Sounds impossible? Caste system is so deep rooted in Bharat that even the concept of ‘Society without Untouchability’ may sound a hopeless dream to many. Caste has cast long and dark shadow over our society. Right from food to water and from temple entry to after death! Caste discrimination, or so to say, extreme inequality is omnipresent! On this background of centuries of mental, socio-economical blockades, we still are very hopeful to achieve ‘Society without Untouchability’. That is because of sheer faith in Bharat’s wisdom and the capacity of ‘Hindu’ society to take every century’s brightest aspect in its stride. Wasn’t ‘No education for girls’ similarly deep rooted just a century back? Today, women from Bharat are leading every field like Hi-Tech to Space and Industry/Law or Politics! There are umpteen such examples that brilliantly explain as to how and why Bharat is now ahead of the world in many things. Therefore, if an organisation like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) that is so well entrenched in all walks of the society in almost all villages in Bharat, decides to put in its social reforming strength behind ‘Society without Untouchability’, then it is a great hope for Bharat. It is not just a hollow dream. All organisations associated with RSS are committed to making this hope shine bright taking Bharat ahead in the arena of ‘Social Cohesive Unity’.
Now that we are sure that ‘Society without Untouchability’ is a hope that can surely be fulfilled, we also know the mammoth challenges ahead. Social psyche’, deep rooted customs, mind sets and habits take a long to change. The road is difficult and stony. But again, Bharat has always stood up to such challenges. When needed for the nation’s wellbeing, Hindus stand united, forgetting caste, language, region and other such differences. It was evident in 1947 Freedom Movement, 1962 China War, 1965 Pak War, 1971 Bangladesh creation, 1990 while Bharat stood together to support displaced Kashmiri Pundits,1975 –77 in Emergency and recently, in General Elections. Hindus stood united.
Deep rooted caste discrimination is a social calamity and we all should do our bit to bring about a transformation. It requires patience. This is not a matter of abrupt agitations or road shows. It requires phase-wise action plan and sustained efforts to reach out to people with clear focused but warm humane messages. One well (pond / public common water source where there is no well); one temple and one crematorium for all in the village / town is a way ahead. From ‘Life’ that is water, to ‘Faith’ that is Temple and up until ‘Death’ that is Crematorium, all Hindus are ONE. This is THE message that will unite all Hindus cohesively.
It is of course not as easy and as simple as it sounds. There are mental blocks, social ‘superstitions’ and in some cases, even old enmity between castes. But any conflict management in a large society like Bharat has its own soul involved and that soul in this case is ‘Bharateeyata’! All Hindus cohesively think as ONE when they need to as we have seen above. To transform the caste related mind sets, this ‘soul’ will be awakened through awareness campaigns, specific togetherness programmes and social interactions.
‘HINDU MITRA PARIVAR’ (Hindu Friend Family) is a unique concept here. Every Hindu family makes another Hindu Family their ‘Friend Family’, preferably, a family of another caste. Both families will celebrate their happy moments (anniversary, birthday, weddings and many festivals) together. They will stand by each other in the sad events like illness, death, theft, accident or so on. It does not stop here! At least once a month both will invite each other for lunch or dinner at home; NOT in a restaurant. Having food together as family friends bring hearts together and the unwritten taboos of not sharing food, water, plates etc slowly thin out. Both families once a year will go for outings like picnics or pilgrimages. No need to be wealthy for all this! Both families can even go to a local garden together carrying snacks from home and share each other’s snacks and happy moments together with kids playing, women chit-chatting and men sharing their views on many social issues or sharing even What’s App pics! Young college going children in both families can share their Face Book / What’s App etc in a healthy way, take ‘selfies’ of entire family while on a picnic or so.
This is not euphoria. We all have already started a ‘Samarasta’ (Cohesive Unity) Department and over 1,000+ such Hindu Parivar Mitra families are already happy that they are together! They make others aware and get more and more people to join in for One Well, One Temple and One Crematorium movement. Village committees and sadhu-saints play an important facilitator’s role in all this. Most castes in Bharat have their own caste committees. Their leaders may not be necessarily convinced initially as there are age old prejudices and unfounded but strongly inculcated beliefs about other castes. We must understand their concerns and get them open up their minds. We have been working on it together. Some caste leaders have their political interests and they fear that their vote base may get shattered. There is no point in criticising what they feel. In a small village or town, such things matter. Therefore, there is a need of patience and open minds. The Samarasta Team that has members from most castes speaks to all.
During VHP’s 50 Years Hindu Sammelans (Rallies) all over Bharat, senior RSS functionaries and many of us went to the cities, towns, villages, Tribal areas and the remotest locations. During over 600 rallies, we met millions of people and also interacted with caste committees, local social thinkers, women’s groups, professionals and discussed the menace and the way out for untouchability. Almost all agreed with the ‘Society without Untouchability’. Some of them gave us the examples of how some people have been ostracised by the castes for one or the other reason.
We found out that State-wise, even district –wise, there can be one concept but customised approach as each place the issues vary. From rally stage when we asked the crowd, ‘One Well, One Temple and One Crematorium – will YOU do it in your village?’ The roaring response from the large crowd of over 50,000 to 2,00,000 used to be Big “Yes”. They were sincere and they meant it. We all have to reach out to them and the process has already begun.
The satisfactory aspect of three months extensive travel all over Bharat by road on hilly terrains, rainy slippery/dusty village roads late at nights, meeting millions of people in the day who may look different, eat different types of foods, wear different clothes but have a common ‘Soul’ within them and that is ‘Hindu’! It is Bharateeyata for them.
After such extensive deep experiences and interactions, I am confident that ‘Society without Untouchability’ will be a grand reality in Bharat. It is a hard work ahead, yes. But all roads to the glorious ONE Bharat, always go through hurdles. Social transformation is not a catharsis; it is a beautiful metamorphosis. Once the process starts and takes speed, there is no looking back and the end result is grand!
Dr Pravin Togadia (The writer is working president of the VHP and can be contacted at [email protected])