Dalit Scavengers in Indian Railways

How to change Caste in India? Can you?

“Could I have a ticket to Warwickshire please?”

“Sure that’d be please”

“I meant a first class rail ticket Mr. umm.. Stevens”

“Oh sorry Ma’am, that would be then, thank you”

***

Yes, I’d grade the caste system like a seat on a the first class car of the British Rail. A ticket to hover above the lower castes, a permit to show them how unfortunate they are to be born with a name bestowed upon them by their ancestors, elected by their vocations in the 1500′s! The caste system is strictly followed in places all over Asia, like India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh et cetera but the influence of these echelons on the Indian society and its people has been greater than the others. The nation and its people had been divided into different castes, which placed a certain community of people over the others, gave them more privileges, made them powerful and allowed them to belittle the other communities. Why should one fragment of the nation enjoy more privileges than others? Why should children of a certain caste be given priority in schools? Healthcare be biased? Education and classes bigoted? Temples have separate facilities and the dos and don’ts for people of a certain caste? Even in the shrine of God, people are overtly practising racism. They call it the caste system. Oh yes, and the “untouchables” or “Dalits” exist! People of the Brahmin caste are said not to have even touched anyone outside their caste in the 18th century.

Imagine what this does to the morality and self-confidence of the one billion people in India alone. Their whole world is pruned into a cesspool where they are prohibited to hold dreams for themselves, travel outside their ignorant little worlds and explore humanity because it is not what the “society” wants. It would be a crime to even contemplate a matrimony between two people outside their respective castes. Who cares if they are in love? It doesn’t matter if they commit suicide as long as they abide by the ignorant, racist rules of the juggernaut of the secular culture as per se.

Fortunately, the caste system has been fragmented and closeted in the rural areas of the country, it hasn’t been able to survive in the fast-paced, modern world where the youth are fast adopting an urban lifestyle. However, thats just the picture on the outside. Take a peek into most of these households and you’ll still find the caste system actively practised amidst the hustle-bustle of the city. The “shudras” or people of the labour caste aren’t allowed to enter the threshold and are labelled as a bad omen if pass by you early in the morning, you became impure if they touched you and many of these labour caste people are scorned for every move they make because they are NOT allowed to even make an effort to fit in. They are by default considered ineligible to take part in any of the important decisions of the community like run for village counsellor “sar panch” or demand for equal rights.

The generations have pioneered the adaptation of almost everything from the west. Technology is advancing effusively while clothing is shrinking dynamically, western music is a rage, fine dining is an art and the literacy rate is climbing. The country is exporting knowledge and brilliant graduates and despite all the hunky-dory flurry that take place, the cultural setbacks continue to cut down on the opportunities for the ignored niche of the country. How can we as a society allow this? Encourage it and embrace it?

Today, we might not allow people of a certain caste into our kitchens, not get our daughters married to man of a “lower” caste even if they had a high yielding job because their her children still be christened with their father’s second name, which automatically makes them a subject of the “low” caste, and oh what a shame that would be! Today, we will discriminate our own people in front of God and holy places of worship, give them separate facilities in schools that provide education and build our nation, we will have biased healthcare too, because these people aren’t made of flesh and blood like us, they are made of, umm God knows better, or “Wait!” we are made of something superior. Let’s scorn these people with names and let’s use their surnames to chastise our caste members when they do wrong. Maybe they should be put into villages and confined. That would keep them out of the way!

Hold on a second, do these upper echelons of people ever think, what if I was a “Shudra” or a “Chandala” (those who disposed the dead) instead of a Brahmin, would I like to be treated this way? Do I deserve this treatment? What happens to the children in the orphanage, born to Brahmin parents but adopted by Vaishyas (traders class) and  Panchamas (lowest caste)? I find the entire rigmarole baseless and pointless. You can never really divide people. In a world where we are trying to bridge communication gaps, digital bridges and trying to educate the world to be competitive and confident, making an attempt to get gay marriages legalised and women equality in our societies, there, in the heart of a developing nation, lies the impenetrable caste culture which is nothing but a barrier. One billion people, 28 states and 1,108 castes all under the patriotism of one flag. A bit too many castes to conquer? The battle lies within.

Education alone is the answer I believe. Children are taught to believe that if you’re from the upper caste, you are lucky and the children from the lower caste are taught that they shall forever be looked down upon as the leftovers of the society. Teach the positive idea. Caste doesn’t mean anything. Each child is special, encourage intercaste marriages that would make the caste system redundant. People of the old era will not understand, so speak up and make sure they don’t enforce their ideologies on you. The minute you encourage them, its another foothold for this modus operandi to make itself stronger. Discrimination is a crime!

The change begins at home. The change begins now. The change is YOU.

Bridge the gap. Reach out. These are our people. Unite. We’re all made of dust, and to dust we shall return.

-Tash.x

Other related Posts

  • diptanshu chhadimali

    I am very thankful to “Tashsn” for thinking and taking a stand on this Casteism. I know how it feels when people ask me about my caste..when I say I belongs to S.C. then their behaviour changes towards me. I totally agree on this fact that “Caste means nothing”. But people around us are not ready to accept this, they have created such an environment that inter-caste marriage is a crime. Government should make some laws on this and try cure this leprosy.

