The understanding of caste discrimination in Indian society is majorly limited to the sections who are often discriminated. The so-called upper castes still remain ignorant to the ill-treatment which the so-called lower castes receive on a daily basis. In a society where a futuristic leader like B.R. Ambedkar remains a Dalit leader and his contribution to the Indian society is not much acknowledged by certain sections, it deprives the society of even acknowledging the discrimination it practices.
My experience and realisation of what caste discrimination looks like happened at different stages in the course of time. Belonging from a privileged caste, the sense of privilege developed with an understanding of my surroundings. From childhood, I have seen elders of my home separating utensils and sitting areas for certain people. Maate, one of our regular servants who works in the farms and inside our house, is served tea in a different cup.
After finishing his tea every time, he washes his cup and keeps it separately. He sits on the floor in the corner and maintains a distance. Though he is the backbone of any function at our house, his sole function is that- to carry out necessary tasks. His hardwork and dedication however never led to the end the prejudices of caste differences.
I began questioning these practices with growing realisation. I realised that I never questioned the discrimination before because I have seen it since childhood and felt it was normal. Rural areas, like the one I belong to, practice ignorance and still carry the age-old discrimination practices on the basis of one’s caste. Although it can be argued that the situation has changed as compared to some decades back, we have a long way ahead to acknowledge and bring a strong change.
When Babasaheb Ambedkar talked about the abolition of caste-based hierarchy, he knew the long-term and immediate consequences of caste-based discrimination. In a debate with Mahatma, when Dr Ambedkar advocated inter-caste marriage, he knew that the inter-mix of caste is the only solution to vanish the evils of caste-based society.
Women of so-called upper caste, here in Bundelkhand, though themselves are discriminated against (facing domestic violence, purdah system, marital rape), they find comfort in their privileged caste. They view the discrimination as ‘just,’ as they silently face it in different situations themselves.
The problems associated with caste can be longlisted, however, the solution lies in the ideas of Dr B.R. Ambedkar.
Hence, the relevance of his ideas will remain and never fade in the long run. Even discrimination on the smallest scale hitherto is not recognised as unjust by many. Real improvement lies in introspection by the privileged society and by starting conversations amongst the youth in our homes.