A dalit acquaintance is rich. He always hires Brahmin cooks to be assured of the best quality.The heart can find a new love/hate, it cannot understand rules. The brain learns, but in a battle with the heart, it is rare for the brain to win or create change beyond the attention span. Emotions are fundamental to our existence. We can’t do a damn thing without a feeling or need being associated with it. We can do many things without thinking. There is no way thinking can outpower emotions. Yeah, all ye, who say “I go by the brain”, you’re lying – you go by your emotion – fear – of the vulnerability of being known to be ruled by emotion. Not lying actually, you are not aware. Laws, thus will not work to change social thought. It will only help people put things under the carpet so that they can’t be addressed easily. Laws can present deterrence, but not if there are so many laws that they no longer feel threatening. And we have a vast number of impotent laws. The other way the ban harms the cause is by removing expectations and responsibility from the people. If there is a law in place, people have something to point to. It is not their problem. “Oh! we fixed that. We have a law. The police will manage the rest. It is their problem now. Interfering will only complicate matters. I will sit and watch.” In the process, we lose something that has actually proven effective at social change – the capacity of a group to self-evolve. Throughout the history of caste, there have been those who challenged it. From Buddha and Mahavira to Meera bai, Dnyaneshwar, Kabir, Guru Nanak, Swami Vivekananda, Ramananda, Jyotirao Phule, Mannathu Padmanabham…. many, many people. They did it by introducing new thought into the society. By inspiring. By role modeling the desired values. The same way that women’s reform happened, with education, sati, child marriage, widow remarriage…. read your history text books. They didn’t need laws to change society. They did it through influencing minds and it worked So what can be done? One thing is clear, the ban can’t be removed. While creating it was a bad idea, removing it will be an altogether different intervention that will imply carte blanche on discrimination. Bad, bad idea. Now that it is here, we must work with it in place. For now at least, till people are ready to be cohesive without. However, there are other things we can do. India is currently fractured. A law is separate from a social message is separate from activism is separate from government subsidies/support, is different from media influence…. our thought processes are silos even if they address the exact same problem. We need to move out of this. If there is a law banning caste discrimination (for example, because of our article subject), it is useful for public service messages to address issues of caste, with well crafted messages with assistance from social scientists. Data from the ground could be used to guide government subsidies in moving away from a discrimination we are trying to abolish – for example, replacing reservations based on circumstances of birth with support to empower achievement based on need for support identified in more practical ways. No reason why a poor Brahmin shouldn’t get free books a rich Dalit might. This is discrimination too! Social scientists spend a lot of thought in such things, they should be engaged in all facets of influencing people to enable cohesive, empowering and life affirming growth of thought, rather than regimentation. The other part of this aid is that it shouldn’t be about different standards of merit. Not just because it dilutes the “intellectual standards” of professional ability or deprives more deserving candidates (I think that’s bullshit), but because it undermines the dignity of those helped among peers. It becomes an embarrassing mark of “state favoritism for the undeserving” which is totally false. A student scoring 89% marks can’t really be called stupid just because others scored 92. But that is an immediate association – that they didn’t deserve something and were given it while depriving more deserving people. This is not going to win friends and influence people. Worse, because many may even have got admissions without the prop, but have to suffer the indignity to their reputation anyway because they fit the criteria. No one listens to the surname of a Dalit doctor and asks him if he got admissions on merit or reservation – he’s a villain both ways. If he got it on merit, he’s not a good enough doctor, and if he got it on reservation, he occupied a seat meant for “regular people” rather than using the quota. This is actually a confused kind of discrimination with no traditional outlet. It has nothing to do with the poor doctor, and everything to do with the speaker who needs excuses to say what he now can’t say directly “I don’t like Dalits”. If he were free to say that, it would be easy to discuss and invite change, but now it is wrapped in a lot of pseudo-logic which though selective is factual and can’t be disputed, so getting to the reason for the need to use that logic is tough. Instead, there ought to be social outreach to provide support for achievement for those who need it, and the need needs better identifiers than circumstances of birth. This may mean books, tutions, or it could even mean good clothes to wear for an interview. But it shouldn’t be something that makes achievement easier and marks them forever as “people who got it easy” – which is also false. It is not easy to get difficult admissions just because a few numbers are lower. More than that, we can then assist everyone who needs it without needing special records and quotas. Regardless of caste, race, whatever. Also, these changes need to be gradual and purposeful. For example a shift from reservations to enabling merit in open admissions could be done by first providing support and withdrawing reservations as the cut-off percentages start becoming similar. We aren’t trying to abandon people here. We need to work to change minds. Without that, no law will ever do anything. Like sex-determination is the method used to act upon the desire for a female child, so is this. And like sex determination, the problem is not in the method, but the desire to apply it. Block one method, and the inherent adaptability of the human being will ensure that we will never We need to move away from the legal thinking to social thinking. What is it that bothers a Brahmin about a Dalit today? How is it dysfunctional? How can we change the thinking around the dysfunctional areas? How can we raise awareness about discrimination itself – how favoring one over the other can be dysfunctional? We need thought leaders and reformers, not police unless there is crime. There needs to be much done on a routine basis – support and empowerment structures created – without waiting for crime so that action may be taken. Today, we have resources people like Jyotiba Phule never did. We have thinkers coming out of the woodwork. The internet has transformed the concept of thought leaders. We have the means to throw thoughts out into the remotest regions of the country. Remember “With DTH we now have the capacity to reach every household in the country”, etc. We have the ability to create powerful narratives that practically take zero effort to deliver once created – films, for example. So why are we still not touching the thinking, and abdicating all responsibility to some obscure law? The battlefield for this particular war is in minds, not police stations. I think, the real question is what makes us hang on to our prejudices so tenaciously? Why do we not make EFFECTIVE efforts? Failed doesn’t cut it over decades. It only means no serious effort was made. Can we forget about banning discrimination, and simply focus on integrating all our drifting folks?
Founder at Aam Janata
Vidyut has a keen interest in mass psychology and using it as a lens to understand contemporary politics, social inequality and other dynamics of power within the country. She is also into Linux and internet applications and servers and has sees technology as an important area India lacks security in.
Latest posts by Vidyut (see all)
- Open letter to the Chief Justice of India - April 13, 2019
- Nationwide Protest by NREGA workers #NREGASangharshMorcha - March 2, 2019
- Repression of Activists cannot stop the second Kisan Long March - February 16, 2019