Questions of caste perpetuate inequity

Every day, we encounter employees, that often belong to the lower caste, who are earnestly working towards the management of buildings, or coolies that carry heavy loads on their backs for our ease. Yet, what do Woodstock students do when they see this?

Nothing. They blast their loud music protruding from their speakers, laugh, and walk along.

Is it really that hard to say “namaste” or “good morning” to those who are burdened with physical labor?

I sometimes feel guilty for existing in the largest democracy in the world. A democracy which only cares for Dalits either when they are murdered or when they threaten the government with a riot. In all other cases, no one cares about a Dalit, a person who belongs to the “untouchable” caste.

Does every Brahman have a birthright to kill a Dalit?

I survive in a society where a Dalit’s dark skin decides that they have to clean my house. We as a nation constantly remind ourselves of “social justice” whenever a Dalit is oppressed, while on the other hand, a pregnant woman is attacked by a mob of six men for not cleaning up a dead cow from the street. Then, we have the audacity to question our morals after that.

Our society has created an inherited norm of Dalits being inferior to the upper caste. The biggest misconception by the upper caste is that they consider themselves superior enough to take a human’s life for any reason.

The truth now is such that many Dalits are converting their religion to Buddhism in order to get honor and prestige in the society.

Why should a piece of literature decide the hierarchy pattern in India?

In our country, the descendants of the upper classes dominate the public services because they were raised to prominence by the British during their reign, who only appreciated the rich and the educated, which left the lower working class in an abysmal condition.

The superiority of the upper castes traditionally relied on several factors. In ritual terms, the upper varnas, the Brahmans, Kshatriyas, and Vaishyas, are known as dvijas (twice-born) and enjoy the reputation of being purer than the varna below, the Shudras.

According to Hinduism, as solidified in the Sanskrit literature by Brahmans themselves, these three groups are supposed to have ritual hierarchy because of the caste into which they are born.

We have had such concrete and harsh actions taken against Dalits on a daily basis that neither our literature nor God can justify.

The reservation system: Is it a curse?

The constant fear of public humiliation for the lower castes led the government into taking some adequate action. In 1990, after several years of independence from the British, resulting from the efforts of social campaigners like Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, caste inequality got extreme limelight under the Constitution.

The phenomena known as “quota reservations” arose.

This caste-based reservation system is an affirmative action program for protecting the oppressed castes of India from caste-based discrimination by reserving seats in educational institutes and the public sector of the nation. The reservation system is applied to about 49.5 percent of the total population and applied to groups that are classified as “Other Backward Classes (OBC),” “Scheduled Castes,” and “Scheduled Tribes.”  These are all groups of historically disadvantaged, indigenous Indians.

Has the reservation system shifted the powers to the hands of the lower caste?

The movement has caused an inevitable backlash in which the members of the upper castes wail about the continuous unfair treatment and the disproportionate standards used in the reservation system.

For instance, at Anna University, for Civil Engineering, the open class cut-off was 190.5 marks and for the other lower castes it was BC (176), SC (167), and SC (142). This means that a normal student had to be nearly perfect and other students with the reservations could score fewer marks and still get in the university.

Many argue that reservation should not be caste-based but be linked only with economic criteria.

The Patidar reservation agitation is a community seeking the OBC status. They have displayed major public protests as their 10 percent reservation was squashed by the Gujarat high court in 2016.

Hardik Patel, an Indian social activist who has been imprisoned for his outright actions against the decision of the court, even went on a fast, lasting 14 days before he was carried to the hospital.

Don’t consider me an anti-National

In the last two years, every time I read the Indian news, I encounter the same, bleak headlines:

18-yr-old Dalit youth shot dead for affair with upper caste girl”

“India Dalit man killed ‘for watching Hindu celebration’”

“ Dalit Man found hanging from tree in Mainpuri”

“ Missing minor Dalit girl found raped, murdered; two detained”

All of this is extremely traumatic, but have we ever wondered how saddening it is, as an Indian citizen, to read this every day and see no action being taken?

It is not my favorite pastime to disrespect the government, but it is just getting worse every day.

We blame society for having this inbuilt inequality towards the lower castes when many parents advise their own children to stay away from Dalits. We should not expect change when we don’t think twice when considering someone an “untouchable.”

The reservation system is not an equalizer, for what all the upper caste has done to them; instead, it is a chance to cement their position in society with their access to education. The government must ensure a  discrimination-free educational atmosphere and implement to give them more land and food security.

The fact of the matter is that even if Dalits achieve equality, only their caste name would change, but they would be still exploited in the same way.

There are still some questions that are unanswered: How long will Dalits face discrimination? How many dreams must be shattered? How many Dalits should die to change India once and for all?

Is a Dalit life worth more than just being a toilet cleaner?

 

Edited by Rak Leo Ogan

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