Unpacking The Caste System Part Two – “I Disapprove Of What You Say”

Nila Varman and Puyol Varman

In addition to my earlier article unpacking the depths of the harmful Caste system, my dad came to me with his unique string of thoughts. Rather than me trying to explain them to you, I thought you could read his view of the Caste system in his own words…

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”  – Voltaire through Evelyn Beatrice Hall

Caste, the most imagined hierarchy system in India, which may also be considered as a nemesis, is ingrained in every Indian psyche. The roots of the Caste system are ingrained so much so that many have no option but to either adhere to gloating or defeating concepts, or negate their existence completely and thus live in an alternate world.

Nila has begun to understand this crazy discriminatory system, which affects 1.38 billion individuals within India, and millions of those with Indian origins across the globe in some way or another. Mind you, no religion in India has been averse to casteism and its cruel, hidden manifestations for all these centuries. Not only Hinduism but Christianity, Islam, and the youngest of them, Sikhism, came in vogue under the pristine castelessness of a few hundred years ago, yet are now unfortunately rife with casteist divides.

Individuals of Indian origin are stamped and labelled, willingly or unwillingly

It is similar to the White-Black anathema in the UK, USA or any other Western country where Black individuals live as minorities; same issue in another format. Regardless of being an “upper-caste” Brahmin or “outcaste” Dalit anywhere across the globe, individuals of Indian origin are stamped and labelled, willingly or unwillingly, with their forced allegiance, deep in their own subconscious.

This hierarchy is instilled by their parents and families to begin with, later on by friends, and eventually by the harsh society. It’s a sort of automatism ingrained in the mind that screams superiority or inferiority. Mind you, these ideals are mostly subjective at first, becoming objective in later stages.

The system, which began based upon chores, job necessities and inequalities around 2000 years ago in Northern India, caught like wildfire throughout the sub-continent. It became the artful dodgy owner of human actions, weaponizing humans’ inherent capacity to subjugate one another through favouritism, nepotism, allegiance, inequalities, matrimonial shambolic sojourns, gender biases… you name it. A majority of the acts committed in Indian society over the past 200 years, and in modern-day India, would unify these tenets under a common thread – casteism.

“Pirappokkum Ellaa Uyirkkum Sirappovvaa

Seydhozhil Vetrumai Yaan”

“All men that live are one in circumstances of birth;

Diversities of works give each his special worth”- Tiruvalluvar.

And that’s it. This is Tamil poet and philosopher, Tiruvalluvar, trying to negate the sprouting casteism here and there in Tamil land 2000 years ago under a so-called hierarchical logarithm.

In my opinion there will be no end to casteism; no light at the end of any darkened tunnel; similar to White or Black; rich or poor; male or female; high or low; religious or non-religious; or various other sub-sects of different religions.

“We have a sense of belonging to every place and everyone is our own”

Kaniyan Poongundranar came out with a poem “Yaathum Oore, Yaavarum Kelir” 3000 years ago, long before the advent of casteism as the nemesis of Tamil land, which is at present depicted gloriously in the United Nations. The words translate to “we have a sense of belonging to every place and everyone is our own.”

Great, isn’t it? But Tamil country and culture in its later stages became one of the epitomes of casteism, carried out under various pretexts by later Tamil kings to push their agenda through already established “upper-caste” echelons.

There is an obviously fine line that exists between originality and inspiration – before it becomes a copyright issue. Am I right? Casteism, in my opinion, exists in our mind and will continue to exist, as long as we exist.

Nila Varman and Puyol Varman*

“Puyol Varman” is a pseudonym for anonymity reasons.

Featured image courtesy of Girish Dalvi on Unsplash. Image license found hereNo changes were made to this image. 

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