ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Generational Capital and the ‘Privileged Bahujan’

To assume that a Bahujan with higher education and some material wealth is as privileged as their forward-caste peers with generations of social capital and privilege is an oversimplification.

“I get that caste and casteism are still prevalent, but how can they talk about oppression when they can communicate in the English language so fluently?” This is an example of the kind of statements many of us—the first-generation learners from marginalised communities—hear from our otherwise progressive classmates and peers. Although these peers note the clear distinction between cultural and economic capital during their assignments and examinations, they are unable to acknowledge the same in real life. When first-generation students from communities that were disallowed access to education, particularly higher education, can access it, they articulate their troubles as well as those faced by people from marginalised communities at large. However, they are met with a refusal to acknowledge the obvious biases along with a tendency to point out any material possessions the students may have, thereby dismissing their marginalised status and calling them “privileged.”

The construct of a privileged Bahujan (a term often used to denote Scheduled Castes [SCs], Scheduled Tribes [STs], and Other Backward Classes [OBCs] and in some cases even those belonging to minority religions) is a misnomer—a handful of individuals do not represent entire communities. The stereotypical image of a Bahujan is that of an oppressed individual, which even the most progressive upper-caste person has problems getting rid of. They might be seen as someone who lack agency of their own and need to be saved, which we have seen being portrayed in films like Article 15, where Dalit characters were reduced to mere subjects who had to be saved by a good-natured forward-caste Indian Police Service officer. Therefore, the tendency to point out a well-to-do Dalit (or any other marginalised position), while pointing out an economically unfortunate person from a forward caste, stems from the very fact that both are anomalies. However, it is much more common for a forward-caste person to have material wealth as opposed to a Bahujan.

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Updated On : 16th Jan, 2023
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