Our country is developing at an exponential rate. Mindset, Living style, Attitude etc has been in the changing path ever since the pace of development reached a significant rate. Ironically, one thing that has been taking all of us backward is the casteism that has grown up with us. However modern we claim to be, this is one thing that people still keep close to their heart is casteism. But the difference is in the way they express it. One may not be publicly putting up a casteist remark, but right through their conversations they are indirectly hurting the sentiments of others.
Here is a story narrated by Midhun K Madhu on what he has to face in his childhood.
“A few years ago when the tenth standard results were out, one of my relatives (aunt) asked my register number to check my result. She went to a nearby internet facility (internet cafe) and asked the employee there (a woman whom she knows before) to check the result. After seeing it, the person at the internet cafe enquired whether my aunt has given a wrong register number. Unfortunately ( for whom?) my result was ‘highest grade for all subjects’! She said the register number is correct. But unbelievingly, the internet cafe employee told my aunt that there may be some technical errors. Otherwise no chance that ‘your relative’ (of course, she meant a person in your caste) would score the highest grade for all subjects. And let the manager come to check this.
How could a person in the internet cafe decide my intelligence without even hearing a single word about me? How could she measure the skills of my relatives without any IQ tests? Yes, it is my caste. That’s the only thing helped her to calculate my approximate Marks!
An average Indian easily identifies an unknown person’s caste even before making a proper acquaintance. Visual cues including skin color and dressing style, asking a few questions such as your name, parents’ occupation, the religious institution you visit etc. aid them to identify you as one among them (or not one among them!).
I don’t think the majority of my friends born in the forward castes will ever going to realize the privileges of the castes they belong to. They will never go to hear “cheaper things are at the other counter” from a salesman at a shopping mall.
If born in a Dalit caste in India, one has no option other than face casteist remarks throughout his/her life from teachers, friends, colleagues or whomever he/she mingle with. There won’t be any escape doors.
During my school time I had this experience – While I was walking with my friends, we saw a group of ladies. One of my friends then said “Don’t look at them. They are dark-skinned, maybe they are ‘pelayathis’ (A word used to denote a woman of pulaya caste – a scheduled caste in Kerala)”. Recently one of my close friends asked me – “am I looking like a ‘nayadi’?” after we had a tiresome walk under the hot sun. (Nayadi was one of the most oppressed caste till a few decades ago (still?). They were invisible to society as they were subjected to stone pelting upon their appearance!)
I won’t say my friends were deliberately making casteist remarks. But I certainly blame their bad awareness about the society they live in.
This is the problem. Nowadays, discrimination based on caste is being normalized. Most of the people are unaware of the casteism they show. Casteist words and phrases are becoming part of our everyday conversations. It will be extremely hard to identify a Dalit to whom the society was always right in all sense. Whatever be his/her financial status or parents occupation this holds, he/she had to suffer in some way or the other. Realizing this should be the starting point of understanding the need of affirmative actions.”
NB- The writer Midhun K Madhu is a Ph.D. student at the Indian Institute of Science Education & Research, Bhopal.