The Times of India carried a story today that we are reproducing here in full. It is the story of a Rajput-owned dog who became outcaste because it was fed a chapati by a dalit woman. Not only was the dog turned ‘out’ to live in the dalit basti, worse, the woman Sunita was fined Rs 15, 000/- by the panchayat for the crime. But hold on, there is more: when Sunita and her brother went to lodge a complaint at the police station, the police officer asked her why she fed the dog? So, this is not really a matter of one mad, ‘illiterate’ individual (as if literates are by definition better): This incident reveals an entire structure of thought and belief that extends through from the panchayat to the police itself (which despite the Supreme Court’s directive has not yet filed an FIR). Here is the full report:
BHOPAL: A dog’s life couldn’t get worse. A mongrel brought up in an upper caste home in Morena was kicked out after the Rajput family members discovered that their Sheru had eaten a roti from a dalit woman and was now an “untouchable”. Next, Sheru was tied to a pole in the village’s dalit locality. His controversial case is now pending with the district collector, the state police and the Scheduled Caste Atrocities police station in Morena district of north MP.
The black cur, of no particular pedigree, was accustomed to the creature comforts in the home of its influential Rajput owners in Manikpur village in Morena. Its master, identified by the police as Rampal Singh, is a rich farmer with local political connections.
A week ago Sunita Jatav, a dalit woman, was serving lunch to her farm labourer husband. “There was a ‘roti’ left over from lunch. I saw the dog roaming and fed it the last bread,” Sunita said. “But when Rampal Singh saw me feeding the dog and he grew furious. He yelled: ‘Cobbler woman, how dare you feed my dog with your roti?’ He rebuked me publicly. I kept quiet thinking the matter would end there. But it got worse,” she said.
On Monday, Rampal ex-communicated the dog. A village panchayat was called, which decided that Sheru would now have to live with Sunita and her family because it had become an untouchable. Sunita Jatav was fined Rs 15,000.
An outraged Sunita and her brother Nahar Singh Jatav rushed to Sumawali police station. They were directed to take the matter to the SC/ST Atrocities police station in Kalyan. “When we went there, the officer asked us why we fed the dog,” recalls Nahar. “So we went to the DSP in the SC/ST Atrocities department and submitted a memorandum to him, as also to the district collector. But no one has registered our FIR so far.
DSP SC/ST Atrocities (Morena), Baldev Singh, recalls, “We got a complaint in which it has been alleged that a dog was declared untouchable and a dalit family fined for feeding it. We are investigating the allegation,” said the officer.
Since the idea of ‘Hindu tolerance’ has become something of an uninterrogated ideological wisdom now and underwrites the daily insidious violence of Hindu society, it is necessary to underline that this so-called tolerance is predicated upon a deep intolerance within. A fairly large section of articulate, modern Hindus have come to believe that ‘we Hindus’ are modern, while ‘they’ [Muslims e.g.] are ‘backward’, ‘irrational’; we look forward while they are all potential Talibanis and so on. Apart from the utterly ahistorical and false nature of such claims, there is of course, always, a relentless degree of homogenization of the ‘Muslim’ that takes place in making such a claim. Can we suggest, like many commentators on Kafila have often done, that every Hindu, notwithstanding his/her modernity or secularity, is at the core, a casteist?
A companion idea of ‘Hindu tolerance’, also one that is pitted against religions like Christianity and Islam, is that unlike them, Hinduism is not a proselytizing religion. This too is an aspect, apparently, of Hinduism’s ‘tolerance’, as it reveals an attitude of ‘live and let live’. And we know that the idea of conversion is at the heart of the daily attacks on Christians in different parts of the country and it has become a staple of the ‘secular-modern’ Hindu argument that all conversions are based on fraud or force. Hence the justification of violence: they are taking advantage of our tolerance!
These are large questions and call for sustained reflection and thought. We certainly do not mean to dismiss everything associated with Hinduism – its art, its philosophical traditions etc. There is much that is valuable there. Meanwhile, we can only quote from Ambedkar’s riposte to Lala Hardayal, the Arya Samaji nationalist. Hardayal’s political testament was published in the Pratap of Lahore. In that he had advocated Hindu Raj and the ‘shuddhi [reconversion] of the Moslems’ right upto and including in Afghanistan. Ambedkar’s response was vitriolic: If Hindu religion is not a missionary religion like Islam or Christianity, he argued, it was not because of any inherent greatness but because caste is incompatible with conversion. “To be able to convert a stranger to its religion, it is not enough for a community to offer its creed. It must be in a position to admit the convert to its social life and to absorb and assimilate him among the kindred“, he argued. Devastating as this critique was, it remains, till date, by far the most potent attack on the facetious idea of Hindu tolerance.