Skip to main content

We must annihilate caste to save democracy, disprove notion human rights are unequal

Brass for coin donated for 1 Country 1 Nation Campaign
By Martin Macwan*
The truth is always simple. Caste has decayed Indian democracy and nationalism. It continues to shame India in the eyes of the world. Barring a miniscule section, most Indians carry the dual schizophrenic identity, “I-am-lower-than-the-other-but-I-am-higher-than-the-other”.
Caste has humiliated every religion on earth.
As a direct challenge to Mahatma Gandhi who appreciated caste and was opposed to untouchability, Dr BR Ambedkar advocated annihilation of caste against the backdrop of the Poona Pact to ensure that India truly grew as a nation. Independence from British rule failed to liberate India from the slavery of caste.

Caste & Gender

Discrimination based on caste (including sub-castes within each caste) and gender are two sides of the same coin. Contrary to the spirit of the Indian Constitution, we, as Indian citizens, continue to strengthen the notion that basically, human beings are unequal. As a result, violence continues based on caste and gender. Unfortunately, we perceive this systemic violence as a law-and-order-problem rather than the greatest challenge to the Indian Constitution which upholds equality of all citizens.

As a direct challenge to Mahatma Gandhi who appreciated caste and was opposed to untouchability, Dr. BR Ambedkar advocated annihilation of caste against the backdrop of the Poona Pact to ensure that India truly grew as a nation. Independence from British rule failed to liberate India from the slavery of caste.
Governance, both political and judicial, is constrained by measures such as caste-based reservations and special legislations like the Prevention of the Atrocities Act.
Caste is perceived as a problem of Dalits than one affecting every Indian citizen.
Caste has been a systemic phenomenon that has obstructed the mental, social, economic and cultural growth of all Indian citizens. True, people who are most adversely affected by caste, manifested through poverty, abuses, discrimination and malnutrition, are Dalits, tribals, religious minorities and OBCs.
Discrimination based on caste and gender are two sides of the same coin. Contrary to the spirit of the Indian Constitution, we, as Indian citizens, continue to strengthen the notion that basically human beings are unequal.
And yet, as a nation, we have limited our measures to combat the menace of caste to just welfare measures and affirmative action programmes for Dalits. This not only strengthens our notion that Dalits are the victims, but that caste is their sickness.
In fact, caste is an Indian sickness and we have done nothing to correct the prejudices of the people who have continued to benefit from the privileges of their caste status. The corrective measures, needless to say, cannot be limited to law alone, but should be an enormous educational process.

An untouchable-free India

So can the largest democracy of the world answer this question: Will the dream of 1947 of an untouchability-free India be accomplished in 2047? Will future generations carry the identity of “higher and lower” caste? If caste cannot be annihilated, will the existence of India as a nation be reduced to a myth?
Having spent more than four decades addressing the adverse impacts of caste and the resultant practices of untouchability, the question that deeply bothers me is this: Why does the Indian republic love caste more than its own Constitution? Sadly, I have witnessed every Indian village become a “one-country-two-nation” module.

Not only are religious places of a common deity segregated by caste, but cremation and burial grounds too. Dwellings are segregated by caste as well.
In a village in Kerala, I witnessed two separate churches across the road – for Dalits and non-Dalits –with their caste-specific priests. There is no religion that is devoid of caste discrimination. This reality is pushing the Indian psyche to be a part of a confederation of castes.
Our political culture is strengthening the rule of caste, just as our propagation of religious ideologies.
This concern needs national intervention, especially in the context of our mission to construct a glorious monument for the Parliament. Amidst all the environmental and moral-ethical concerns raised around this construction with best of the Gujarati architectural expertise, there is a critical question: What will happen in the new Parliament which will be different and unique? Will the new House be able to ensure annihilation of caste and establish a one country-one nation constitutional vision?

1 Country 1 Nation Campaign

Every debate requires a programme. Thus, an initiative has come from Gujarat. Navsarjan Trust, which has been leading a campaign called “1 Country 1 Nation, please repeat 1 Country 1 Nation”. The campaign is planning to mint a brass coin, the largest coin minted so far, to be donated to Parliament for its upcoming monument. The coin has an engraved question: “Will the 1947 dream of Untouchability-free India be accomplished in 2047?”

