Mention of caste name cannot be an offense against Schedule Castes

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Orissa is in a quagmire because of Minister Dr. Damodar Raut’s passing mention of certain caste names comprising the schedule castes. Complaining against mention of them in their caste name, a lower court of criminal jurisprudence has been moved to punish Dr. Raut. The Orissa High Court has intervened by being moved by Dr. Raut in the matter; and the matter is subjudice. He has entered into a fresh controversy over mention of the name of Kandara caste in a simile like “Kahin Ramachandra Kahin Ramia Kandara!” (Where is Lord Ramachandra and where is Ramia Kandara!) in his oratorical flow in a public meeting.

Sans any prejudice either to the case pending since 2010 or to the new controversy mentioned above, it must be said that singling out Dr. Raut by a section of politicians belonging to the schedule castes, is suggestive of a design that has no relevance to social dignity the SC people crave for.

Had the castigators of Dr. Raut for his use of schedule caste names any genuine concern for their dignity, Manmohan Singh Government must not have been allowed to enforce a caste-based census in India. None of the castigators of Dr. Raut has ever opposed the perpetuation of caste identity through the census. In perpetuation of caste identity, the schedule caste people shall be known and be called by their caste names for ever. In Indian social strata, people belonging to schedule castes are the people that have been disdainfully looked upon, ever since Buddhism has lost to Brahminism. A votary of Brahminism, Pranab Mukherjee, had strongly propounded the caste-centric census. But all the schedule caste members belonging and having allegiance to the Congress party supported Mukherjee for the post of the President. The chairman of the National Commission for Schedule Castes, P. L. Punia was also one of them. If instead of being known as Indians, the schedule caste people stood with the design that would perpetually identify them as members of the schedule castes, why Dr. Raut should be castigated for naming some of them by their schedule caste name?

Contemptuous use of schedule caste names? Is it the problem with schedule caste people of Orissa?

The national Sahitya Award 2011 has established that contextual use of Orissa’s schedule caste name, howsoever derogatory that be, is not contemptuous to schedule caste people. Let me cite some instances from the book that has been rewarded with Sahitya Award 2011.

In English it roughly is: It can never be countenanced that a Brahmin child shall pursue studies by sitting with Kandara caste children.

In English, it means that a Keuta caste person is a born idiot having no intelligence at all to understand the difference between good and bad.

It means, will you enter into the abode of the mother after having touched the Pana and Kandara caste persons in the State?

“Shala, are you a Brahmin or a Hadi?”

Here the Kandara caste people are termed as scavangers.

When I objected to selection of such a book bearing such contemptuous description of schedule Caste people, the Kanak TV had organized a panel discussion on justification of the national Sahitya award to such a book. A top leader of the schedule caste people of Orissa Sri Haladhar Sethi had joined me in the panel and was visibly shocked to know of how derogatorily the schedule caste people are referred to in the book. Did any of the schedule caste people objected to the national award for the book? No. Because, to their wisdom, calling a Kandara a Kandara contextually, is not contemptuous to schedule caste people in Orissa. What offense, then, Dr. Raut has committed by contextually uttering the caste name of a Kandara? Why so much of social time should be lost on it?

As we witness in Orissa, there is a mad rush amongst people of the schedule castes to be known and recognized and to be identified by their caste name. Even schedule cast people are rushing into courts of law in opposition to inclusion of a non-SC person in any of their caste. Why should, then, any cognizance be taken if someone calls a SC person in his caste name?

The issue needs deep cogitation.

0 comments » Write a comment

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.