Is a caste-riddled India ready to look beyond surnames?

Caste surname
Several job aspirants and students belonging to SC, ST and backward class communities often complain that their surnames are a deterrent for them | Image - Eunice Dhivya

Chandan Saroj, 32, a native of Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh, holds two master's degrees—in Sociology and Philosophy and a bachelor of education (BEd) degree.

When he appeared in an interview for the post of an assistant professor in UP's Higher Education Services Commission, he was surprised when the interviewers asked him about his beliefs on religion, what he thought of the caste system and how many castes there were in India.

Initially, Saroj thought these questions were related to his domain as he was a sociology student. But as the interviewers went on to ask his full name, where he hailed from and whether he would rebel against the system if there’s injustice against certain caste groups, he not only got offended but also intimidated.

Saroj, a Dalit student belonging to the Pasi community, says people in UP often ask the surname to judge and value one’s achievements. Saroj feels although he had cleared the written test, his caste and surname seem to have acted as a baggage for the interviewers.

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