In one of my blogs posted a while back, I had written about how ‘compartmentalization’ of people based on beliefs – religious, political or any other kind for that matter – is something that I can’t stand. I hardly ever talk about political or religious issues with anyone except a few sensible friends because most people tend to put others in one ‘compartment’ and address them only based on that. In fact, most of the people I see around me happily stay in only one ‘compartment’ too always, because they believe that for good or for bad they are supposed to stand by what that ‘compartment’ preaches or symbolizes. They don’t understand that it is okay to believe in and stand for the good in multiple ‘compartments’ and criticize or fight against the wrongs in all ‘compartments’ too. They also don’t understand that there are some of us who believe in staying out of any ‘compartments’ and are ready to laud and criticize all, the same way. Because by accepting that, they lose their firm ground of attack.
With this rigid sense of ‘compartments’ come a necessity to hate some only because they have to and not because they have a logical reason. At the time when Jihadi terrorism was becoming more and more rampant in the West, a wave of ‘Islamophobia’ spread through the veins of the Western world and the tremors were felt in other non-Muslim countries too. I had friends (some, very close) belonging to Muslim community back then and they still remain my friends. That happened for two reasons. 1) I was not an asshole to put them into a ‘compartment’ called ‘Terrorists’ only because they were Muslims. 2) They were not assholes to support/join a ‘compartment’ called ‘Pro-Terrorists’ only because it was all claimed to be done for Islam by some mad men who had lost all perspective of religion and humanity.
I was genuinely happy at the time and going forward that I was not the only one who felt so. There were, there are, so many who try to dissociate faith from the wrong that is done in the name of faith, and most importantly spread the message that every individual is a sum of his actions and not of others who happen to be born in the same religion or caste or even a place.
But it upsets me now to see that half of these ‘messengers of peace’ I admired once have turned out to be nothing but hypocrites in the way they are contradicting their own words. Even these people who once talked about how generalization is an evil are happily upholding prejudices against one section while they try to help another section. I have seen lengthy comments and articles from some people who claim that they are fighting the evil system of caste in our country, which I am all for. But what I find upsetting is how they choose to use the same evil tool to further divide people and instill hatred in the minds of those who can be influenced. It is a norm in those articles to portray anyone born into a caste that is called ‘higher’ in the strata as a privileged snob, an evil villain, who just like his ancestors, is out to rule over and oppress those who belong to a ‘lower’ caste. Right now, half of the people who read this will check which community I happened to be born into and decide that I have made this observation as a “Savarna bourgeoisie” (only because I don’t have the make of an aristocrat). How I wish I could have a different surname/community that wouldn’t be linked to my views! But the problem is exactly that. Caste is the favourite ‘compartment’ people use now irrespective of what individuals are like.
Yes, our “Savarna” ancestors (most of them for that matter) were complete jerks who thought they were superior to others and could treat them as their property. Yes, there still are people who believe that and need to be proven wrong and punished. But if you think that the path to that is choosing to portray communities and people in general as jerks by attributing their ancestry, then there is no difference between you and all those Islamophobic people who we fought against together. If you think “They have robbed you of your privileges for centuries. Now you should fight back” is a powerful slogan, you should understand that you are ignoring all the positive changes that we strove to bring out, starting from our families. By exhorting people to fight against “them”, you are painting a wrong picture that anyone who is “them” is privileged by default and is an enemy. I have seen “Savarna” suicides due to the burden of poverty and debts. I have also seen “Savarna” kids taking up any job that they can in a bid to pay off debts, support their education and fend for their families. No, these were not debts that came from gambling and alcoholism. These were debts of a poverty-stricken life. And by saying “Oh! That is just an exception. They are still “Savarna bourgeoisie””, you are hiding the truth that the walls of caste no longer discriminate when it comes to one’s living conditions.
