Deepak Lokhande: Of Aarakshan, Khairlanji and caste
Deepak Lokhande | Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Prakash Jha's Aarakshan, which releases this Friday, has been in the
eye of a storm ever since the promos started playing on television
The dialogues in the promos are catchy enough to make a few leaders
who believe the movie is against dalits to pick up the protest banner
and insist that the film should not release.
I will not get into the merits and demerits of reservation. There are
lots of arguments for and against it. Those who are for reservation
point out how upper caste Hindus denied their communities access to
education and jobs for thousands of years.
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Those against reservations say merit is compromised, quality denied
and thousands of worthy candidates are rejected because of the policy
that was supposed to be abolished in 30 years.
Like I said, I will not get into who is right and who is wrong. Let's
look at the reality that exists in our society.
The reality is that rapid urbanisation and industrialisation has
forced a majority of us to shun our castes at least in public. In
major cities, towns and tehsils, a fair amount of equality exists.
We don't 'see' a dalit being denied admission to an eatery,
untouchability is not practiced, and food is freely shared.
But then that's only half the truth.
Or, for that matter, less than half the truth. Latest census figures
show that more than 60% of India still lives in villages, and therein
lies the hidden truth. I know a media person from a prominent media
house who was banned from entering his village after he married out of
his caste. I am not talking about 30 or 20 years ago.
I am talking about five years ago. The village is not in the interiors
of 'progressive' Maharashtra; neither is it from predominantly
casteist Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. It is a fallacy that Maharashtra is
progressive and does not believe in the caste system. One just has to
travel to Marathwada and Vidarbha to see how it is practiced.
The truth is — like Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar said in his speech that he
had to publish after he was not allowed to speak — that to ensure the
true abolition of the caste system, intercaste marriages are a must
and they should be encouraged.
Caste system gains its strength through roti-beti (sharing food and
allowing marriages strictly within the community). When intercaste
marriages start taking place in the society on a large scale, false
egos will be forced to take a back seat. You might say they are
already happening. Yes, they are, but not enough.
All our English newspapers (supposedly liberal by virtue of being in
English) are full of community-based matrimonial advertisements.
All matrimonial portals assure the best matches from within
communities. So much for those who insist science and technology will
automatically lead to breaking of such practices.
It is the mindset that refuses to change. Let me end this on something
that struck me after the Khairlanji massacre shook us. Four members of
the Bhotmange family were killed by the villagers of Khairlanji on
September 29, 2006.
Two of the women were paraded naked, raped and then killed. All of us
remember it as the Khairlanji massacre and not the Bhotmange massacre.
Dalits don't have an identity, not even when they are raped and
killed. They sadly are remembered by the name of the village that
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