Sunday, October 2, 2022

India’s cardinal sin: The curse of caste in the 21st Century

One may shout from the rampart of Red Fort or climb up the roof-tops trumpeting about the progress and achievements and chant litanies of dos and don’ts, but one thing they must remember that India even after 75 years of independence has failed the Dalits and summarily betrayed them. As the celebrations of 75 years of Independence went ahead on a grand scale with a number of programs – pageants and gaiety across the country, two incidences that flashed in the print and visual media badly shaken those who believe in an egalitarian society so low making thinking Indians to get absolutely stunned and badly devastated.
Inder Meghwal, a nine-year old school going boy from Surana village in Jalore, Rajasthan, took water to drink from a clay pot was slapped by a teacher for drinking water supposedly meant for the ‘casteist teachers. This incident occurred on July 20th 2022 at Sarswati Vidya Mandir, a private school located in the village. The teacher who slapped him with such force and ferocity that made the boy to fall down. He died on the 13th of August, 2022 as the treatment failed while in hospital. His parents did not know that the injury was internal as Inder Meghwal was continuously complaining of his ear.
Acting on it he was taken to a hospital in Bagoda but was informed to take him to a hospital in Udaipur and then on to a hospital in Ahmadabad and several more, and subsequently died. Inder Meghwal death also rips open once again the health system of our country especially for the Dalits as his parents had to run from pillar to post visiting seven hospitals in 23 days without any relief. He died two days prior to our 75th Independence Day. The other episode happened when the nation celebrated 75 years of independence on the Monday, the 15th August, 22, wherein many elected representatives hoisted the national flag in their respective locales such as government schools, taluk and district headquarters.
Tamilarasan, the Panchayat President of Senthangudi Panchayat in Tamil Nadu’s Pudukkottai District was sidelined. He should have got his rightful honor of hoisting the Tricolor at the local government school. The so-called ‘made dominant castes’ in the village manipulated his rightful place, instead made someone to hoist the flag.
All District Collectors across Tamil Nadu State claimed the national flag was hoisted by 12,600-odd presidents of village panchayats. On the same day around noon, Collectors sent compliance reports to chief secretary V Irai Anbu, who have directed them to ensure not a single instance of cate discrimination again Dalits occurs in the national flag hoisting ceremony on I-Day.
The issue of caste discrimination again Dalit panchayat chiefs was flagged by Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front (TNUEF) an NGO, which came out with a survey report on the social malice during I-Day. In its survey report presidents of 20 village panchayats were not allowed to hoist the national flag in the past and did not have chairs to sit in their offices or access to official files. The core of these two incidents that surface: a Dalit boy who was thirsty studying in a school wanted to drink water was slapped and then hospitalized and died in about twenty-plus days died; the other a Dalit elected as a panchayat president denied to hoist the national flag on the 75th Independence Day – negated the honor due to him.
In 2022, humiliation, ridiculing, denials, verbal and physical attacks keep happening to the Dalits in overt and covert ways. Amidst rising rage over the death of a Dalit boy in Jalore, Rajasthan, former Speaker and diplomat Meira Kumar lamented that caste system continues to be the bane of Indian society, despite the passage of 75 years of independence.
Meira Kumar said she had herself faced caste discrimination, that too on a foreign land, as the pernicious prejudice based on birth knows no bounds.
Elaborating further Meira Kumar added “100 years ago, my father Babu Jagjivan Ram was prohibited drinking water in school from the pitcher meant for Savarna Hindus. It was a miracle his life was saved”, but after seventy-five years Inder Meghwal died. When he was the deputy prime minister of India, he unveiled a statue somewhere in the North India, after which it was again cleansed and purified. In another incident, former President K R Narayanan on his official visit to France, the French newspaper flashed “A Dalit in Elysee palace”.
This is the mental make-up of most of our Indians who cannot digest the fact there are Dalits who have accomplished on par with others or beyond. If this is the level of casteist mind-set, what about those Dalits who live in the villages and on the margins of urban centers. As Indians we would be celebrating our independence year after year, but not mindful of caste violence and heinousness of caste manifesting in its ugliest forms. 75 years passed by but India has not changed. The mindsets of Indians by and large are corroded with caste.
A nine-year old boy wanted to drink water, but the corroded casteist mind-set of a teacher could not tolerate. The very sight of a Dalit drinking water angered him leading to thrashing resulting in death.
In another case, though he is a panchayat president, the caste mind-set does not want to extend the due privilege of hoisting the national flag on the most important day, but denied since he happened to be a Dalit. Caste is embedded is the psyche of majority of the Indians and so it is part of their DNA.
Thus far no political leader except BR Ambedkar dared to question and attempted to annihilate the system of caste.
Caste in India is patronized, legitimized, promoted and protected by most of the Indians who live in India and outside. Meera Kumar in her exclusive interview said that when she was appointed as a diplomat in UK. she was searching for a house in London and like a house which belonged to an Indian by name Jacob. When she was negotiating the house owner Jacob asked whether she was a Brahmin for which she responded by saying she belonged to Scheduled Caste. Having heard that he refused give to her for rental. Despite living in London for number of decades his caste psyche has not change.
A system such as caste that treats people in hierarchical fashion and highly discriminatory is a sin and evil. Since it is patronized by the casteist political class, socially privileged, economically advanced and cultural Those privileged lots born in dominant castes do not want to change or give away their caste identity because caste offers them status, power, prestige, honor and host of others. Those who have been negated and denied their basic humanity want the system of caste to be changed., but on the ground level there is no political will, and so, we hardly see any possibility of change.
The systems that deterred select categories of people from others based on color, creed and race have changed with the passage of times, but caste is intact for the last 3500 years. Nonetheless, the Dalits and those who are against a diabolic system of caste live in hope that caste by all means be annihilated and thus realize a casteless India which for all the Indians is the real free independent and inclusive India..
Dr. John Mohan Razu