What it means to be a ‘Brahmin Dalit’

Anjali Rajoria

Just in case you all are wondering what a ‘Brahmin Dalit’ means, let me clarify at the very outset that I proclaim to be a Brahmin Dalit because I was born with the label “Lower Caste” [Infact that label is given even before one is born but lets keep that aside for a while.] However, today I am a relatively well off, educated, accomplished dalit and therefore the title ‘Brahmin Dalit’. So do you think that I am trying to gain your sympathy by deliberately posing as a victim of the evil caste system despite being in a much better position than the majority of my fellow dalit brethren?

The answer, in clear and unequivocal terms, is a big NO !!! My purpose here is only to help my friends understand what it really means to be a dalit & how it is so difficult for us to get rid of our caste identity, even in the present scenario. I writhe in distress and agony as I give the title of ‘Brahmin Dalit’ to myself. The day I realized that it is my religion which is impelling me to live forever under the shadow of a degraded status, I decided to abdicate my religion.I am no longer a Hindu. When I look back, I feel so proud of having taken that decision few years back.

But the stark reality is, even if a dalit turns into a non-hindu in her quest for liberation, her caste status continues to haunt her. Her identity continues to be shaped by her caste & she continues to grapple with it every single day. Her society forces her to bear the burden of bondage. It is this bondage that we wish to break. We wish to be freed from slavery.

Perhaps the title ‘Brahmin Dalit’ is not appropriate. Because a dalit hindu can get converted into a muslim or a christian or a buddhist but she can never turn into a Brahmin. “Dalit” is a lifelong rigid label that refuses to erode. It is a label that reminds us constantly of who we are. We stand at the end of centuries of injustice & oppression. And even today, we are treated as second class humans. We are presumed to be unequal in possibly all aspects – less intelligent, less capable, less hygienic, less civilized and what not. The inequality meted out to us is justified on these counts. It wouldn’t take the study of rocket science to grasp the reality that caste system exists even today, a fact that no well-reasoned person can brush off. A look at the website of National Commission For SCs and National Commission For STs would easily give you an insight into the horrendous proportions of continued maltreatment of dalits. Perhaps it would take an encyclopedia to make a mention of all the atrocities that have been perpetrated and continue to be perpetrated in the name of Caste.

So even if a dalit accomplishes something in his life, he is secretly brushed off as an exception. He is not granted his place of respect. Very few people realize how much he would have struggled to achieve what he has. Very few people take the pain to empathize with him. Yet, publicly his example is used to criticize the positive discrimination extended by the government to the dalits. It is not uncommon to see such hypocritical attitude of casteists around. Perhaps they will never understand what it means to be a dalit. But then there are well-intentioned people also who are sincere about the goal of real annihilation of the caste system. It is these people who continue to give us hope – hope of ushering in a new era – a casteless and classless society.

I don’t know how many more decades or perhaps centuries it will take for India to get rid of Casteism. I am sure it is not going to happen anytime soon. I am gripped by pessimism because I have realized that Caste is not just a social reality. It exists in our minds. It continues to manifest itself in ugly forms. It pervades each & every aspect of our life. But we are still hopeful that one day we will liberate ourselves from this system.

Martin Luther King Jr had once remarked, “A person who cannot die for a cause is not fit to live.” We are ‘Chosen’ to fight & We will continue fighting. That is our only option. We will shape a better tomorrow & we will leave behind footprints for others to follow. Amen !!!