Is casteism weakening our democratic setup?

Megha Choudhary
Saturday, 6 January 2018

Who is responsible for this arson? 
India is a democratic country and everyone has the right to freedom of speech and expression. But as they say, one should choose his words carefully as not to hurt the sentiments of others or provoke others. 

On New Year’s day, when people were still busy in celebrations, violence broke out at Koregaon-Bhima, with protestors pelting stones, damaging vehicles and what not. Though the Pune police made adequate arrangements for the 200th anniversary celebration of the historical battle of Koregaon-Bhima, they could not stop the arson that erupted after the event. The arson, that continued for more than 48 hours, threw life out of gear in cities like Mumbai, Pune, Nashik, Aurangabad and others. The arson even killed one man in Pune district.   

Rumours and other inflammatory messages on social media fuelled the fire, and the celebration turned into a caste battle, with people of upper and lower castes (allegedly activists from right wing and Dalits) clashing with each other, creating a ‘black day’ in the history of Pune. This was followed by ‘Maharashtra Bandh’ on Wednesday, which brought many cities to a halt. 

The bandh, marred with violence and protests such as ‘rail roko’, ‘rasta roko’ and ‘chakka jam’, hit the common man who toils hard to earn a square meal for his family. The otherwise peaceful State became a battleground with members of two communities clashing with each other and once again, the people (or politicos) with vested interests celebrated their victory by creating unrest. At this moment, what was expected was our politicians making an appeal to the masses to maintain peace and harmony, but what happened was exactly the opposite.

Seasoned politicians blaming right wing forces for the arson was uncalled for. Was this the right time to play a caste card, when major cities of the State were burning? 

The Koregaon-Bhima battle was fought between the British army and the mammoth Peshwa army. The battle was won by the British army, which comprised soldiers from Mahar, Dalits and other lower castes. This is the reason why Dalits take pride in commemorating the event every year. 

But this year being the 200th anniversary of the battle, people in huge numbers thronged the place and people with political motives took advantage by spreading violence at the 
otherwise peaceful event.   

Who is responsible for this arson? 
India is a democratic country and everyone has the right to freedom of speech and expression. But as they say, one should choose his words carefully as not to hurt the sentiments of others or provoke others. 

A public or mass leader bears the responsibility of channelising the people, more importantly, the youths of the country in the right direction. He or she should give them a vision of creating a better India, not a country which is divided into castes and religion, where people fight for silly reasons, where politicos make them scapegoats to fulfill their political ambitions. India is severely plagued by ‘casteism’, which is eating up the country’s 
democratic set-up. 

In Indian politics, it is common that a political party ropes in a candidate in a particular region by considering the population of a particular community - whether its Muslim, Brahmin, Dalit, Maratha etc. The vote bank politics takes centre stage here and political parties start wooing the community with a maximum presence in the region. 

Similar is the case with communal riots. Political outfits representing and favouring different communities speak in their favour. They don’t even wait for the police inquiry (or they believe the inquiry would not result in any concrete conclusion!).

This was what happened after Koregaon-Bhima violence broke out. Political outfits started accusing each other and ‘who led to arson’ became a national debate. Nothing wrong in a debate, but when youths see their leaders giving provocative speeches on national TV channels, they take to streets and become unstoppable. This results in more violence. 

Was this violence a planned and planted one, and who all are responsible for this ruckus? Was there any political motive behind this ruckus? Only time will tell, but in all such violence and arson, it is the common man who suffers the most.   
The British had played the card of ‘divide and rule’, which is still going strong in India. It is time to educate people on two fundamental rights like ‘right to equality’ and ‘right to 
education’. 

Promoting ‘equality’ through ‘education’ will help in channelising youths’ energy in the right direction and then, they will become messengers of eradicating the ‘plague of casteism’ from India. Now, the time has come to promote ‘casteless India’ along the lines of ‘cashless India’.

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