The unveiling of “Overcaste” at Burnaby Village Museum

On Saturday, March 16th, Poetic Justice Foundation in collaboration with the South Asian Studies Institute among many other partners hosted the unveiling of Overcaste: an exhibit that exposes the harsh realities of caste discrimination within Punjabi communities across BC.

The local South Asian community gathered at the Burnaby Village Museum to take part in listening, learning, and confronting the normalization of caste discrimination. Curators of the exhibit Anita Lal and Dr Sharanjit Kaur Sandhra shared their personal experiences facing caste discrimination.

Lal spoke about the hardships in her life as a Canadian Dalit woman. She shared that her great-grandfather came to Canada in 1906 with the dream of having a better future without the existence of caste discrimination. She shared that her family and herself dealt with caste-based discrimination over generations in Canada which continues to exist among communities across BC today. However, Lal stated that she remains hopeful for the future of her nieces and nephews as she and many others committed to bringing awareness to the issue and abolishing the discriminatory system. She hopes to build a future where the next generation does not have to live through caste inequity like that faced by her, her family and her ancestors.

Dr Sandhra shared backlash she faced from her own community when she and her husband wanted to get married due to caste issues. Despite the negative comments and unacceptance from their community, they still managed to get married and lead a happily married life. However, this is not the case for everyone, as many relationships and weddings have been broken off due to caste discrimination faced by families and the Punjabi society in Canada. In the exhibit, ‘RishteyAds,’ a free Canadian Matrimonial Classified archived newspaper is showcased. This newspaper separated Canadian brides and grooms by their caste while advertising their desire to get married. This shows the normalization of inter- caste marriages being forbidden in Indo-Canadian society. Although a newspaper such as this may not publicly exist anymore due to its open discrimination, many people across the Indo-Canadian society continue rejecting inter-caste marriages.

The South Asian Studies Institute is proud to have partnered with the Poetic Justice Foundation among many other organizations to create this critical and powerful exhibit Overcaste that sheds light on the existence of caste discrimination across Punjabi communities in BC.