Where identity ends and crisis begins

“Anitha suicide: Death of innocence busts NEET myth as the great leveller of India’s medical education” said the FirstPost. “Dalit girl S Anitha, who filed a case against NEET, commits suicide” said The Hindu. I’m not here to argue or justify either headline. My qualm, however, has always been about whether or not to identify a person (dead or alive) by their caste.

On one side, it is right to use the caste tag. Because, who’s going to bother otherwise? Who’ll know what amounts of importance to attach where? Which one of us cares enough to take a second glance at a suicide story otherwise?

On the other side though, is it really necessary that the caste label be there? Isn’t it bad enough anyway? Should we bother only because someone’s a Dalit or a Brahmin? Oh wait, scratch the latter. The white-crosses can go to hell!

It’s never easy getting the better of either side of this argument.

While some wept over the crushed dreams of this poor village girl who had big dreams, some argue over the cowardice of the extreme step she took in killing herself.

More than debating on the departed soul, the whys, hows, and the insensitive, it’s probably time to address the side of the society that resorts to bashing each other based on caste. The caste tag, when used, is probably to bring to attention the agony the marginalised go through; and when neglected, is to bring the issue to the forefront regardless of caste.

It is painful to watch a well-educated friend make public a Facebook post on the ‘elitist’ Brahmin class, while another comments on how Dalits use the ‘sympathy card’. It’s 2017. When will we ever go past the caste boundaries and start looking at issues for what they are?

I was born a Brahmin and was conditioned for 25 years of my life that this is my identity. It’s largely visible from what I eat or how I talk. Now, it doesn’t really sound right to assume that everyone who was born a Brahmin, eats like one, and talks like one has to be an elitist, or anyone who was born a Dalit, eats like one, and talks like one uses their struggles to gain some sympathy from someone.

I know what you’re thinking now. No, this is not my version of #NotAllMen. Anyone who wants to create a divide based on caste should be called out and that shouldn’t be particular to one caste, whichever that may be. But not being allowed to have an opinion because one is perceived to be from a so-called elitist background/ ideology is just as bad.

When I look at these Brahmin-bashing posts on social media, I often find myself wondering where I stand. I don’t subscribe to the view of this caste I was born into being the superior and others being inferior, just how some men don’t subscribe to the view of them being superior and women being inferior. But, how do I tell anyone my opinion without them labelling me an ‘elitist Brahmin’ when I disagree with them, or an ‘educated and understanding Brahmin’ when I agree? It’s disheartening to know that some will cringe even whilst reading this part and probably think I’m some monster who is just a pro-Brahmin activist supporting casteist ideas.

So, should I strip myself off the identity that has, in part, made me, me to show the world I’m beyond one of the many walls? Walls we’ve made for ourselves. It’s difficult for anyone to dissociate from their caste, gender, or orientation when it becomes an integral part of their identity and lifestyle. We’re now at a point in time where it’s all about unapologetically embracing our own selves– our gender, sexual orientation, food habits, culture, tradition, and what not! So why resort to branding one in the process of ripping the label off another?

This kind of branding not only takes away the cause we’re all fighting for, it makes us mere firewood that the government so loves to kindle and stay warm!

Is it right to silence the voices of those who belong to a particular caste just because they do? Isn’t that what we are fighting against, rather ironically?

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