This episode on untouchability reminded me of one of Mahatma Gandhi’s quotes that I used to read everytime I used an inland letter issued by the postal department as a child: To say that a single human being, because of his birth, becomes an untouchable, unapproachable, or invisible, is to deny God.
I am sure urbans like me consider this to be an extinct term about which we read in school history books. So unlike many other evils like dowry, corruption, female infanticide etc,this term doesn’t stay on top of our minds. For that matter,even caste is something which carries negligible significance in our daily lives except for our surnames. But but but, this episode did wake me out of my slumber.
In mythology,who doesn’t know of the famous Eklavya-Dronacharya story? Taking a quick look into our history, Aryans organized themselves into groups based on their occupations namely priests,rulers and businessmen and servants. Later their next generations continued with those occupations and there existed no caste based discrimination. But slowly this took the shape of a rigid caste system where son of a priest would be a priest and so on. This paved the way of considering people to be superior or inferior depending on their occupations. The so called wise and powerful section of the society barred the lower caste people from entering temples or from drawing water from the public wells.
The trend continued till our days of freedom struggle. t’s a widely known fact from our modern history that prominent freedom fighters like Mahatma Gandhi and Dr B R Ambedkar raised their voices against untouchability much to the angst of orthodox Hindus.Gandhiji called the dalits(oppressed) as harijans (God’s children). Thanks to the efforts of many such social reformers,untouchability got abolished in India and practice of it in any form is an offence by law.
Shockingly enough the society continues to defy the books of law. It’s a hard to swallow fact that untouchability is still prevalent and practiced in India. OMG! What opened my eyes more was the fact that it is not something which Hinduism has embraced since ages, but Muslims, Sikhs and Christians also believe and follow the same in many areas of the country.
The heart wrenching experiences that Dr Kaushal Panwar had to share left the audience heave a sigh of utter disbelief. There were many other tales where people shared that how they were forced to do manual scavenging.How inhuman! The clippings from Stalin’s documentary film ‘India untouched’ is an eye opener. What to say when the elected MP and chaiman of National Commission for Scheduled Castes, Mr Punia wasn’t allowed an entry in a Kali temple owing to his caste!! I was like how would a boy feel if he is asked to clean the toilets in school? And all these injustices and humiliation just because of them belonging to a so called lower caste!!!Shame on us.
The question arises if the sacred religious scriptures preach so.Iam not a scholar who can translate and interpret what Vedas advocate on this.Blessed with just practical wisdom, all I know is a saying in Sanskrit ‘Dhaaryet iti dharmah’ which means Jo dhaaran karne yogya ho,wahi dharm hai. This implies that religion is a code of conduct meant to restrict unethical behavior in society.No religious scriptures on this earth preach inhumanity. To support this fact,one of the guests rightly said that casteism is followed by Muslim community but isn’t there in Islam.No offences to anyone,but I would say that the custodians of religions have misinterpreted it, probably for their own convenience. Our religions say work is worship-isn’t it? Then how do we justify looking down upon anyone’s work and consider someone inferior based on the job? Feeling of superiority based by birth can’t be our birthright.
It’s time to abolish the caste system not only in principle but in practice. It is something so deeply routed that now it’s engrained in our DNA. Even our census bureau takes account of the caste you belong to.Better late than never. ’Caste no bar’ shouldn’t be limited to a section in a matrimonial column and has to be drilled deep inside us in our psyche.
Raise your voice against manual scavenging by sending SMS Y to 5782711.
Jai hind-Satyamev Jayate!