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By Anuradha Acharjee, Edited by Adam Rizvi, TIO: With the prolonged reign of right-wing propaganda in India, many marginalized sections of the society have been suffering. One of the most oppressed sections in Indian society is the women, and caste plays a huge role in assigning respect in a country like India. There is not enough detested that exists about the caste system therefore it is imperatively important that we talk about it.
The caste system or the Varna system originated pretty much around the same time when Yoga and Hinduism gained prominence, around 5000 BC when everything was explained in the Vedas and the Upanishads. Given that all these books are in Sanskrit, many people alive today of South Asian origin cannot make complete sense of the right ideology. Considering the way in which concepts can conspire in a society, how people perceive caste today absolutely does not make sense.
Now, the people who are supportive of the staunch Hindutva ideology would not find any problem with caste, and how some things are completely unfair. The first important thing here is to understand how Hindutva is different from Hinduism, and deciding what you want to follow. Hinduism is one of the most accepting religions that exist in this world, where there is so much liberty to be any kind of Hindu you want. You could be going to the temple, fasting every day, and chanting mantras, whereas you can also be a person who is not exactly in this cycle or simply does not have the time. The religion itself has certain suggestions, but it is not a binding religion at all. If you understand this, you would be able to differentiate between what the religion preaches, and what has been created by the people in the society for their own benefit.
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The caste system is probably one of the oldest feudal capitalistic arrangements to accumulate the resources and wealth in the hands of a few. Oppression was taught and the oppressed started believing and accepting it as their destiny, which helped in normalizing this system. It is exactly like racism, just that here it is less about the color of the skin and more about the surname of the person and the kind of family they come from. In the olden days, normally a person would do what their father did, and their father would be practicing what the grandfather did, basically having a family business. The caste system is basically just based on that, for example, if your family makes keys, your surname would be a key maker.
In today ́s world, with our motives of progressiveness, we must understand how this system does not make any sense. We are all choosing our careers, and making up our lives the way we want.
When caste gets involved with gender, it creates an enigmatic yet complex issue, because discrimination, oppression, and dehumanization exist in India on both these levels. When a woman from a lower caste is raped by men from the upper caste, this ill-treatment does not only refer to her being a woman but also her being from a certain lower section in the society. This double marginalization problematizes the position of women in society, how they are perceived, their agency, and the atrocities against them. Given how complex an issue rape is in Indian society, these things demand to be understood and resolved. Rape is heavily normalized in Indian society, and women are supposed to and taught to act around it.
Every boy receives a more lenient upbringing, in which he is allowed to go out with his friends from an early age, even at night, whereas girls are often not allowed to be outside when it’s dark. For many things, like wearing short clothes or a bikini, women are told that they can do so after marriage if their husband allows. These types of statements are heavily problematic in many senses. First of all, boys are not being taught what consent means whereas girls are forced to not put themselves into a situation.
Nobody is thinking about the situation being created because of how boys are not taught how they should behave with a girl. Secondly, there should not be anything like a woman being allowed. She is a human complete in herself, who should have the agency over her life. Rather than controlling the girls, we need to discipline the boys. Rape is not normal, and statements like “boys will be boys” are obnoxious and regressive. It is never the girl’s fault if she is being raped, nobody is asking for it by just having a vagina or walking outside at night. Just like everyone else, she can also walk outside and should feel safe. It is the responsibility of the state and society. Perspectives around girls need to be changed, a girl who is wearing high heels and a dress, smoking, and drinking at a bar is not asking for it. She is just enjoying her life and she has the right to do so.
What becomes an important concern with respect to caste rapes is how the caste system is being re-strengthened, only to push us back into primitiveness. In addition to a woman fighting every single day to have a dignified life considering her gender in a society like India’s, she is also forced to fight for an age-old objectionable system that should be discarded completely in the modern society aiming for development. The newer generation is responsible for educating the older generations because it is straightforward to blame a casteist, but it is important to understand the circumstances and environment they grew up in, wherein caste discriminations are heavily normalized. The people in the age group of forty and ahead are often caught with such short-sighted belief systems, but it is the responsibility of the young to educate the older generation about the absurdity of the caste system and gender discrimination. Everyone deserves a happy and dignified life, and no one can decide anyone’s fate on the basis of their caste or dehumanize them by raping and murdering them.
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Compiled & Curated By Humra Kidwai