Case Of Academic Complicity
In The Violence Against Dalit
And Dalit Women In India
By Abhinaya Ramesh
24 March, 2007
'Final Draft [Regional Paper] Caste, Ethnicity and Exclusion in South
Asia: The Role of Affirmative Action Policies in Building Inclusive
This report is on subjugating
practices of south Asia as a region, its focus is on India. It has ten
tables on violence against dalits and dalit women but surprisingly does
not have any illustration/reference to those tables. And it speaks about
many other things and not the explanation or description of the events
related to the violence. If reader does not read the report till the
end then s/he will not get the knowledge that this also contains information
on violence against dalits.
Author's contribution here
is more of a study done by the higher castes (privileged) on 'caste
issues in India'. Approach of study is more of explaining and narrating
the way it is. No painstaking efforts are made in these and many such
studies to understand the governing mechanisms and reasons for perpetuation
of inhuman caste system. Nor is any attempt made to find out the reason
as to why caste system is so painful to the victim and how to resolve
it. Or at least cope up with the oppressive situation. On the contrary
such reports have always remained the space for most of the higher castes
researchers/academics to show to the world that how this system of caste
is so unique and advanced form of stratification in the ancient times.
Probably its compartmentalisation, the division of groups in hierarchical
closed compartments, is fascinating to these city-dweller researchers.
Considering or portraying caste as a part of 'rich cultural heritage'
hides from reader the possibility of asking the queries that why such
systems have been created at the first place. The system has tormented
majority people (all women-even the Brahmin women, all lower castes,
tribes etc.) in India and disabled the whole country because caste based
inequalities reflect in every aspects of the Indian society. Whether
it is corruption in day to day life on the basis of caste based favours
or selection in the creative opportunities like sports, arts, music
led and influenced by such sectarian power politics under the guise
of 'third world's biggest democracy'. And as a result India is gaining
failure in return.
On page 2 the report continues
with the same approach that, 'Caste is the most intensively and widely
studied South Asian institution and there is no need to reiterate the
established wisdom here,' (2004:02). Such a statement exhibits hidden
intention that 'not to celebrate research on such categories, as we
have done enough for them'. This 'othering' attitude is present right
from the beginning of the study on castes in India. The further formulation
is that 'they' (dalits) are not ready to change; in other words, this
is not the problem of the majority but of dalits. Now they have to change.
This is the angle of majority of studies on caste system contributed
by Indian academics, which are drawn largely from their higher castes
background. When the whole economy of India is flourished/flourishing
because of the unpaid/underpaid labour of dalits and labouring class
of India (80%population of unorganised sector comprised of dalits/adivasis).
Instead of recognising the contribution of dalits in development process
of India they have been used and given secondary citizenship for centuries.
The next paragraph the report
says, "Evolved over centuries, caste sustained communitarian identities
of innumerable groups ethnically, culturally and socially distinct from
each other and at the same time, held these communities together in
a vast network of local hierarchies. Communities in different local
hierarchies were arranged, normatively uniformly, in an ascriptively
unequal macro-system of graded exclusion, which was politically, economically
and epistemically dominated by a few, select communities through ages.
The graded structure of exclusion was never a permanently fixed arrangement,
and a fairly frequent upward and downward movement of communities took
place within and across local hierarchies" (2004:03). Since this
report is made available to the UN as a gist of the caste system in
India; reader though gets the glance of caste system through the report,
it does not allow much scrutiny. Hence such report writing provides
academic space for the author to give wrong and deceptive understanding
about caste to the international community. And at the same time by
providing some description of developmental provisions (without analysing
of its implementation) the author tries to show the soft corner to the
victims of caste system and gains a name as an impartial student of
the system in the minds of readers.
It has an agenda that to
prove to the world that caste system is not 'created abruptly but evolved',
(in such statements he tries to say that without its need how can it
evolve and survived for ages, a simple logic to convince the reader)
that it is the wisdom of the ancestors; valued for creating such inhuman
system and he further reiterates that 'they [the caste groups] were
different but together in vast network'. He initiates by saying that
they were 'distinct' (dictionary meaning of the word distinct is different)
and later says that, 'exclusion was not a permanent fixed arrangement...and
fairly frequent upward and downward movement of communities took place
within and across local hierarchies', caste is not at all a fluid category.
If the caste system was an open formation, why there were no conversions
to Hinduism. If a non-Hindu wanted to convert to Hindu religion then
in which caste s/he will convert. And why did lower caste Hindus convert
to different religions such as Christianity, Islam or Buddhism, if movement
from one caste to other was possible. Because once you are born in that
caste in Hindu religion then it is not possible voluntarily to change
the caste and there is no ladder to acquire the higher caste. This becomes
possible in class. So author's interpretation of castes is not correct.
