It’s outrageously ridiculous when the oppressor tries to teach the oppressed how to fight oppression. I’d like to share a few incidents. I’d be losing a lot of friends because of this. But hey, does it look like I care?
A nasty incident happened in my final semester of M.Tech. where a girl shamed ‘dalits’ and boasted that she was much better in dressing style and life standards. When I called her out on this, she ridiculed me as well saying that, “You only want to be called ‘Scheduled Caste’ when you need reservations.” Well, this was not the first incident when I was being taunted for belonging to a certain community and also for availing reservation. The thing that hurt me the most was that one of my best friends, who was present there, totally supported the girl, instead of me. I have had a lot of political discussions with her earlier and I found her to be progressive, but her stance here really let me down. When I confronted her later, she said, “I don’t see caste.” The first thing I could remember after listening to this was a white guy saying, “I don’t see race.” Anyhow, she also said that it’s me who is casteist because I identify as ‘dalit’ and avail reservation and if I really didn’t care about the caste then I shouldn’t have felt bad when that girl was talking about dalits.
In another incident that I vividly remember which took place about a month later the above event, I was added to a group chat on Whatsapp where one of the group members shared a very casteist and anti-reservation joke. When I called them out, I was asked to “chill”, “calm down”, “try to take a joke’’, etc. I simply left the group. But things didn’t end there. The same girl who was once my friend, PMed me and actually told me, if I didn’t change my stance on the caste issue and reservations, I will be ‘left alone’. She also very sympathetically said, “I know, it’s not your fault. It’s the government that has imposed reservations. You can’t do anything about it. I am totally against casteism. If somebody denied eating with someone because of their caste, I will totally oppose it. I have never engaged in casteism, only my mom doesn’t like to touch the ‘kuda wala’.’’
Okay, these are just two of the numerous incidents of blatant discrimination that I have endured since my very childhood, when once my class teacher had asked me to sit on ground when she came to know of my caste and then later at the time of college admissions, the registrar looked at my well off clothing and fine ‘educated’ look and asked me, “Do you really belong to Schedule Caste?”
So now, two cents for the wealthy savarnas and others who “don’t see caste” and are against reservations. It might be difficult for you to understand, I know because you have never felt what me and many other dalits have actually gone through and are still going through. You can very well say that if you don’t believe in caste system, you should not be affected by it or quote a few savarna favourite dialogues like “Casteism doesn’t happen in urban areas, it’s a village thing”, “There are lots of ‘general’ students who are also poor”, “Reservations should be on the basis of economic status.” My dear ignorant, privileged savarnas, how does one not see caste when they are not only ridiculed for belonging to one but also killed for it? You think that caste based reservations are for economic purposes but no, it’s for socio-economical upliftment of the lower castes. It’s about representation. First of all, most dalits are forced to do low level, less paying jobs and many are shunned from the society and deprived of their basic human rights. But even after that, when they are able to uplift themselves, they are subjected to caste based discriminations. Imagine yourself, just once, that you are an A level government officer and you are still ridiculed for your caste, your PhD dissertation is rejected because you are a dalit, even though you are an A-grade research scholar but you are rusticated because of your caste and for standing up against caste discrimination, you are being left out because of your caste and when you make it to merit without availing reservations, you are ridiculed for snatching away the seat that rightfully belonged to a ‘general’ upper caste student.
When you say, you don’t believe in caste system, do remember that people are being killed for belonging to a certain caste. They are not allowed to be even cremated properly. They are not even allowed the dignity of dead. It doesn’t matter then if you believe in caste system or not because caste system is being imposed on you by the brahminical society. It’s not about the term ‘dalit’ but it’s about the people who have been and are still being forcefully related to it and ridiculed and killed and ripped off basic human rights.
But do you know what, despite the social challenges, we are growing and we won’t stop. Aaaand the ‘general’ category upper caste students, if we (dalits) can do it despite the endless discrimination, it would be better if you’d stop whining and start working hard.