Caste, The Hound Still Hungry With Lips Jutting Out

  1 comments   |     by V Maharathi

Caste, The Hound Still Hungry With Lips Jutting Out By V. Maharathi What 'colour' is to the US, caste is to India. For India, caste has been the most decisive and destructive bane from time immemorial. In The Future Results of British Rule in India, Karl Marx rightly branded the Indian caste as “the most decisive impediment to India’s progress and power”. Well! While India now infused by the Hindutva ideology is into the 21st century, trying to wear a technologically modern and progressive mantle, its inherent evil of caste, codified and made into a social hierarchy called varnasrama for ages by Hindu scriptures or ‘shastras’ such as Bhagavad Gita and Manusmirithi, has been keeping people intellectually backward. Most of the scrupulous followers of the caste system are yet to come out of the ‘Middle Age’ or feudalistic mindset that never believes in secularism and humanity. In Tamil Nadu, the southern State in India, the hound of caste has, of late, been rearing its ugly head, targeting mostly the so-called untouchables or Dalits or Harijans who have been theoretically and practically placed at the lowest rung of the varnasrama or caste-based social order sanctified by scriptures. The Dalits have come a long hard way, fighting the oppression at the hands of the upper caste people who, in fact, belong to the intermediary castes. Yet they still are yet to become totally free from atrocities committed by upper caste tycoons. Earlier in March this year, a youth V.Sankar, a Dalit youth who had just finishing his education in mechanical engineering was brutally murdered in broad daylight at Udumalpet, a town in Tamil Nadu. The murderers belong to an upper caste; they committed the crime because they said the youth of a low caste had married a girl of what they called their upper caste politically, economically and socially superior and powerful. They called it an ‘honour killing’ (I doubt if the native users of English can understand the phrase); that is, a murder meant to uphold and safeguard the purity, power, status and honour of the upper caste. Murders of this kind have been on the rise in India, in general and in Tamil Nadu, in particular. Several pairs of lovers have been sacrificed at the altar of caste. In these crimes are involved not only the question of caste and power, but also the question of woman’s rights and the right to marry anyone one likes, which are guaranteed in the Indian Constitution. But unfortunately, political parties which strut about donning the mantle of saviours of the oppressed caste people are keeping lips tight for fear of antagonizing the upper caste people whose vote banks they count on for power and progress. Hypocrisy is an indispensable part of politics which does not feel ashamed of playing the cards of religion, caste and linguistic superiority. So, the Dalits have been a disgruntled lot, continually subject to harassment and hounding at the hands of the politically powerful upper castes which have a tacit patronage from the powers-that-be. In 1968 in a village called Keezhvenmani in Thanjavur district in Tamil Nadu, 44 Dalit farm labourers were burnt alive just because they had dared to oppose the upper caste landlords, demanding higher wages. The wounds from that nightmarish episode are still festering in the psyche of the Dalits who are, despite the better progress they have made in education, jobs and lifestyle, still struggling to free themselves totally from the domineering attitude and atrocities of the upper caste people. In this caste-driven society, women are equally ill-treated and denied the legal rights. The so-called saviours of Hindu religion don’t give a damn about the continuous harassment and murders of Dalits and women which now and then make headlines in the dailies and afterwards sink into oblivion. (V. Maharathi is a poet and a writer in Tamil and English, based in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India)

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