When he describes the hierarchised
structure of the caste system he did not fail to glorify the roles of
few communities. Such as 'the dvijas or the twice born, which among
themselves held virtual monopoly of different types of power (intellectual,
political and economic) and a vast sector of the numerous other communities
ascriptively expected to engage directly in production and service related
activities (the sudras).' (2004:04). The Brahmin, Dwijas who are called
as twice born like a bird. The way bird takes two births first in egg
and then coming out of the eggshell, Brahmin also first takes birth
and then he goes for the ceremony as 'Munja' in which he is considered
to be the Brahmin in Hindu religion.(off course if he does not perform
this ceremony does not mean his status will not remain as a Brahmin
but to maintain the difference and so is the distance with rest, this
ceremony is performed, and their women are not allowed to perform such
ceremony), Which does not have any logic behind it. The role of Brahmin
is glorified as of having power of intellectual, political and in the
field of economic. What knowledge Brahmins have produced should be an
empirical enquiry because in India the Brahmins appropriate the knowledge
of the local people as their knowledge; and as far as political power
is concerned, they were never in the power of holding any sovereign
authority; they were the people who were close to the sovereign as a
priest for priestly duties. Thus they were being close to the throne,
and not the independent power as sovereign (The only example of power
that they had was in the form of Peshwas in state of Maharashtra. The
history shows that it did not last for more than fifty years, which
too was constantly plagued by conspiracy within the family known in
the history as 'Bhaubandki' which means tussle for power amongst the
brothers and uncles to the extent of threatening each other.) In this
period, except wasting money and resources on prayers for the god (which
is the basic profession of the Brahmins as a priest) and giving 'Bhojana'
(fists) to Brahmins, the rulers did not achieve any other progress.)
This is also the period in which the state currency was acquired by
the rulers by selling the lower castes girls in brothel and such other
places (Gavli: 1981a, Fukazawa: 1991 Chakravarti: 1998, In Sharmila
As regard to the economic
power, the Brahmins never had independent economic power. They were
surviving on the resources given by the kings in honour of being Brahmins.
Of course they enjoyed amassed wealth and booty from the kings for their
religious service to the kings. Moreover, Brahmins were not the cultivating
community and never had any land ownership; they acquired land out of
gift as a Brahmin which was never cultivated by them. And since they
were not the cultivating community they never knew the knowledge of
cultivation. According to Kancha Illiah (1996), they are/were the beneficiaries
of 'dana' (countless material resources were given as a gift in the
Hindu religion to the Brahmin, he did not do any physical efforts to
acquire such wealth which society acquired by unpaid labour of dalits
and some such communities) economy. Their work was primarily to recite
the sermons and activities related to the religion; performing prayers
etc. When the rigidity is the basic drawback of the system and perhaps
that is the cause of the subjugation of some of the sections in a graded
way; author misconceived the idea of change in the statuses of the people
especially when he attributes that, "historically there have been
continuous countervailing movements to caste, which periodically resulted
in several groups moving out of their born-in statuses and getting into
In the past the movements like Jainism, Buddhism, Tantrism and Bhakti
caused such reshuffling of groups across statuses, in the ongoing hierarchal
system. Yet, despite formidable ideological challenges and some structural
impacts they made on it, by and large, traditionally dominating groups
retained power in the system, usually by redefining, often relaxing
the rules which maintained ritual distances and prevented choices."
These countervailing movements did not want to do any change within
the Hindu philosophy of the rigid caste system they went away from the
Hindu religion/philosophy and formulated different logical way of life.
This is nothing but different religion which does not have anything
to do with Hindu religion. They were the opposing rational forces to
Hindu religion that criticised the iniquitous aspects of the Hindu religion.
That cannot be said that the Hindu religion can have, "groups moving
out of their born-in statuses and getting into new statuses" within
the Hindu religion. An absolutely wrong and baseless idea author gives
about Hindu religion. This kind of flexibility is not possible in Hindu
religion otherwise all non brahmin would have become brahmin to acquire
benefits of the caste system. But there is no single incidence towards
that direction in the history of India. Nor it will occur in fututre.
The impression he gives that caste is a fluid category.
He makes such flowery picture
and tries to see the goodness of the caste, he says, "The graded
structure of exclusion also linked communities to each other in such
a manner that caste could also be seen as a graded structure of inclusion
in which power percolated to every community irrespective of its location
in the hierarchy. This caused each community experience a sense of social
salience in the system" which/ whose inclusion he is mentioning;
the inclusion of one caste with another on equal basis or inclusion
within the same caste because other castes create such a strong barriers
that you are not understood just because you are not from the same caste
and these ties are very much tighten with everyday survival (marriage,
ceremonies). And one does not know which power he is talking about.
This appears to be a typically superficial understanding of the caste
system... Almost 10 tables are their on the brutal violence on Dalits.
The question is what is the intention of giving tables of violence without
clarifying it. At one place he has given yearly record with the elaborate
information on violence against dalit. But it is surprise he nowhere
mentions or refers anything about the violence. And this should have
become the answer to his own misunderstanding that if the caste system
is that good then why dalits will have to face so many cases of brutal
violence. But turning blind eye towards the brutality inflicted on the
dalits by the upper caste is the century old politics of Indian caste
system. This is reflected more when they did/do the human sacrifices
of dalits for bringing good omen in their fututre life. With this I
wish to suggest to the UN related researches that unless sufficient
scrutiny is not done by the respective authorities such reports should
not be published because they are intentionally crammed with deceived
information to create the confusion and further delay in the justice
to the relevant communities.
*Abhinaya Ramesh, Research
Scholar, Lancaster University, UK.
Rege S.:2002. Conceptualising Popular Culture 'Lavani' and 'Powada'
in Maharashtra EPW Special Article.
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