Translate:


Categories




casteism

Home » casteism

Casteism: alive and well in Pakistan

Published in The Friday Times, Pakistan (current issue)

It is a cliché now to say that Pakistan is a country in transition – on a highway to somewhere. The direction remains unclear but the speed of transformation is visibly defying its traditionally overbearing, and now cracking postcolonial state. Globalisation, the communications revolution and a growing middle class have altered the contours of a society beset by the baggage and layers of confusing history.
What has however emerged despite the affinity with jeans, FM radios and McDonalds is the visible trumpeting of caste-based identities. In Lahore, one finds hundreds of cars with the owner’s caste or tribe displayed as a marker of pride and distinctiveness. As an urbanite, I always found it difficult to comprehend the relevance of zaat-paat (casteism) until I experienced living in the peri-urban and sometimes rural areas of the Punjab as a public servant.
I recall the days when in a central Punjab district, I was mistaken for a Kakayzai (a Punjabi caste that claims to have originated from the Caucasus) so I started getting correspondence from the Anjuman-i-Kakayzai professionals who were supposed to hold each other’s hands in the manner of the Free Masons. I enjoyed the game and pretended that I was one of them for a while, until it became unbearable for its sheer silliness and mercenary objectives. […]

February 16th, 2009|Published in HT, Published in The Friday Times|14 Comments

Voices of the oppressed – Dalit literature

by K G Sankarapillai

Dalit means broken, oppressed, untouchable, downtrodden, and exploited. They come from the poor communities which under the Indian caste system used to be known as untouchables. They constitute nearly 16% of the Indian population.

The caste system, with a history of more than 3000 years in India, is a shameful system of social segregation, which works on the principle of purity and impurity. Purity is rich and white or whitish, impurity is poor and dark. Hidden powers of wealth can be easily traced in every feudal Brahmanical concept of the ideal. Material milieu of purity and beauty and prominence and command and comforts is also wealth. Economic division is reflected in the social classifications. But it should not be registered that caste is racial or economic. Dr. Ambedkar says that the caste system came into being long after the different races of India had commingled in blood and culture. To hold that distinctions of caste are really distinctions of race and to treat different castes as though they were so many different races is a gross perversion of the historical facts. Ambedkar asks: What affinity is there between the Untouchable of Bengal and the Untouchable of Madras? The Brahman of Punjab is racially the same stock as the Chamar of the Punjab and the Brahman of Madras is the same race as the Pariah of Madras. The caste system does not demarcate racial division. (Annihilation of caste – in writings and speeches vol.1 .p.49 Dr .B.R. Ambedkar) […]

Songs of Lalon Fakir – the Bengali mystic


Found
these two poems by Lalon Fakir – the singing mystic of Bengal who echoes Bulleh Shah, Kabir and the tradition of Bhakti.

A Strange Bird

Look, how a strange bird flits in and out of the cage!
O brother, I wish I could bind it with my mindís fetters.
Have you seen a house of eight rooms with nine doors
Closed and open, with windows in between, mirrored?
O mind, you are a bird encaged! And of green sticks
Is your cage made, but it will be broken one day.
Lalon says: Open the cage, look how the bird wings away!

Casteism

People ask, what is Lalon’s caste?
Lalon says, my eyes fail to detect
The signs of caste. Don’t you see that
Some wear garlands, some rosaries
Around the neck? But does it make any
Difference brother? O, tell me,
What mark does one carry when
One is born, or when one dies?
A muslim is marked by the sign
Of circumcision; but how should
You mark a woman? If a Brahmin male
Is known by the thread he wears,
How is a woman known? People of the world,
O brother, talk of marks and signs,
But Lalon says: I have only dissolved
The raft of signs, the marks of caste
In the deluge of the One!

Translated by Azfar Hussain

More details on Lalon are below: […]

March 5th, 2008|Bangladesh, Poetry, Sufi poetry, Sufism, World Artists|15 Comments