By Suresh Suresh:
Caste, the evil system that divided humanity, is responsible for many atrocities. For centuries, many human beings, including Rohit Vemula, have suffered because of this hierarchical system.
It is important to examine the system before the fight is taken upon.
The caste system is a system believed to have been designed by Manu. The seventh Manu saved humanity from the great flood (like the Noah in the Bible). According to the manuvadi system, a ‘Brahmin’ is the ideal person in a society. He is the epitome of purity, does not serve any master, free from all desire of material things, always compassionate towards other beings and always desires the good of mankind. The whole society must rely on him to guide them in the right direction. Everybody in society should strive to be a Brahmin. Being pure in thought, word and deed is supposed to be the goal of the ‘caste system’.
‘Brahminhood’ is a state to be acquired by being pure in action, thought and word. The problem, with caste and Brahminhood being the ideal, lies in it being hereditary. This makes it complicated. Perfection is something that you should strive for and achieve by your actions in life. It’s not that being born a brahmin means that everything you do is perfect. There is a story in the Chandogya Upanishad about a boy called Satyakama Jabala who was born to a slave called Jabala. Satyakama wanted the life of a mystic and, therefore, to find a teacher to guide him on the path to self-realisation. When he enquired about his Gotra (the name of the first man in the family) from his mother, Jabala, she told him to be truthful about his parentage. She did not know who his father was as she had served many masters and was not sure who the father might be. He told that to Rishi Gautama Haridrumata who was convinced that only a brahmin could be so sincere.
Was caste always based on birth or was it at some point based on the character of a person is hard to confirm. Many a time a custom loses the original rationale for which it starts and human beings mould the custom to suit their greed and selfishness. Probably the earlier brahmins in the manuvadi system saw how much power a brahmin wielded in the caste system and wanted it only for their progeny and, thus, created a system of slavery for the shudras and created untouchability for the panachamas. Let me illustrate how customs change over time through a fable. Long, long ago there was a Buddhist monastery located on a mountain. The monastery had a rat problem, so the head monk brought a cat to deal with this. That move solved the problem of the rats but the cat now started disturbing the monks while they were meditating. So he tied the cat to the southern pole of the monastery and all the monks took turns to feed the cat and tie it to the pole every day. Eventually, the head monk died but the new monk continued taking care of the cat. When the cat died he got a new cat and tied it to the southern pole. Eventually, while the reason for having a cat disappeared, subsequent generations of monks continued the practice of tying the cat to the southern pole and several theories and books and shastras came out about the benefits of tying the cat to the southern pole in the monastery. All the other monasteries began the practice as well. This is exactly what happens when you blindly follow a system. It makes you a fool and a slave to things that do not really matter.
Adolf Hitler thought that Germans were a pure Aryan race and spoke of white supremacy. Today, he is seen as the enemy of humanity by most of the world. Don’t you think the system according to which you acquire a caste by birth did for centuries the same thing that Hitler did? There is no caste in India that is pure and not mixed with other castes. Africa is the motherland of the world. Whether you agree or not, the fact is that the first human beings, your forefathers and my forefathers, were Africans and they ventured out into the whole world and inhabited the whole planet. This has been proven by research in genetics. Even the rishis after whom the Gotras of brahmins are named today were not brahmins by birth. For example, Rishi Vishwamitra, who wanted to be titled a Brahma Rishi (a title given to a brahmin who attains self-realization ) but was denied because he was not pure enough. His was a life of penance and struggle for the title and he had to conquer lust, anger and desire when he was finally titled Brahma rishi.
All the brahmins born in the Gotra of Vishwamitra should understand he was not a brahmin by birth. For that matter, Rishi Valmiki too was a tribal bandit before becoming a brahmin. It is he who composed the epic Ramayana. The truth is, purity and penance are not bestowed by birth to people born in any one family, or a particular religion or race. A pure man full of compassion, wherever he is born, is respected and looked upon as a mentor and a leader.
The caste system is a disease now. ‘Brahminism’ or casteism is a mental disease which makes you feel different and superior to another human being. Everybody is suffering because of the system, and people who are happy with the caste system should understand that hate will only beget hate. The caste system is a system of hate. It must be mentioned that in some states like Andhra, and a few other places, often very poor brahmins faced atrocities at the hands of landlords. The new oppressor might emerge from any corner or from any caste until this mindset of seeing one human being as being superior to the other based on caste exists. Caste is not just a Dalit issue, it’s a humanitarian issue where every community in India is affected in some way or other because of this inhumane system. The United Nations Human rights report on caste clearly shows how many human rights it violates.
The world is undergoing tremendous change around us. Religion, which was once used to explain so many mysterious things, is being replaced by Science. Religion is now a political tool used for selfish reasons. It’s important now to disconnect religion from social life and limit it to the home. In this age of globalisation, nothing can be hidden. People are realising how similar they are in terms of basic human needs. There is no place for Hindutva, or an Islamic or a Christian agenda in this age. The new age agenda should be ‘Humanatva’ and its motto should be protection and safety of all human beings. A new India needs to emerge in which all of humanity would love each other and where they would want to live. An Indian dream should be created on these lines. We are so divided on the basis of caste, religion, and language. The true sense of that Indian spirit is only limited to, maybe, cricket and Bollywood to some extent. All of us need to emancipate ourselves from this mental slavery of caste, religion and sectarianism that is making us hate one another. Humanity should become a mass movement and loving and worshiping the fellow human being should be more important than the hundreds of different gods that are worshipped. The worship of God in your fellow human being should be the ideal, and working for his well being should be the path of spirituality. India doesn’t need gods or religion to liberate it. It needs humanity. All of us should create an Indian dream like there was once an ‘American dream’. The Indian dream can only be created by giving primacy to the human being in all of us and loving and treating each other as equals. It’s time to see the caste system for what it is and treat it as a humanitarian issue. There should be a sustained and consistent battle against its philosophy until the mindset of all those who abide by it changes. Humanity should become the number one religion and by our deeds and actions, we can make India a place that truly embraces humanity. It is time for every Indian to think as a truly free person and make India the heaven of infinite possibilities.