Sunday, March 25, 2012
We are an independent nation, enslaved by caste!
Last January 26 was our 63rd successful year of observing constitutional principles. The beautiful tricolour, the national anthem, portraits of Gandhiji and Ambedkar, schoolchildren in white — all made me feel a sense of pride in our nation. Underneath, there are a few little known things which I am not proud of.
I was in Class III when I was exposed to the caste system. In a north Karnataka school, whoever belonged to the Scheduled Castes or the Scheduled Tribes had to stand up in the class and wait for his/her turn to sign the attendance register. I would not get up. Perhaps, I did not want to be the cynosure of all eyes. I wanted to sit; I did not want people to stare at me. My parents, however, did not know about this attitude of mine. There were days when I missed my rank because of a totalling mistake and the refusal to acknowledge that I scored the highest marks.
I had to bear the abuse of a teacher in front of the class for my forgetfulness; on one occasion, sidelining my Sanskrit recitation skills, a Brahmin girl who forgot her lines was awarded. But there was a Sanskrit teacher who gave me recognition and opportunities to take part in school activities. After his transfer, there was a drastic shift in my studies (never mind! I passed my matric exam with flying colours). There were those horrific days when some girls who had come to write the civil services examination did not allow me to touch their lunch boxes! And I had to bear their constant criticism of the quota system.
Although I am working in a reputed IT company, I was dumbstruck at the depth of the evil roots of the caste system when my superior asked me which caste I belong to. I thought we are so advanced that we test Mars' life samples but here we are, with an almost 1,000-year-old question! I know of a bright software engineer who resigned his job in a reputed software company when his colleagues came to know that he ate meat and belonged to the “forbidden caste” and they started behaving indifferently. I often hear the slogan, ‘We are not SCs to be untouchable.'
“Let him not give the Sudra advice nor the remnants of his meal, nor food offered to the Gods, nor let him explain the sacred law — for he who explains the sacred law will sink together with that [man] into the hell [called] Asamvrita,” said Manu. How I wish Salman Rushdie explained these ‘sacred' verses too.
I am 25 years old and like a Brahmin boy who does not suffer from the caste syndrome, eats biriyani in his Muslim friend's home, and does not wear the sacred thread. I am not sure how I will be welcomed in his family, thanks to our forefather Manu, who has sown the seeds of dislike towards us. My father is in administrative service and mother is a teacher, and we have been educated to be self-dependent all through our life. We are not the stereotypical Dalits — uneducated and economically downtrodden you find in the backward regions of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh — still undergoing caste atrocities. We are educated and financially sound, but the Dalit tag still harasses us. We don't need the quota or the Rs 150 scholarship given in school, all we need is respect, recognition, equal opportunity and an open mindedness to treat us as one among all in society or in any company. After 65 years of independence, India is definitely an independent country controlled by the caste system!
(The writer's email ID is: firstname.lastname@example.org)