Monday, December 5, 2022

India @2022: Insulated with racism and casteism

Casteist and racist overtones surface in subtle and hideous ways in different pockets of India all the time. Nonetheless, not many come to the public domain, but a few surfaces at times. By and large, the people of India somehow have come to a point of realisation that though these things are happening on regular basis, they feel that nothing can be done about it, and so live with it as if nothing can be done. It thus shows that we will have to live with it – be it 2022 or 2042 or 2082. Therefore, casteism and racism are part and parcel of our existential reality in the Indian society. It is real and manifests in front us in covert and overt ways and yet we continue to remain as the silent spectators and participants to casteism and racism.
Recent incidences that surfaced in the print media should make everyone as Indians bow our heads in shame. Few days ago, Nagaland Minister Temjen Inna said that “Because I have small eyes, less dirt enters my eyes. Also, I can easily sleep when I am on the stage.” Though he seems to have uttered in lighter vein or jokingly the pain with which he said only he and those who face racial attacks day-in and day-out know the gravity and intensity of those slurs. Likewise, a few days ago, a Dalit youth, who entered Mulkattamma temple at Nitturu of Gubbi taluk in Tumakuru district, which is about 90 kms from Bengaluru was asked to leave by a priest. Sources said that 10-15 Dalits from Kadaba village had gone to offer prayers and perform puja to the village deity.
A video showed Anith Raj of Kadaba entering the temple and requesting the priest, Sridhar t perform pooja in his name. There were two men inside the temple and one of them asked Raj to sit out the temple as “Dalits are not allowed inside.” The irked priest also asked him to leave.
But Raj retorted back saying “I have come to offer puja but why are you talking so rudely.” In another video, A Dalit woman sitting outside the temple was seen telling a few children not to go inside as entry is banned for them. In another case a man restricts a Dalit woman from entering the temple. She was seen arguing with him and questioning whether God has told them that he/she (God) should not touch Dalits. The man replied that the temple trustees will not take a call on the issue.
In another video showing a mean outside the temple telling the Dalits to “follow custom practised for the past several years”. Shivaraju, an eyewitness and Dalit from Kadaba, said: “We performed puja outside the temple and were preparing non-vegetarian food a little away from the premises when the incident (between the youth and the priest) happened.” The social structure of India is premised on casteism and racism. Hence, we can say that India is a casteist and racist society which is candidly divided on the basis of ‘We’ and ‘They’—Aryans and Dravidians, pure and polluted, superior and inferior. Based on the binaries that are at work in the Indian society we should reckon with the fact that race and caste are not biological category, but socially constructed category.
Racism is a set of ideas which is systematically and coherently constructed ideology, reified and reinforced by a complex beliefs and practices. North easterners are sarcastically called as chinky, Chinese-Momos or Corona. Likewise, Dalits face all sorts of humiliation, treated as sub-humans and called by many names.
Dalits and those from the Northeast though they are part and parcel of India, even after 75 years of free independent India go though apart from physical assaults and lynching, face verbal remarks that hits Dalits’/tribals’ human dignity and human worth that hits their very core of their existence leading to psychological trauma thereby affecting their very being and becoming. Dalits and indigenous people go though all sorts of humiliation and are being ridiculed in such ways that makes those with consciousness to wonder that though the Dalits and those from Northeast India despite being Indians belonging to India they are treated differently as ‘aliens’ and ‘outsiders’.
In fact, they are the indigenous and adi-dravidas who originally belong to this land, while on the other, in a land where they have been living for thousands of years as original inhabitants now face all kinds of problems that questions their very roots and identity. Indicidences gets flashed in the national media that covers polity, economy, social, religio-cultural facets of India that describes the onslaughts faced by the Dalits and those from the Northeast. Dalits due to the system of caste face number of problems such as dying is cesspools while physically entering and cleaning the drainage and are subject to all kinds of menial jobs because in the caste schema they are considered as ‘Avranas’ – outside the varna system.
Racism is a prejudice, discrimination or antagonism by an individual, community or institution against a person or people on the basis of their membership of a particular racial or ethnic group, typically one that is minority or marginalized. Casteism or racism by and large infers ‘inferior’ or ‘superior’ over one to another. Those within the caste or race rubric functions within the prescribed domains of the parameters that distinguishes who is ‘I’ and ‘You’, ‘We’ and ‘They’, and so the ‘other’ such as Dalits and indigenous continue to remain as ‘they’ within the racist and casteist lexicons.
Casteism and racism are widely prevalent and thus operating in the areas of entertainment industry, sports and games, polity, work places, rural and urban India, cultural and religious domains, enterprises, beauty pageants, advertisement industry and host of others. As we ‘advance’ and claim ourselves as ‘progressive’ our actions and interactions within and between individuals, communities and in society reflect our casteist and racist attitudes and behaviours’.
In order to protect our caste and race we even go to the extent of engaging in ‘honour-killing’ and ‘white or Aryan supremacy’. Those who undergo racist and casteist slurs in their day-to-day existence suffer psychological trauma. The hope is there are people who keep striving for a society and a world without any prejudices and biases.
Dr. I. John Mohan Razu, Professor of
Social Ethics

Must Read