Our parents shielded us from any candid discussion on caste while growing up, perhaps believing that if the monster was not mentioned, it would simply cease to exist. Another way to look at it could be that they tried to warn us but we were too busy to pay attention and too naive about the realities of the land. Either way, we were not prepared for the rude shock that awaited us when we realized that our savarna college mates in the big bright city hated us because we did not belong to the same castes as they did. The cherry on top was that they also did not think we deserved to study in the same institution as them since we lacked merit.
Being raised in gated communities in their savarna ghettos in metro cities, it was probably the first time that they had encountered a living, breathing Dalit outside of their TV sets and laptops. When they realized we were as good as them, it hurt their ego. They couldn’t understand how the caste supremacist tales their parents and family members told them did not translate into reality. As far as they were concerned, we were the anomaly in a savarna world where Dalits are unmeritorious as a rule. So they tried everything in their power to kill us.
As part of a generation that anticipates more youngsters from the community to enter educational institutions in the country, what should our responsibility as adults be? The previous generation through their web platforms, publication houses, internet presence, seminars and other similar interventions, provided a safe space for us to learn, grow and resist. We should similarly pass on what we have learnt so far to young minds coming after us.
As was the case with many of us, our parents were first generation learners with a stable job, paving the path for us to earn degrees from the colleges populated by savarnas. The teenagers now, compared to when we were the same age as them, already have better access to wider political knowledge, thanks to the internet and superior technologies. More chances are that they already have an idea of what caste entails. But this could be true only for the kids who are active on social media. What about those children from smaller towns and villages, the introverts and the science nerds who want to study at MIT or Stanford some day? It is not wise to leave it to chance that they will come across and read about the history of caste on their own. Or if they do, they will fully grasp what they are dealing with. Therefore, a frank conversation with them about the caste system is vital. The first thing that we should let the young minds know is that Hindus are not their friends. They should always be wary of them. To be Hindu is to believe in caste hierarchy, it is as simple a fact as this. Other topics regarding affirmative action, about the role of the media, about Brahmin “intellectuals”, even about Savarna feminism must also be discussed.
Finally, we should instil a sense of pride in them about our rich intellectual, humanitarian history— that they are not only as good as anyone they will cross paths with in future, but belonging to a tradition that believes in rationality and love, they are actually better and deserve a life of abundance and joy.
We should prepare a generation of men and women who can fight back and emerge victorious in the end. The sphere of religion is crucial because Hindu religion sets a limit to thought. Inadvertent swallowing of myths and supremacist propaganda leads to a person subconsciously thinking that they are not good enough. We must break this chain of historical trauma inflicted via religion. Teaching young kids Ambedkarite thought and Buddhist teachings frees the mind. They are then not playing according to the rules of Hinduism. They have changed the game itself. Hinduism is now irrelevant as a medieval religion that must be chucked by everyone who believes in the equality of all human beings.
Chanchal Kumar is from Jharkhand and currently lives in Delhi, India. His poems have previously appeared and awarded in The Sunflower Collective, Hamilton Stone Review, Welter Journal, Name and None, Young Poets Network, UK including others. Recently, his poems were translated to Bengali by Harakiri Journal. He is pursuing M.Phil at University of Delhi.