Friday, June 10, 2011

[ZESTCaste] Sacred Institutions, Demonic Practices

June 12, 2011

Sacred Institutions, Demonic Practices

G Mamatha

"When we look at modern man we have to face the fact that modern man
suffers from a kind of poverty of the spirit, which stands in glaring
contrast to his scientific and technological abundance, we've learned
to fly the air like birds, we've learned to swim the seas like fish,
and yet we haven't learned to walk the earth as brothers and sisters."

- Dr Martin Luther King

ON November 25, 1949, Dr BR Ambedkar sounded a grave warning in the
Constituent Assembly: "On January 26, 1950, we will have equality in
politics and inequality in social and economic life. We must remove
this contradiction at the earliest moment, or else those who suffer
from inequality will blow up the structure of political democracy
which this Assembly has so laboriously built up." Unfortunately, our
rulers have since then failed to heed this warning and initiate
remedial measures.

Thus, even after nearly 62 years of declaring ourselves 'secular,
democratic, socialist republic', social and economic inequalities are
not just there, but appear to be growing by leaps and bounds. It seems
not a single institution in our country escapes its evil embrace. The
most revered judiciary, which is considered to be a sacrosanct
institution that applies principles of justice to one and all,
irrespective of considerations of socio-economic status, unaffected by
caste, religion, gender and regional considerations, too, was unable
to escape the smear of caste discrimination. Just recently, on March
26, 17 Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe judges were ordered to take
compulsory retirement in Chhattisgarh. In this unprecedented decision,
these judges, who had either completed 20 years in service or were
more than 50 years old, were ordered to retire compulsorily. The
recommendation was made to the state government by the legal
department, which is since trying to mask it saying that this decision
was based on their performance. The recommendation, of course, was
accepted by the state government and orders on their retirement

This, in fact, vindicates what a member of parliament had stated
during the course of debates on the atrocities against SC/STs in
parliament in August 2010: "Dalits are being discriminated against, as
far as appointment in the judiciary is concerned. When advocates are
chosen to fill the posts of judges, dalit advocates are dubbed as 'not
suitable'. Even at the time of promotion in judiciary, they are
discriminated against. General category people get 'outstanding'
reports and remarks whereas the ACRs of dalits are spoiled. This is
the harsh reality of the judicial set-up where justice is not granted
to the dalits".

This is stated as much by the judges whose services were forcibly
terminated in Chattisgarh. Paikra, who was serving as an additional
district judge in Durg, has nine more years of service remaining.
Until last October, he worked as additional district judge (ad hoc) at
a fast-track court and was soon regularised as additional district
judge in Durg district court. "They regularised me for my performance,
usefulness and integrity. I don't understand what happened in a few
months that I was considered unfit for the task," he says. While he
might be diplomatically stating that he does not 'understand what
happened', another judge citing examples of several other judges from
the general category, does not mince words when he states, "they
(general category judges) have been granted extensions despite 'poor
grading'. I still had six years of service remaining but my caste
proved unfavourable for me as well as others" (emphasis added).

If this happens to judiciary and this 'sacred institution' is coloured
with caste bias, can anyone expect unbiased justice – judgements not
influenced by the considerations of caste of the litigants? A truthful
answer to this question certainly sounds warning bells to our
'secular, democratic, socialist republic'.

Of course, these developments might not surprise any rational observer
of the socio-economic, political situation in our country. No
institution can be expected to be 'clean' when its surroundings are
murky. Forgetting all the studies conducted by the 'ideologically
coloured' organisations, let us take a peek at a recent report
published by the United Nations. As per the study conducted by the
United Nations Organisation regarding untouchability in 565 villages
in 11 states of India, health workers refuse to go to the homes of
dalits in 33 per cent villages, children of dalits are made to sit
separately during mid day meal in 38 per cent government schools,
dalits do not get their letters in 33 per cent villages, dalits cannot
draw water from public water facilities in 48 per cent villages and
dalits are not allowed to approach police stations in 27 per cent
villages. Out of 1000 dalit children, 83 die during birth and 119 out
of 1000 die within first five years. Every day more than three women
are being raped and every week five dalit houses are turned to ashes,
11 beaten, 13 killed and more than 6 dalits are kidnapped. Every 18th
minute there is oppression and atrocity committed on a dalit. The
figures provided are just those who had registered their complaints,
while many do not file their complaints at the police station. The
report published by UN in 2010 observes that the dalit and the tribal
people have been leading a pitiable life in India. Might be nothing
new for many, but what is new is the mouth that is uttering these
facts – the UN!

And now let us train our attention to the education system that builds
the 'future India' in its classrooms. Consider this: Jaspreet, a
medical student, was in the final year at the Government Medical
College in Chandigarh. He was an excellent student throughout, and had
never failed in any subject until he reached the fifth and final year.
There, a professor whose criteria of merit was not Jaspreet's
performance but his 'caste', not only humiliated him on caste lines
but failed him twice in the same paper and threatened to further keep
on failing him. Unable to tolerate this humiliation any longer,
Japreet killed himself in his college library. The suicide note
recovered from his coat pocket charged his Head of the Department
(HoD). Seven months later, a three-member group of senior professors
re-evaluated his answer sheet and found that he had in fact passed the
test. Seven months later! That is the sensitivity our system has
towards its sons and daughters and that too in such a noble profession
like medicine. Doctors are expected to take an oath on Hippocrates
stating that they would not be in any way influenced by the
socio-economic conditions of the patient, while discharging their
noble duties as a doctor. And so much nobility have they shown, by
coercing one of their own kin to take his precious life, just because
he is not of their caste!

We have just seen how two of the noblest professions are being
corrupted by the social evil of caste discrimination and also the
study of another 'reputed' institution on this subject. It is a shame
that out government is eager to sit in the UNSC as a permanent member,
but not half as much eager to eradicate the centuries old social
stigma rotting our system. More than this, it itself is gullible of
failing to stand by its constitutional obligations of ensuring social
justice and remain a role model. Just recently, it has diverted the
money amounting to Rs 678.91 crore earmarked for the SC/STs to the
Commonwealth Games. This shows the priorities of the governments and
its commitment to social justice.

So what needs to be done to cleanse our society from this rot? Let us
end with the words of Martin Luther King once again. "Injustice
anywhere is a danger to justice everywhere...Our lives begin to end
the day we become silent about things that matter". So, come let us
together break the silence and join our fists!


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