A question of caste
I am not venturing into the entire caste debate here. Suffice to say that I dislike the concept, and feel utterly disgusted when any person refers to his/her caste as part of their identity. Despite this, I recognise that I am frequently as racist any other person – wrapped up and bogged down as I am from ideologies and concepts handed down to me from generations. But I am consciously trying my best to erase, as much as possible, the question of caste from my language, my behaviour and my interactions with people. So I was quite surprised at my reaction to a “dalit” activist I was reading about. I found myself constantly probing her name in an attempt to pinpoint her caste. I felt contemptuous of her anti-caste activism, and wanted to justify my reaction. It was, as if, I would be justified in my contempt if she turned out to be an “upper caste/ Brahmin”. It would expose her as an impersonator, a sham. Someone who had jumped on the bandwagon because it was chic – but could never actually know what it meant to be a dalit.
Actually, I know that whatever her “caste” maybe – it does not mean a thing. It need not bother me what the activist does – as long as it’s not harming the cause. And any day, raising the tenor of debate on the caste question is better than sitting in a box, and writing drivel all day long. And probably I was merely jealous. But it sure is a bother that try as one might, the question of caste pops up in unexpected ways. And I’m very ashamed to admit that for all my anti-caste protestations, I caught myself wondering about the caste of a person. I am truly ashamed and sorry about it. I wonder if writing this, and putting it out will make a difference.