How Is Sex Different From Caste?

Posted by Daipayan Dhar in Campus Watch
February 16, 2017

According to a news report, ‘on January 14, “Radical” and “USDF”, the two left-wing student political groups of Jadavpur University, called for a joint movement to break all the locks of ladies toilet on the campus. It was perceived as a feminist move because the JU authorities used to keep the ladies toilet on the campus locked after 6 p.m, simply to discourage girls from staying on the campus after sundown.’

A girl from Film Studies department who is a member of neither of the organisations joined the campaign. But later, she complained that Sushil Mandi, a member of the Radical wing, touched her inappropriately while sharing a cigarette with her, during the lock breaking campaign.

Sushil Mandi is an M.Phil student belonging to a family which is not so well off economically. His family is based on Dhaniakhali, Hooghly district. Besides all these, Sushil Mandi has another identity. He belongs to the Santal community, which is an Adivasi community found in West Bengal.

On February 2, Mandi left his hostel, leaving all his belongings, including his mobile phone just to escape from this charge against him. His family members lodged a missing complaint at Jadavpur Police Station. An FIR was also lodged naming four persons from USDF and the girl who has been harassed. Currently, there is unrest between the two political wings. The Radicals are claiming that Mandi has been falsely accused.

The women participation in the left wing student politics, which claim to be progressive and liberal, shows a poor ratio if we go by the statistics of any university or college. Those girls who take part in politics hardly get an equal opportunity to lead any movement. Besides this, there happens a constant form of gender discrimination just like it happens in any right-wing political groups. The women are not allowed to raise their voice or speak separately on gender issues since there is no political gain out of it. It can’t be denied that Students’ Federation of India (SFI), All India Students’ Association (AISA), United Students Democratic Front (USDF), etc. are the carriers of the same regressive patriarchal structure.

Besides these left wings and right wings, what we have now is the third front. The Ambedkarites take up the issues of caste which is mostly excluded by these left wings. But when it comes to the inclusiveness of women, they are not an exception, just like the left wings. Rather, they are more regressive.

Recently an article has been written in Round Table India, a forum of the Ambedkarites which mainly concerns with Dalit issues, published an article by Saradindu Uddipan titled “Where is Sushil Mandi?”. The article not only blamed the victim by doubting her accusation in spite of the well-known fact that most of the cases of molestations in India goes unreported, but, it also portrayed the whole issue as a Dalit atrocity. Here Mandi has been portrayed as a boy coming from a poor economic background who has been falsely accused and discriminated because of his caste. The Ambedkarites who believe that the mainstream Indian patriarchy is defined by Brahminism actually maintained the same patriarchal discourse by trying to shift the whole issue in the name of caste. The article went far enough to include the name of Sushil Mandi alongside Najeeb and Rohith Vermula by glorifying his “struggle” in a “Brahminical” institution like Jadavpur University.

Recently, things have gone far when the students from the Radicals abused the girl who tried to raise her voice for her friend, inside the campus. It proved the kind of mentality they keep which gets covered by the red flag or blue flag. Be it any political party or student wing; this incident stays as an eye opener on how masculinity always triumphs and the so called progressive liberal intellectual groups.

If caste is an issue of birth which they find very relevant, the question that arises is how they could fail to see that sex is also the same? Since I was born as a boy, I had been asked to comply with the standards of masculinity. As I grew up, I had been praised as “outspoken” and “assertive” for being a good speaker. But a girl was tagged as “authoritative” and “unruly” for the same. My attributes had been acknowledged by the society irrespective of how I have looked. At times, things had been easier for me, since I had my freedom to choose my ways and grab the opportunities. While travelling in buses, trains or while walking in a crowded place, nobody tried to touch me or harass me in any ways intentionally. Hence I accept that I have received a lot of social privileges which a girl who was born at the same time didn’t receive. What these activists have failed to see (or intentionally ignored) is that sex is just like the system of caste, where a person born in an upper caste family generally enjoys the privilege of being in the upper class. Although the discrimination on the basis of caste is felt passively in urban spaces, and may not be found relevant by the Brahminized lower caste families, this is not so in the case of women. Women are discriminated in every space, and the whole thing is very prominent, intensive and active. Do women have identities or caste? In reality, before marriage, they carry their father’s caste, and after marriage, they carry their husband’s caste. Although there may remain a certain form of snobbishness or pride among the upper caste woman but actually when it comes to gender discrimination, she is just a victim of this oppressive structure which she fails to perceive.

Image source: Arijit Bose/ Facebook