Monday, December 19, 2011

Untouchability

The latest edition of Outlook has an incredibly horrifying article about caste-hierarchies in Karnataka ('The Leftover God'). It describes the three-day Champa Shasti festival at the Kukke Subramanya temple in Dakshina Kannada district, where the Shivalli Brahmins are served meals at the temple. After their meal, they are expected to leave their leftover food on the ground - so that the local Dalits can literally roll over the remnants. In this disgusting spectacle of caste-discrimination, the Brahmin priests actually encourage the 4,000-strong band of Dalits and local tribesmen to buy into the pernicious belief that the leftovers ("jhoota") of the Brahmins have a curative power. They are taught to believe that their wishes and prayers will be answered upon completing this demeaning ritual. Social workers who, over the years, have fought for ending the ritual have surprisingly met with a lot of resistance from within the Dalit community, who believe that a ritual conceived for their "benefit" is under threat. One official on deputation from the government was actually physically assaulted by the Dalit "devotees".

Reading such an article in urban India today is a surreal experience, which indicates how cut off we are from the magnitude of injustice and the lack of dignity in many parts of the country.

No comments: