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Old July 1st, 2011, 08:37 AM
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Post How caste has become a disease in our minds

How caste has become a disease in our minds
Yogesh Pawar | Friday, July 1, 2011


Maage ubha mangesh, pudhe ubha mangesh
(The Lord Mangesh precedes and follows me wherever I go)

This popular devotional semi-classical composition in Raga Yaman by Pt Hridaynath Mangeshkar from the critically acclaimed Marathi movie Mahananda is a personal favourite. The fact that it is sung by the ever versatile Asha Bhosale only adds to its magic.

Yet, on my visit to my alma mater, the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, for a workshop that sought to assess the implementation of two extremely sensitive acts — the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955, and the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 — concerning the prevention and redressal of atrocities against marginalised castes, this was the song that kept playing in my head.

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Let me explain. As a hostelite while pursuing my social work masters in the early ‘90s, I was standing in the dining hall queue for dinner when I heard this song being sung as unmusically as possible accompanied by raucous laughter. Wondering who was murdering such a beautiful composition with such sadistic glee, I turned around to find out. This was being sung to tease two boys from the Maang community (one of whom is today an accomplished dholaki player) in the queue with a pun on the word Mangesh, I found out when I asked what was going on.

Strangely, this was being done by a neo-Buddhist classmate who, I’d have assumed, would have ideally empathised with a fellow Dalit. But that was not how this was playing out. The Maangs and Matangs are on the lower rung in the Dalit hierarchy and this was being crudely reinforced. What is worse, this was happening on the campus of what is considered the mother institute of social work. It was only when a community senior reprimanded my classmates did they zip it and apologise.

That, I’m afraid, is the problem. While we may put together world-class psycho-social engineering models to tackle casteism in society, what do we do with the disease lurking in our minds? At the workshop, for example, I was shocked to learn that from the time the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act was created in 1989 some 22 years ago, there have been only 82 convictions!

Little wonder then that the state’s top bureaucrat, Ratnakar Gaikwad, had some strong words for the assembly of senior IPS officers. Drawing on his experience as administrator in various capacities all over Maharashtra, he said he was not as worried about the low conviction rates in complaints filed under the law by victims but the process followed by the police in investigations after the atrocities are committed.

Former IPS officer Sudhakar Suradkar also pointed out how the first response at a police station is to beat up and chase away any Dalit who wants to complain about an atrocity. “Once his repeated efforts are frustrated, he is willing to give up or accept any watered down version of the complaint also,” Suradkar told the gathering. “This is why we have the conviction rates that we have.”

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ambedkar, babasaheb ambedkar, caste, casteism, casteist, dalit, harijan, indian caste, manu, manusmriti


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