“What is the meaning of a ‘Dalit’?
I remember asking this question while in the 4th grade, studying the elaborate convent education.
“Dalit means God’s own child” said she. Considering the prevailing circumstances, I will also respectfully add that my teacher was not a Dalit or a minority. Not even from the so called backward class. Years went by and I met some of the finest students in my class, who excelled in Math and Geography. They had a certain penchant for Science, and always came up with exceptional ideas and thoughts that were way ahead of time. These were my agile competitors too. Few of them have gone on to become research scientists, while others turned out to be able doctors and engineers serving this nation as well as the rest of the world.
The majority of the above that I am talking about, were from the Dalit background. These students made their way up with scholarships and individual abilities, not caring for the biased thoughts and feelings that exist in the system and the society. Hence proved. They could build their destinies with focus and sheer determination. Fast forwarding the time to 2016. I see myself stalking the profile of Late Rohith Vemula. The boy surprisingly shared his birthday with me. Only, he was born light years later. The timeline also shows what an impeccably intelligent young man he was.
Only till recent times, most of us didn’t know who Rohith was. Now, he has become the main topic of every household. The young lad from the Central University was just like any other regular guy. He was loved and adored by his fellow students. He listened to ‘Chittiyaan Kalaiyaan’ like most chaps of his age. He hung out with his friends, read many books and was socially approachable. And going by his social profile, he had championed causes for Dalits and minorities. The circumstances that have led to Rohith seeing no way out and resorting to end his life are now being keenly dissected, by the media, the people and the governments with their own agendas.
It has to be remembered that the caste system was created back in the ages for a reason. To identify the core jobs and responsibilities of four very important sections in the Hindu society. I’m not going to advocate this arrangement by any means. The system just moved on to become dangerously ingrained in a very wrongful measure till day. It is unfair to ‘assume’ that talent and opportunities are limited to only one section of the society. The human brain has been created with same specifications for all. It is up to us, entirely.
I feel bad for Rohith. All of us do. But there is also a tinge of apathy. The late 26 year old could have moved on to higher pastures. The young man wanted to be the next Carl Sagan. And he would have. Only, he didn’t ‘choose’ the right direction to look. Rohith adored, followed and worshiped some of the renowned heroes and scholars from the Dalit background. Only, he didn’t make it a point to strive and become one of them. He had let the external forces take over.
There is also a tremendous concern for the younger generation today. It has to be looked into if our young ones are being more vulnerable and susceptible to the selfish political groups operating outside. And this needs to be addressed asap.
There is a saying, “We become what we choose”. There was an easy way out. Fighting against all the odds, all the powerful forces that had threatened his way. But then, all that we speak of could also be a matter of conjecture.
Irrespective of what caste or background, we all have the ability to succeed with our will and courage. Actually, my own friends as stated above are already making their mark in various fields. One doesn’t need to be born with a ‘superficial’ gene to excel in anything. I can state that there are some prominent examples who have failed miserably despite being born with that so called gene. One needs to utilize his or her strengths and resources.
Dalits, God’s own children they are. And will be.