  • Gill

    I wonder if this is why so many young Indians wish to emigrate, to get away and live under a more “free” society. After all the American dream that “you can achieve anything” could never be realised in India. Although the Americans still have a basic class system you are still able to supersede this. Britain’s class system is still prevalent although other European countries and, say, Australia have no class system at all. I also hope for a future where this outdated dogma will be looked on as a part of history with disbelief.

    • Rohit

      A major reason young Indians emigrate is caste- but not for what you’re thinking.

      India has something called Caste-based reservations in most of its legislative assemblies, political positions, governmental bodies- & EDUCATIONAL institutes. The reservations don’t make much sense; SCs make up only 16% of India’s population- but 22.5% of all resources are earmarked for them. STs make up a mere 3% of India’s population- but the government had no problem zoning off 7.5% for them. Another 25% reservation was introduced for OBCs- though just how they’ve been discriminated against, no one is exactly sure about…

      But Rohit, you may say, you general category bloodsuckers still have 50% reservation. Why are you complaining?

      The answer, my dear angrez friend, is that this 50% is open to ALL- General category-that includes Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas( this is my bunch. Brahmins & Kshatriyas have oppressed us;where’s my pound of flesh?), Sikhs, Buddhists, Muslims, Christians etc etc- AND SCs, STs & OBCs.

      Add reservation for sundry other groups & you’ll find that 45% of India’s population has to compete for a mere 27% of all seats.

      Is this justice??

      Let me give you an example- India has a bunch of management institutes called the IIMs. They have a strength of around 2500- for a population of 1.2 billion. Apparently increasing the seats will dilute the quality; 2500 was good enough for the 1960s, why should we complain?

      At IIM Ahmedabad, a general category male MUST score a minimum of 99.99 percentile- that’s the equivalent of scoring 750+ in your GMATs to even stand a chance of getting a call in their goddamned interviews. An SC guy will sail through at 95.

      Is this justice?

      The recent fiasco about India-Us relations had an SC woman at its centre. Her father was an IAS officer- they’re the equivalent of your higher-end bureaucrats. Their family must be dozens- if not hundreds of times richer than mine. But that woman- who was born in a palatial house, studied in high-end schools, slept in air-conditioned rooms during summers & had central heating in her home- got reservations. while my privileged arse got nothing.

      I grew up in a one-room house. How many rooms are there in your home, Gill? We didn’t have any servants growing up. We didn’t have any ACs; nor did we have room heaters.Winters in North India are terrible- the mercury reaches 0 degrees Celsius routinely.

      When I was 17, I remember studying late one January night when I’d stretched out my hand for a pen & found that my fingers were too stiff to grasp it. When I finally got into IIT, I found that most SCs in my batch are from moneyed families who could afford cars & laptops. (FYI this means I probably have an higher IQ than you & most other people on this planet. If I’m to punished for my alleged ‘superiority’, why shouldn’t I flaunt it? I’m from an ancient race; my family has produced singers & soldiers. We’ve fought Mongols, Turks, British, Nazis & Japanese. Why shouldn’t I take pride in my blood?)

      I bought my first smartphone two months into my job. The SC guy who used to sit near me in DE lab had one when he joined the institute.

      The first time I heard the word ‘caste’ was in school; the teachers described it as some ancient Hindu superstition a la Sati. I never really bothered back then; I never asked my friends what their caste was back then- it never mattered.

      Now? I can name the caste of every single person I knew at school- & where they got into based on their caste. I’m never going to marry an SC/ST woman- they can remain happy in their own groups. I don’t think they’re inferior in anyway to me- but I don’t want anything to do with them.

      Wasn’t caste a mere Hindu superstition- destined to be wiped out? Or do the gods want it to exist- that’s why this has happened?

      I’ve never had much faith in gods. Gods don’t put food on the table. Fathers do. I’m proud of my father- probably the only man in this World I actually respect- but I’m not going to be a father myself as long as I stay in this stupid nation.

      I don’t want to bring another general category bloodsucker into this World- unless he is assured of a fair chance.

      EDIT:-
      I remembered that you angrez might not be knowing what SC, St & all that stuff mean…Here goes…

      ***SC- Scheduled Castes (they’re the so-called low castes. Apparently my family used to oppress them or something.Of course, how we poor farmers & soldiers ‘oppressed’ the likes of Mayawati (seriously, google her!) is a question best left to experts).

      ***ST- Scheduled tribes. They live in forests & like commies. They’re part of something called the Naxal rebellions. The day they win, they’re going to longmarch our bourgeoisie arses into the sea.

      ***OBCs- Other Backward castes.No one knows who they are or what they are. Every time a politician wins,he adds his caste into the list. It might be worth trying our hand at it- but my family is poor & I’m trying to escape India myself. Once I’m in civilized lands, I’ll send for my parents- who deserve to live in a better nation- & my sister (India’s not a good place for girls). Hopefully, we four will forget all this caste madness, our goddamned ‘Indian culture’ & Hinduism bullshit in a few years. Long live Richard Dawkins & may the name of Hitchens inspire us for ages to come.