On a chilly November morning in Geneva, Deepika Thakur prepares to address the United Nations Human Rights Council. Despite her personal experience of oppression as a Dalit woman, she must claim that the Indian government remains firmly committed to eradicating caste-based discrimination in the country.
As echoes of humiliation and atrocities flood her memory, Deepika is transported back in time, to almost six years ago, when she became the first member of her family to be selected for the Indian Civil Services. She had moved from Bhopal, her home town, to the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration in Mussoorie, to prepare for a career as a civil servant. It was here that she met Aman, an upper-caste Brahmin, and Vijay, a fellow Dalit. Both relationships defined by caste and class politics, Deepika had found herself in the crosshairs of an ancient history built on inequality and prejudice. Yet, as a diplomat from India’s Foreign Service, she must deny caste, and the fact that India’s fractured society, despite its apparent modernization and progress, remains stuck in the middle ages. Her father’s words come back to haunt her: ‘When you cannot fight the system, you must endure.’
Will Deepika fight? Will she endure? What will she say to the Human Rights Council? How will she represent India to the rest of the world?