‘Our Generation Doesn’t Believe In Caste’, Let’s Not Kid Ourselves
A couple of months back, I moved to Delhi and rented an apartment in a DDA flat. Can you guess what was the first question my neighbour asked me? The elderly lady didn’t want to know my name, instead, she was curious about my caste.
Having been born into a Brahmin family, I never had to worry about my caste. It never occurred to me that the caste you were born with can be such a burden, that it can crush your whole being under it, that it can get you killed.
But, yes I was aware of the caste discrimination being practiced in our society, and more precisely, in my family. I remember when I invited one of my friends from my boarding school to a cousin’s wedding. I was in the 10th grade and I didn’t know that I was supposed to know what my friend’s caste is before inviting her to our house.
So, when she came to my house, one of my aunts asked her what caste she belongs to. She simply told them that she was from a scheduled caste. And when she left, to my surprise everyone was after my life for bringing a lower caste friend home (Thank God they didn’t create a scene in her presence).
That was my first experience with caste discrimination. And I was naive enough to believe that at least my generation did not believe in it.
But I Was Wrong...
As I grew up and moved away from home to study further, I always found two prominent groups in a class – one high caste, the other lower castes. But caste discrimination was a distant thing. It happened somewhere in some part of the country, not to me or anyone I knew. Until I saw many face the stigma.
A beautiful young woman, a research scholar at the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University, was trashed by her coward Brahmin boyfriend because his family wouldn’t accept her as his bride as she is a Dalit. But her plight didn’t end here. After she moved on from this bitter experience, she started liking another man. But he too is a Brahmin and she remains afraid of telling him her caste.
What options does our society give her in such a situation? What should she do when her caste comes in the way of being with the man of her choice?
Always a ‘Dalit man’, Never Just a Man
A Dalit woman or man, no matter how good they are at what they do, will always be looked down upon because they are born with a certain surname.
A young leader with a massive following would be tagged as a Dalit leader and be given a reserved seat from which to contest an election, not because of his ideology, his previous work and attitude, but because of his caste.
He is a son of a former DGP, a JNU research scholar and a top cadre in the Indian Youth Congress. Despite his oratory skills and endearing personality, he can’t represent the ‘people’. He can only represent Dalits. He can only be a ‘Dalit leader’ and not just a ‘leader’.
Our system doesn’t work towards eliminating the curse of caste discrimination, it only reinforces it. And our families do it the best way. I can only try and imagine how this man and that young woman feel about caste. But, I know I would never understand their pain, their anger and the helplessness that we ‘general category’ people continue to poison their lives with.
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