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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

How do we solve casteism?

Yesterday, India’s first commercial rocket was launched into space. I consider this as a significant achievement since as of now only commercial rockets show any return on investment among all other projects undertaken by space agencies worldwide.

While our scientists reach one milestone after another advancing frontiers of positive human achievement, our society remains as prejudiced, irrational and inhumane as it was a thousand years ago. Yesterday, news came up that after a headmistress from the so called lowest caste (a Dalit) was transferred from a government school in Maharashtra, two teachers ‘purified’ the school by sprinkling cow urine on students.

This comes a few months after the Khairlanji incident in Maharashtra again, where a Dalit family was massacred by caste people after they were paraded naked, the women in the family were repeatedly raped, the sons in the family asked to mate with their own sisters and upon refusal, their genitals crushed by stone and tricks, all four killed and then their bodies thrown into a canal. While Khairlanji is an extreme falling in the category of incidents like lynching of Dalits in Haryana, humiliation is a fact of everyday life of a Dalit. Remember, ours is a society where children refuse mid-day meals at school as they are cooked by lower caste people. Read here a great analysis of the Khairlanji incident.

So what’s the solution? After 60 years of independence, several progressive legislations, and general opening up of our society to external influences, caste and religion remains the only marks by which we evaluate our own species. Education is not the solution as shown by the casteist proposals put up by highly educated prospective brides and grooms on marriage proposals. In fact sites like put Language, caste, sex and age as the only criteria by which you can do a quick search for profiles. Caste based reservations have achieved some results but these results have come extremely slowly, and some argue that reservations are in fact further deepening the casteist divisions by institutionalizing categories. Bahujanwad, through which political parties like the BSP have been able to gain political muscle by appealing to various lower castes, have failed to relieve Dalits of the humiliation and lack of opportunity, once the Election Day is gone. Even Naxalites, who espouse a violent solution to this problem, as they have practiced in Bihar, have had limited progress against the might of the Indian state. So may be its time to look at something new, something structural and radical.

For example, what about removing reservations all together and providing state funded financial incentives for converting away from casteist faiths? One can argue that once reservations are taken out, there is little incentive for a Dalit or an OBC (Other Backward Class) to remain a Hindu. And providing incentives for converting away will only hasten the process. Over time, casteist faiths will diminish in size and this change will be accordingly reflected in the relevant institutions automatically: police, judiciary, government officials etc. Hopefully, this process will naturally change our mindset too.


Ajan said...

keep it up! good blog!
i donno what to say.. Its politics all the time.. students being dragged into politics, slaughtering of dogs into politics, casteism into it you have it..

Anonymous said...

All these things need to be instilled into young minds; when children are at school. The outlook of people needs to be revamped first. There is no point blaming the marriage portal for promotion of castism, as it is still the people who are on the look out for prospective brides and grooms of the same caste. First ask the educational institutions to stop emphasising on the "community" column of their application forms, before blaming a marriage portal, that deals with the personal choice of an individual.

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