I belong to a so called ‘upper’ caste. I am fully aware of the atrocities my ancestors have committed to whole communities of people.
My ancestors denied entire communities of children the right to education for two thousand years. My ancestors denied them the fine arts for 2000 years. My ancestors denied them the right to God for 2000 years. My ancestors denied them the right to sanitation for 2000 years. They denied them the right to free speech for 2000 years.
For 2000 years these communities of people, suppressed by my ancestors, only did physical work, which again was forced by my ancestors.
And whatever your ancestors did comes naturally to you, if you understand anything of how the genes work. When I pick up a book today, I grasp all the complex thinking processes. When a girl from the ‘so called’ slums today picks up the same book, her brain might reel, because my ancestors did not give her ancestors the privilege of books for 2000 years. Yet she persists.
And I gloat, very unfairly, that I earned my ‘seat’ through ‘merit’? And she didn’t get it because she didn’t have the merit?
Now, in the present day India, my ancestors have been forced to change their ways. Make no mistake, they didn’t change of their own volition. If left to their means, they would have continued to suck blood off these low-born people for another 2000 years. They changed because their hands were forced by a few thinkers who instigated these people not to stand up to this non-sense, and a once-in-a-while-politician who actually cared for these oppressed people.
For just about 30- 40 years, the children of my ancestors, people like me, were given a taste of our own medicine. A very tiny sample taste. We were denied a right to ‘top’ education if we belonged to a forward caste. No, ‘denied’ won’t be the right word. Our rights were restricted. Not the same kind of ‘denied’ that our ancestors perpetrated on these unfortunate people on the basis of birth for 2000 years. We still could get educated. We still could do the fine arts. We still could go to the temples. Not ‘denied’ like the way my ancestors kept all the fine things like education, arts, philosophy and God to themselves for 2000 years.
The 30 -40 years seems such a ‘loooong’ time to my generation, and 2000 years is just nothing apparently.
“Look, that’s a lower caste person who became a doctor because of reservation system… how he is getting his daughter into medicine citing SC/ST. It is so unfair!!” For how long should we permit them to use the privileges?” They raise the war-cry.
Dudes, We aren’t able to tolerate just two generations getting benefited because of the privilege of birth. we cry hoarse about the injustice our children are meted out in the name of ‘reservation!’
Don’t you realize that your children’s ‘merit’ and their children’s ‘de-merit’ came because of an accident of birth and a very deliberate scheming to keep them that way? That our savage ancestors denied the ancestors of these so called ‘meritless’ children, a right to all things brainy??!
You say blithely, “‘It’s the system of the past’, we had nothing to do with it!” And wash your hands of.
Can you honestly say that you don’t wear your caste with pride even though you may not speak about it? When my child and yours goes to a school, aren’t they proud of their superior upper caste and belong to gangs similar to them? Did they deserve this pride? You wouldn’t even realize the price the other children pay when every time they are asked their caste directly and indirectly, would you? These other children, do they deserve their ‘shame’ if its all ‘a system of the past?’
Don’t you realize that your troubles of 30 – 40 years are just a second compared to the 1000s of years our people made use of these people’s services? Or are you so selfish that your personal welfare blinds you to the injustice your tribe has done?
Do you ever give your children a straight forward answer when they ask you “Why are we paying the price?”
Without mincing words have you ever told them, “That our ancestors told some cock and bull story of a God who created us out of his head and shoulders and them through his groins and feet? We trampled on their rights for 2000 years with this stupid story and made them do only menial jobs? That we made them carry shit, that we didn’t touch them? That we shamed them, that we persecuted them if they wanted an education? Now we are trying to make amends?”
No, I bet you only spoke about an unjust system.
Now you may ask me, “So then do you think reservation is the answer? Are you Ok with children paying the price of their ancestors?”
Well, I don’t know. Some problems are so complex to have straight forward simple solutions I guess. We have pretty much screwed things to the level of “Idiyappa sikkal”.
But my personal thought process is, “Aren’t children paying the price everywhere?”
Look at the Germans, their nation committed a great crime against humanity. But they realize it and are trying to pay reparations to abused people everywhere. Look at the whites, a majority of them realize that slavery was wrong and are trying to make reparations even though they are not successful. But we, how many of us even realize that what our ancestors did was a great crime against an entire community of people and that 30 years of reformations is just nothing?? All that we do is shed crocodile tears and wear your caste names behind your names with pride. (Jeez, I am unfriending everyone with a surname as castename as of tonight.)
Personally to me, I am Ok with my child losing a few opportunities if it will help me compensate for the horrors perpetrated by my ancestors to these other children. If I could afford, I would personally trace down all the families who were destroyed by my great grand fathers when they forced these unfortunate people not to wear their upper clothes. I will sponsor their education.
Since I can’t afford to at present, All that I can do is reserve a few seats, free of cost, in all my workshops for these under-privileged children. Which I do.
Let’s hope more and more of us become aware of the privilege we are born to and learn not to be proud of it. Be ashamed of your upper caste.
PS: The 2000 years that I mention repeatedly is just a much discounted for number. The Vedas, which talk about the upper caste supremacy is atleast 10000 years old. The manusmrithi that speaks about how exactly to treat a lower caste person is greater than 2000 years old. The Buddha has mentioned of the horrors of caste system and has even cited it as one of the reasons as to why He felt the need to renounce the religion of his ancestors 2500 years ago. The story of nandhanar who went through untold miseries just because he chose to love God is more than a 1000 years old. This explanation is for all the people who are choosing to educate me on history. Go read some books other than your text books and internet. And please, do read your actual religious texts before you come for an argument with me