Let us cast out caste
Sir, - You type the word `untouchability' and any computer would list it as a non- dictionary word. The coinage, untouchability, should be counted among one of our unique contributions to the world. But in this era of globalisation, one cannot continue to sweep the issue under the sovereignty carpet. The U.N. is set to discuss it. Yet, caste Hindus are not ashamed. They are angry; even panicky. A spate of articles has not sensitised them. Forget a debate, they seem to ask `What is there to talk about?' In fact, the VHP leader, Mr. Giriraj Kishore, said raising a voice against the caste system amounts to a violation of human rights. Quick to condemn apartheid, the caste elite behaves most irresponsibly when it comes to the practice of segregation in its own backyard.
I am sure they are consciously blind to what is played out everyday in our villages. The Dalits have to live in separate quarters; access to public property is denied; and as K.G. Kannabiran says in his article (June 8) Dalits are reduced to being non-persons. A panchayat president and six of his friends were hacked to death in Tamil Nadu some years ago. The crime: Melavalavu Murugesan was a dalit.
Urban caste Hindus claim that they are not casteist. But they flaunt their caste marks on themselves, caste tails in their names; marry in the same caste despite their education; their food habits are caste-based; they would not rent a house to a Dalit. Caste overdetermines the entire identity of a person. No wonder caste Hindus are terrified that, to quote Kannabiran again, ``the conduct of upper castes is to be made an international issue''.
Sir, - I have been following the articles on the need for considering caste discrimination as racial discrimination. According to these columnists, the Dalits in India have not benefited from reservation of electoral constituencies, government jobs, educational institutions. I will appreciate if these articles spell out what tangible benefit will accrue to the Dalits from discussions in an international forum. Perhaps they want sanctions against India.