Himal Southasian/Equalisation to annihilation-and beyond
The idea of corrupting the system of caste through genial viruses like intermarriage and inter-dining is defeated even before organisations like the Jat-Pat Todak Mandal in Lahore or the Periyar E V Ramasamy-led Self-Respect Movement in Tamil Nadu offered these as counters. After all, the very system we are dealing with is a gigantic virus, which is why Ambedkar spoke of the need to “dynamite” the Brahminical religion that upholds caste. Yet his subsequent recourse to Buddhism, stripped of all the metaphysical baggage it had acquired over centuries, has not exactly led even Dalits into a caste-free utopia. A whole generation of Dalit Buddhists has relapsed into popular Hinduism, as studies have shown.
Further, new communities are always being enlisted as castes. According to historian D D Kosambi, at the instance of Kautilya, the Brahmins were designated with the task of creating castes among tribes that rebelled against the Mauryan Empire – despite the fact that the Mauryans were themselves believed to be of tribal/Shudra origins. In her recent essay on Maoists in Dandakaranya, writer Arundhati Roy notes that, as part of the Hindutva drive,In north Bastar, Baba Bihari Das had started an aggressive drive to ‘bring tribals back into the Hindu fold’, which involved a campaign to denigrate tribal culture, induce self-hatred, and introduce Hinduism’s great gift – caste. The first converts, the village chiefs and big landlords – people like Mahendra Karma, founder of the Salwa Judum – were conferred the status of Dwij, twice-born, Brahmins.