If a remark is castiest, can it be just a remark not an abuse ?
All the people involved, starting from the village blokes to the intellectuals, didn’t think whatever Mr. Tikat said was “harshly insulting” enough to be called an abuse, a slur but a remark. Caste is the most abominable reference point to a dalit-like UP chief minister Ms. Mayawait and millions of other people, who suffer from it, as if it were both congenital and terminal disease. A passing reference of caste threatens everything a dalit possesses, both innate and acquired, simply because caste denies her all these at the first place. The idea that a “casteist remark” is a “remark” and at best “derogatory” comes from the people who are either foreign to the psychological operative of caste or defensive of it. How much of the foreign and defensive element each contributed to bailing out Mr. Tikat we will never know, but it does help create a mist of misgivings, which keeps the monstrous caste alive in Uttar Pradesh to Internet, and the men as good as dead to their fellow human beings.
In this particular incident, there are four players we should observe carefully. The accused Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Mahender Singh Tikait, his supporters and members of BKU, the media and the viewers who commented in the piece.
What Mr. Tikait said, we don’t know. We might never know. We never knew the stanza from “Aja Nachle” which was crude, offensive and castiest, from newspapers, for better or worse. But it’s not difficult to guess why he did it. It is a normal way to criticize a dalit for him. Think about it, he probably learned his language and manners before independence(he is 73), being a farmer probably lived most of his life in UP and probably a some kind of feudal lord being a leader. For him to scold a dalit, hurl casteist abuses came as naturally as you shoo away a stray dog. It is no surprise that he first thought he could avert his arrest by mobilizing his force, in a feudal manner and when rounded up, admitted it was a mistake-in the hope of leniency, but stopped sort of tendering an apology-which actually could have worked better, probably because it didn’t occur to him.
His supporters must have had a mix of several reasons to come out to his defence in such big numbers. But besides those, the mass-who clashed with the police, must have to be convinced of two things. One, that their leader didn’t do anything wrong- may be because they thought ‘chamar ko chamar kahdiya to kya ho gaya’. Two, that their show of strength could avert any arrest. It should be noted that, the caste-hindus believe it’s a kind of their right to abuse dalits and derive a sort of dignity in doing so.
Media is always careful with its use of words, when a case is sub-judice and it does not have reliable evidence of the incident or it wants to appear disinterested. Hence the word, “alleged”, like in this case “alleged casteist remark”. But I wonder, if this makes some sense in a sentence which is an admission of guilt.
“I consider this (alleged castiest remarks against Mayawati) a mistake. It was a slip of tongue. It is human to commit a mistake,” he told media persons in Muzaffarnagar just before he surrendered.
If it does make some sense, it says that the correspondent wasn’t convinced inspite of Mr. Tikait’s confession that it was a castiest remark. In fact the media has maintained this “alleged neutrality” throughout the incident, which kept them occupied for two days.
Another important but almost always overlooked player is the group of people who commented on these news articles. These are English educated, mostly urban and most probably young enough to feel agitated by the issue and comment on it, or blog. It is a pity actually, because they are too young to live in their fantasy medieval times. They too, like their uneducated and half-educated brethrens, see nothing wrong in a “casteist remark”. Although, the larger sections of the viewers don’t comment, their opinion is pretty much same. In fact if you read the comments, they would find a way to blame Ms. Mayawati and/or dalit, and identity politics for whatever reason, taking a self-righteous standing, claiming a moral high ground. In their jeal, they forget, that’s what exactly formed the basis of casteism, that the castiest psychology remain immune to any length and depth of education.