Posts Tagged “caste system”

Dalit demonstrators shout slogans and protest in the Indian capital New Delhi, on January 3, 2018. / CNNTo a large extent, the occidental world views India through the lenses of Mahatma Gandhi, the man who used civil disobedience to lead his land to independence, and inspired many others to use that same tactic elsewhere. Also, India is home to a number of movements and sects which are famous for being pacifists; Buddhism, for example, originated there, as did Jainism, whose adherents sometimes go as far as to brush the ground as they walk so as to ensure they don’t step even on the tiniest insect.

The West has an often-idealistic view of India which, unfortunately, doesn’t coincide with reality — which is that India is more or less as violent as any other nation on earth. It’d be wonderful if it weren’t so; if India were in fact a grandly sacred land full of deeply spiritual people who’d never harm a fly; but that’s just not how it is. I don’t mean to say this as a specific condemnation of India: Human nature being what it is, it can’t really be any other way. India’s people have the same human nature as the folk of every other country.

As an example of this, as CNN reports, recently India has been rocked by protests and assorted violence, over its ancient caste system (Archive.Is cached version):

Security forces were out in full force in India’s financial capital Mumbai this week, as members of the country’s low-caste Dalit community demonstrated against alleged violence by right-wing Hindus.

The unrest was concentrated in suburban areas on the outskirts of India’s largest city, which also saw transport disruptions.

There were also sporadic protests across the state of Maharashtra, which Mumbai is located in.

These Right-wing Hindus were responding to protests by the Dalits, aka “the Untouchables”:

It all began when tens of thousands of Dalits, who rank at the bottom of India’s ancient Hindu caste hierarchy, gathered in the village of Bhima Koregaon, 170 kilometers (105 miles) outside of Mumbai, on New Year’s day to celebrate the 200th anniversary of a battle in which British colonial forces staffed with local Dalit fighters defeated a numerically superior army belonging to upper caste rulers of the region.

In the years since, many Dalits have come to regard the battle as an important historical moment when their community stood up against oppressive higher caste Hindus.

This year, Dalit activists claim that the annual commemoration was interrupted by right wing Hindu nationalists, who they say threw rocks at the gathering.

The situation deteriorated as riots broke out and two men died in the chaos, according to local media [cached].

CNN goes on to provide background for the Dalits’ protests and an oh-so-very-brief overview of the caste system itself. In the process, CNN mentions that the caste system is explicitly outlawed in India’s Constitution, but the article does not explain how deeply ingrained it is within India’s chief religion, Hinduism. In that religion, people reincarnate, via karma, into particular stations in life, i.e. their dharma, and hence into their castes. In Hindu tradition, and in the minds of some modern-day Hindus, the Dalits are “untouchables” — fit only for the lowliest jobs and the objects of societal oppression — because of this. To treat the Dalits any other way violates dharma. Thus, Right-wing Hindus view treating “the untouchables” as their equals in a democratic system as profane or even blasphemous.

It’s time for everyone to realize the very-real harm that religion inflicts on people … not just the Abrahamic faiths, which which most in the West are familiar, but the Dharmic faiths as well.

Photo credit: CNN.

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