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From: Nishikant Waghmare
“Noble is your aim and sublime and glorious is your mission. Blessed are those who are awakened to their duty to those among whom they are born. Glory to those who devote their time, talents and their all to the amelioration of slavery. Glory to those who would reap their struggle for the liberation of the enslaved in spite of heavy odds, carpine humiliation, storms and dangers till the downtrodden secure their Human Rights.” (Dr. B.R.Ambedkar).
In a country where everybody is supposed to have equal rights and opportunities, we read in newspapers everyday about some atrocity being committed against Dalits (Dalits are denied right to food, water, education and liberty) Despite policies for social inclusiveness and equality, the upper castes are still at the top of the social order and the Dalits are at the bottom. India cannot progress unless this issue is addressed with justice.
Untouchability, caste-system and hierarchical discrimination have taken roots in the subconscious of the India psyche. We are the sinners who have misused God, religion, myths and scriptures to make this happen. Gandhi’s saying that ” Untouchability is a sin” Swami Vivekananda’s describing it as ” lunatic” and Dr. Ambedkar’s statement ” I shall not die as Hindu when Untouchability exists”- none of these seem to shock us. The biggest problem of our society is that since we have made discrimination itself a value, untouchability appears” natural” to us and therefore does not seem to be a problem of discrimination.
India got Independence 60 years ago, till today Dalit has to suffer for basic needs for their day to day living i.e. drinking water, food, shelter and right to live as human being in the Indian society. The untouchables “Dalits” are still denied even human Rights, which are essential for a bare existence of human life. They were not allowed to drink water from public well; and even their shadow was supposed to pollute the so-called upper castes. The Hindu social order made the life of the Dalits miserable in every sense of the term. The Hindu Dharmashastra gave sanction to this evil Caste system and practice of Unthouchability. This continued for the Centuries and continues even today.
Then arose on the horizon Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, the liberator of the Millions of downtrodden in India. He made abolition of the Caste system and Untouchability a Mission of His Life. Perhaps it would take a rebirth by the Mahatma Gandhi to end the abominable evil of Caste. As He himself had said;” If I do not want to attain Moksha, I do not want to be reborn. But if I were to be reborn, I should be born an Untouchable…. not as Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya or Shudra But as an Atishudra, a Bhangi.”
The late former President of Tanzania Mr. Julius K. Nyerere had said; When the vote is a human Rights and bread is a privilege of the few, democracy is a mockery. It cannot be an instrument of peace and harmony because it is not an instrument for justice. The surest way to build and to maintain peace within and between nations is to work for justice-justice for all persons and all groups . “Peace is a product of justice. They work for peace who works for justice.”
Nations have come and gone, Empires founded on might and force have flourished and perished but the Empire of the Dhamma founded by the Buddha, on love, compassion and reason, still flourishes and will continue to flourish.
The Buddha established a classless society by opening the gates of the Sangha to all deserving individuals, making no distinction between Caste and Class. The fundamental principle of Buddhism is Equality…Buddhism was called the religion of the Shudra’s… there was only one man who raised his voice against separatism and Untouchability and that was Lord Buddha… Buddhism is the only religion, which does not recognize Caste and affords full scope for progress.
The reason for the success of India’s multicultural society is that there is no glass ceiling. Everyone, whatever his religion or language, can aspire to the topmost position. Thus, India today has a Muslim president, a Sikh prime minister, a Sikh chief of the army staff, and a Christian as the president of the ruling Congress party. Effective reservation in government and public sector today is hardly 15% of which 10% is in the category of attendants, drivers, watchmen, clerks, etc. Only 5% are in the higher echelons of services like IAS and IPS.
Can this percentage of reservations be responsible for the decline of effectiveness?
Poverty is a curse of mankind. It is a black spot on our forehead, and a blot on Humanity. The first sitting Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh to openly acknowledge the parallel between the practice of “Untouchability” and the Crime of Apartheid he describe, “Untouchability is not just Social Discrimination; it is a Blot on Humanity”.
“Our greatest enemy is poverty and not human beings if we want to progress, we will have to fight poverty. There is a need for people to understand that poverty is their common enemy and not another human. Our enemy is poverty! It is the root cause of our problems and it should be the object of our fight. We must eradicate poverty and illiteracy and reduce inequality within upper- castes and Untouchables of India.
Former President of India Mr. K.R.Narayanan’s rise to the important if largely ceremonial role of President from the Dalit caste was a remarkable achievement. Many saw it as an affirmation of India’s democratic roots. The caste system was banned in 1950 but centuries of tradition made it difficult to break entrenched attitudes. A Nation of more than 1.15 Billion People, where Untouchables are treated as animals, they have no right despites policies for social inclusiveness and equality, those belonging to the upper castes are still at the top of the social order and the dalits are at the bottom of the heap, With disparity and their right to food, water, education, temple entry, many Dalit families are facing starvation in India.
Globalization has brought nations closer. It has triggered IT revolution, racism is a new social issue the world has come to debate. Slowly the issue of caste too will become just as debatable. India will soon emerge as a formidable world economic power, applauded and celebrated, the country will also have become a subject of social auditing.
