The caste system is the India's oldest societal system. It is a space for existential scars and ongoing ontological wounding. According to the Varna system, the lowest level of the Varnas are the Shudras, who are generally the poorest people. By performing the dirtiest jobs, they are made to form a lower stratum when compared to others. At the top of the hierarchy are the Brahmins, Kshatriyas, and Vaishyas. Under the four strata, there is a fifth group that is not included within the caste system. Individuals from this group are literally untouchable for the rest of the castes. The Dalits (“broken people”) constitute this untouchable society. The difference between Shudras and Dalits as untouchables is that Shudras are part of the varna caste system, whereas the Dalits are outcaste as they are called, as they are outside the varnas and form the lowest rung of the hierarchy.
The untouchable is historically constructed to be indispensable, yet an abscissa on humanity. The denial of access to water, to education, and to healthcare among several other things continues to prevail in our villages. This segregation is still the norm: however, the shades of the caste system have shifted. Villages are no longer the lone epicentres of caste consciousness, as casteism thrives in cities, too.
Reservation was provided to ensure the representation of the marginalised section in public spaces. Reservations are essential in order to ensure representation and recognition and to democratise public institutions, while constantly fighting the malaise of caste discrimination.
“The British have an Empire, so have the Hindus." Our movement is not about the fighting against the growing totalitarian government policies. Ours is a battle for equality with dignity. Babasaheb wrote three scholarly books on economics, where he closely looked at the role of the British imperialism and its overall impact on the different sections of Indian society.
It is time to expose Hindu imperialism and delineate the ways in which it affects the oppressed.
When he wrote, “If Hindu Raj does become a fact, it will, no doubt, be the greatest calamity for this country. No matter what the Hindus say, Hinduism is a menace to liberty, equality and fraternity. On that account, it is incompatible with democracy. Hindu Raj must be prevented at any cost. The idea of Hindustan for Hindus is not merely arrogant but is arrant nonsense," Babasaheb talked about Hindu imperialism.
When will the so-called Indian intellectuals who always talk about the British empire and demand reparations from the British government talk about the colonization of the oppressed by the upper caste?
When will they seek reparation for caste apartheid? Will they ever so much as consider it an issue?
The answer, to me, is no.
These neoliberals are the new variant of Hindu imperialism. Upper caste Hindus are the richest in India and own 41% of the total assets. This is approximately 15% of the total population in India, according to a study on wealth distribution that was jointly conducted by the Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU), Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and Indian Institute of Dalit Studies.
After the demise of George Floyd, the California Assembly passed a bill to establish a task force to study and develop reparations for African Americans. More than a year ago, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee from Texas tabled a bill in congress known as H.R. 40. It sought a commission to study and develop reparation proposals for African-Americans.
The time has come for us, now. I urge all members of oppressed groups, activists, and politicians to add the Caste-Based Reparations discourse in our Anti-Caste Movements. Shouldn't Hindus atone for thousands of years of its caste system? What about their ancestral wealth?
The growing inequality in India is a big threat for our socialist democracy. It may have disastrous consequences in the future.
We, the oppressed people of this country, seek reparations for the oppression we have faced for thousands of years now, which is still ongoing.