I never thought I am going to write this because one, it felt so ugly to even accept it in your head. And two, I am not sure I can ever do justice with the gravity of the issue. We are all a Bunch of Casteist, Sexist Self-Claimed ‘Good’ People! None of us can wash our hands off the atrocious past of the savarna ancestors, and the legacy that we continue.
I had learnt this mantra in college, and quite adhered to it, that ‘choose your battles’ and not waste your energy arguing with every Tom, Dick and Harry. But it just so happens, that many, quite a few around me have opted out of the anti-caste, feminist battles happening around. It is not particularly strange though, but I am writing to remind all of us, that our hands are RED.
Just By Chance!!! You would believe that just “by chance” you only have Savarna friends – WITHOUT you making a conscious decision. You never bothered to think about caste while making friends. Let me break just a few parts of what all is wrong here. One, that our environment is so sanitized that we hardly realise that we filter much diversity from around us. Second, just in case, thanks to reservations, if you are blessed with diversity, most of us end up ‘unconsciously’ bonding Savarnas with Savarnas. And it is perhaps thanks to the privileges, tastes similarities, snobbish conversations and lifestyles that two Savarnas bond over. We are not hardwired to be inclusive over centuries and species of evolution. If at all, we were only meant to be best fit to survive. So, it isn’t strange that we are all in the soup and our hands are surely RED.
You said it right. We may have read, listened to experiences, sanitized our arguments towards an equal society, especially the young city dwellers in their 20s and 30s. But aren’t we the same bigots who would like to give capital punishment to the rapist, so that WE feel cleaner and whiter? Isn’t our response more filled with anger than guilt? Because we are angry at what someone did but would never want to internalize the innumerable times I did not speak against caste and gender roles very well established in and around us; and let it thrive – what resulted today. Please accept, our hands are RED.
The Hidden Casteists. Every time, you talk about your privileges and baggage of being a Brahmin, a Baniya, a Thakur, a Rajput you are still harassing the universe with that voice of yours. It is always with a head held high that a Savarna talks about even the ills of being a savarna. If not always, I guess most often. I haven’t really met many deeply apologetic Savarnas. Not yet. Every time you keep the dirtiest task for your maid, you just as well are a casteist. Every person whose labour you have taken for granted or may be let’s say – appreciated from far, be it the sweeper, the guard, the sewage cleaner; you are no less a casteist. I remember how my first roommate and I in my first hostel did not really ‘click’ in the first few months; and we decided to do some room swaps. There were people who came to me asking, if that was because of the caste, I ignored. But today, I feel I missed an opportunity to build the bridge just because of my being liberal and adventurous. Every time, you say your parents worked very hard to get you what you have today, you are laughing at the guy who picked your grandfather’s and father’s garbage for all those times and his hardwork. It is hard to accept that our ancestors were lesser humans. And we are running the same legacy. I can count people I personally know who have radically surpassed the casteist living and being. While they are less than the number of average fingers in my hand, not one claims to be have fully acquired what it means to be anti-casteist. It is so deeply rooted that if anyone claims that they are following anti-casteist to the T, they sure haven’t felt it enough. You can try, you can never be able to cross that bridge, fully. Not in this lifetime, not for another half a century. Don’t let that guilt pass off you. Our hands ARE red.
What do we do about this feeling? Just stay guilty, live with guilt, every moment. Well, I can easily classify most in the active and passive categories. The Active ones are involved in protests, helping in build the revolution. Some are heavily writing about it. And while I truly appreciate all who are building the bricks to revolution, helping in breaking the shackles of caste, I know the mettle one needs to be lead through revolutionary ways is only borne in few. But this can be a trap. Sometimes, we see these as moments of outrage so that we can prove to the world and ourselves, how good we are & how horrible rest of the world is. The others are timid ones, like me, often feeling, writing can help. But from all that I have understood so far, I support Dalit for Dalit Writings, Women for Women writings, Simply because there just isn’t enough emotion – humiliation, resentment, helplessness that can be felt secondarily by the ones who have not experienced it first-hand. One can imagine, but please my friends, don’t obsess over how much you know. Your writings are adding to your own happiness to put your emotion on paper and then live past it; than any other help to the society. And yes, with that, I admit and confess, that I am only writing, to flush away the puddle of thoughts I have got myself into, in the last few weeks of caste and gender based conversations. It is more an act to have a sense of relief than anything else. Our Hands are RED.
There are two non-negotiables I have figured out in this exploration. One, as I have repeated, but worth innumerable repetition, is to not let the guilt go away. Feel guilty, every moment, as if your hands are red, of murder, exploitation, and rape that caste privileges are causing. Feel guilty that you are one of the faces of oppression. Always, be apologetic of even having an opinion. Two, is where I think many of us who may not feel best fit to join the revolution head front, please bring yourself to do work of all castes – don’t assume your job in life is to only read illuminating books and do big wonders of changing the world with our half a pound brain cells. Have elements from the work of a Dalit, a Shudra, a Vaishya and a Brahmin. Educate yourself practically. If possible don’t ignore the blatant caste symbols in and around. Help the society, by feeding on to the evolution that Humans are so very capable of. Commit to yourself, that your 2 generations forward would not have to have their hands in deep Red.