I saw the Hindi film Aarakshan recently… Having watched it I thought I would share the thoughts that crossed my mind while watching this movie.
Personally, I have been blissfully ignorant of caste and its politico-socio- economic impacts for most part of my life. This is partly because of being brought up in a very protective and sheltered life and partly because my parents have not conditioned me in such a manner during my childhood.
Caste was something I learnt for my social studies in tenth. It was when I actually started looking to gain admission for my graduation in various universities that I actually critically started thinking about reservation. My thoughts were also influenced by the general rhetoric that most of my peers made about issues of merit vs. reservations. In addition the thought that someone with the similar economical and ‘similar’ social background (according to my understanding at that time) i.e. basically having the same opportunities in terms of educational facilities, but who I thought wasn’t as ‘good’ (according to the marks/ grades given by our skewed assessment system!!!) as me could get into a top educational institute just because of reservations, made me more critical.
When I actually started to realise the impact of caste around me, through various readings, experiences, I became confused about this issue. As we say that reality is never black and white, I started seeing the grey areas here and there. There are still issues that need to be addressed before we talk about merit being the sole criterion in education, jobs etc. Issues of caste are about the generations of systematic deprivation, marginalization, exclusion, subjugation etc which has resulted in inequality and inequity.
I would like to mention some of the statements that I have heard around me. It is a common argument that the ‘younger’ generation are above issues of caste, tribe etc. Well, that in itself is a wrong assumption. I am sometimes aghast at the attitudes of people around me to who they consider the ‘other’.
Caste, community, etc still strongly define the identity of most youngsters I know and interact with. While this in itself isn’t a bad thing but when it boils down to actually putting the ‘other’ down, it is a reflection of how deeply is caste ingrained in our minds. Whatever be the credentials, ability or achievements of an individual, his caste is still an important aspect of his status in the society. Most aspects of day to day life, culture, societal norms are defined more by caste, community than anything else. Most of us have heard this common refrain, “Oh! He/ she must have been in through quota. Look at his/her attitude now!” or something similar.
Another statement that people make is about the economic status of ‘many’ of the candidates who are eligible for reservation. But have we analyzed what per cent of these communities are actually from a better economic status. I myself have not much clue about this, but I do not think they would be a majority among these communities. Finally, just a look at the statistics on caste related atrocities gives us a picture that the discrimination on the basis of caste is not a dead issue but should be addressed in a better manner than just focusing on reservation.
Another issue here is the issue of inter-caste marriage. It is rare that an inter caste marriage is an ‘arranged’ marriage and more often they are causes of disturbance and despair to the families involved. Even when there is not much difference in the kind of backgrounds and economic status of the families, there are issues of acceptance here.
It is still a taboo among the general public including youth. It is too idealistic to assume that there would be a time where inter caste marriage would be a norm, but I feel that until the time that they are considered a taboo, the issue of caste discrimination would be very relevant. In fact this could be considered as one of the indicators in measuring the hold of caste system in Indian society.
Coming back to the movie, it was a good entertainer with bits of idealism and melodrama mixed into it. Although it was rhetorical at times, it did make us think about the various issues like discrimination based on caste, relevance of reservation, merit vs. reservation debate, commercialization of education, etc.