India: In jest or (In)justice

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by Dr. Elsa Lycias Joel 19 October 2019

The newly released Human Rights Watch World Report 2018, Amnesty International Report 2018 and the US State Department reports on India and Nepal, find that caste-based discrimination and violence remain a serious threat as hate crimes against Dalits are widespread.

On 17 June, 2018 Prashant Solanki of Madhya Pradesh was ambushed by a group of upper-caste villagers because riding a horse was supposedly an upper-caste privilege. A year back in Kachanatham village in Sivaganga district in Southern Tamil Nadu, three Dalits were brutally killed by a group of caste Hindus for sitting with their legs crossed outside Karuppasamy temple. Three minor boys of Vakadi village in Maharashtra were shouted at and subjected to abuses before some persons allegedly forced the boys to strip and paraded them nude around the village for swimming in a well belonging to a supposedly upper caste man. In another incident last year, a 13 year old boy from Gujarat was attacked and abused by Darbars who assumed the boy was trying to pose as a member of the Darbar community by wearing mojri (traditional embroidered leather shoes) and a fake gold chain. A group of men attacked Mr Jadav at his home in Ahmedabad for changing his name from ‘Maulik’ to ‘Mauliksinh’ – a suffix that is traditionally used by an upper-caste community in the state. On April 2019, 21-year-old Jitendra of Uttarakhand was beaten and killed because he sat on a chair and ate in the presence of the so-called upper caste people. The rising rate of caste crimes in India is a reality and so are the ways it’s fuelled by statements and insinuations. Caste dynamics behind sexual violence is a shame on us. In spite of all these and more, the world looks askance at people who continue to incite vicious thoughts.

Part of the problem with the phenomenon of being a brahman has to do with how these people are trained to think. Forget what they believe. Not everyone, at least people who hold constitutional posts and still appear to be casteists must be enlightened on how casteism evolved, why it thrives in a poor country as ours and why its demeaning to dwell on it. As your speech did the rounds, I was reminded of a joke cracked by Mr. Mahesh Chandra Sharma on why he considered peacocks as brahmacharis. According to many, that was the ‘Joke of the year 2018’. And nobody dared to help him refresh his high school zoology lessons. The point is people who are heard loud and clear can do a bit of homework to avoid uttering anything that might evoke laughter or incite discrimination and hatred.  

Excuse me Mr.Justice Chitembaresh, your greatness depends on how you treat your fellow beings. Roots of untouchability lie in the hatred and contempt which was developed and spread by one community against another. What social good were you trying to do by thinking aloud on caste lines? Didn’t you know that this is high time our national interests be given priority for the sake of national unity? If only you had said this or that is a brahmachari, it would’ve gone down well and good as another joke cracked by a who’s who but not when you claim a sect of mortals are born great only because some crook created the Varna system and justified it through moral and religious concepts. You ought to know compassion and empathy are the two great signs of greatness and also a panacea for all ills that eat into the vitals of a society. Manu Smriti has its share of contradictions and it’s up to an individual to take only the good lessons for right living but the sad story is, bigoted minds rule.  

Manu Smriti 2.136 states that one earns respect due to wealth, company, age, actions and knowledge in increasing order. There is no mention of family, gotra, caste, lineage and other non-factors to demand or earn respect

Manu Smriti 9.335. (A Sudra who is) pure, the servant of his betters, gentle in his speech, and free from pride, and always seeks a refuge with Brahmanas, attains (in his next life) a higher caste.

As far as I know all religious texts, philosophical discourses, homilies and even fables drive home the message that to help others is to help ourselves. It’s heart rending to know that a brahman who believes himself to be great enough by birth and clean enough to lay his hands on the vedas didn’t learn anything about justice and righteousness for harmonious living. Mr. Justice Chitembaresh may your tribe know that discrimination is a crime.  Ok, let’s forget religious and moral persuasion for a moment and deliberate on why a particular community consider themselves immune to right speech. Is it because they leapt out of the mouth of purusha? ‘Sutras’ offer nothing to enable a person to exist in a civilized society rather incite discrimination and violence. Can anyone in independent India but the ruling government in the name of projects attempt the below ‘sutra’

“A Brahmin may take possession of the goods of a Shudra with perfect peace of mind, for, since nothing at all belongs to this Shudra as his own, he is one whose property may be ·taken away by his master”. (Chapter VIII, Verse p. 417).

While a Brahman in all comfort may serve in pleasure all powerful, gracious and merciful gods to attain an imaginable heaven, a shudra is expected to serve arrogant mortals  in  fear of the ‘narada smriti’ for the sake of life and livelihood. For all of those who consider their lineage a matter of pride do not be apprehensive about the disappearance of this social evil because it’s so deep rooted that it requires hundreds and hundreds of Ambedkars to uproot it. I still hope a hundred Kanhaiyas will arise when one Rohit Vemula falls.  

Caste discrimination is one the perennial problems faced by Indians in addition to rape, corruption, poverty, ill health and gender discrimination.  Against this backdrop, people who hold constitutional posts must be careful about not insinuating sectarian unrest. For your information, love for Carnatic music or vegetables aren’t virtues of a great soul but humanitarianism is.  I urge you to watch a few super singer shows to update yourself that not all child prodigies are what they are because they belong to a certain caste but because they are talented and fortunate to be trained.

Whether one is twice or thrice born doesn’t entitle any greatness on anybody. Do you even understand why your speech is receiving sustained coverage than the Amazon fire? Isn’t it a shame on Indian people that your speech is for all out there to hear and know destructive caste dynamics can permeate one strong pillar of democracy? What matters is, if a human lived like a human with virtues that sustain humanity and not the number of times one is reborn. Unless and until one lives a life in an imaginary world or a life of hypocrisy, a human is sure to know, that by birth none comes with any signs of greatness or privilege.

What poorvajanmasuhridham were you trying to imply? Studying our past will reveal how wicked and manipulative those self-proclaimed clean people were towards their brethren. If your memory hadn’t declined, kindly recall the 2006 gruesome murders that took place in Khairlanji or the Bathani Tola massacre. Come what may, a handful like you keep trying to fuel sectarianism unmindful of the post you decorate because it’s ingrained in you. Anybody who insinuates violence in the name of caste or religion isn’t worthy of being heard far and near is my contention. Attributing self-sought privileges to poorvajanmasuhridham which is a lie, breeds conflict with liberty, equality and fraternity. So static is the big picture of our country riding on archaic ideas and outmoded cultural practices and beliefs- to destroy the idea of modern India minus discrimination, subjugation and adversity. Instead of bragging on lies and more lies, privileged few who still believe to have come from  Purusha’s head and mouth must find ways of  penance and to repent for all the atrocities and violence committed by their ancestors against fellow beings.

Lok Sabha Speaker having shown symptoms of the disease of caste, it’s high time to remind him of the post he holds and that casteism is worthy of condemnation. Mr. Speaker, nobody needs a caste tag to be a guiding light and I can only hope you read this piece. My earnest request to you would be to not blow out the candles that throw light on right thinking, right speech and right action for harmonious living in a welfare society where no human is exploited or discriminated in the lines of caste system that was dreamt up by some speculative crook.


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