The broken quotes below are from an essay first published in an 1855 journal. It speaks of violence, discrimination and human sacrifices (that I mentioned in my last post. They were buried alive!). Untouchability is specific to Hinduism and South Asia, from an oppressive system which carries on into South Asian diasporas today. It determines who speaks in your movements, reeking of casteism. The movements are infused, no, fused with casteism: even Pax Ahimsa Gethen, the other day, blogged and used photos that could’ve been any other photos but they were photos that were promoting people who are privileged casteists, :. they were pro-casteist.
“It humbles me to realize that God has filled the heart of an untouchable girl like me, considered to be even lower than an animal, with the pain and suffering of my people – the mahars and mangs. The Creator of all beings has put this in my heart and while invoking His name, I dare to pen this essay with the strength I have now received.[…]
These people drove us, the poor mangs, and mahars, away from our own lands, which they occupied to build large buildings. And that was not all. They would make the mangs and mahars drink oil mixed with red lead and buried our people in the foundations of their buildings, thus wiping out generation after generation of our poor people. The brahmans have degraded us so low; they consider people like us even lower than cows and buffaloes. Did they not consider us even lower than donkeys during the rule of Bajirao Peshwa? You beat a lame donkey, and his master retaliates. But who was there to object the routing thrashing of mahars and mangs? Under Bajirao’s rule, if any mang or mahar happened to pass in front of a gymnasium, they would cut off his head and play ‘bat and ball’ with their swords as bats and his head as a ball, on the grounds. When we were punished for even passing through their doors, where was the question of getting education, getting freedom to learn?
The mang and mahar children never dare to lodge a complaint even if the brahman children throw stones at the and injure them seriously. They suffer silently because they know they have to go to the brahman’s house to beg for leftover food. Alas! O God! What agony this! I will burst into tears if I write more about this injustice. Because of such oppression, the merciful God has bestowed on us, this benevolent British government. Let us see how our pain has been mitigated under this government.
Earlier, Gokhale, Apate, Trimkaji, Andhala, Pansara, Kale, Behre, etc. [all brahman surnames], who showed their bravery by killing rats in their homes, persecuted us, not sparing even pregnant women, without any rhyme or reason. This has stopped now. Harassment and torture of mahars and mangs, common during the rule of Peshwas in Pune, have stopped. Now, human sacrifice for the foundation of forts and mansions has stopped –now, nobody buries us alive. Now, our population is growing in numbers. Earlier, if any mahar or mang wore fine clothes, they would say that only brahmans should wear such clothes. See in fine clothes, we were earlier accused of stealing such clothes. Their religion was in danger of being polluted when untouchables put clothes around their bodies; they would tie them to tree and punish them. But, under British rule, anybody with money can buy and wear clothes. Earlier, punishment for any wrong-doing against the upper castes was to behead guilty untouchable—now it has stopped. Excessive and exploitative tax has stopped. The practice of untouchability has stopped in some places. Killing has stopped on the playground. Now, we can even visit market place.” — Salve, M., Mang Maharachya Dukhvisayi, 1855.
Written by a 14-year old girl. This is her only writing we know of. In 200 years, so much has been lost; progress has stopped and been reversed: 1. we are uninformed*, 2. oppression continues while some claim reverse-casteism.
Read more about Muktabai here.
*Some can claim to be uninformed in diasporas. In truth, there is no space for certain voices, p’haps considered unaesthetic, bc not promoting that very exotic Hinduism?
I’m not in a position to speak about untouchability and in your animal movement/s, the fact that there is no space for consideration of such perspectives, and no humility, speaks volumes. It’s the only reason there are no vegans etc. who are also indigenous or Dalits. 12-15% (their statistics for vegetarians), if I may use that figure too, is much more than the 1% I experienced in my life. There was always the other 1% – a Brahmin, thus in total we were was 2% per school year. 5 schools, different mixed and single-sex (both, counting someone else’s experiences too), a total of 24 years. I make no distinction between meat-allergics (father, cousin, + 1 in-law) and vegetarians.
Once, I only made a mention to someone (Bania) I’d made admin of a vegan group, of a page (where caste is mentioned). She unfriended me, left the group, and I never heard from her again.
Caste struggles may take place in plain sight and others walk past with blinkers on. Also in India whether 1855 or now, had something tragic happened to Muktabai, it would’ve been known. Now, in the digital age, if you don’t know what sort of crimes happen there, you live in a casteist/pro-casteist cocoon. In other countries I’ve lived though, if I get killed over writing about casteism, not even my friends will ever know. E.g. someone sexually harasses you then threatens you (me and I’m a little privileged) with rape and more, you can’t necessarily do anything about it though the risks may be high (two people are involved, they have you followed and know your whereabouts and activities). You tell people, in your countries. Some of your friends choose you over him, as they should. He’s not that high caste, maybe it’s no big deal then. A decade later, someone publishes a book for your grandpa’s centennary (he was a poet and playwright), no one tells you who is the editor, how to contact him, when is the deadline. They probably guess you’ll be mad, as you should. Anyway, when I came back to home country and read it: both parents of my sexual harasser/aspiring rapist (who never really apologised and clearly think it’s forgiven and forgotten) wrote about my grandpa in the book (one of them, the editor, didn’t know my grandpa), augmenting social capital for sexual harasser/aspiring rapist. Grandchildren’s voices did not matter enough, sure, not all of them had been alive (forgetting we can know him through story-telling). I was alive some years, I know grandpa enough to know he wouldn’t stand for this casteist, sexist and ableist ink-on-paper insult, even though he belonged to a whole community beyond family or home (this in fact makes my sexual harasser/ aspiring rapist or his parents accountable to the community, it isn’t one gets to stay in power, take advantage of others then p’haps act like this book was a favour/ redemption and get a power trip, exposure and social capital for them and their sons). Many relatives and former students of his weren’t featured, I’ll never know if there were more submissions – if there was, one of my sexual harasser/ aspiring rapist’s parents or they both would have been among selectors?
The author is from a small country in Africa but casteism arguably gets worse in other necks of the woods or when the gap widens.