“Caste is a state of mind. It is a disease of mind. The teachings of the Hindu religion are the root cause of this disease-Dr. B.R. Ambedkar”
This post has been written by Deyashini Mondal, a first-year student at Symbiosis Law School, Pune
On the 31st of May 2020, Vikas Jatav a 17-year-old boy was stopped by some youth from the upper caste from entering the temple in the Domkhera village. His family has been visiting the temple for the past two decades and was apparently never a victim of such discrimination. When Vikas defied their objections, the assaulter Horam Chouhan and few other youths started thrashing him, threatening him and abusing him using casteist slurs.
After he had finished praying, several upper-caste villagers thrashed him. The dispute had turned violent and Horam hurled some abuses. Later, he was cornered by members of Vikas’ community on the day of the altercation so Horam ran away and wasn’t seen in the village for a week. The family of the victim also approached the police station in hope for some protection for their son but they received none, and now he is no more. A week later on 6th June 2020, Horam returned to the village and murdered Vikas.
According to the family members, Vikas was sleeping in his house premises when the four men Lala Chauhan, Horam Chauhan, Jasveer, and Bhushan came and shot bullets constantly at him late Saturday night. On hearing the gunshots, the family rushed to the victim and immediately were on their way to take him to the hospital. Vikas was bleeding terribly. However, it was too late and Vikas had already passed away.
The accused have charged with murder under section 302 of the Indian Penal Code and violation of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
History and Evolution of the Caste System
The caste system in India is undoubtedly the longest surviving social hierarchy. Hinduism can be defined by its castes encompassing a complex ordering of social groups based on their ritual purity. Upon a child’s birth, they are already identified by the caste they have been born into and will remain a member of that caste until they die. The ranking of the caste may however vary depending on regions and overtime. Differences in status are traditionally justified by the religious doctrine of karma, a belief that one’s place in life is determined by one’s deeds in previous lifetimes.
A more than 2000-year-old system described by traditional scholars is the four principal varnas or large caste categories. In the order of precedence, the varnas are the Brahmins (priest or the learned ones), the Kshatriyas (rulers or soldiers), the Vaishyas (traders and business persons), and the Shudras (artisans or laborers). A fifth category that falls outside these varnas are the Dalits or previously known as the untouchables. They are looked down upon even now and are assigned the filthiest jobs. When has one come across a Brahmin or any other upper caste individual cleaning septic tanks?
Analysis of the case
The most troubling part of this murder case is that it was due to caste-based discrimination where a Dalit is still seen as an individual who is not eligible to avail amenities like every other individual. The police and accused have said the murder may not have been due to discrimination due to some money problems that existed between the two families. Vikas’ father had apparently taken a loan of Rs 5000/- from Horam’s family and was unable to return it. This has been straight denied by the victim’s father.
Even if a case like that had happened, the accused could’ve taken other appropriate measures to get back the money. Not allowing a person to enter a public premise because of their caste in order to fork out the money is plain immoral and shows how there has been no progress about this topic in the minds of the people. They still find it appropriate to use caste slangs and perform activities that push the society back to how it was before the making of the constitution.
It is sad and painful to hear cases like the one of Vikas Jatav even in the 21st century. In the century where the upper caste/the general caste feel that discrimination on the basis of caste doesn’t exist anymore and therefore feel reservation should not be given to the lower caste hopefully change their views after knowing about this absolutely pathetic action by an upper-caste who have apparently accepted the lower caste as equals.
Discrimination in other places
- On March 18th, 2019, a 22-year law student of NLSIU Bangalore had committed suicide and every news headline read “NLSIU Dalit student hangs himself in hostel room”. Why is there a need to mention that the individual was a Dalit? This will develop a picture that the boy being a Dalit had come through reservation and was subsequently not able to compete with the students who come without reservation and are apparently smarter. This was not the case. The student was suffering from severe health issues and was therefore incapable of catching up with the rest which led to him taking his life.
- On 26th April 2019, a group of upper-caste men allegedly beat up a 21-year-old Dalit resident, named Jitendra, so badly that he died nine days later. His alleged crime: he sat on a chair and ate in their presence at a wedding. The food at the wedding was also cooked by upper caste men as they would not eat food touched by a Dalit.
- On 7th June 2020, a 20-year-old Dalit man was chased and beaten to death in the suburb of Pimple Saudagar in Pune reportedly over an inter-caste relationship with a woman belonging to an upper caste.
Looking into the condition of the present caste system in India and the importance it carries in the lives of the people, it can be concluded that the caste system in the minds of the people will not end in the near future. If by removing the reservation system the population believes that equality will finally prevail, they are thinking wrong.
By removing this system, the upper caste will once again enjoy their exaggerated rights and the caste-based discrimination and undermining of the lower castes will continue at a much higher pace. The caste system must be removed first, surnames indicating castes must be taken out and cases like the one of Vikas Jatav must come to an end. Only then will India rise as a country where equality exists.
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