Thursday, December 28, 2006

The murderous statue

Note: This post was started long ago when the mobs ran riot in Maharashtra over a silly statue. However I did not finish it then, so the relevance may be dated.

Heard about Alice in Chains? They are a rock / metal grunge band popular in the West in the eighties and nineties. I’m not sure how their name originated but maybe they saw some Alice chained up somewhere. If an Indian band would want to get inspired for a name similar to that they can try “Ambedkar in a cage”. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have deep respect for Baba Saheb Ambedkar and for his contribution to Indian history. What deeply saddens me is the actions of all those who claim to be his fellow countymen today.

Now why Ambedkar in a cage you may ask? Drive down the many roads of India and you will find high up on a pedestal a statue erected to honour this great man. But what shocks you about many of these statues is that they are encased by a wire mesh cage. I found out from locals that this was done to protect the statue from vandalism. Those who have followed the news recently would know what happened when some mindless characters vandalized a statue and the widespread reactions it caused. Buses and trains were burned, public property vandalized and damaged and police shooting to quell the mobs resulting in deaths.

I remember vividly the day almost 4 years ago when I had to organize a “mela”( it’s the desi term for a sales promotion event, actually a mela means a fair but our melas are focused on a single loan product like cars, bikes etc) in Thiruvallur a small town near Chennai. The road to Thiruvallur goes through certain villages which are dominated by the marginalized. I strongly dislike the term caste and more so the scheduled caste and as they are victims of oppression, the term marginalized will suffice. In each of these villages you will see Ambedkar in a cage and shockingly on that fateful day one uncaged (if that term exists) statue was garlanded with a garland of slippers by some antisocial. Whatever be the reasons for this act the villages exploded and in the carnage that followed 2 unsuspecting farm labourers were hacked to death. I remember the victims being transported by ambulance past me. Later on I was told that it was indeed a massacre of innocents and those two poor farm labourers had little to do with the incident. The so called malicious minds among the perceived upper classes do such acts to show their contempt for the marginalized. Caste is so rigid in the interiors that we still see stories of two tumblers and entry barriers in places of worship etc.

The first question that comes to mind is why do people associate so much importance to a statue of a dead man that life is given a go by? Is that silly statue worth two lives? Is that one statue in Nagpur or wherever worth the lives of so many who perished in the mob outrage? I have commented in an earlier post that when man started seeing god in stone, he forgot that god lives in you and me. So we deify stone, concrete, wood, metal, ice and every other imaginable material as God and flesh and blood as refuse.How many disputes have arisen over statues and buildings? Where is the end to all this?

The next question, we are in the dawn of year 2007 and still we find caste the biggest issue dominating the news hours. Politicians still keep the caste fires raging to ensure their hearths are burning daily. Demands for reservation and more reservation ensuring that meritocracy is thrown out of the window. When will we see a country that is not derailed in the march of progress by the evil of caste?

Big questions these, but like I mentioned before the start to all these begins with self.
I don’t believe in idol worship and will never worship any god in such forms.Likewise if memorials are to be constructed to honour some human, I will not contribute in cash or kind for the same save if it were to build a hospital or the like.

Next mine is not a same caste marriage, I declined to inform my in-laws my caste antecedents as I am above my label. Next I don’t care what the label of my fiancĂ©e is. When it comes to my kids they will never have any label tagged to them and I will teach them that merit is the only key to success. I don’t discriminate among my friends and I never will and If I should see anyone in my circle who does so, I will do my best to stop it.

Will these make a difference, it will to me and from me to those around me. At the risk of repeating myself,

“It only takes a spark to get a fire going,
And soon all those around can warm up in its glowing”

This is my spark……… Where is yours?

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