Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Caste Wall Story

Have you been following the ‘caste wall’ case in Uthapuram village near Madurai, Tamil Nadu? According to the media this is what happened: On May 6, the government authorities opened a passage through the wall that separated the Dalit and Pillaimar (higher to Dalits on the caste scale) sections of the village.

In protest the 500 odd Pillaimar families left their homes and moved to live in the open on the nearby hills. They claim that they had built the wall on their patta land for protection after a clash in 1989 which resulted in the death of six people and torching of several houses. They refuse to come back to the village unless the government establishes a full fledged police station there, grants compensation for the houses destroyed in the 1989 clashes and allots them a plot of land to build a temple.

There are several legal, moral and political angles to this stand off. The Pillaimars blame the Marxists for inciting the Dalits. The leftists on the other hand claim that the wall was one of shame that perpetuated untouchability. CPI (M) General Secretary Prakash Karat rushed to the spot to rally the Dalits. The non-Dalit Hindus were quick to support the Pillaimars.

Which group has more votes? Would that be the basis on which the problem is finally sorted out?

Now, a shift of scene from Tamil Nadu to Kerala. My village has never known a caste or religious conflict. The population consists mainly of Hindus (high caste, backward class and scheduled caste) and Christians (high caste and scheduled caste). There are three temples and three churches (all Syrian Christian) within a mile radius of my home.

The first temple belonged to upper caste Hindus of course. With the Temple Entry Proclamation by the Maharaja of Travancore in 1936, lower castes could also enter the temple, but always had to be contented with backseats. The Ezhavas (Backward Class) built a place of worship of their own, in which the Scheduled Caste Pulayas hardly had any role. Well, ten years back the Pulayas built their own temple.

The Catholic Church played it smart. It consecrated the newest church to St. Martin de Porres who is the patron of backward people and announced that it was mainly meant for the Pulaya converts. Well, a couple of them are on the Parish Council. No Latin church, since that community doesn’t have a presence in the area.

Each community now has its own place of worship and thing to do. No need for inter caste clashes. That the Marxists have infiltrated into all these religious places is another matter.

Is this the answer to what seems to the never ending communal/caste conflicts in India? ‘Unity in diversity’?

What do you think?


Also see:

Caste System: Is Kerala still a madhouse?

Kumaran, son of Kuruppan

Cross posted to Articles By Abraham Tharakan

1 comment:

jk47 said...

Dear Tharakan Sir,
I did read about the case mentioned by u, i was really shocked. I couldn't believe this is still happening around us. I don't know wat our 'democratic' leaders r doing other than inflaming further casteism/communalism. I don't think the whole Reservation thing is reaping much benefit. We read dreadful stories coming out of our Tribal colonies. Those people r not even getting basic things entitled to Indian citizens! When we read such stories, we r compelled to think about the ineffectiveness of India's Reservation policies!