In Gujarat, on the 25th of June 2016, an NGO called ‘Human Development and Research Centre’ (HDRC) attempted to problematize and eradicate the social stigma on the untouchables who work as sweepers. But this initiative was welcomed with stone-throwing by the so-called upper castes1. This is the real face of Hinduism and its worst politics of DOs and DON’Ts.
The upper castes like Brahmins, Rajputs, Patels and Sunni Awami Forum objected to this act. It is unfortunate to understand the logic of the Sunni Awami Forum, that Saiyads cannot do sweeper jobs for they are believed to be the direct descendents of Prophet Muhammad. This is the perfect example of the real and ugly face of upper castes showing their higher status in society, in the belief that they were born to rule society, not to serve it. Further, NSUI, a political wing of the Congress party, by hurling stones on the banner of the NGO, also showed the true intentions of the Congress party and that they are followers of Gandhi
The hierarchy inherent in Hinduism has two aspects, first is the politics of rights (Dos) and duties (Don’ts) that decrease from upper to lower castes, and the second is the politics of rights (Don’t) and duties (only Dos) that increase from lower to upper castes. In the caste system, the upper castes have all kinds of power, privileges, immunity to do whatever they want to do. They have the right to acquire reputation, education, wealth and spirituality. They also feel they have the right to exploit others as they think fit.
In the Brahmanical Hindu order, the upper castes are free to do whatever they want to do, they have derived absolute fundamental rights from Hindu religion which is essentially based on discrimination among human beings by birth. The lower castes or untouchables do not have these absolute rights from religion, they are supposed to only perform their duty towards the upper castes.
It is unfortunate and ridiculous that on one the hand Hinduism preaches that we are equal and there is no casteism in Hinduism and every individual is free to do their occupation as he/she wishes to do. On the other hand, they force dalits to remain in their age-old professions.
Mr Gandhi even gave a spiritual shade to the job of scavengers and cleaners reserved for the untouchables but never to be performed by upper castes especially Brahmins. Once he said:
“Scavenging is a fine art. Not only must the cleaning be perfect, but the manner of doing it and the instruments used, must be clean and not revolting to one’s sanitary sense, scavenger who works in his service shares equal distinction with a king who uses his gifts in His name and as mere trustee.”2
Our current Prime Minister again applies the same philosophy in which untouchables will remain untouchable in a Hindu society. Mr. Narendra Modi, on his first Independence Day speech said:
“Brothers and Sisters, Mahatma Gandhi had cleanliness and sanitation closest to his heart….Cleanliness is very big work”3.
Gujarat is the state where both these personalities hail from and this state is believed to be a great follower of them. But then the question arises: who are these true followers, Dalits or Brahmins? The answer to this is for you to decide. Discrimination based on birth is not prevalent only in Hinduism but is practiced in others religions too. Like in this present case an upper caste Muslim is threatening the director of this particular NGO by saying, “Saiyads cannot be sweepers”.
It means the problem of untouchability is almost, more or less, same in every religion. History has shown that both Hindus and Muslims were not concerned with the problem of untouchability because the upper castes have always done what they please. I do not wish to sing any praises for the British but it is a fact that they did more to eradicate many social evils than others like the upper castes of various religions.
The silence of the so-called progressive media, intellectuals, academicians and civil society on this issue is clear in showing their contempt towards Dalits. This is the real face of Indian upper caste society.
Therefore, the central argument is that untouchables are untouchables and neither have they got justice from religion nor from caste.
The only solution is to follow the Constitution of India which treats all people as equal. However, even the Constitution of India is still fighting with these social evils or popular moralities because we as a society do not believe in Constitutional morality as pointed out by Dr Ambedkar. Constitutional morality is an essential feature of a democratic nation and India is still evolving.
1. Rathin Das, Gujarat NGO releases ad for ‘upper caste sweeper’, gets pelted with stones, http://www.catchnews.com/india-news/gujarat-ngo-releases-ad-for-upper-caste-sweeper-gets-pelted-with-stones-1466840638.html last access on 30/06/2016.
2. Dr. Savita Singh, ‘Cleanliness is next to Godliness’ M. K. Gandhi, http://www.mkgandhi.org/articles/cleanliness-next-to-godliness.html last access on 30/06/2016.
3. Narendra Modi’s Independence Day speech: Full text:
http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/narendra-modi-independence-day-speech-full-text-red-fort/1/377299.html last access on 30/06/2016.
Deepak Kumar has done his LL.B from CCS University, Meerut. In 2015, he completed (LL.M with specialization in Constitutional Law from Dr. Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University, Lucknow. Currently, he is pursuing M.Phil at Centre for the Study of Law and Governance, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.