Why the coin? The practice of placing a coin in the foundation of a building is connected to the 11th-century legend of Megh Mahya, a youth considered untouchable who was beheaded to ensure water supply in a pond in the kingdom of Patan. The story is beautifully filmed in Bhavni Bhavai, starring Nasiruddin Shah and Smita Patil. Megh Mahya agreed to be sacrificed on the condition that the king did away with untouchability. Last year, Gujarat has allocated Rs 3 crore for the Megh Mahya Memorial. But the practice still exists in India of burying an “untouchable” in the foundation of forts and palaces.
The brass for the coin is being donated by people across the country. The coin is to remind Parliament that the constitutional mission to ensure untouchability-free India continues to be unfinished and neglected.
The young man from village Traj (Gujarat) collected 27.5 KG brass utensils from the community.
The campaign will also appeal to people who believe that “1 Country must have only 1 Nation, where every citizen is equal” to donate Rs 1 for the Parliament House.
A question may arise as to why poor people, who are battered over centuries, should donate Re 1 to the mammoth Parliament monument which has failed to ensure economic and social justice as promised in the Constitution.
Niharika, a 12.5 yr old girl decided to go from home to home in her village (Dharmaj) in Gujarat to collect 5 kg of brass utensils and 100 one rupee coins. She has thus far collected 300 one rupee coins and 10 KG of brass.
For centuries, we as citizens have been donating to scores of religious shrines. Have we ever thought of donating to Parliament which is the only secular political shrine of citizens with a mandate to protect our rights? My Re 1 donation is a public statement that Parliament is a democratic institution and I have a share in it.

Buddha Smiles

This donation reminds me of a story we learnt in school. A kingdom announced that a Buddha statue in gold would be constructed. Monks led the campaign of collecting donations. Artisans designed the mould and poured molten gold into it. Everyone waited eagerly for the mould to open. Instead, a crack appeared on Buddha’s face, much to everyone’s grief. Was there a mistake in the construction of the mould or in pouring the melted gold? The statue was melted again and poured into the mould, but the crack on the face re-emerged and the process was repeated a third time.
The head priest summoned all the monks and asked: “Did anyone of you reject any donation from anyone?” The eyes of the youngest monk fell and he said with a shaking voice: “An old lady living on the outskirts of our kingdom wanted to donate a tiny copper coin and I thought with all the gold, how will the copper coin match?”
The head priest, followed by all the monks, hurried to the hut of the old woman and with stretched palm and lowered gaze, he humbly said: ‘Mother, without your copper coin, the smile on the face of Lord Buddha will never come.” And with the copper coin in hand, they hurried back. The coin was melted with all the gold. It was poured in the mould and when it was opened, Buddha appeared with a smile.
Like the attempts to build a statue of Buddha with a smile, our dream of building an untouchability-free nation has turned more than 70 years old. Yet, the wide and deep crack of untouchability on the face of the largest democracy lingers on. As my colleagues and I tour villages, we have never witnessed the enthusiasm of the people who part with brass utensils and Re 1 coin as their contribution.
This is a campaign based on hope. The hope that more and more people agree that caste is a blot on Indian democracy and humanity. After all, the annihilation of caste cannot happen with law alone.

*Founder, Navsarjan Trust, Dalit Shakti Kendra. A version of this article was first published in The Leaflet

Comments

TRENDING

Sorry state of Indian academics: why was I thrown out of Delhi varsity interview room?

By Dr. Abhay Kumar*  The interview for the post of political science (Guest) was scheduled on Saturday afternoon, September 10, 2022. Given my previous experience, I was not willing to appear for it. But friends persuaded me to go and fight for our rights. I reached the college well before the time. When my turn came and I entered the room. The first question was asked about my experience. I said that I had taught for four semesters at NCWEB. I mentioned that I had taught ”Comparative politics”, “International Relations”, “Comparative Political Thoughts” and “Indian Government and Politics”. I said that as a teacher I had taught all the articles listed in the syllabus of the same Delhi University and the expert could ask anything about any reading or ideas. Friends, the first question asked by a female member, perhaps she is the principal of the college if I am not wrong, to give the full form of NCWEB! The second question asked by a male expert, perhaps he is the political science dep

Musician and follower of Dr Ambedkar? A top voilinist has this rare combination!

