Is caste pulling us back?

Debarati Palit Singh
Thursday, 25 January 2018

Caste divisions and communalism have very often given rise to clashes in our country. Debarati Palit Singh speaks to members of the film industry to get their perspective on this

Caste divisions and communalism have very often given rise to clashes in our country. Debarati Palit Singh speaks to members of the film industry to get their perspective on this

Clashes between the Maratha and Dalit communities in Bhima-Koregaon near Pune that took place in January resulted in a loss of lakhs of rupees to the nation, plus a man lost his life and many others were seriously injured. A closer look at the disturbance that quickly moved to other parts of the state including Mumbai, Kolhapur etc revealed that the centuries-old history of the place was at the centre of the three-day clash.

On other hand, the Karni Sena is up in arms against Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s historical film Padmaavat because they assumed that it features a romantic song between Allauddin Khilji and Rani Padmini. A section of the Muslim community is also alleging misrepresentation of the Delhi Sultan Allauddin Khilji in the movie.

These incidents are not a novelty to us. They, however, constantly point to one question — are our caste biases and communalism pulling us back, instead of taking us ahead? Have they become obstacles in our progress?

Members of the film fraternity share their views...

‘Need to read and educate’
I don’t think caste or religion is taking us back. There is a methodological reason for the existence of these things. Over the years, we have misunderstood, misinterpreted and misused these words or ideas. Religion was not meant to divide us. It had other connotations. But it has been misinterpreted simply because we do not take the time to read and educate ourselves as to why certain things were done in our country. Unless you do that, you will not understand these things.

A section of society refuses to understand how progress can be achieved with humanity. These things happen because of individuals who think in a certain way and begin to influence the community. We still have people who are easily influenced. Even when we speak of the Maratha-Dalit clash or Karni Sena protesting against Padmaavat, it’s not the entire nation but a certain segment of society that is creating these barricades. There are so many important issues to fight for and raise your voice against. The moment these smaller issues are raised, it reeks of agenda. We now need to understand where we come from as human beings and as a nation.

—  Neeraj Kabi, actor

‘We must learn from our army’

There is no denying that communalism and casteism are roadblocks for development of the nation. But I believe the biggest factor is the diversity in our country, and our claim of being one. The clashes like the recent ones are happening because of the double-standards of the ministers. They have kept everyone divided, so that there are separate vote banks. We are united when we talk about the army, cricket and currency. The moment we face something else, we talk about our caste, community, language, religion. It’s all a political game and our governments have not let us understand the situation. But we can’t let these politicians divide us and use us as their vote banks. Look at the army men, when in a life and death situation, do they say that I will save only people from my own community or region? They help everyone. It’s rightly pointed out that we have to think about the army men who are protecting the country in such difficult situations.

— Deepak Dobriyal, actor

‘Let’s join hands for a common goal’

In this country, everything is governed by powerful people and the governed are usually powerless. The only way to fix this is through education. It’s about a group of people who know what to do to a group of people who do not know what to do. Our education system needs to grow so that people have their right to expression in place. It’s not just education but the right amount of knowledge and awareness that will help broaden our mind and thought process. Twenty years ago, people weren’t aware about mobile phones and today the same phones are being used to spread hatred, negative publicity, and people with limited knowledge fall for it. Thinking individuals who understand issues, must talk about the problems and help in imparting knowledge among others. You don’t need to go out of your way; just  spread awareness in whatever small way you can. We cannot leave this to the government alone. Instead of cribbing, let’s join hands and move towards our common goal.

— Vishal Mishra, music composer and singer

‘Understand the purpose of art’

More than anything else, people are trying to exert their identity in a very different way, which is not very healthy. Because nobody wants their caste, rituals and lifestyle to be commented upon. What is the purpose of all this? When we are making a film, we will be viewing ourselves on the screen. If the film doesn’t throw light, question us or make us introspect, what is the purpose of it? That is something we must think about. But people in position don’t want to be questioned. If you understand all this, you will take all the criticism in a healthy way.

Padmaavat is different issue altogether. Firstly, no one had watched the film. They were opposing the film just because of some hearsay comments. Sometimes in the film industry, some rumours are spread. Without verifying these, many people begin questioning and that I find very objectionable. Then the most dangerous thing is the way the government deals with it.

— Girish Kasaravalli, filmmaker

‘Something still holds us together’

I believe people in their need to retain their identity, in terms of language, caste or religion, are behaving in a conservative way which is totally in contrast with the kind of changes happening around us. On one hand, we are going global and yet we see people adopting reactionary ways to protect their identity. We have to ask ourselves whenever we celebrate Independence or Republic Day, whether we want our country to be progressive and peaceful or constantly get into battles within ourselves. Whether we should allow those tying to reduce the strength of our country, to win. Because it’s exactly this divisivenesses of our society because of which Babar could come with a few soldiers and capture us or the British from a small country from the back of beyond, ruled us for 200 years. But despite this inherent division, there is something that holds us together. We have to celebrate that each and every day. We have to see how unified we are. There is no solution now because people keep getting hurt. I think we have to move beyond this — caste, communities, religions, languages, and co-exist as a strong unit.

— Renuka Shahane, actress



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