There’s a lot of talk about privilege today. Everyone’s situation is different and it wouldn’t help someone with their finger chopped off to hear about someone who had their whole hand chopped off. I’m not here to say “you don’t know how good you have it” I’m here to look at why 10 million people in New Delhi have no water.
India’s caste system is extremely complex and has been ingrained for longer than the word “privilege” has existed. Although the names of the various castes have changed through time there is still a clear stratification in the culture. It’s true that there are tens of millions of citizens which do not fit any particular caste but as India’s population exceeds 1.3 billion the vast majority of its citizens still operate within this system.
If you include imaginary beings, there are six main castes (this is a workable over-simplification). In order of privilege they are Gods, Brahmin (priests and academics), Kshatryia (soldiers), Vaishya (skilled workers), Sudra (unskilled workers), and Dalits (cleaners).
To give you some idea about the lack of regard for the lowest caste, the Dalits or untouchables a special law was drafted and enacted specifying the things you were not allowed to do to this caste. Although almost completely ignored, this law was enacted for the purposes of making it extra clear that you couldn’t do such things as beat, rob, kill, and threaten people of this caste because, you know, they were actually real people.
Strangely there were people even lower than this who were not covered. Goodness only knows how, in a practical sense, they were viewed.
The Atrocities act was amended in late 2015. It’s too early to see what effect it has.
Anyway, the purpose of bringing up the Atrocities Act was to highlight why the government introduced a quota or reservation system. This system applies to various government controlled aspects of life in India such as civil employment and education. It is safe to say that the reservation system is not universally popular. Gandhi himself was opposed to allowing specific levels of representation for Dalits and is a reviled figure amongst a significant proportion of the caste.
So, why’s their no water in New Delhi? Well, there’s a group called the Jats that live in that area. They are not the lowest caste but they feel that they should have more representation and concessions under the reservation system than they were afforded. So, to show their displeasure they destroyed a water plant, which in turn contaminated a water source to the point where downstream water plants couldn’t collect water either and basically shut down access to a basic human right.
Are the Jats wrong to be angry? I have no idea. I don’t pretend to know their situation. You’ll have to decide for yourself what level of privilege is acceptable and what level is grounds for this type of thing.