The “#blacklivesmatter” movement in the USA last month was paralleled in Inda by the “#dalitlivesmatter” movement. While there was gigantic activism about Dalit lives and rights last month, every second person got triggered to speak of the atrocities faced by the sections of the society subjected to the cruelties of the archaic caste system in India. Those sympathetic to the dignity and rights of Dalits last month are back to their lackadaisical attitudes to this more-than-real sensitive issue. What exactly appears here is that “#dalitlivesmatter” became a trifling victim of a “social media trend” without actually addressing to the real cause.
We know the “caste system” in India is a historic social construct exploited by religion, but more than that, it stands as a psychological construct, which makes it a mammoth task to obliterate. Merely becoming a part of a trend without actually yielding to the cause is expendable. Showing solidarity is one thing, and activism another. One showing solidarity doesn’t necessarily intend to bring about a change; on the other hand, activism is definitely to do with using vigorous campaigning to bring about a change in the existing system.
We need to understand that the caste system is a 3000-year-old phenomenon, and we had truly discerned this system to be adverse, not before Dr Ambedkar challenged the caste system. This means the kind of awareness to be raised has to reach the core of the mindsets of millions of Indians. There is a large section of modern youths (simultaneously speaking of rights) who are critical of the caste-based reservation policy of our country, claiming to be progressive and quoting examples of a few famous privileged Dalits in high positions.
But after connecting the dots, one must ask, how can a roughly 70-year old reservation policy overcome a 3000-year-old phenomenon? I mean, that’s the least done to uplift a particular section, and it seems problematic too. The arrest of Mr Teltumbde is a clear case of suppressing voices in favour of Dalits. We cannot deny the systemic domination of the higher castes in the society in all dimensions, where the lower castes also constitute the lower classes, assigned to the most vulnerable jobs. The solid caste-based prejudice prevails in various forms, untouchability in villages, violence against the lowest of the castes, stereotyping dressing and eating habits. The situation is even worse for Dalit women who face a dual stereotype, for gender as well as caste. These are a few to count out of the entirety of the list of atrocities.
I am not speaking in detail about the real conditions of Dalits today; it is evident to all our eyes in various dimensions. What verily needs to be done is to take a step to weed out this brutal mentality embedded in society. Speaking of Dalit rights and lives shouldn’t be confined to some trend. Nor do we need to contain spurious intentions just to be a part of the mainstream altercations at the time. The caste challenge needs a uniform consciousness with relevant knowledge and a consistent zeal to bring about a change.