An Indian Adoptee Reclaims His Voice in the Desi Diaspora
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Back from India, Now a Master

September 9, 2011

Hello everyone. I’m back. Or more accurately, this blog is back. It has been months since I updated, but I’m working on some new posts to be published in the following weeks.

I have been stateside (mostly adjusted by now) since mid-June, finished my MA degree in Conflict Resolution in August and now I’m in the process of bringing my unofficial fiancée Sasmita to the United States in 2012.

After returning from India I immediately dove into writing my substantial research paper for graduation from American University (SRP). The title of my project was “Conflict Management Techniques; Viewing the Dalit Experience as Protracted Social Conflict.”

I went to India to intern at Dalit Foundation and conduct research for my SRP. I began with the original goal of looking at how the Dalits were transforming their conflict with caste-Hindus into a new relationship. After being there for a while, I realized this was not really happening. Then I tried to look at how they were building peace with caste-Hindus. That unfortunately was not really occurring either.

Finally I recognized that the Dalits were “managing” their conflict with caste-Hindus, but that was the best they could do. My paper therefore was a mixture of a portrayal of the awful lives Dalits are subjected to by caste rules, observational research about Dalit Foundation’s work and structured interviews with Dalit leadership and activists.

I will try to explain protracted social conflict briefly. Essentially premised on a theory by Edward Azar, it’s based on four criteria which may be ingredients in protracted social conflict. 1) A highly communal society with one or two groups who feel their identities are more important than the rest. 2) A group or segment of the population that does not have its basic human needs met, both physical and developmental. 3) A state that is focused solely on one group at the expense of others and lastly, 4) a nation that has ties either economically or politically to another state which makes fulfilling basic needs of their marginalized populations difficult, if not impossible.

The first three were easy for me to relate to the Indian Dalit problem. The last was a bit of a stretch, but it think it works. The caste system separates everyone, and the state of India is concerned mostly with caste-Hindus, but not Dalits. Therefore, Dalit basic needs are being unmet in part because the Indian government favors caste-Hindus over Dalits. Finally because the Indian government spends an incredible amount of money on border security (Kashmir, Bangladesh, etc) Dalit problems are not being addressed.

My paper looked at how Dalits managed the conflict through three facets. One was teaching and education for them about human rights. A major problem is the Dalits do not know which laws protect them and awareness of their rights is crucial. A second way they manage the conflict is through attempts at bringing together separate castes in marriage, meals, cultural events or religious ceremonies. The absolute segregation between castes is one of the core tenets of Hinduism. Breaking those social taboos is critical for long-term structural change.

Lastly Dalits manage the conflict by pursuing justice against those who discriminate or violently act against them by monitoring the state and pushing the government to punish offenders. This is helped by “fact-finding” and gathering evidence of crimes and violations, because police investigations are either non-existent or severely lacking.

That’s a brief overview of my SRP. I apologize in advance if it seems confusing or too short. I will gladly send you the actual paper if you wish to read it.

For the future look out for posts about the trip to the hospital where I was born, how an adoptee experienced the Indian monsoon, my views on caste versus class and a general overview of how “Indian” I feel now that I’ve returned.

As always please let me know your thoughts in the comments and keep reading!

September 9, 2011 at 8:14 am

I cannot wait to read your blogs! Very fascinating!

September 13, 2011 at 1:55 am

I’m looking forward to seeing your future posts, my friend.

March 8, 2012 at 3:12 pm

Hi! What are your current studies/research? your brief above is very interesting because i am researching on conflicts in India. Pls share your full paper if possible.

best wishes
RJ

I'd love to hear your thoughts!