Monday, April 20, 2015

All people should be Free and Equal

Lawyer K.K. Saratchandra Bose has served a mandatory notice to the Centre to ban the caste system. He has been on an all-India yatra talking about the ills of casteism

Photo of Bose by Pattabi Raman

By Shevlin Sebastian

In February, 2001, the Dubai-based lawyer K.K. Saratchandra Bose went to Gujarat following the massive earthquake. “I was a one-man NRI commission who had gone to investigate what had happened and how we could help,” says Bose. While there, Bose observed that the relief distribution was based on caste and religious lines.

A group of Dalits told Bose, “Sir, dogs and cats can enter the house, but not us. We are untouchables. For earthquake relief, there are two queues: one for upper castes and a separate line for us. The upper castes have been getting all the help and support from the local people, as well as the state government.”

In 2008, Bose went to Satna in Madhya Pradesh, as a member of a group that belonged to the World Hunger Project. There were people from Australia, Canada, Singapore, Sri Lanka and other countries. Bose was the only Indian representative.

At a village, the locals asked the foreigners, “Is there untouchability in your countries? We have a well in the village which we cannot use. It belongs to the upper castes. We have to walk five kilometres to get access to drinking water. When we don’t have drinking water, how can we have a bath? We have been sidelined from society.”

The people said that members of the upper castes would go to the houses of the lower castes in a jeep, grab the girls and rape them. The foreigners could not believe this. They looked at Bose, who said, “This wretched system exists only in my country and nowhere else in the world.”

Later, Bose organised a borewell to be dug, so that the Dalits could have access to water. Then he began to do extensive research on the caste system.

Bose's conclusion: the caste system was originally based on colour. "Those who were fair and white were called Brahmins,” says Bose. “The hot-blooded warriors were identified by the colour red, the Vaishyas were yellow or brown, while the Sudras were black. In the end, the Aryans and the Dravidians got together to get rid of the Adivasis, who were the original landlords in Kerala, and grabbed their lands.”

Based on his research, Bose wrote a 208-page book called 'Caste Away! India, Hinduism & Untouchability'.

On November 30, 2013, Bose served a mandatory legal notice to the Union Government asking the Centre to ban the caste system within 13 months. He also sent the notice to all the MLAs, MPs and Supreme Court judges. It was also sent to member countries of the United Nations.

I have two demands,” says Bose. “The Centre should amend the constitution and remove the categories of scheduled caste, untouchables and Dalits. There should be no caste-based reservations. Instead, it should be based on economic considerations. All people should be
treated as equal.”

On these demands, Bose received support from an unexpected quarter. On February 4, 2014, senior Congress leader Janardhan Dwivedi said that caste-based reservations should be stopped. “This has never happened before in the Congress,” says Bose. However, the next day Congress President Sonia Gandhi refuted Dwivedi by saying, “The empowerment of the scheduled castes has been an article of faith of the Congress.”

Meanwhile, when the government did not respond to Bose's notice, in June, 2014, he embarked on an all-India Bharat Yatra from Thiruvananthapuram. Accompanied by 34 volunteers, Bose held several meetings all over the country, where he spoke about the ills of casteism. “Not one person spoke in favour of the caste system,” says Bose. “Even the Brahmins are fed up with the system.”

In Tripura, Bose spoke at a Buddhist Sangha. “After listening to me, they told me that they were with me,” says Bose. “They also want a casteless society.”

Finally, after a journey of 18,000 kms, Bose reached Delhi in end-July.

Many people do not know that the use of the term ‘caste’ goes against the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” says Bose.

In fact, in February, this year, Pope Francis, at a meeting with newly-appointed Cardinals in Rome, asked them to shed their 'caste' mentality.

Bose is now going to embark on a second Bharat Yatra from Padoli in Kannur district on May 9. This time, he has a specific agenda: anybody who wants to wear the sacred thread, according to pre-Vedic rites, will be able to do, in the presence of a five-headed idol of
Lord Brahma, which is 9 feet tall, and weighs 500 kg.

Bose is being accompanied by a team of priests who will perform the rites.  “I will not give up till the caste system is eradicated from our society,” says Bose, 63, who belongs to Mezhuveli in Pathanamthitta district. 

(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram) 

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