Not a day goes by when the news headlines fail to report something about the troubles associated with caste – based discrimination which has forced members of the lower castes to live in poverty, restricted to low – paying menial jobs that are considered undignified and unclean. In 1947, having won freedom from the white sahibs who incidentally considered all the brown chaps to be inferior without exception, India framed a brand new constitution which formally banned the practice of untouchability and other caste – related evils. It was a noble sentiment, even if it did next to no good.
Over seven decades later, not much has changed. The caste system compounded by the class divide remains a pernicious, malignant presence, tainting every single aspect of society. We read about atrocities committed against Dalits, shake our heads dispiritedly over something that happens with unfailing regularity, condemn such diabolical deeds on twitter every time the topic is trending while remarking in private that nothing is ever going to change because caste is too deeply entrenched in our country. Everybody knows a couple or two who married out of their own caste and talk about how their folks were cool about it, which points to a brighter future but even in the Puranic age, these things happened - the exceptions which never changed the status quo.
We must abolish the caste system if there is to be the faintest chance of our great - grandchildren not having to listen to holograms informing them that a Dalit woman was raped and murdered, while her protesting relatives were burnt alive to silence their screams. Again. To rip out such an ancient evil by the roots, we can start by doing away with the community certificate entirely, even if it is there for the ostensible purpose of doing the right thing by the downtrodden via affirmative action programs in educational institutions and the employment sector. The quota system doesn’t really seem to have helped the people it was supposed to. Rather, it has perpetuated the very evil it was designed to prevent.
By ensuring that the caste identity we cling to is eliminated, we may just manage to secure equal rights for all. Future generations will grow up not knowing or caring which caste their ancestors belonged to. And if we can provide quality education for all our youngsters especially the ones who can’t afford it, perhaps in the future, everyone will be guaranteed a fair share of the pie. Or payasam. An added bonus is that the politicians will no longer be able to manipulate the vote banks on the basis of caste. Isn’t that reason enough to burn up those community certificates immediately if not sooner?
This article was originally published in The New Indian Express.