IN rural India, old class divisions still rule local politics. Will this spell trouble for Prime Minister Narendra Modi?

When I was growing up in India in the 1970s and 80s, my father's job as a naval officer took our family from one big city to another, from Bombay to Singapore.

But every summer, we spent a month with my maternal grandparents in Bijnor, a small city in Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state, and one of the poorest.

Today, my city friends are surprised, to hear I have roots in the ''mofussil,'' a British colonial term for the countryside that the Indians now use to refer to rural places where old ways run deep.

And few traditions run deeper than the  3,000 -year old caste hierarchy.

Originating in ancient Hindu teachings, the system divided the Hindu majority by occupations, with Brahmins - priests and scholars - at the top, followed by warriors, traders and laborers.

At the bottom were night soil workers  other ''untouchables''.

Shortly after independence in 1947, India banned caste discrimination. Leaders of the untouchables proudly renamed themselves Dalits and demanded an end to their daily indignities.

But many of the old ideas and practices  endured, especially in places like Bijnor, which in the 1980s was not unlike America in the 1880s, or even 1950s, when raw discrimination was normal.

Pillars of the community like my grandfather, a Brahmin Lawyer and landowner beloved to many as Babuji, lived by the rules of the mofussil.

Brahmin homes kept separate plates for wealthy Muslims poorer Muslims and Daltis stayed outside.

Those who worked Babuji's sugar-cane fields sometimes communicated with him by bellowing down the long veranda, on which they knew not to tread

The honor and serving of the latest operational research on India and voting, continues. The World Students Society thanks author and researcher Ruchir Sharma.


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