Friday, July 24, 2015

Untouchability- how a simple precautionary practice turned into such horrible custom?

Untouchability is one of the horrible practices which is still practiced in some parts of the India. This evil practice was so common that it not only became integral part of Hinduism but it also got stuck with many other religions to which people living in that region got converted. These religions like Christianity or Islam don't have system of upper caste or lower caste in other parts of the world but in India they inherited this local practice as they found it very difficult to break this ancient custom so they just made a deal just to ignore it. I saw this being practiced on many occasions as a child and always wondered why some people are treated like this? This practice raised many questions in my mind, why it is not proper to touch people belonging to particular caste? what will happen if we drink or eat in same utensil in which they do? I asked many people about why some people are treated in such inhuman way, but very few offered me any rational explanation apart from giving standard answer that these people belong to some lower caste that's why they are treated like this or it is their bad karma or it's their fate, etc.. This pathetic explanations never satisfied my curiosity, I continued to do my research on this and discussed it with many people who had anything to share related with this subject. Slowly things became clear to me, I got to know that originally it was some precautionary practice which was started during pre-sanitation era to avoid spreading of germs and infections , its abuse by certain sections of society resulted in this horrible practice of untouchability.

So it seems many many years ago people doing certain type of jobs like waste removal, dead body and animal disposal, haircutting and shaving, butchery and meat selling, etc. were quarantined because of nature of their job. Basically people doing all such type of work where there was very high risk of infection or high chances of contamination of some really bad smell or germs were treated with special precaution so that others around them don't get affected by these things. This was supposed to be just a precautionary method to avoid a health risk. This was not based on the religion or caste or social status of that person but a type of job they do. Even today we still practice these things in medical science but in much more scientific and sophisticated way, people use gloves, masks or special protective clothing to avoid infections or contamination. People with serious infectious diseases like tuberculosis or SARS or Ebola are quarantined so that infection doesn't spread and becomes and problem. Whenever we go to see a new born baby we take all precautions so that we don't infect it with germs. But this all is part of hygienic lifestyle with proper scientific reasons behind them not based on some age old belief system where people are treated untouchables just because of the family in which they are born, it doesn't matter what type of work they do. In a way Hinduism is a very tolerant religion so it is strange that such a horrible practice became part of it. Actually it is still very different than many other religions of this world. It is a mixture of many different type of belief systems which were practiced in one particular geographical region. It was never practiced in a way as many of the other religions of the world are practiced (specially monotheistic ones) but now Hinduism is considered as one of the major religions of the world and most people accept this classification. One of the biggest failures of Hinduism is its inability to stop abuse of some of the traditions. Systems such as caste were converted in horrible discriminatory institutions and traditions like sanitary precautions were converted in horrible practices like untouchability. Such systems like casteism and practices like untouchability have no place in current modern society but still some people try to keep them alive for their own selfish gains.

We as a society collectively need to fight against these type of things, no matter what was the original intention behind these practices or traditions, today they have taken a horrible form and are damaged beyond any repair. The way these things were practiced in past and are practiced today no person with any rational mind can justify them, the only option left is to abandon these things, any effort to justify them will attract more criticism and insult. I hope these things phase out from every civilized society as they should not have any place in any civilized world.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

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

No comments:

Post a Comment