Best Of The Web Today: Wacky Caste Of Characters

September 2007

"Enraged mobs from one of India's myriad lower castes blocked roads with fiery barricades, stoned police and battled rival castes across a wide swath of northern India for a week," the Associated Press reports from Gurgaon. They're upset that their caste isn't lower still:

With 25 people dead, the unrest spread to the fringes of the capital before the Gujjars--a class of farmers and shepherds--called off their protests. They did so only after officials agreed to consider their demand to be officially shunted to the lowest rung of India's complex hereditary caste system, so they can get government jobs and university spots reserved for such groups....Caste politics were clear late Monday, when Gujjar leaders called off their protests after officials agreed to look into their demands.

The move immediately drew threats from leaders of a powerful rival group, the Meena, who are already classified among the lowest castes and clearly do not want more competition for jobs and school spots set aside under quotas. During the unrest, fighting between Meenas and Gujjars left at least four dead.

In America, of course, we don't have "caste." We allocate jobs and university positions by skin color, which is much harder to change, and thus we don't have these sorts of conflicts. Still, we'd be hard pressed to argue that in this regard the American way is especially enlightened.