The Dalit Factor – Me and My Dalit Friend
As a follower of Sanatan Dharma I cannot accept caste system as NO Vedic Scriptures support it. But today’s reality: India thrives upon caste. Everybody says caste system is evil, but ALL political leaders directly or indirectly practices or promotes it.
Dalits face a social stigma developed through centuries old suppression and exploitation. They were constantly subjected to egregious violence and dehumanizing labour (such as manual scavenging).
My friend Ashok was from a poor Dalit family. His parents were daily-wages contract labourers in paddy farms. His life situation was terrible. The living itself was so miserable for him. The entire family used to go sleep with empty stomach most of the days… They faced extreme starvation, even beyond our imagination. Sometimes, they fill their stomach drinking dirty pond water and go to sleep. Mostly, they consume only boiled roots or tapioca. He used to say his youngest sister (2 year old) keep on crying throughout the night out of hunger. However, he needs not pay college fees and he gets a small stipend.
The society had stamped him with an identity – Dalit. The public won’t allow him to grow beyond this caste identity. Some rude boys from the so-called upper caste behaved such a way that Ashok should be felt ashamed of his caste. Most of the students neglected him. He didn’t have much social exposure. He had inferiority complex and conflicts in his mind. He would feel hurt very easily.
His situation made me feel very sad. We were good friends. He would tell me about his family and village.
Incidentally, let me tell you about our other two college mates. Sunil (not original name, he is a top politician now, hence do not want to tarnish his image) used to come by car (remember – during those times, only one or two people in a Taluk would own a car). His father was a spirit baron. But Sunil was not paying fees. He was getting ‘poor-aid fund’, a subsidy from the government because of his caste tag – OBC (other backward community) category. Another boy, Martin Joseph, again OBC, was also getting all these benefits. Martin’s father owned seafood Export Company. Incidentally his car driver was a poor Brahmin, whose son couldn’t go to college for lack of funds!
Clearly, the reservation (quota) based on caste/religion was not distributed evenly or properly then (30 years ago). I don’t know current situation, but given the political map of India, it should have moved from bad to worse. The quota was confined to the upper class or creamy layer among every reserved caste and religion. Hence, the benefits really didn’t reach the much needy Dalits, tribal and Scheduled Tribes.
Some of the upper caste boys hated Ashok. I used to tell them: “You can hate government’s reservation policies, which were implemented in a wrong way. Do not hate those poor guys who avail the benefit…”
Ashok was very much interested in politics as a path to uplift his community and help people in his caste. But I always maintained that any organized movement will end up in corruption and exploitation. “Indian political parties would define your existence ONLY in terms of caste and NOT as a human being. They utilize caste system for gaining votes in the election and would never uplift any.” I told him.
“The student wing of Marxist Party had asked me to join them,” one day he said, “They talk about equality…”
“I doubt it.” Even today I am doubtful. For instance, among the 15 Politburo members of CPM, there is not even a single Dalit. The party that was formed in 1925 didn’t promote a single Dalit to Politburo. How can a Dalit expect justice from them?…
For further reading please check the book : TIDBITS: From The Life of Pai
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