Yet another shocking incident of caste atrocity reported in Maharashtra. Out of woodwork will come few apologists to suggest that this is an isolated case
The biggest stumbling block to building and sustaining a cohesive nationhood project has been caste. The historical origins of caste may have been rooted in a simple division of labor but over the centuries it has taken on a sinister life of its own where society is divided not based on merit but on birth. Hindus really aren’t a cohesive, homogenous entity to begin with. Hindus are defined not by our religious identity but by our Family, Caste, Region, Language identities in that order of importance. Once this paradigm is understood several mysteries are explained. Centuries old capitulation to foreign powers, the abject surrender to the evil of corruption ridden politics the philosophy of ‘personal success’ at any cost to the community.
To suggest that caste-like divisions have exists throughout human civilization is a bit disingenuous. Racism was an attack of one ‘type’ of people on another. Not of one religious/racial community on its own. And societies where such divides were prevalent for an extended period were demolished by outsiders with a more egalitarian appeal. And even if (it is argued) caste excesses are not a part of Hinduism they are part of our Indian reality. Changing the label or being in denial does not alter the ground reality.
A dalit forced to watch on as his daughter/wife are raped and incinerated (Khilanji, Maharastra 2008) does not care what the scriptures say or how caste was once ‘noble’. All he understands is that his fellow Hindus have persecuted him for something he had no control over – his birth. Any attempt to explain or rationalize this occurrence only exacerbates the associated pain and makes even an unbiased onlooker wonder if the heinous crime itself is being justified. An honest acknowledgement from the Hindu clergy would go a long way in assuaging the immense harm such crimes bring upon Hindu unity.
That Hinduism has survived this long, despite these deep rooted caste divisions, is a testament (not to its caste structures as some have argued) to its ‘Open Source’ nature which accommodates even atheistic beliefs.
Hinduism as a spiritual doctrine is unmatched in its scientific and reason-driven systems. Tribal blind-faith driven belief systems wither away when placed under the light of reason and truth. Hinduism not only stands taller under a similar uncompromising scrutiny but also acts as the guiding light to shepherd humanity to the highest peaks of spiritual attainment.
But the world does not survive on spiritualism alone. The forces of dogma are in a state of permanent war to overpower the free spirit of the human soul. If Hinduism is to confront and overcome these forces, it must first cleanse its stables of the evil practices that masquerade as Dharma.There is no dharma in subjugating a fellow human in bondage driven by race or birth or intellect or any other reason.There is no dharma in perpetuating a social order that celebrates the accident of birth over merit. There is no dharma in prejudging a fellow human and relegating him to a life of terminal enslavement.
Caste, whether we like it or not, has become a millstone around Hinduism’s neck. And the faster we rid Hinduism of this evil the stronger we make it to fight the forces of darkness that are nipping at our heels.
A recent Newsweek article suggested how a significant number of Americans are now subscribing to an essentially Hindu spiritual doctrine of ‘Open Source’ religiosity. This transformation is not unique to America alone. A similar movement is underway in Christian Europe too.
Hinduism has prospered and survived by absorbing a host of outside influences and making them its own. Islam and Christianity have escaped Hinduism’s gravitational pull thanks to their essentially exclusivist core doctrines which use violent enforcement (physical, financial, economic) as a weapon of choice to protect and proliferate a primitive set of ideals which are increasingly at diametric variance from core human values.If Hinduism is to fight these primitive dogmas it must first free itself of its own demons.
The world stands at a delicate inflection point with one half rebelling against organized religion’s suffocating; dark embrace and the other signing up to become its foot soldiers. The impending ‘war’ will be fought on multiple plains. Physical,philosophical, social, political.To win this war, Hinduism will need a new paradigm – A paradigm rooted in racial, religious and gender equality.
So what then is this new Paradigm? This new Model?What is the ‘new’ Hinduism? The answers may be present in plain sight, if only we’re willing to open our eyes. Let an honest introspection ensue.