India and the perils of Casteism
Casteism in India is probably the oldest discrimination in practice. This is deeply rooted in the society through various practices and customs. Psychology of discriminators and discriminated is also different. Foreign rule for over a thousand years established a slavish mentality in the general Indian. But, coupled with native inequity, the natural law of the jungle had become prevalent. Even the higher caste people (whoever have not given to the allurement or force of rulers and remained Hindus) always respect people of other religions (who got converted) or foreigners. But when it comes to lower caste Hindus, discrimination exists. It is really funny that a higher caste Hindu respects a beef eating white man or Arab, but exploits lower caste Hindus. At the same time, we Indians discriminate people of African origin. The obsession with fair skin plays a major role in discrimination, albeit unconsciously. Whatever we pretend, Indian society is racist, as all other heterogeneous societies in the world.
As explained in the analysis, roots of casteism lie in the affection towards one’s offspring. Come what may, this cannot be eliminated. There may be a mother India that kills her son, if he is wayward but if he is not a bad boy, she definitely helps him over other deserving children. Parents think they are discharging their parental responsibility. Scores of incidents are reported every year during examination time, when parents help their kids cheat in exams.
Even otherwise, it has become a normal and accepted practice where businesses and professions were passed on to the next generation. Doctors, Lawyers, Actors and now even Politics have become inheritable professions. The Government is indirectly promoting this, by providing or reserving jobs to kin of employees in some organisations. Such arrangements are detrimental to equal opportunity to all participants.
The Government has to ensure there shall be a level playing field for new entrants also. Even if the Government doesn’t, the cycle of natural balance will ensure new entrants, but this would be a slow process. This is where the rule of law shall limit reservations so that the fruits reach to a large populace. By providing reservations to all the people of an already developed family, a poor and needy family that really deserves reservations is being deprived of a chance to come out of poverty. But, the voice of middle class is so strong while literally there is no voice to the real poor and so current practice of availing multiple reservations in one family continues. Political will is needed to change the situation and leaders with strong integrity and conviction, a nearly extinct breed of politicians are needed to do this.
Elimination of multiple reservations is more critical from the fact that this system is creating castes within castes or sub-grouping the already divided castes. Some castes that are poor are not getting the benefits of reservations. New terms like “Maha Dalit” have cropped due to the current practice of reservations.
Discussing about reservations is the easiest thing, even if one has any opinion on the subject, as this topic was in public domain for long enough that people have formed opinions about the subject. Nevertheless, one should not forget that this is only the first step in ending discrimination by providing economic independence.
The crux of casteism is in the mindset. Mindset of people belonging to both higher castes and of the lower castes has to change. Now, there is a dangerous trend that is emerging where in people of some castes are demanding reservations and want them to be classified as “Backward”. This is backward thinking because people want to get branded as backward only to get the benefits of reservations. How far the reservations would be effective, nobody knows. This type of thinking reduces whatever self respect a society has. This mindset of asking favours from the Government is in people of all castes and overall Indian society has become such that it looks up for free things. The name for such a mindset is not a respectable term.
Casteism is an internal problem of Hinduism (allow me to use this word for the sake of simplicity). At least this is what other religions and countries confirmed. If Hinduism is the body and casteism is the disease, then the solution is for the body to get rid of the disease.
To do this, first the agents of influence in Hindu fold have to be identified and they shall be taken into confidence, for only through them, the problem could be solved. A meeting of Sankaracharyas has to be called and the problem of castes shall be discussed. At least, actual positions of these matts & ashrams would be known to the world. None of these spiritual leaders can openly take a stand supporting castes system. They may have their own political considerations. Many of these survive on donations by people of all castes and cannot voice an opinion that antagonises the masses. These leaders shall be asked to ensure including people from all castes in their ashrams. Their teachings shall be including teachings on equality of all castes and respecting the dignity of labour. In fact, the morality of the society has to be reinstated. In a moral society, dignity of labour is valued and ill-earned riches are despised.
Leaders of all discriminated castes have a role to play. They need to instil self respect in their followers. Self respect plays a great role in eliminating the slave mentality. If a Brahmin is called “Arre Pandit” (which happens in many places), he doesn’t take offence even if was purposefully intended. But a person from backward caste person feels the offence irrespective of the intention. The difference is how one is receiving the term, whether as an insult or as a casual remark. Caste, in India is automatic, like parents. Everyone loves their parents, whoever they are. If the same way, caste is also considered, the problem of abusing will reduce. Yes, there is a law which punishes people abusing people belonging to lower castes. But, laws are effective as remedial ones and not as preventive measures. Social psyche of all shall change so that no remedy is needed. And if needed, there is already a remedy in store.
Another institution that can be used is RSS. Yes, you heard it rightly. If not the self appointed guardians of Hinduism, who else would try to remove the troubles of Hinduism? Moreover, what better to service to Hinduism can be done by them apart from eliminating casteism? Their advantage is their reach to interiors of India and in some forests they really do good jobs through vanavasi ashrams. If RSS could be told that they need to make Hinduism a seamless religion, they can achieve it in at least one century. Yes! It will take a century to eliminate discrimination based on castes. One should not expect miracles. This problem was made over centuries and it will be a great achievement even if the discrimination is ended in one century.
And please note that I am talking only ending discrimination and not removal of castes. Elimination of castes has to evolve from a society free of discrimination. Inter-caste marriages will not be really symbolic ones, when all castes are equal. If there is no discrimination, caste doesn’t matter.
Hope someone from spiritual society, someone from RSS and one politician with strong will read this piece and takes it seriously.
By Rama Krishna Prasad Kodundarapulli