Tuesday, February 27, 2024
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Being Born An Animal, Woman & Shudra Is Penance For Previous Bad Deeds: Untouchability in India


By Ayesha Bashir

Even though the movie- India Untouched- is set in 2007 it does not deviate much from the present scenario of our country when it comes to the CASTE SYSTEM.

However,  I will have to admit that until I watched this documentary I couldn’t be sure as to how strongly the institution of religion and caste had its grasp on the so-called liberated Indians, however now I can confidently state, that it pretty much controls all individual and collective thinking as well as actions.

Segregating through caste is completely justified (apparently).

In the movie, even after being aware of their position in the caste hierarchy, the members of lower caste group, couldn’t give a good enough reason for practices demeaning to them, like removing of slippers, inequality in educational and other religious institutions, Untouchability (though, no such Untouchability is practiced when it comes to raping the female members of a low caste), ruthless economic, social and political exploitation of the ‘foot-borne’ caste, etc.

The caste system as explained here by the ‘pure’ upper castes of the society is justified in a number of ways, for example karma- which means “you are born an animal, a woman, and a Shudra because of your deeds in previous life” and it goes without saying that all the above three are punishments for the bad deeds.

Then, there are some who simply ask us to not use logic and accept the ‘divine truth’, leaving no space for questioning at all. Stalin also brilliantly refers to the laws of Manu which is considered a highly authoritative document defining rights and punishments of all castes and women in the Hindu fold (well, of course).

No, it doesn’t just exist in rural areas or amongst the uneducated. The documentary stretches from the most rural areas to the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi and covers the four major religions- Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, and Sikhism. Even though there should have been more focus on the urban areas but practices of Untouchability in JNU is in itself a huge shocker and pretty much speaks for such’ urban educated’ areas.

The process of socialization at an early age and lack of questioning are prime reasons for the existence and prospering of the caste system in this country.

The makers have also captured the ignorance of 2nd and 3rd generation upper castes, who want affirmative action to be scrapped since they think it is unjust to them.

However, one of the striking features in the film was how the discriminated in turn, discriminate against members of castes lower to them in the hierarchy, and the less startling, most obvious feature was the continuous justification of this unequal, patriarchal and violent system by the privileged upper caste and self-styled religious preachers.

Stalin K has done a fabulous job in exposing the reality of the system of Untouchability which clearly illustrates that inequality is not so naturally accepted as it is violently forced upon the powerless low caste in such a manner that it has now created consent in their minds and they have accepted it as their fate.

Existence of caste inequality in religions other than Hinduism as shown in the movie is an aspect which is not usually known to many (well, at least, there is no discrimination in depicting discrimination within different religions by Stalin!)

Though in Vedas discrimination against Shudras is clearly stated and is often desirable,  in Sikhism it is more self-styled by later religious leaders segregating the Jats and Mazhabis Sikhs (latter being the low caste) while in Islam caste affiliations become more profound for marriage purposes.

However, the one thing common in all spheres was the placing of women at the lowest possible strata and their fate being decided by the pawns of patriarchy, the first sex – Men and these rights are vested in them by the very institution of religion and caste.

India untouched is an award winning documentary which is a brilliantly compiled and executed, is hard hitting and makes you question the actual existence of equality and abolition of Untouchability and other such discriminations, as enshrined in the constitution.

I would highly recommend this to all those who believe they’re living in a near perfect society and ask them to introspect, appreciate or even criticize Stalin’s research, so here’s a link to it-


Image Credits: Google

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