Saturday, August 11, 2012

Casteism


Today I have Sudarshan Rangarajan with me for a guest post. Let's know more about with him in his own words:

I am Sudarshan Rangarajan, recent computer engineer, searching for ‘what-makes-me- happy- so- as- to –pursue- it- as- something- more -than –a- hobby’. 
I vent my frustration, thoughts, ideas (yet to strike me), and views about current issues in a blog www.simplysud.com . This is the first time I am writing a guest post. So I am pretty excited about it and want to know your thoughts about it.

Casteism

What is the first thing that strikes you when you hear the word “caste”? Is it reservation? Or is it oppression?
The caste system originally wasn’t supposed to compartmentalize the society on basis of your caste but it started out as a classification based on the type of work a person did. Broadly they were of four types
  • Khsatriyas – the protectors 
  • Brahmins –teaching and performing rites and rituals.
  • Vaishyas – the business community
  • Shudras – the community that did menial jobs


According to historians initially when this system called the ‘varna’ was implemented it wasn’t supposed to be hereditary. But it inadvertently became hereditary as a father would want one or all of his children to carry forward his legacy. So basically a person from a certain Varna could try and pursue any other Varna.

Some thousand years ago the Varna system was manipulated by the upper Varna especially the Brahmins and converted into a jati or caste system. This caste system got manipulated, multiplied, categorised making many sub-castes within the main four caste. With the work they did the shudras were stigmatised. They were declared as untouchables and very few got out of the grasp of the problems associated with being a shudra and educated themselves. 

The problem our country faces is different region wise:

Lower caste in cities/metros:
Now we have many cities that are inhabited by well established people of the all castes including the lower caste. The ones who grabbed the opportunities provided and made it big. But now that they are well established and can sustain or rather prosper without the additional support from the government I think they should give up the privileges associated with the caste and help other downtrodden communities reap the benefit. As they already know about how to avail the support they can inform others about it. For example on a basic level if you have a maid who is from lower caste you can inform her about the various schemes that will help her invest safely in government bonds and about schools that are free for them that even provide the books and stationary.

Lower caste in north India (Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, and others):
The situation of the lower caste here is grim. They aren’t allowed to use the same facilities as the upper caste. Even the temples are supposedly different for the lower caste. They aren’t allowed to go to the same school as the upper caste kids do.  Hospitals have separate waiting rooms, nurses, ward boys and even the preference is given to the upper caste. The lower caste women are the ones who get the worst possible treatment. In a survey of 2006 among 500 dalit women of 4 states, 116 said they had been raped, additional 234 said they were assaulted sexually. Being a woman in this country is tough but being a dalit woman in impoverished states makes it even tougher as being sexually abused by an upper caste is an inescapable part of their lives.

Lower caste in Tamil Nadu:
The case here is very peculiar and is actually completely opposite to the situation in the rest of the country. Till the 60s the caste system did exist but more or less there was peace. Some places did have separate facilities for the people of different castes and opportunities for the lower caste were few but more compared to the ones in other parts of the country. Then in 60s there was rise of D.M.K (Dravida Munnetra Khazagam) which claimed that the Sanskrit speaking Brahmin & Kshatriya society was Aryan and the rest who belonged to lower Dravid. This movement gained momentum as the people thought they had a voice in D.M.K., they opposed Hindi as a language and said Tamil is the language of poor people. In this rage of anti-Hindi, anti- Aryan (Kshatriya and Brahmin) which converted into votes and D.M.K. came into power. As vote bank politics they played the reservation quota card and kept increasing the quota limit. Not only was the quota raised up 69% but also according to the statistics 87% of the Tamil Nadu is backward class (SC, ST, and MBC) which according to individual reports is a bloated figure. Since it is the backward class that is now the majority, the tables have turned. It is noticed that people from upper caste are made fun of and are not allowed into various schools and colleges. It is ‘reverse casteism’. 

The problem is that the previous generation still very much believes in the caste system, and they pass this on to the next generation. The only possible place where we can start eradication of caste is at the school level. As kids we do not care about asking the caste; we just make friends on the first name basis. We just care and share because that is all we are taught. We aren’t told to ask each other’s caste when we get acquainted.

I came to know about my friend's caste only when we were about to pass out from high school and my friend who I had known for 4 years had to submit an OBC certificate. If we reduce the number of times we ask a child his/her caste in any way be it informal or due to formal obligation I guess that will be a step in the right direction. Because the moment we see something different, someone having a different identity, as kids it changes our thinking. As adults (if educated) only an incident or behaviour is something that will trigger an unusual behavior.

There is so much more to write, so much more to do about it.
Thank you for taking time to read this post.
Thanks to Rujuta for this wonderful opportunity.

Disclaimer: The post is a Guest Post wherein the views of the author are expressed.