Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Casteism and ME..

I have expressed many times my dislike or antipathy for casteism, I started hating this system when I saw some people were discriminated or treated as inferiors just because either they were born in particular caste or were performing certain jobs (like cleaning, leather works or some other so called inferior tasks). I couldn't understand the fact how can a family in which person is born, on which person has no control can decide the social status of person for the rest of his/her life? None of us can not choose our biological parents or family, we are born randomly in some family by the act of reproduction and based on that our caste and religion is decided, one can change that but for the most they are branded as A or B based on which family or parents they are born to, this tag sticks to them for rest of their life as per current nature of this system. I was trying to remember the day when I came to know about my own caste (or sometimes called Jati) and what effect it had on me and what was my reaction to it.

I have to travel deep down in my memory lane to recollect that instance, as far as I can trace my memory I think I was in 3rd or 4th grade and one day I don't know why or for what reason some teacher in my school decided to ask everyone in our class their caste, most kids knew what caste they belong but I was among few who didn't and I was really embarrassed by this. So I came home and asked my parents what is our caste, they told me it was Thakur, which is also my last name, but then I had doubt that why other people have different last names than their caste name, then my dad explained that this particular last name is also used as caste name in northern parts of India (from where my family originally belongs) and this comes under warrior section of varna system (Kshatriya). I was relieved to know that our caste is not at the bottom of that hierarchical system, it was big relief for me at that time!! Over the time I was also told (by various sources) that I should be really proud of my caste as we have long history of brave warriors and great rulers etc. etc. Actually all this information had some effect on me, suddenly I stated looking at people around me from the angle which caste they belong, whether they were from Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya or Shudra varna? This might sound very disgusting and racist but that's how it was when I became aware of my own caste and believed in that system. I started making fun of some friends who belonged to some other castes and were physically weaker than me (so I knew they cannot beat me for teasing them), I even laughed at some because they can not fight war and there ancestors were not brave enough just because they belonged to some other caste, when I look back to these incidents I feel really embarrassed and disgusting even to share them, even though I did all these things as ignorant and naive kid I was not the only one doing this, insulting people by mentioning their caste or abusing them using their caste name in derogatory manure was very common around me, so I didn't feel I was doing anything seriously wrong. I think one day I took it too far and one of my friends started crying because of my taunting and he complained to his mom, after knowing why was he crying his mom gave me a big lecture. I don't remember what she said to me but that effectively ended my disgusting stint in casteism, I do not claim that her reprimand enlightened me about evil of casteism but it had some positive effect. I think it took few more years, few more visits to my ancestral village where I saw more open practice of casteism which slowly infused utter dislike and disgust about this system in my mind. Then there was also a issue of reservations when I was in college (kind of affirmative action for socially backward sections of society in India) which brought this issue back in my life where people from so called upper caste were at recieivng end and I thought I was discriminated because of my caste in secular country like India (where everybody is supposed to be equal irrespective of their caste, religion or gender) and believe me whenever someone discriminates you based on your caste or race it really hurts, just listen to complains about reservation or affirmative action from people who think they are affected negatively because of these policies.

The post is not about history of casteism (see links section of this post for more information about this), but it's about my own personal experience with it and reason why I dislike it and chose not to follow this system. There are many who are ardent follower and defender of this system, I am sure they must have their own very good and convincing reasons for doing this but I couldn't find any reason to either believe or follow this system, for me this is no less than racism and I am totally against it. The system which gives some individuals feeling of superiority just because they are born in particular family or clan is just not acceptable to me, it doesn't matter what was the original intention and how it got corrupted, current system which is practiced even today is highly flawed and outrageous, I think it's damaged beyond any repair and should be discarded totally. Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

Links:
1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caste_system_in_India 
2. Casteism: Essay on Casteism in India
3. Vedic Friends Association Position on Casteism

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