Caste politics is out of the closet, again. Few months back, in September 2015, newspapers ran stories of a man lynched because of consuming beef. Every single space in the social media was crammed with arguments, counter-arguments, possible causes and outrage against the Hindus for targeting a poor Muslim man in Dadri, Haryana, who, it was later discovered was not consuming beef after all. Several months on, in January 2016, people have side-lined the lynching of Mohammed Akhlaq, to make way for Rohith Vemula, a Dalit student from Hyderabad who committed suicide.
I belong to the so called man-made upper caste but I am not in favour of caste politics; I don’t believe in discrimination, in any form, leave alone caste. However, I get saddened when I think of labeling every upper caste person as a perpetrator of caste violence in some form or the other. I know for a fact that there are many like me, among my friends and family who oppose discrimination based on profession or colour of the skin and yet every day, when you read the morning papers, we are made to look like attackers lurking at some corner waiting for a chance to pounce. Is every upper caste person prejudiced? Is every Dalit oppressed? No. Then why this generalization?
I did my higher studies from a very prestigious university in New Delhi. Call it fate, I had a supervisor (who belonged to one of the minority communities) for thesis who literally used to harass me, albeit indirectly. She would make me digress from the thesis (by asking me to read unnecessary literature), keep me waiting for hours together before a brief meeting, always demeaning my writing skills and never supporting me as a student. Ultimately, when I felt my thesis was going nowhere I had to discontinue it midway and all my dreams to have a ‘doctor’ in front of my name vanished in thin air! Looking back, I feel that though I was from the upper caste, I was subject to discrimination in the hands of a person from the minority community. I am sure there are several people like me from the upper caste who are subject to similar forms of prejudice on a regular basis. Can we take this as a form of giving back from the people of the minority community?
What I am trying to underscore here is a fact that discrimination is not faced by minority communities alone. But unfortunately, how many such stories get the public attention? And yes, media is aware that these stories will not fetch them readership. Yes, if I had created a stir by taking an extreme step, maybe I would also have had my share of limelight. I’m sure Rohith Vemula must be smiling as he looks down from above. He would have never expected that he would become so popular in death. Had we given him and his problems the kind of attention while he was still alive, we may have saved a life. Alas! In India everything happens late and every incident is looked through a coloured glass. While the heat is on, media gives maximum coverage to an incident in its front page. Gradually, it loses steam and keeps getting lesser space until a new issue, far more interesting crops up to take its space. Then this becomes history, gets mentioned in conferences and symposiums and is then laid to rest as examples to be used when needed.
India has always taken pride in its multicultural heritage. But now it seems, this idea is showcased only in Republic day parades and is completely absent otherwise. If this is not true, we wouldn’t have to discuss Akhlaq or Rohith or the recent Tanzanian harassment episode. So, what is the way out? Until we stop blaming the other for our problems, the problem doesn’t end at all. We must first change ourselves. After all, every person counts to make the world a better place. Why not make a fresh start by forgetting the past and shove away attitudes like revenge, discrimination, self-pride and instead harvest a new beginning filled with equality and empowerment? Until the day, every single citizen of this country realizes this and determines to change, ‘Incredible India’ will always remain a dream. Let us get together to be that change and make the world a better place at least for our children. Let them breathe an air devoid of discrimination, hate and caste wars and live equal and free.
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