Answer by Raakhee V. Menon:
Short Answer : We can’t.
Long Answer :
Discriminatory practices like racism are an ugly truth that exists in society. There is little we could do to ‘stop it’ other than trying to make people aware that at the end of the day, we all belong to the same race. It’s just that we’re colored differently. And if people commit atrocities against foreign races like the recent attack on Africans in Greater NOIDA, they should be shown the real image of India in places where people darker than the ones they attacked live. Yes, I have seen them myself.
If I were to see a person like this, I wouldn’t even dream of disrespecting him. And I’m sure the people who attacked those poor students would also know of someone with a dark complexion that they love and respect.
Why, even our beloved Lord Krishna was dark-skinned! And isn’t His skin glorified in songs that sing His praise? Then why should we disrespect others based on skin color? India’s skin color chart looks like the menu of a coffee shop, with every shade of brown. I think it’s mighty silly that we still think that being fair gives a person an upper hand to bully those who are not. It’s just childish and regressive and hypocritical to the highest degree!
Alright…time for the hard truth. As long as India remains on the face of this earth, the idea of caste is NOT going to away from people’s minds. The government may take it out of government papers and applications. But it can never be weeded out from people’s minds. For all the vehement protests from people belonging to lower castes for the removal of the caste system, the upper caste lot will never get it flushed out of their system. It’s like a vicious circle of sorts. The more the lower rungs protest, the stronger the higher rungs get about protecting their identity. Okay, they may not talk about it out of civility. But the mindset cannot be changed.
See, why would a person want ‘caste’ to be removed from society? Because they feel inferior in some way. Or they know somebody who they feel is being treated as an inferior person because of their caste. And they believe that removal of the caste tag would superficially give them an elevated position in society, because they get to hide a part of their identity that they are apparently ashamed to reveal, or they fear that they would be looked down upon because of it. Fair enough. What about the rest of the people? Those that do not feel inferior? Why would they want to remove a part of their identity if it does not benefit them in any way? I don’t see why. Philanthropy, perhaps? Perhaps, yes. But beyond that, there is nothing in it for them. They are already way up there, you see. If they do protest, it’s just because a lot of people say that it will lead to ‘betterment of society’, not that it will benefit them in some way…other than getting some brownie points for being a good Samaritan.
The problem is not with people acknowledging that they belong to a certain caste. The problem arises when people discriminate others based on their caste. As I understand, THAT is what ‘casteism’ means today. That’s when things go very wrong. In the eyes of the law of the land, we’re all equal. If you behave otherwise to another fellow citizen, then you’re breaking the law of the land. And you ought to be punished. But if somebody is NOT discriminating against another person based on his/her caste while considering employment or other such things, I don’t think there is any problem in a person wishing to be identified as belonging to a certain caste. Then comes the issue of marriage. Now, that is one area I don’t do wish to tread. Marriages are extremely private affairs. If a family does not wish to marry off one of their children to a person because of their caste, you can’t blame them. It’s their choice. A marriage is an institution that is centuries old and in a country like India, a marriage is not just the union of two individuals. It is the union of two clans. Every caste has certain traditions and cultures that could be understood and carried forward by their own lot only. No matter how hard an outsider tries to fit in, they just won’t be able to do it. For instance, I am a Nair. If I were to marry a Namboothiri Brahmin, I know how I’d be in their midst. I would be a complete fish out of water. I might get used to them and their ways eventually, but I can never hope to be one of them. No. Some things are just not miscible. They are best left alone as private affairs.
Now, caste is used as a political tool…quite sadly so. Even if people want it to be ‘eradicated’, our dear politicians don’t. What will they talk about in their election campaigns then? They need to tell people that the people are being ill treated and being discriminated against and all that jazz, so that they can get those precious votes. How many petitions have people filed so far to ‘remove caste system’? Plenty I suppose. Have any of them yielded any result? No. And there never will be anything either. Our politicians want this system to prevail. The sooner we all realize that, the better.