TW: Caste-based violence
Democracy, socialism, secularism, social justice: Our Constitution is decorated with ‘big’ words. As of today, we Indians have supposedly spent 72 years on the path laid down by this Constitution. But a significant section of our Indian society has been left behind in this journey. Who is this section that is ‘behind’ us? There is no need to search far.
A groom was beaten up just because he rode a horse, a pregnant woman was killed because she has touched someone’s water pot, a 22-year-old boy lost his life because he wasn’t provided with safety equipment while cleaning a deep sewer, a 21-year-old boy was killed for eating in front of ‘upper-caste’ men, and this list doesn’t end here. All these people belong to a section that has been left behind: India’s Dalit communities.
We’ve been witness, and continue to witness, such cases that happen all across India. If our Constitution talks of ‘social justice’ and ‘equality’, why did all these instances even happen? Why are people from certain communities forced to live a life in conditions that we cannot even imagine? I feel there have been mistakes, some short-comings, that we didn’t acknowledge, as a society, and by the subsequent governments that have been running the country. But, tell me, which government has come to power in this country that actually believed “Yes, we have made a mistake, we could have done better“? I leave the answer to you.
The reasons for injustice and ‘backwardness’ in our country, I feel, can be narrowed down to economic and social factors. The caste system stands at the top among social causes, a system that is still a dominant part of our country, a country that we have started calling ‘New India‘. If the status quo issues could chang just by coming up with slogans, it would have changed in the past itself when Indira Gandhi had given the Garibi Hatao slogan. Only a few years ago someone gave the Achhe Din aane wale hai slogan. Everyone knows how many “Achhe Din“ have come. This happens because we are addicted to slogans and drama. But, when hungry, you seek bread, not slogans.
‘Republic’ is a good word, isn’t it? It is supposed to mean a system created by people, for people, so that society can progress. We have ‘progressed’, but the rate of progress isn’t the same. Today, the top 10% of so-called upper-caste families in India own 60% of the wealth. In this situation, how do our leaders talk about equality, prosperity, and social justice?
Perhaps they live in a New India, an India where the caste system has ended, an India where no one’s caste is seen while voting in elections, an India where people are not intimidated after being told their religion is in ‘danger‘. Maybe in their India, the Prime Minister of the country does not identify the people by their clothes, maybe it is an India where the political opponents are not called “anti-national”, such an India where writers and poets are not put into jails. Maybe they live in an India where no one has to enter a sewer to clean it, where neither one has to beg nor be killed in the name of God. But, how many of you really think that our India is like this?
The question is, can we millennials truly free our India from casteism? Will casteism be eradicated just by ‘removing’ reservation or just by renaming old policies, or even just launching new policies? I don’t think I can answer this alone. We all have to find the answer to this, together. But there are some things that we can all do easily. We should not elect a politician who seeks votes in the name of religion and caste. Rather, we should choose someone who talks about social justice, electricity, water, health, education, and climate change. We cannot treat the disease without diagnosing it.
We have to acknowledge that casteism exists and that it is making our country hollow. Until we accept this, we can never truly eradicate casteism.
Be it the education system, media, politics or bureaucracy, even the criminal justice system, there is no place where discrimination is not carried out in the name of caste. I can cite data from various organisations, including the government itself, which proves that there are very few people from the Bahujan communities who have a place in the decision-making roles. Don’t you think that’s injustice? If your answer is yes, then do not sit silent just by showing sympathy to the Bahujan communities. You will have to raise voice against casteism with the Bahujans because this is your fight as well.
Did our freedom fighters fight the British just for power? They fought because they wanted us to make our own decisions. People who are puppets of the powerful cronies can never build a new India. I know the caste system is very powerful, and it can’t be destroyed overnight. But, if we do not even start to oppose this, then the casteist structure will only become stronger and will push the Dalits of India into the same deep moat from which they are trying to get out.
Note: The author is part of the current batch of the Jaati Nahi, Adhikaar Writer’s Training Program. Head here to know more about the program and to apply for an upcoming batch!
This post is part of the Jaati Nahi, Adhikaar Writers' Training Program, a campaign by Youth Ki Awaaz with National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights & Safai Karamchari Andolan, to demand implementation of scholarships in higher education for SC/ST students, and to end the practice of manual scavenging. Click here to find out more and apply.
This post is part of theJaati Nahi, Adhikaar Writers' Training Program, a campaign by Youth Ki Awaaz with National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights & Safai Karamchari Andolan, to demand implementation of scholarships in higher education for SC/ST students, and to end the practice of manual scavenging. Click here to find out more and apply.