A thought provoking article by Tarun Vijay appeared in TOI.
On any scale of significance, is the burning alive of a helpless dalit girl less important as a news story than the murky IPL concerning only the rich and influential? Why we are seeing the scandalous people every day on front pages and the girl’s murder by arrogant agents of state power relegated to oblivion?
Five years ago, Gohana had happened. Now it’s Hisar. What I wrote on Gohana was thus reported by PTI (http://tarun-vijay.blogspot.com/2010/04/c.html).
And on Hisar the news report says: An argument between a dalit and a jat over the former’s dog led to near-unbridled violence in a village in Hisar district, which was tense throughout Thursday after an 18-year-old physically challenged dalit girl and her father were burnt alive on Wednesday. (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Two-Dalits-burnt-alive-after-clash-over-dog/articleshow/5846407.cms).
Those who say they belong to a caste that’s higher than the other Hindus are fossils. Like Khap people. The real low caste are those who claim to be savarnas, or belonging to some kind of an upper caste. Who gave them this right to call themselves ‘upper’ and the others ‘lower’? Those who say they are ‘upper caste’, in reality belong to the lowest class of human values and they abuse their dharma, which they say is Hindu.
Hisar must anger this nation, which is deeply engrossed in the IPL mud. We have sham pillars of democracy that thrive on casteism and hot money. Valmikis (dalits), tribal and other marginalized segments together form the majority of this nation. Yet, they are pushed out of every higher decision-making forum. Either they are hated and kept at bay by a cartel of influential caste-based groups or patronized — “well, you see they have to be accommodated, SC ko to lena hi padega na … mazboori hai”. These are the clichés we often hear in the power corridors. So-called dalit leaders are fake. They either consolidate their base through the easy way of spreading poison for other castes, using bad and strong language and aligning with deadlier elements of Islamist groups who use them for undermining Hindu solidarity. None of them have ever been seen helping their community through better schools and providing healthcare and sanitation facilities in their areas. Most of them learn to climb the stairs of political happiness through subjugating the interests of their flock and licking the boots of the political patrons.
I have seen an intrinsic hatred for the so-called low-caste people among the best of sermonizers who otherwise wax eloquent on the need of building a casteless society. I was abused, verbally assaulted by those who mattered just for taking up the cause of my Hindu brothers on the basis of what I have learnt in the RSS and hence got rid of my caste identity from my name. They, the all so-called fake high-caste conglomerate, would never allow a dalit girl’s burning taken up as a challenge to the Hindu society and discussed threadbare on channels and newspapers. Everywhere we see an abysmal absence of these segments, more so in the media. The channels, so passionately performing their duty on a Sania-Shoaib nikah or IPL-Tharoor masala, keep a studied silence with cursory mentions on issues of atrocities on dalits, especially on Valmikis.
In our daily life, the society intrinsically shows signs of hatred or at best aloofness from those whom we despicably refer to as scheduled castes and tribes. I know the arguments will be given how many extraordinary benefits these segments are receiving at the cost of the so-called higher castes. And even these castes have their poor who are forced to do menial jobs due to poverty. My only response to all these sham arguments is: “Try to live a day as an untouchable. Without friends in the circles that rule, be unlisted, ignored or patronized, always considered as ‘in becharon ko kuchh de do’ kind of people. Always blamed for the lethargic work in the offices and no-intelligence-just climbing up on crutches section. Then realize what it means to be a Valmiki. To be economically poor is bad. But to be poor and ‘untouchable’ is to be like a sub human. Choose.”
The test of your large heartedness and all-inclusive behaviour lies in self-introspection and not in quoting religious books advocating harmony and equality. Don’t quote the Gita or the Ramayana to Valmikis, they know what is written in it and what is not practised by the eloquent preachers. Answer the following:
1. Have you ever tried to celebrate Diwali or Rakhi with those who are called ‘untouchables’?
2. In your list of personal invitees, how many of these can be considered as your friends and visit your place with family as frequently as ‘others’?
3. In a puja or a family celebration do these ‘untouchables’ ever sit with you and perform the rites with Panditji as naturally as ‘others’?
4. If your daughter wants to marry a person of her choice and that happens to be a Valmiki, would you approve or disapprove?
5. Have you ever tried to know how these segments that have been around you and your ancestors and were not treated as well as they should have been, live their lives? Like the safai karamchari, whom you see every day, and try to avoid a ‘touch’ with her? Do they send their children to as good schools as you afford? And then do you also join the chorus that the government has given them too many facilities and the only sin that you have committed is to belong to a ‘higher caste’?
6. Can you describe the thread or the element that makes you feel that you belong to some sort of a higher caste and these, the ‘other’ people to a lower caste”?
7. Do you feel that the present-day pandit system, the priests’ order, needs a refreshing change and let the pujaris be more learned, with a good knowledge of Sanskrit, must get higher and reasonably good offerings (dakshina) and also the Valmiki youth, well trained and groomed for the job, be inducted as priests in Haridwar and all other temples and pilgrim centres? Let the opportunity to rise in society through IT, medical education and also priesthood be open to all Hindu sections without any caste-based discrimination?
8. How many ashrams, centres of spiritual rejuvenation and religious retreats would have these Valmiki and tribal segments of the society as devotees and as equal participants? Does it bother you if you find they are scantily represented even if they outnumber your castes?
9. Would you feel encouraged to ask a question to these high-profile gurus and saints that how many times in the last 10 years have they been to a Valmiki basti or have addressed a congregation for these segments in tribal areas, bringing the dharma and culture’s contemporary faces and flow to such areas also?
10. Have you ever thought that those who were declared outcastes by our common ancestors deserve a better deal through you and lets visit their house to see their condition and extend a hand of friendship, just for the sake of it, even if no other help can be given, and this act will not be an act of charity but a proactive action on part of those ancestors of ours who must be regretting their illogical behavior?
No offence intended indeed. Just try to hear the last cries of the physically challenged girl for help who was burnt for no crime except that she belonged to a caste, which the tehsildar didn’t.
Now, the last word for this piece.
The solution: produce more dalit journalists.
One of the better solutions to me is to help more and more youths from dalit and tribal segments to join mainstream journalism without the crutches of reservation. Have them trained in multimedia courses, through various schools of journalism. I am on board of a national university of journalism and can help. Even otherwise, would like to help as many young friends as possible through a specially crafted course and environment. I am sure friends will be there to help from all quarters. But at least it will do wonders to fill a very wide gap we see today. There is hardly any noticeable presence from these segments in our channels, editors’ groups and media houses. Why? Try to find an answer without blaming them with a bullshit — oh, they don’t come up on merit.