Although the practice of “Untouchability” was abolished in 1950, it remains and is very much alive in India. The caste system in India is over 2,000 years old and is tied with the religion of Hinduism, so it is not going down easy. India has the world’s largest democracies but the “Untouchables” do not generally feel that they have been given fair treatment. There is no nation on earth that Human beings are treated as animal due to practice of caste system. This way we cannot develop as a Nation if there is no social peace, justice and social economic. Our civil society as a whole with a problem of inequality and oppression faced by a Dalits the most vulnerable section of our society. India cannot truly prosper and progress unless these issues are addressed with justice.
“An India in which the poorest shall feel that it is their country, in whose making they have an effective voice, an India in which there shall be no high class and low class of people, an India in which all communities shall live in perfect harmony” – Mahatma Gandhi. Dr.Ambedkar was also the first person in India to tell the world that untouchability is part of the caste system. And caste is the foundation on which Hindu religion stands. So all those persons like Vivekananda,
Gandhi etc., who wanted to reform Hinduism, failed because Hinduism is not amenable to reform.
One cannot reform Hinduism keeping intact the caste. If you touch caste, the whole edifice of Hinduism collapses, because Hinduism is nothing but caste. Gandhi failed because he wanted to abolish untouchability keeping caste as it is. Caste is an extension of untouchability with one Hindu caste (jati) being untouchable to the other. In Karnataka, there is a sub-caste (Satanis) among Brahmins which is treated as untouchable by the rest of Brahmins –forming the apex of the caste pyramid.
Gandhi knew this but did not like to put his hand into this beehive because he knew the bees will bite him all over. He wanted to reform Hinduism without touching the privileges that caste confers on its title-holder.
Ambedkar was the first person in India to point out these unpleasant facts. That is why he became the most hated person in India, while Gandhi was elevated as Mahatma. We leave it to history to pronounce its judgment on Untouchability, therefore, is not confined exclusively to the Untouchable (Dalits).
“I tell you, religion is for man and not man for religion. If you want to organize, consolidate and be successful in this world, change this religion, […] the religion that does not teach its followers to show humanity in dealing with its co-religionists is nothing but a display of a force. The religion that teaches its followers to suffer the touch of animals but not the touch of human beings is not a religion but a mockery. The religion that compels the ignorant to be ignorant and the poor to be poor is not a religion but a visitation!” – Dr. B.R Ambedkar.
In India there are approximately 280 million Dalits. This means that nearly 28% of the population is Dalit. It also means that in a country, where everybody is supposed to have equal rights and opportunities, one out of 4 persons is condemned to be Untouchable. “You can’t do much about your family you are born into. You can do something about your own educational qualifications but you can’t change your family. And if that is going to be held against people, it is going to be a long road indeed.”
The human history will forever remember Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar as the emancipator if the millions of downtrodden people languishing for centuries in ignorance and all-pervasive destitution. It was Dr.Ambedkar whose singular and relentless fight against the oppression and exploitation bred by the age-old caste system and untouchability that became the source of inspiration to millions of his followers world-over and showed them the path of liberation.
“I have never claimed to be a universal leader of suffering humanity. The problem of the untouchables is quite enough for my slender strength. I do not say that other causes are not equally noble. But knowing that life is short, one can only serve one cause and I have never aspired to do more than serve the Untouchables.” Bodhisattva Babasaheb Dr. B.R.Ambedkar.
Dr Ambedkar believed that in democracy revolutionary changes in the economic and social life of the people are brought about without bloodshed. The conditions for that are as follows: (1) there should not be glaring inequalities in society i.e. privilege for one class; (2) the existence of an opposition; (3) equality in law and administration: (4) observance of constitutional morality: (5) no tyranny of the majority: (6) moral order of society: (7) public conscience.”
Addressing the Constituent Assembly, he suggested certain devices essential to maintain democracy: (i) Constitutional methods (ii) not to lay liberties at the feet of a great man (iii) make political democracy a social democracy.
Empowering India “Bring into the mainstream all those kept out”? It involves the establishment of a social-political order in which no discrimination takes place on the basis of race, caste, creed or sex and where all citizens enjoy equal opportunities and at least an acceptable minimum quality of living.
Dr. Ambedkar is one of the most famous Indians of the last century.
Father of the Indian Constitution and one of the greatest Indian intellectuals and political agitators, Dr. Ambedkar was born into an “Untouchable” Caste. An empowered India bereft of the respect for women, values of civilised existence and morality will collapse in the face of the disaffection and discontent of those who have suffered for centuries. Day in and day out we take pride in claiming that India has a 5000-year-old civilization. But the way the Dalits and those suppressed are being treated by the people who wield power and authority speaks volumes for the degradation of our moral structure and civilized standards.
Education is a change agent. What kind of change and progress can we anticipate if the education system is burdened with stereotype of the inherited merit of the few? How do we expect Universities to flourish and compete so long as we keep them as islands of caste prejudices and vanities?
The only substitute to quota and reservation is to create a more egalitarian social order guaranteeing equal opportunities to all and, simultaneously, to fight against all sources of inequality, exclusion and discrimination.
I (author) would like to see in near future “My One wish in life [is] that during my Lifetime [the] Caste System from Indian society must go and all humans are treated as one.” One Human family. Note: In this article Dalit word read as” Scheduled castes” and Not as Dalits.
(Nishikant Waghmare, Director-Asia & Pacific, Airline Ambassador, UN NGO, USA,Peace Representative, The world peace prayer society, UN,NGO,USA. & Officer on Special Duty-World Peace Centre MIT, Pune. This Paper will be Presented in World Peace Congress, 2008 at MIT Pune – January 30, February 2, 2008).