(this is a response to the comments received on my previous post Gita and Ramayana will be burnt )
In reality, Dalit and hindus are not ever going to debate the points given . The reason is, Dalits have moved (or are doing so) millions miles away from the tokenism of religious acceptance and turned their struggle towards much more relevant and pragmatic issues i.e political/economic inclusiveness though education, employment, representation etc.
So Dalits keep hinduism at safe distance. That is also a way to peaceful co-existence, you may agree. And I believe a better one. We, you and me, the Dalits and the caste-hindus, don’t have to lock horns over a never-ending negotiations, like that of the border issue with china or Kashmir. This works as long as we are not forced to cross each others’ path.
Imagine what will happen when the bottom layer of the pyramid is sliced off. So, sooner or later hinduism is going to address the evils within it. It is bottled up with such poison, it will start to decay itself. You might argue, hinduism thrived and survived for four thousand years continuously, its not going anywhere. Thats true, hinduism has existed for thousands of years, but only in those times which can be called the ‘dark ages’ of subaltern India. Dark ages because during these thousand years they received little or no education, and lived in total poverty. Its only the second half of 20th century, that education is being available to every home-slowly but increasingly, not at all satisfyingly but enough to smell the poison. Change, which didnt exist in past in India, can be said to at an exponential phase.
So hinduism has two choices. Either slowly and subtly start incorporating changes, or face a massive revolt. They failed to do the former while dealing with Dalits. They met with a revolt which is now golden era of dalit-history. Who else may revolt? Every caste, every woman? May be not. When the world is much more egalitarian, may be the people like you who can no longer live in the diagonally opposite worlds, of your religion and of your public life. Sooner or later, hinduism is going to consider those points and confront its own demons. For its own good, it should do that subtly and soon. It has done that, it changed norms and rules to seat itself in colonial era and gladly accepted western culture, minus western humanism, minus the British sensitiveness for discrimination. And only for few up there, not for everybody. Another problem is that hinduism has many faces,(as you said many version). So denial is no harder than flipping a hand, to look at any side you want at the very moment. Ever wonder how many of middle-class hindus have started saying ‘i am spiritual but not religious’ ! Unfortunately, every sect of hinduism failed to kill the demon named caste, so much for the demon-hunting gods that hindus worship. The spiritual-but-not-religious cult can’t either, because their spiritualism is drawn from their unquestionable allegiance to the religion and its beliefs and the ‘not-religious’ part is merely indifference even to the rituals not rejection of it. You can argue , conversion of dalits to christianity/islam even buddhism has not freed them of caste. I totally agree. I consider these failed but necessary experiments, sort of dry runs, but nonetheless more rewarding than hinduism. But in the course of their adventures, Dalits have stumble upon two goldmines. First is the realisation that full restoration of their dignity and rights can be achieved only through exact and material gains, such as education, economic wellbeing and democratic(?) representation. Second, they have discovered a humanist theology where they are not handed down ranks and sermonized, but which they can revive and shape and claim their own. They have found that an independent pursuit of religion. They have found Buddhism.
Others, like Dalits, can co-exist peacefully with the present form of hinduism, even though with a strong antagonistic undercurrent, as long as the present form of hinduism remains latent or in islandic isolation like the texas polygamic sect. That balance might be disturbed by the raging bull named Hindutva. Dalits like me are not going to burn Gita, not will press for these negotiations. We will be struggling for more fundamental changes, watching you do that from a safe distance. Time will tell.
Having said that, if you are wondering if those points made sense, I will offer to a bigger picture. ( I wrote Gita and Ramayana article, before I read Annihilation of Caste, but if you read that awesome book, the very idea hinduism’s survival is explicated in great detail. I suggest you read it). The bigger picture is discrimination worldwide.
I highly appreciate your gesture, although I dont think you should be apologizing on-behalf-of your ancestors, unless you played your part to perpetuate the status-quo, (which is covert discrimination). But apology from the ‘institutions’ of religion means the acceptance or all the wrong doings and a willingless to change. Remember austrelian premier Kevin Rudds apology or Japan’s consistent denial to apologize the comfort women of Philippines. They carry tremendous potential for change.
2. Apology as Preface
I was probably trying to say hindus should not be able to sweep the issue under carpet.
3. Expunging controversial texts
We both disagree here. But let me start with where we agree. “If we are to learn from history and to improve we need to know what that history was, good and bad”. That does not mean, a post war world would continue with the eugenics texts and nazi literature. That does not mean the USA would continue to teach racist literature or studies at schools. To remind ourselves that history of hinduism is stained with a very depressing history of oppression and discrimination, we can have museums and memorials, or as I said, apologies as preface.
I want to conclude with your reference to different versions/interpretations of the myths/texts. I think there is a grand design of the myths/epics of hinduism, which is indestructible and eventually emerges no matter what version you study. That of Supremacy over a Certain People of Certain Birth. Brahmin and the Gods.
This reminds me of a funny story. Stalin K’s “India Untouched” was screened in IIT Bombay, a year back, which followed two and half hours of rousing discussion that went past dinner time in IIT Bombay hostels.The auditorium was jam packed. The documentary focused untouchability and overt discrimination of dalits in five major religions in India (Stalin’s prized question was, “what is the fifth religion” attempt it) intermitantly supported by a high-priest of Benarus verses, quotes directly from Manu Smriti. Anyway, two guys patiently wait till the end of show and walk upto Stalin and say, ” Manu smriti does NOT say what you are quoting in the movie”. I thought Manu smriti is at least brazenly forthright.
Those guys run a flourishing RSS branch inside IITB.
Are you wondering what Stalin said in reply. He said, “lets debate, but not here, in the premise of the Jaipur highcourt, where the manuwadi’s have tried to install a statue or manu and which is unfinished because of the court’s stay order in response to opposition. If I win, you knock it down for me, if you win I will let u go ahead with installation.
I had seen Manu’s quote in IITKGP wall/website. “Stalin, after you win Jaipur high court, we will make sure the trumpet of conquest resounds in IITKGP.”