caste doesn't need the village

Mumbai Bollywood actor Shiney Ahuja’s lawyer on Tuesday gave a new angle to the case, claiming that the victim of the alleged rape belongs to a lower caste, which is “aggressive” in nature. During a hearing on the actor’s bail plea filed before a sessions court, lawyer Shrikant Shivde contented that Shiney hails from a “respectable” family and was wrongly implicated in the case.

Elaborating his version of “consensual sex”, Shivde argued that if Ahuja had tried to rape the victim, she could have “definitely” resisted. “She belongs to a lower caste, which is aggressive by nature, and she wouldn’t have submitted herself so easily. They are known for being aggressive,” Shivde said.
what's more surprising than the lawyer's contention is the fact that he was allowed to make it. that the prosecutor didn't seem to object, the judge... it seems they were discussing issues related to a common set of beliefs.

she belongs to a lower caste, which is aggressive by nature. like he was talking of some species of animals and not another human being like himself. at the moment, i don't think i'd be able to overcome the disgust the lawyer's argument evokes in me and discuss his argument itself at more length.

here's another story of another caste which has been reduced to living like..animals almost, at least in one respect: their inability to build permanent homes:
KHAMMAM: Imagine an entire population of a caste not having ration cards. This is exactly the case of the people of Budagajangalu caste in Khammam district, who are otherwise known as `Koya vallu’.

A recent survey conducted by the Scheduled Caste Corporation which involved people of the same community in it has revealed that out of the total population of 5290 in the district, none whatsoever have a ration card and the reason given - they are mostly nomadic in nature.
one a story from india's most cosmopolitan city, another from the boondocks. both stories illustrate how caste can adapt itself and take new forms. while older prejudices work in the countryside, modern secular education allows urban indians to nurture its seed and give it new life. almost unknowingly.

how? i sleep until past seven-eight every morning. that's late by the standards of many indians. a few friends (who know about my sleeping habits), very early birds, who sometimes call me in the morning, inevitably start out with the query: are you asleep? even when it's past nine, well past the time i wake up. and there's inevitably, a note of disapproval underlining the stupid question. the fact that these queries are intrusive in nature doesn't seem to strike them. their disapproval of my flagrant (in their view) behaviour so overwhelms them, i think, that they don't stop to think about their rudeness. and why is the disapproval so overwhelming for them? it stems from their belief in certain norms, part of certain socio-religious baggage they forgot to leave behind in the village. about a householder's dharma. its corollary being the right to judge anyone morally, not on moral grounds, but on the basis of the prescribed norms. this baggage of norms ostensibly grew out of agricultural life but it is religion, or dharma, that supervises it and gives it logic, howsoever twisted you might consider it.

so the urban indian might have left agriculture behind, but not his dharma. here's what m.n.srinivas had to say on dharma in'The Remembered Village' (in the chapter on religion):
Dharma had both an ethical and religious referent. Its different meanings, 'correct', 'right', 'moral' and 'merit', all formed a continuum, and the same term connoted different things on different occasions. Similarly, even a term like tappu was capable of being used in a religious context: a man begged forgiveness from his god for a lapse (tappu) and paid a fine (tappu kanike) or performed some other action to atone for it.
it seems difficult for the brahminized classes, modern or otherwise, to distinguish between 'correct', 'right', 'merit' and 'moral'. hence the disapproval. the belief that a householder, whatever his vocation, should behave in a certain fashion is a part of a set of beliefs that, as i said, are a religious prescription originating in a need to privilege 'right' behaviour or conduct, according to one's ascribed dharma (which means the dharma of your caste), over ethical or moral conduct. and they still seem to govern people's view of right and moral conduct (including private biological affairs) outside an agricultural, rural setting. unlike what m.n.srinivas and many others had tried to formulate, caste doesn't need the village to thrive.


Kiran said...

I dont understand how "modern secular education" allows caste prejudices develop new forms. I would say that that prejudices develop in spite of modern secular eduction. BTW why is secular in italics ?

kuffir said...


starting with the last question- 'secular' is in italics because it is doubtful whether our secular education can be considered so. the celebration of brahminical ideas is barely suppressed, history is mostly about heroes from from the brahminized castes, the literature we're introduced to is mostly written by individuals from the same castes, for the same castes and of the same castes...a more, substantive answer would take several posts..but, for starters, kancha ilaiah's 'why i am not a hindu' does the job well.

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