Venkat said, in the course of defending and justifiying the existence of the caste system,
"Now let us forget the Southern Baptist missionary and ask the Hindus: Would this preservation have been possible without the spirit of pluralism, which was ensured by the caste system?"
I think it is important to ask Venkat to distinguish what Caste really means in his lexicon. Because we have to see the system in the light of its impact on the population who are affected by it. As I have pointed out earlier also, there is a reality of the diversity of groups of people in a community based on any or all of the following: language, region, clan, traditional belief system, occupation, and other anthropological classifications/groups. This can be called jati... and underscores diversity but need not necessarily mean internal discrimination as such. And I am sure Venkat will agree with this formulation. BUT....
The real issue is the occupation and descent-based discrimination that is being experienced by a large section of the population, as 'CASTEISM', justified on the basis of the Varna system propagated by Brahminism alias Vedic Hinduism. The ploy has been to eulogise caste as meaning pluralism, diversity, etc...but hide the "casteism": discrimination, exclusion, violence and exploitation perpetrated by certain groups in the society on the majority.
And only those who enjoy the fruits of this discrimination and thereby have a vested interest in its continuation take elaborate measures to ensure its continuation. They devote much time, "scholarship", and energy to defend and justify the discrimination. They also set up systems to discredit those who try to exit the discrimination by painting them as traitors to an "ancient" and "honoured" system, and also by claiming that "pluralism" is best preserved by keeping people within this exploitative and exclusionary system. It is beyond the understanding of its champions why anyone would want to leave this system.
The hard reality is : they ARE doing so. In significant numbers. The increase in recent years is because of natural social process like the spread of democratic values, education, reach of mass media, and improved transport, in addition to factors such as internal displacement and distress migration by the underdogs which exposes them to a wider world. The process appears to be snowballing. And those who want to preserve and justify discrimination are finding it difficult to counter the process in conventional ways.
Hence in recent days the trend is the use of desperate measures like instigating one section of the underdogs, who are collaborating with them, to use extreme violence to attack those who exercise thier choice to exit from exclusion and dare to attempt to join the mainstream of education, employment, income and most of all, Dignity. And also by demonising and attacking those who help those who want to help themselves do this.
Cynthia Stephen Independent Researcher and writer Bangalore, India
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