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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Language and Caste

Words are often served both as a sign of resentment and as an expression of pain. There is huge power in the words to heal or injure anyone. Suddenly, I introspect about Hindi vocab used mostly in northern Indian cities. I observed lately that words like 'chamaar', 'bhangi' and sometimes 'baniya' are used by higher caste Hindus to degenerate others in the sarcastic way. This usage of insulting vocab and idioms is high in the previous generation who had lived their childhood in the villages. But, it is embraced by youths of our generation in the daily usage unconsciously. I hope that this usage of caste based remarks will be extinct once notified to the concerned persons. Our changing language can easily reflect attitude towards equality and showcase ours hypocrisy.

Most of the high caste feel utmost pride in their caste. You can find several communities heading 'Proud to be .....' on orkut or facebook. Whole Hindu caste system is based on the inequality which divides people in four major varnas. It is in paradox of equality, fraternity and liberty. I don't believe that either caste system will be washed out in coming 50 years or social system based on the caste will cease to exist. The road ahead requires much introspection...

Recently, Gulzar was targeted on the usage of world 'teli ka tel' in song of the movie Kaminey and Priyedarshan had to remove Barber from the title of Billu Barber. Now, each caste based community is outraged by any reference to the downtrodden past. Shyam Benegal pointed out this phenomenon very poignantly:

In the process of dismantling caste equations, some of the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and Dalit communities give themselves identities that no longer associate them with their traditional professions. The new identity requires a reworking of community histories and mythology. Any reference to the old identity can only seem offensive. As part of the mainstream, they are likely to lose their special identity.

It is largely for this reason that it becomes important for them to adopt dominant forms of expression so that others may hear or understand their points of view. Even more important for them is to establish their view as the last word. Any expression that they perceive as an attack on their identity is responded to with considerable vehemence.

Deconstruction of myths does not equate destruction, but rather the rethinking and rearranging of the symbolic meaning of history. Instead of judging, we should try to understand, and to this end history can be of use. Times are changing and it is time write new history..

Education in India is primarily looked for providing jobs like any other place. Still, there is no one seriously debating about social practices and caste based discrimination. We have to make a strong statement about human shortcomings and societal hypocrisy, by portraying people with realism and shunning sentimentality. Such a shift in thinking will take time to have an impact on our youths. All men are not created equal. It is the duty of each of us to make them so. For reading about Dalit issues, Degrees without Freedom: The Impact of Formal Education on Dalit Young Men in North India


  1. Really liked post...
    very thoughtful line :)
    "Deconstruction of myths does not equate destruction, but rather the rethinking and rearranging of the symbolic meaning of history"

    it's true that society is changing; people of low caste are now raising against the insulting words...and it is a good sign that title based discrimination are reducing like..Now a days "Rajput" and "low caste" both are using "Singh"...might be it would change people's thinking a little bit as time would pass...however when things like Reservation are based on Casticism, it is difficult to eradicate cast based remarks so soon... :)

  2. Amit, Do you really think that without reservation people of higher caste were treating Dalits equal ? Reservation ensure their representation and providing them a share in the power and decision making. And caste based discrimination is 2000 year system, it will not wash away by any means so easily.

  3. Good post. Sadly, the link towards the end of the post is broken. Please fix.

    P.S. The no-economics-only-caste based reservation system and caste-based prejudices are a vicious circle IMO.
    P.P.S. Personally, I like how some people (like AKM sir and Mausi) chose to give their kids a 'new' surname, which can NOT be mapped to a caste in the back of your head :).

  4. Thanks for appreciation sir..
    1- Broken link is restored. Thnx for pointing it out..
    2- Without Reservation, several reform movement led by Mahatama or social reformer persih with the time.
    The circle will be broken in future, not if now...
    3- That is quite indeed remarkable stufff done by Mukherjee Sir and Mausi..

  5. Well,..I am in support of reservation as it would brought equality in power and decision-making....however, every thing has its pros and cons..and the side-effect of reservation is that it accentuate the line separating different communities based on the caste...which in other case might be unnoticed...Just for an example..when 27% of reservation was applied...we even didn't concern other caste but soon after this it highlighted our caste differences... So I was saying we are doing two opposite things together...And yes, providing reservation is more important in current situation...So it would increase the time of complete eradication of casticism...

  6. "Hinduism" was never meant to be a "religion". Infact, the word "religion" never existed... in this ancient Vedic faith. This was "sanatana-dharma"... "sanatana" means "ancient" and "Dharma", refers to "rightousness".

    It essentially was the "path of rightousness"... and was an assimilation of the accumulated knowledge of the ancients... over a period of time... or rather, through the ages.

    The revealed nature of "Vedas" suggests that the varna system is therefore not man-made but of divine origin. Lord Krishna teaches in the Bhagavad Gita that people are allocated to a specific varna according to two criteria, namely (1) guna [personal qualities] and (2) karma [aptitude for a type of work].

    He makes no mention of varna being determined by birth. This differentiates the original varnashrama-dharma from the current caste system. The term "caste" originates from the Portuguese term "casta", denoting purity of descent. It has come to refer not just to the four varnas, but to a whole system incorporating occupational sub-castes (jatis).

    In fact, current caste practices often give far more emphasis to jati than to varna. What really differentiates caste from varnashrama-dharma, though, is its hereditary nature – possibly an imposition by the "conquerors" (aided by other vested interests) attempting to consolidate their dominant position in society.

    The fluidity of varnashrama-dharma is acknowledged by numerous textual references to people changing their varna.

  7. Also, discrimination based on caste... happening for milleniums... is a myth. I intend to write on this shortly... and then we can discuss.

    Also, there was no such thing as dravidians... we'll talk about it after my post.

    P.S. Incase you are interested in politics/international affairs... would be keen to know your views on my latest post.

  8. @Amit,You are correct in pointing that 'we are doing two opposite things together'. indeed giving reservation is necssary to uplift people down trodden from many years and similary stand for equality of all citizen. I am in dliemna about future but I support reservation as well as stand for equality of all Indian citizen.

  9. Roshmi Sinha, you stated that - "Hinduism" was never meant to be a "religion". Infact, the word "religion" never existed... in this ancient Vedic faith. "

    The fundamnetal problem with hinduism is huge difference between its practice and its holy words. What was in the past is gone and even attempt to revival vedic system by Vivekanand and Dayanand Sarswati is gone down in the lanes of history. I am commenting on what is happening in the society today or take 100 years in the past.Hinduism is now polytheist religion as practised by masses. Mahabharat, Ramayan, Geeta and Ramcharitmanas are curenly in teh reach of masses. The god without any shape or form is told in vedas only, majority of us didn't have seen puranas and upnishads, leave aside Vedas. Ours past is full of glory, but I live in the present and see events going wrong in front of my eyes. I can't justify breaking of Masjid or killing of christian to justify hinduism. Read the history written by oppressed not the victors..



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