CASTE SLAV­ERY

Alive - - Editorial -

Re­li­gion has been a curse on hu­man­ity across the world. It has caused blood-shed deaths to mil­lions in the past and is still caus­ing spe­cially in the un­der­de­vel­oped coun­tries. In­dia, a de­vel­op­ing coun­try, has the added curse of caste. Amer­ica got rid of slav­ery by law. The Ne­gros, who were caught from Africa and sold to the whites, were treated as do­mes­tic an­i­mals tor­tured and killed with im­punity. How­ever, Pres­i­dent Abra­ham Linkon abol­ished slav­ery by law. The blacks were of­fi­cially given equal­ity. In In­dia caste dis­par­ity is more deep-rooted be­cause it is so­cially in­grained in the so­ci­ety and the rulers, mostly up­per castes, would not al­low it abol­ished be­cause they would be los­ing their priv­i­leges they got by the virtue of their birth.

What in­de­pen­dence to the coun­try and a Con­sti­tu­tion could only bring was po­lit­i­cal dis­crim­i­na­tion against the low castes, the un­touch­ables. The so­cial dis­crim­i­na­tion con­tin­ued. Gand­hiji tried to up­lift them by call­ing them “har­i­jans” (peo­ple of God), in vain. The Con­sti­tu­tion banned dis­crim­i­na­tion in the name of re­li­gion, gen­der and caste, and gave the low castes (Dal­its) some con­ces­sion in the form of reser­va­tions in jobs, ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions etc. But only very few could take ad­van­tage of the ben­e­fits be­cause of their so­cial back­ward­ness, op­pres­sion, poverty and lack of ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion pre­vail­ing among them.

The com­ing to power of the BJP pa­tro­n­ised by the RSS, an up­per caste or­gan­i­sa­tion that mo­nop­o­lised Hin­dutva, bent upon cre­at­ing a Hindu Rash­tra, stream­lined its poli­cies on Hindu-Brah­min pre­cepts. The re­cent Gu­jarat state elec­tions saw the Dal­its or­gan­ise them­selves against the BJP that gave a scare to lead­ers like PM Modi and Party Chief Amit Shah. Es­pe­cially young Dalit lead­ers like Jig­nesh Me­vani be­came a chal­lenge to the BJP lead­er­ship.

Re­cently in Ma­ha­rash­tra’s Kore­gaon Bhima, the Dal­its com­mem­o­rated a bat­tle fought 200 years ago and the Ma­hars (Dal­its) de­feated the rul­ing up­per caste Peshwa’s army. The mas­sive cel­e­bra­tion of the Ma­har army’s vic­tory pro­voked the Hindva groups of RSS/BJP and the ri­ots that re­sulted rocked the state. While the Dal­its made the event as a sym­bol of val­our against caste op­pres­sion, the Hin­dutva groups op­posed the cel­e­bra­tion as it led to a “Bri­tish vic­tory”.

No doubt the Ma­hars were fight­ing on the side of the Bri­tish East In­dia Com­pany, but at that time In­dia as a po­lit­i­cal en­tity was not formed, so the Ma­her com­mem­o­ra­tion could not be de­scribed as anti-na­tional. But then, Tipu Sul­tan of Mysore fought the Bri­tish and died but he was den­i­grated by the RSS as an anti-Hindu, in­stead of call­ing him a pa­triot.

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