If there was any sincerity in your claim that you wish to help the weaker section of the society, you would do that not by spewing more hatred and causing more division using the same tool of ‘caste’, but by holding the hands of anyone who deserves help and empowering them to stand tall. By resorting to the path of “Let’s fight them and claim all that they took from you”, you are not trying to bring about equality. You are only trying to wreak vengeance for the wrongs done by the old zamindars and aiming for nothing but a role reversal, with the very same inequality that you say you are fighting against. If your belief system requires you to have generalized prejudices about a section of people and fight them, instead of fighting the real evils and individuals who propagate those evils, then you need to re-examine your belief system. Because it is not based on greater good; it is based on personal vendetta and nonsensical hatred. Much like those idiots who think that beating up or killing all Kashmiri people is the solution to terrorism in India. Difference between them and you? They talk and act like assholes. You hide your assholery behind your saint’s mask and fancy words.
Casteism is sadly not the only fight where I see this hypocrisy in. It is everywhere. People who talk about the oppression of females in Muslim communities have no shame in trolling Priyanka Chopra for wearing a skirt for her meeting with the Prime Minister and ‘disrespecting our values’. (I am sure that the PM has more important things than the length of Priyanka Chopra’s skirt to think about.) People who celebrate “World Hijab Day” and say it is a woman’s choice to wear “Hijab” and there is nothing wrong in it write about how “Ghoonghat” is a sign of the patriarchal control over a woman’s body and sexuality. They forget that there are women who wear “Hijab” and “Ghoonghat” for the love of it and also those who wear it for fear of the society around them. If you are really worried about women empowerment, you should have the guts to talk about how any kind of compulsion, irrespective of religion, has to be dealt with.
I felt the same kind of disgust when people kept hailing the posters of “Smash Brahminical Patriarchy”. The mind behind that poster kept explaining how she won’t talk about patriarchy in other religions because they manifest differently. (So a different kind of patriarchy is okay?) She kept emphasizing that it is wrong for the people belonging to the Brahmin community to feel targeted by this because it is not about them; it is about the set of rules that was brought out by Brahmins once upon a time and came to be the root of all kinds of patriarchy across castes. She calls those who oppose that usage as ones with ‘willful ignorance’. But what she can’t accept is the fact that her words displayed ‘willful hypocrisy’ and ‘willful arrogance’. She went one step ahead and made a remark that she “was sure none of the ‘Bhakts’ had read Ambedkar, Phule and Periyar” because “’Bhakts’ go to a different school” and that is why they oppose the usage, proving her sick political motives and insinuating that anyone who opposes her ‘noble’ idea has to be a ‘Bhakt’. Yeah lady, I find your idea wrong. So let me get a BJP membership right away. WTF! In an era where every section, caste and class of the society needs a complete cleansing of the same kind of patriarchal and misogynistic mindset, it is about “SMASH PATRIARCHY” – period. If you have to add a prefix to it which could easily be a poke on one community, no amount of explanation on the roots and the usage will hide the fact that you are using it either for political mileage, or for increased publicity, or for pure vengeance on what someone’s ancestors did to someone else’s.
If you wish to continue with this hypocrisy of talking about moving away from one evil and using the very same evil to further your cause, do so. If you wish to address the very same issues selectively and differently based on the religion, caste and gender of the victims, do so. If you wish to keep alive the very same sense of ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ only because it is important for your personal/political gains to make someone go on believing he/she is ‘lower’, do so. If you wish to taint every act with hatred, do so. At least have the guts to acknowledge to yourself that you are a hypocrite who preaches one thing and does exactly the opposite. And you guys deserve to be in only one compartment – the compartment of two-facedness.
Let me end by telling you just this. There are thousands of true activists who toil endlessly, day after day, to fight the evils of caste, religion, patriarchy, poverty and work towards ensuring a brighter tomorrow for anyone whose life is filled with darkness. And those are sincere souls who move forward not by dividing people with hatred, but by enabling them to work for a life full of love and laughter. Learn from them. Because in the name of “help” when you display your publicity-aimed gimmicks, there is no difference between you and those who put up hoarding of making donations to charity. And by doing that, you are insulting those who help others with the purest of intentions and the cleanest of hearts, for true equality.