Some time back, a human rights defender, Vidya Bhushan Rawat, who frequently writes for Counterview, forwarded to me a video interview with Guru Prabhakar Dhakade, calling him one of India's well known violinists.  Dhakade is based in Nagpur and has devoted his life for the Hindustani classical music. A number of his disciples have now been part of Hindi cinema world in Mumbai, says Rawat. He has performed live in various parts of the country as well as abroad. What however attracted me was Dhakade's assertions in video about Dr BR Ambedkar, India's undisputed Dalit icon. Recorded several years back at his residence and music school in Nagpur, Dhakade not only speaks candidly about issues he faced, but that he is a believer in Dr Ambedkar's philosophy. It is in this context that Dhakade narrates his problems, even as stating that he is determined to achieve his goal. A violinist and a follower of Ambedkar? This was new to me. Rarely do musicians are found to take a

Tokens, symbols or incipient feminists? : First generation women sociologists in India

By IMPRI Team  The online event on the theme ‘Tokens, Symbols or Incipient Feminists? : The first Generation of Women Sociologists in India’ was held as an initiative of Gender Impact Studies Center (GISC), IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi under the #WebPolicyTalk series of The State of Gender Equality – #GenderGaps. Inaugurating the session, Zubiya Moin welcomed the speaker and participants to the program, followed by an introduction to the eminent panelists. Commencing the program, Prof Vibhuti Patel made her opening remarks welcoming Prof Kamla Ganesh, Feminist Sociologists and then greeted Prof Ratna Naidu and the editors of book ‘Reimaging Sociology in India: Feminist Perspective’, Dr Gita Chadha and Dr. Joseph M.T. along with Prof Arvinder Ansari and also welcomed all participants. She set up the stage by making us familiar with women sociologists and their works. Dr Gita Chadha, Editor of the book ‘Reimaging Sociology in India: Feminist Perspective’ After th

Omission of duty by BSF and police: Hindu forcefully kidnapped, taken to Bangladesh

Kirity Roy, Secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), & National Convenor, Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity (PACTI) writes to the Chairman, National Human Rights Commission: *** I am writing this to focus on the life and situation of the poor and marginalized villagers living alongside the Indo-Bangladesh border of West Bengal. Through the several complaints we made throughout the years to your good office, it is now evident that the people of this border are living in an acute crisis, not only from a financial perspective but also in terrible distress. The people of the border are devoid of their basic rights and are subjected to immense torture, harassment and restrictions mostly enacted by the Border Security Force personnel, who are supposed to be posted at the international borders with intentions to protect the Indian citizenry. However, on the contrary, incidents of victimizing Indian citizens are being witnessed at large by the BSF. 130 Bhot

Tamil Nadu govt claiming to reform Hindu religion, temples. People deserve better

By NS Venkataraman  For the last several decades, there have been hate campaign against Hinduism in Tamil Nadu in a subtle or not so subtle manner. Initially, it was a hate campaign against brahmins and the brahmins were abused, insulted and physically attacked. Fearing such conditions, many brahmin families left Tamil Nadu to settle down in other states in India or have gone abroad. Now, the brahmin population in Tamil Nadu is at microscopic level, for which these hate campaigners against brahmins were responsible. Later on, emboldened by the scenario of scared brahmin families not resisting and running away, the hate campaigners started focusing on Hindus. For some years, when M.G.Ramachandran and Jayalalitha were the chief ministers of the state, the hate Hindu campaigners were not much heard, as both these chief ministers were staunch believers in Hindu philosophy and have been offering prayers in temples in full public view. However, in the last eighteen months in

