Accept it or not, the caste system is the historical truth and bitter reality of our society. Casteism in India has always been the epicenter of power and politics, i.e., the competition among the various strata or caste to establish their dominance and supremacy. Every other day we see news flashing on TV or on our phone’s notification about crime against Dalits. There had been recurring instances of discrimination against Dalits and inhumane acts towards them. From cases of rapes to torturing them to death, not allowing Dalit students to sit on the bench or drink water from a specific well.
Dalits have always been subjugated to such inequality making their lives miserable. Sadly enough, According to the NCRB report, every 15 minutes, a Dalit faces a crime. Also, the number of cases has increased by 66% over the last decade. All these facts boil down to the question – Just because you are born in the ‘so-called’ upper caste; does it give you license to commit such inhumane acts? Why is casteism in India still influential and alive?
A Glimpse on Root Cause
Hindu scriptures are an integral part of understanding caste, which has shaped how religion has been practiced in our Indian society. While Vedas embodies philosophical teachings, the Manusmriti is the detailed version of how Hindu society must function and the rituals and traditions the people must abide by. The disturbing passage below mentions how deeply rooted caste is in Hinduism: “If a shudra mentions the name and class of a twice-born contumely [i.e., without proper respect], an iron nail, ten figures long, shall be thrust into his mouth.”
Further, we misunderstand four varnas (i.e., Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras) with caste. But caste and Varnas are different. There are around 5000 castes. Caste is a further subdivision which mostly based on region and not just profession. Another misunderstanding we have is that the caste system is restricts till Hindus only. But you will be astonished by the fact that there are castes among Muslims and Christians in India as well. Caste and untouchability are social realities and cultural artifacts that have superseded religion as well.
The fight & Crumbling Mechanism
The fight to abolish the caste system and uplift the Dalits has been going on since time immemorial. Even our founding father of the constitution incorporated various provisions to safeguard the interests of Dalits. But even after the 73 years of independence, we are still struggling to get independence from this very prevalent social evil. We scream aloud about our ‘freedom to speech,’ but the same constitution also provides ‘Abolishment of untouchability’ in the same part. But do we follow them in real life? If you are aware of the situation, sadly, the answer will not be affirmative. Because still in certain caste, they do not allow people to enter into any upper caste or Brahmin kitchen. Still, people hesitate even to sip water from the hands of lower caste people.
All the inhumane acts and violence against Dalits are nothing more than self ego-boosting activity. Now the question arises – Is boosting your ego is greater than humanity? When will the prevailing culture of murderers and rapists getting away with crimes against poor people will stop? (also read: Parenting against Rape Culture- An open talk!)
What makes the situation worse is the fact that few government authorities value their loyalty towards their caste more than their duty towards the nation and its people. Police don’t acknowledge the case and refuse to file any lawsuit. The recent Hathras incident is one such example of how the mechanism is not effective in the ground and crumbling despite all the laws. Such incidents are the reason communal agitations broke out in various parts of India. The agitations witnessed for reservation of Patidars, Jats, or any other community is due to the scarcity of opportunity to work or even study. Due to the oppression and injustice, they are facing every step of their life. All communal riots or agitations, which display hostility is an outcry by the common people to get attention to their problem.
Don’t divide and pass on hate
Till there is division among people, discrimination is bound to happen. We need to understand that the caste system may be beneficial only for a few opportunists but not for all. Especially not for those who need these privileges (as far as we have seen in reality). The caste system needs to be done away with because it is no more about identifying standard linkage but has become a weapon against each other that is being used according to one’s convenience. Though the journey is challenging, once people realize why it is necessary to abolish it altogether, it would be true freedom and equality.
The solution mentioned above is very unlikely to happen for obvious reasons. So what we can do currently is refine the ‘Caste System’ itself. By doing away with the discrimination part and giving equal opportunities to the marginalized. Also developing a more inclusive society where one value is not decided by his/her caste. A India where a housemaid is treated as respectfully as the house owner. Until then, what we can do is at least try not to pass on the hate. The damage has already been done. The mindset of our older generation is malign in the pretext of culture. We can try to stop the cycle here only and try to protect another generation. The problem is severe and real. So, remember – Don’t pass on hate.