The Casual Twines of Casteism and Islamophobia

Despite years of progress, independence, and development- our institutions are plagued with casteism and islamophobia. Nurtured at the grass-root level with prejudices, misinformation and a dictatorial need to maintain an oppressive hierarchy- the correct question to ask is not ‘how far have we come?’- it is ‘how far have we fallen?’

Caste-based violence and discrimination are often dismissed by the privileged as an issue that belonged in India 20-30 years ago. When newspaper headlines in 2021 are screaming about the discrimination they face when marriages in our households are done based on people’s last names- how can anyone claim that caste doesn’t exist?

Forced cremations of bodies belonging to backward caste victims, threats directed towards Dalit students studying in schools and colleges- even if one ignores these incidents citing them as rare occurrences, statistics do not lie. 

A scheduled caste (SC) person faced crime every 10 minutes in India in the past year, cumulating to a total of 50,291 cases registered in 2020, an increase of 9.4% from the previous year, data from the National Crime Records Bureau said.

Crimes against Dalits, tribals increased in Covid pandemic year: NCRB

The report further outlines how while other common crimes witnessed a drop due to covid regulations, crimes against SCs and STs rose in numbers instead

However, despite this increase, conviction rates remain low. The perpetrators often get away and cases rarely reach the court. When they do reach court, it ensures a long legal battle that often drags on for years. 

The report, tabled in the Rajya Sabha last week, stated that while there has been an increase of 15.55 per cent in crimes against women and children from SC/ST communities in the last three years (2017-2019), the conviction rate under Prevention of Atrocities (PoA) Act in the same period has been as low as 26.86 per cent, with pendency at an alarming 84.09 per cent.

Crimes against SC/ST women, children up 15%, but conviction rate low, says House panel by Srivasti Gupta, The Print.

Casteism is not the only disease plaguing our nation. Islamophobia, especially under the current government regime, is at an all-time high. And it is even more disturbing to note that these perpetrators are egged on by the masses. We are becoming desensitized to these crimes, egged on by a false sense of nationalism- one that promotes hate, violence and extreme punishment to those who do not comply. 

An example of how things are worsening is the T20 World cup match between India and Pakistan, where India lost. What followed was a sequence of Islamophobic comments made against a player on the team- Mohammed Shami. People raised questions over his religion, his loyalty based on his religion. Many star cricket players came to his defense, including Gautam Gambhir- whose column in Times of India called out the blatant discrimination being faced by the fast bowler. 

Cut to the present times. India loses to Pakistan on Sunday. By Monday/Tuesday, Mohammad Shami’s integrity towards his team and country was being questioned. How ridiculous can that be? Is it to say that Jasprit Bumrah or Bhuvneshwar Kumar were more committed because they belong to a certain religion? Where are we heading?

Gautam Gambhir, in his column for the Times of India.

Not only this, Kashmiri students were thrashed by other students after the match in a college in Punjab because they cheered for Pakistan. Memes surfaced on the internet after the issue, with some rejoicing in the action taken by the students. Comments justified this by quoting India and Pakistan’s political history. 

When the only way to ‘assert’ your nation’s pride and respect is through violence- one should question the values their countrymen uphold and respect. Are our morals so fragile, our history so weak that any disrespect and dissent must be answered with brutality? Beating up anti-nationalists fulfils nothing except fueling the need for blind vengeance. When citizens take the law into their own hands, lawlessness ensues, and the innocent suffer. An example of this is when a group of people assaulted a Muslim man, forcing him to say ‘Jai Shri Ram’.

So I became aware of the caste system in 6th grade. We were taught about it in social studies and I was quite intrigued about it so I read more about it online. I completely stand with reservations and I believe they play a major role in people’s lives but then again there are a lot of people who take advantage of the reservation system. If only there could be a fairer system where people who need and deserve it, get it.

Anonymous, while in conversation with DU Beat.

For most students privileged enough, knowledge of caste comes in when their school curriculum introduces it. As they grow up, they are made aware of reservations. To a child who never had to witness casteism their entire life- it must seem unfair that the system favours people whose forefathers had to suffer. 

The problem of discrimination, of an unequal playing field- in their eyes, it does not exist. For them, casteism is a problem reserved for villages, not urban living spaces. As a result, when anyone belonging to a backward caste speaks up they’re ignored. Silenced. ‘Using the caste card’ is a popular line thrown at them, and their trauma is invalidated. Invalidated because in the world of upper caste people- these obstacles are absent. 

I believe that reservations need to be given to the needy, not the privileged. I’ve never seen my parents talk about castes, according to them- casteism doesn’t exist.

Anonymous, while in conversation with DU Beat.

Recently, an IIT professor in Kharagpur was under fire for hurling casteist abuses at students belonging to backward castes.

In DU, a teacher was slapped by her superior who allegedly always had an issue with her caste. When casteism cannot escape our most premier institutes, how can it not exist? Acknowledging the pain it causes and demanding accountability is better than living in a fever dream where the struggles of others are invalid because they don’t match your own. 

The roots of Islamophobia have been deeply sown throughout the entire world. Recently, at Jantar Mantar- children as young as 10 years old stood holding posters demanding the death of all Muslims. 

This radicalization is often justified in the face of Islam’s radical teachings. However, asking for the extermination of an entire religion out of the paranoia that they’re hell-bent on destroying your own will result in the mutual destruction of society as a whole. 

The goal of the West cannot be defense alone or military offence or democratization of the Middle East as a panacea. It must include a religious-ideological dimension: active pressure for religious reform in the Muslim world and pressure on the orthodox Islamic establishment in the West and the Middle East not only to disengage itself clearly from any justification of violence but also to pit itself against the radical camp in a clear demarcation of boundaries.

The Religious Sources of Islamic Terrorism by Shmuel Bar.

Be it casteism or Islamophobia- innocent lives are lost due to intolerance and negligence. Many people pin the hope flag on our generation- the current generation in schools, in colleges. But sadly, the progress of society as a whole is hampered when adults pass on the same prejudices and stereotypes they grew up with onto the next. At a certain point in life, it becomes a conscious decision to unlearn such toxic teachings- a decision that is entirely up to an individual. Only knowledge, open-mindedness and tolerance practiced from the beginning can root these evils from our society. 

Image credits- BBC 

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Chiransha Prasad 

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Chiransha thinks writing in capitals is a personality trait. She lives off the enemies to lovers trope, and is a certified shopaholic.