Emerging dimensions of India’s foreign policy in the context of global politics

By IMPRI Team  The three-day course took place recently, providing participants with an understanding of the development of Indian foreign policy, the complexity of geopolitics, and its flexibility to adjust to and even shape global outcomes. Many distinguished academics, senior scholars, former Indian diplomats, and journalists who are skilled observers and commentators of India’s foreign policy will serve as instructors for this course. Day 1 The three-day immersive online certificate training on “Emerging Dimensions of India’s Foreign Policy and Global Politics”, an initiative by the Center for International Relations and Strategic Studies (CIRSS) at IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), began on July 14th, 2022 at 5:00 PM (IST) on Zoom platform. Dr Souravie Ghimiray served as the emcee throughout the 3 days of the event and welcomed the distinguished speakers of Day 1. The esteemed panel on Day 1 consisted of, Dr Soumita Basu, Associate Professor, Department of Intern

Demographic parameters of India@75: resource allocation, political representation

By IMPRI Team  As per UN Population Prospects 2022, India is going to be the most populous country in the world. In this regard, IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi with #IMPRI Center for Human Dignity and Development (CHDD) , organized a panel discussion, #WebPolicyTalk, as part of the series The State of Population Development- #PopulationAnd Development on India@75: Most Populous Country? The moderator of the event was Mr Devender Singh, Global Studies Programme, University of Freiburg and a Visiting Senior Fellow at IMPRI. The panellists for the event were Prof P.M Kulkarni, Demographer, Retired Professor of Population Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University(JNU) , New Delhi; Dr U.V Somayajulu, Co-Founder, CEO and Executive Director, Sigma Research and Consulting ; Dr Sonia George, General Secretary, Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), Kerala; Prof K.S James, Director and Senior Professor, International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), Mumbai. Th

Bhagawat Gita shows the way for the attitude to life and desirable goal of life

By NS Venkataraman*  When a mother delivers a human body, this body has no identity. Then, parents, relatives, friends consult each other and discuss the alternate appropriate names and arrive at a suitable name for this human body and this body is known and identified by this name. This human body, which steadily grow just like animals, plants and others and after experiencing the pleasures and pains of worldly life alternately for several years, perish one day, for the body to be burnt or buried. This body, bearing a name as it’s identity, comes in to the world and goes away from the world and the name that is the identity for the body also goes away along with the body. This is the scenario for several thousands of years that have gone by. The question: One question that does not seem to be still “convincingly explained” in a way that will appeal to the brain in the human body, is as to whether this human body only consists of flesh, bone and blood with well

Not my burden of shame: Malaysia's apathy in tackling problem of sexual harassment

By Jeswan Kaur*  "There was no such thing as child abuse. Parents owned their children. They could do whatever they wanted." -- actress Ellen Burstyn Condemning, judging and humiliating - it this the very nature of people in general or is this what Malaysians are best known for? When a 15-year-old actress recently made a damning revelation that she was molested as a child by her perverted father, support was far from coming. Instead, many name shamed Puteri Nuraaina Balqis, calling her "stupid" and rebuking her for seeking cheap publicity by insulting her father. They "advised" her to pray more, "be thankful to her father for bringing her into this world and remember that she would be given something by Allah for insulting her father." Would any of those who condemned Puteri Balqis "enjoy" being molested, raped or sexually harassed? Would they fancy calling their house a sanctuary when safety was no where in sight? Do these insensitive

Trying to tell a rooted story: Decolonial imagery, Brahmastra and Pushpa’s Srivalli

By Gautam Bisht*  I recently watched Brahmastra and I feel the film is a nice illustration of the disastrous turn good intentions may take. The film is trying to tell a rooted story, about ‘astras’ using high quality VFX (whatever that is) but comes across as cringe. With no dearth of awkward moments in the film, my personal favorite are scenes where Shiva is touching the feet of his elders. The film just manages to make regular everyday actions look bizarre and alien. It’s the kind of film that can make even right-wing people feel disappointed in tradition. One way to explain this, is the paradox of decoloniality. If you don't know what decoloniality is, it may just mean that you are doing some interesting stuff in life. But as someone interested in social science, I have to work with such concepts. Simply put, decoloniality cannot be explained simply. One has to go through some dense and convoluted spaces to get there. It’s like scoring weed for the first time in Delhi. You would