Last friday, I had an argument with one of my friends who belonged to brahmin caste on the point that whether use of castiest slur is fine and should not be objected to as it has become a part of our daily routine communication and it should not be a basis of labelling someone castiest. So this is how it went.
I shared one article regarding the culture of casteism in the NLSIU Banglore. The article talked in genreal about whether the law students are casteist or not? The article discussed is brief, certain incidents students have faced in NLSIU, Banglore because of their caste. Read the original article here and the take of legallyindia’s on that article here.
While sharing on the class whatsapp group without any of my comments, the only response I recieved was of my friend(P) saying “I don’t think that cast based approach is persistent among students on practical grounds“. I remembered a persosnal incident where I have heard P using castiest slur to define another of my friend(R) who is also from the same caste as P(i.e. Brahmin). The word P used was “Bhaand” in reference to R.
Now my reply to his reply on whatsapp group chat was “The cast based approach and slur is so proactive in the common usage among students that you won’t even realize that you are being casteist when you make a particular statement.” The counter reply to the same by P was “A general usage of folly jesters among friends circle cannot demarcate approach of a individual and in this sense make him casteist. I doubt whether you have personally encounter any of such instance in our class.“
I chose not to quote his own incident in the group chat and discussed it with him later. I reminded him of his previous incident when he made that statment. I called him a castiest. After which we had long discussion on how his grandfather and his family has helped many of the Valmiki Families in his city and how those failies worship his grandfather. He retorted to my statement in strong remaks that I should give second thoughts to my view that whether a person should be labelled as castiest for merely making folly gestures among friends and it was not a big issue as such. He further said that the word he has used was so common in his language that he did not even realize he was making a remark which could be termed as casteist.
I countered him by pointing out that the casteism has itslef become so soiled into our day to day communication that we hardly notice any wrong about it and refuse to accept its harmful implications. We talk about it in respect to our friends to whom we are making such remarks. We should remember that those friends would not get affected as they do not belong to that particular community you are demeaning. When you use a particular identity of a community to humiliate a person who may nor may not belong to that community, you are humiliating whole of that community already oppressed by societal structure which places them below everyone.
One similar incident was of another of my friend when given a peculiar fashion advice on what she should wear, retorted sharply that she “wish not to look like a ‘chamaran’, another Untouchable caste. When I criticized her she admantly persisted on repeating the same in future. I replied by simple remark that it merely showcased her diminsihed mentality which refuses to see discrimination embedded in her folly gesture.
Is the viewpoint that the use of such words is alright among friends and need not be taken seriously as it causing no harm to anyone? My dear friends I know your blind eyes would not be able to comprehend what you say, and how it may affects individuals who are already suffering because of the shame associated with their identity. Guess who will start hiding their identity becasue of your such remarks? Think before you use your words and ask yourself, how many people from the lower caste openly assert their identity with pride and compare that number with others from high caste. When you will think of this, connect it with your open use of slur and folly remarks and ask yourself “Is it fine to say what am saying?”