids from Indonesia, are a perfect example of this. They
are scheduled to be sentenced today, she to 12 to 15 years in prison,
and he to five or six years. Among other things, they were found
guilty of cutting the maids with a knife and burning them with boiling
“There is no way on earth any Indian family in the United States could
do what they were accused of,” one of their closest Indian American
friends is quoted in the New York Times as saying.
Perhaps the friend hadn’t heard of the rich Berkeley, Calif., landlord
Lakireddy Balireddy, who invoked his feudalistic right and brought
young girls from his village in India to the United States to do his
bidding. The mother of one of those girls told a U.S.-based reporter
who visited the village soon after he was charged in 2000, that she
didn’t see anything wrong in handing over her 15-year-old daughter to
the zamindar (landlord).
“Feudalism is a mindset,” asserts Hamid Khan, executive director of
the Los Angeles-based non-profit South Asian Network, a grassroots,
community-based organization dedicated to empowering South Asians in
the United States. “It’s a subtle way of denying people their human
rights, even if those rights are protected by law.”
According to Karl Marx, the three elements that characterize feudalism
are lords, vassals and fiefs. In other words, feudalism is another
form of authoritarianism.
That form of feudalism is what allows for the shameful practice of
manual scavenging, which was banned in India in 1993, yet continues
today. Thousands of people are still paid to clean human waste from
private dry toilets that have no flushing mechanism. Some say that it
is one way the “upper caste” – generally better heeled and in a
position to influence changes – maintain the caste system so they can
continue to exercise control over the so-called untouchables.
Soon after independence in 1947, India signed a social contract,
promising to end feudalism. But like many other social contracts, this
one too never saw the light of day.
Many of the social ills in India – and feudalism is one of them – can
only end if people like Sabhnanis’ friend stop denying that they
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