Instead of criticising the system, we need to find a solution within the system which will lead us to our goal
“Caste restricts opportunity. Restricted opportunity constricts ability. Constricted ability further restricts opportunity. Where caste prevails, opportunity and ability are restricted to ever-narrowing circles of the people,” said Ram Manohar Lohia. Today, India on the one hand is on the verge of launching its second space shuttle to the moon; on the other hand, its citizens are ‘confusion personified’. Amidst all this chaos about caste, creed, vote banks, terrorism and much other worldly ridicule, it is time for us to retrospect and take pragmatic steps towards building a casteless society.
Protesting against conducting a caste-based census would hardly solve the issue, for shunning ourselves from the truth won’t make the bitter truth sweet. A country which has suffered the caste system for over a thousand years can’t become ‘casteless’ overnight. A caste-based census was extremely important in a country like ours given the reservations and the quotas that we have to plan. So, instead of criticizing the system, we need to find a solution within the system which would lead us to our goal.
The Indian Constitution doesn’t give us an option not to belong to any caste. Our society does, but not the Constitution. An entirely personal and spiritual endeavour such as this definitely doesn’t need a government seal, but the lives and thoughts of the great people who preached secularism failed to become a movement because of the above mentioned flaw in our Constitution.
If an idea gets constitutionalised or gets governmental back-up, it surely will gain momentum. Take for example the step of the Karnataka Government to mark the driving licences of those willing to donate their organs after death with a green dot. This step publicised the idea and more and more people got enrolled. Similarly we can ignite a ‘casteless movement’ by constitutionalising it.
Inter-caste marriages are intended to be the stepping stone towards building a casteless society. But they are having exactly the opposite effect; they have turned out to be a means of conversion. My argument is that these couples must be given an option to elevate themselves as being ‘casteless’. We must provide these people a platform to lead lives by the principles they believe in, and be an example to society.
In places where there is a necessity to state one’s caste, one must be given an option to identify himself as ‘casteless’, if he wishes to. I would prefer ‘casteless’ to ‘Indian” because in the latter case we would again be restricting ourselves to a boundary, which would be a second grade decision when you look at it spiritually. ‘Casteless’ would mean he is just a part of the creation and nothing else.
Now, aren’t we dividing the society further by introducing another category? Yes, we are, but look at it this way. Imagine that you are caught in the middle of a maze. There are also people around you who are equally confused and the whole environment is in chaos. But you somehow have discovered that the way out of the maze is on the other side of the wall you are standing next to.
So, you decide to tunnel through the wall. With so many paths and turns and doors already existing, is it wise of you to create another by tunnelling the wall? You believe it is! Now this analogy might give a solution to the ambiguity we are facing.
It would undoubtedly be a brave decision to enrol oneself as ‘casteless’, considering the opposition and criticism these people have to face from their families, and only an intellectually cultured mind can do that. So be it a dalit or an upper caste person, who elevates himself as ‘casteless’, because he is educated, will definitely not need any kind of reservation and he falls into the general category (no quotas, mind you).
There will be some practical problems. Now, because of this categorical shift, there will be need for some alterations in the reservation percentage and a few other minor practical issues, to which solutions can be worked out. But the advantages of this system seem promising.
The children of these ‘casteless’ parents will, by birth, have nothing tagged to their names, and this continues, generation to generation. Isn’t it wonderful to see a tree pop up amidst acres and acres of weed? And won’t this tree produce more trees? One day, can’t we see a thick forest in that place?
A thousand years later, if even this idea gets corrupted, someone else will find a better solution. As of now, if being casteless can become a constitutional provision, our society will definitely raise itself a few notches higher.
(The author is in his second year B.E at M.S. Ramaiah Institute of Technology, Bangalore. The views expressed are personal)