Casteism, if anything, is gaining strength as days pass. Oppressed classes are growing stronger in their belief that they need political strength they could use as leverage to speed up social recognition, economic parity and protection of what is rightfully theirs. And they are headed the correct way, having recognised their power as vote banks and are increasingly unhesitant in asserting this power. That the ‘Dalit’ word is heard in a shriller pitch today than before is proof also of the growing fear among the weaker sections that their interests are being ignored or sidelined. The government of the day has tried to present itself as an upper caste dispensation in line with its religious and political inclinations and history and that has not helped in building the confidence of the masses.
Symbolic gestures such as the appointment of a Dalit as the country’s president have not gained the party enough traction as these have been eclipsed by incidents such as the flogging of Dalit youths in Una, Gujarat for ‘cow slaughter’. Then there have been incidents such as student leader Rohith Chakravarti Vemula, a PhD student at the University of Hyderabad, commiting suicide. A large section of people in different parts of the country still face discrimination in the name of caste. The BJP’s strident casteist policies have further deepened these differences. Dalit dissatisfaction has surfaced on modern methods too, on social media such as WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook and hashtags such as #RightToMoustache and groups such as ‘Mooch To Rakhenge’ have seen much patronage. Although social media may not yet be a dependable source of data on the true popularity of such movements, the fact that such protests arose is indicative of growing distrust among the Dalits and the fear that their interests are at stake. The unrest at Bhima-Koregaon, a place that had significance owing to its connections with Babasaheb Bhimarao Ambedkar, has given voice to the dissatisfaction of Dalits with the state of affairs and brought matters to national attention. Although the factor that caused the conflagration was that the event involving the Dalits paying respects at a war memorial was interpreted to be commemorative of a British victory over Indians, the fact remains that they were celebrating only the role of the Mahars in the battle. That community was evidently fighting on behalf of the British against the Marathas. The difference between Dalit unrest in the past and the recent one is that many separate elements are consolidating into a larger, national force. Their leaders now recognise the importance of having the numbers and are also keen on using the power to their advantage. They cannot be faulted for doing so. This incident and its aftermath should enlighten modern day Indians about the fissures that are very deep in this society even today. A mere peep into our past would scare even a strong mind. All of us need to ask only one simple question to ourselves to comprehend why India is where it stands today. And that question is — why is it that we have always been conquered, as a nation, by all and sundry who passed by or settled here? The answer is not difficult to guess. As a divided society and without any social cohesion, we never were a nation with one soul and one purpose. Casteism has always been the knife that our society has been impaled on for ever. The upper castes ruled, tortured, terrorised, collected hefty taxes and kept the larger chunk of the population as the Oppressed classes. The Marathas can be observed as just one such example. For the Mahars, the British must have seemed more friendly and they must have got better treatment from the Gora Sahebs. When confronted by the Marathas, the Brits must have been clever enough to use the larger manpower of the ‘lower’ castes to fight on their behalf against the smaller but tyrannical upper caste Marathas. By doing so, few white men’s lives would have been lost and the Oppressed were given an opportunity to rejoice. So much so that they are rejoicing till today.
When we listen to all the garbled rhetoric of our great leaders, we see that none has ever tried to face and address this inner worm that has been eating away the soul of India: The worm that is the so-called ‘upper caste’ Hindoo. It is for this very reason that we have suffered since time immemorial. Almost all of our rulers, from as long as one can access some kind of unverifiable history, have been miserably defeated in any battle they tried to fight against even small marauding gangs of brigands. A bulk of our population, which was always oppressed, must have clapped and cheered the ignominies that their rulers would have faced on defeat. One may even hazard claiming that if there ever was a queen by the name of Padmavati and if she truly self immolated herself to not be taken captive by the Moguls, the common people of her state might have come and done nothing to douse the fire to ensure the terrible royalty was truly dead and gone. To add to this already malevolent problem, our present day politics is now further sub dividing this nation on religious issues. First caste, now religion. Enough to destroy India for the next 1,000 years.