Discriminations based on caste ineradicable
By C.V. Gopalakrishnan
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, JULY 17. The National Council of Churches in India (NCCI), which has urged the Centre to treat caste as race at the United Nations meet on Race and Racial Discrimination to be held in Durban from August 31 to September 7, has been prompted to do so because of its awareness that there is little to distinguish caste and racial discrimination from each other. If at all there is any difference, it may well be that discriminations based on caste are far more ineradicable.
The NCCI delegation to the Durban meet is likely to dwell upon how casteism has remained invulnerable to change to which attention has been drawn by many writers. In his Soul of India , Mr. Amaury de Reincourt, has written how caste in India has all the irrepressibility of a tropical jungle. Weeding it out never stops it from sprouting again. Conversion by the church of the downtrodden, has not helped them as much as it should have in eradicating their inequality vis-a- vis the more privileged castes. The non-Dalit Hindus and the fundamentalists, who have been raising a hue and cry against conversions, particularly in the northeast, had ignored the fact that they had done nothing to match the good work done by the church to educate the downtrodden. According to National Sample Survey Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh have recorded a much faster rate of literacy (the respective percentages being 27.9, 22.4 and 18.4 against a national average of 9.8) than in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. These States in the Hindi heartland have witnessed outrages like Sati, which is unknown in the northeastern States.
Attention has, however, been drawn by Western writers such as Mr. Dodwell to India having been ``infinitely absorbent like the ocean'' to the culture of the Iranians, Greeks, Parthians, Jews and Zorastrians. Such ``inclusivity'' has been in stark contrast to the exclusiveness of its caste system. Examples of such absorptive capabilities have been in architecture of which the Taj Mahal has been the most outstanding creation.
An astonishing statement attributed to a British scholar, Sir George Birdwood, quotes him as having said in defence of the caste system : So long as the Hindus hold to the caste system, India will be India; but from the day they break from it, there will be no more India. That glorious peninsula will be degraded to the position of a bitter ``East End'' of the Anglo-Saxon empire.
Disapproving this in his Discovery of India, Jawaharlal Nehru says there is truth in what Sir Birdwood had said, ``though he did not look at it from this point of view. The break-up of a huge and long standing social organisation may well lead to a complete disruption of social life, resulting in absence of cohesion, mass suffering and the development on a vast scale of abnormalities in individual behaviour, unless some other social structure more suited to the times and to the genius of the people takes its place.''