Monday, July 9, 2012

Satyamev Jayate on the brutal reality of Untouchability

-Timesofindia
Dalits or the downtrodden/untouchables are a reality of our society. A modern, educated, urban India may ignore or thinks its non-existent, but that's far from the truth.
Host Aamir Khan on the 10th episode of 'Satyamev Jayate' brought out the ugliness of untouchability and casteism still prevalent in an Independent India.
Heart wrenching was the story of Dr Kaushal Pawar who suffered many humiliations as a child simply because she was the 'other', fringing on the borders of society. As a dalit child growing up, Kaushal was constantly made to be aware of the fact that she was different.
In the school that she studied at, dalit children were made to wear blue clothes, a way to distinguish and brand them.But Kaushal triumphed over this injustice, where at one point she even thought of quitting the prestigious JNU institute in Delhi. But with her father's constant support, Kaushal is now a lecturer at Delhi University where she teaches Sanskrit.Balwant Singh, an IAS officer was robbed of his dignity simply because he was a chamar, a member of the backward caste. In 1962, he resigned from his services when he could not tolerate the cruelty meted to him anymore. 


Stalin Padma from Goa is a filmmaker whose documentary, 'Untouched' is an eye opener. Especially for all those people who were surveyed by Aamir's team and who denied that casteism and untouchability did not exist in our society anymore.
Through Stalin's film, viewers were able to see that Dalits are still made to do shameful things like remove their slippers when crossing an area predominantly filled by members of the high caste. 


Dalits as they are wrongfully called are even barred from using public transport because people feel they will defile the vehicle. But the irony reflected through his documentary was that these same dalits who clean and build the houses we live in and yet they are barred from entering? Are we a confused lot? A pandit in Stalin's film proudly proclaimed that casteism existed and he was happy to follow it. This proves that we are clearly an uneducated lot. In a shocking incident exposed by the media in June 2011, 3 dalit girls were punished for visiting a kali temple in Orissa. But, it was the entire dalit community there that faced the brunt. They were refused employment opportunities.


When Member of Parliament, P PL Punia, Chairman of National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, decided to visit the same Kali temple with the villagers, he was denied entry by the priest. Bezwada Wilson of Safai Karmachari Andolan from New Delhi was forcefully given the job of a manual scavenger simply because his father belonged to the same profession. Wilson is now working for people who are bullied into this profession. 


Often people say that whatever a dalit has touched needs to be purified. Is their blood different from ours? One person on the show went on to say, you are born a dalit, will live as a dalit and die a dalit. What qualification do we require to be human beings? This was answered beautifully by Justice Chandrasekhar Dharmdhikari who went to on to say that a person should be described as a citizen of India only.He should not be labelled by his state, community or caste. A stickler for justice, Mr Dharmdhikari has also worked with Gandhiji who wanted Brahmins (members of the upper-caste) to sweep the floor and clean the toilets.


He also wanted the Geeta (holy book of Hindus) in the hands of dalits, to end this scary age old tradition of casteism. Maybe this solution by the Mahatma is India's only or perhaps one of the answers to end casteism.But Mr. Dharmdhikari was ignored by his own community, in spite of belonging to an upper caste for championing the cause of the downtrodden. Again, brilliant job by Aamir and his team for even raising this topic which most Indians think ended with the British rule. Well researched and a fair debate. Aamir focused on the disparity in religions like Islam too. Hence, for a change it wasn't a one sided perspective. 
However, one only wishes that Aamir could have brought Mr Narendra Jadhav on the show.


Mr Jadhav is a leading educationist, eminent economist & policy maker, well-known social scientist and best-selling author, who was born into a dalit family. He has published great and important works like Untouchables: My Family's Triumphant Journey Out of the Caste System in Modern India and Outcaste - A Memoir Life and Triumphs of an Untouchable Family In India.His presence would have been very impactful and would make this episode of 'Satyamev Jayate' complete. 

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