In the last week’s edition of the Economist, there is an article on Caste Prejudice in India. The article is focused on the Dalits and the subtext of the article is: Dalits are better off than they have been but that’s not saying much. The article is in one of the respected newspaper is indeed welcome. It is heartening to see the that there is a coverage in the international media when the India media is busy pushing the issue under the carpet. The caste system has been the elephant in the room which the so-called upper caste Indian does not want to talk about.
After the Khairlanji massacre of 2006, when the protests took place all over Maharashtra and other parts of India, and the world; the international media published stories. The newspapers like the Wall Street Journal came up with the front page coverage of the issue of caste. The article in the Economist must be seen in the background of the peaceful mobilization of the Dalits all over India. The international media took it up.
Perhaps what is unsaid in the above article that the caste prejudice is not just limited to the so-called Dalits, but the prejudice is at every level of India’s pathetic social order that is based on the caste system. Even the Brahmins have been separating each other from the small differences based on the food habits, but unlike other castes, Brahmins are also the caste and the Varna. Due to the top position in the social hierarchy, they come to divide and rule others. The article also fails to make any reference the caste-based mobilizations of the dominant Shudras all over India.
It is true that the people at the last rung of the social pecking order are the worst affected ones, but it is equally true that the caste system has stopped Indians to become “Indians” as one community. This is what should have highlighted when the caste prejudices are discussed. There is an enmity between the Gujjars and Jats: the two dominant Jatis in north India. These nuances of the caste prejudices must be highlighted. In India, everybody hates everybody: it is also true for the individual members of the particular Jati. Dare they marry outside their caste, they are killed, humiliated, maimed, and boycotted.
The article should not limit the caste prejudices to the Dalits as there are other castes which are marginalized so much that they do not have any power. They are powerless to even mobilize themselves, unlike the Dalits, who have attained a critical mass to mobilize throughout India, and in several parts of the world, for their rights.
Author – Mangesh Dahiwale, Human Rights Activist