The problem with such gestures is that the practice of untouchability was not so much a sin as a calculated crime, part of a social structure constructed by those who controlled the resources to facilitate the accumulation of surplus and profits in the process of material production. However, it is easier and more comfortable to everyone, even some of the victims of that crime, to give untouchability the spin of being a ‘sin,’ for acceptance of moral culpability costs nothing. If, on the other hand, one were to see the practice as a calculated crime for which one has to eventually pay, those who have perpetrated such crimes could, under a proper system of justice, be sent to prison.
In the era of the allegedly free and globalised markets, the most casteist and racist of persons will gladly shake hands, embrace, and share food with those who deep down they despise if this huge reserve of virtually free labour were to be available on tap. Only this explains the eagerness with which the Hindutva forces are embracing, actually initiating, these meaningless gestures.
If, on the other hand, one were to see untouchability as a crime, not merely in a legal sense which it is, but as part of an arrangement to ensure the continued enrichment of a minority, one can see such gestures as feet-washing for what they are — a theatre of high moralism and low, calculated cunning.
Law cannot, and ought not to, prohibit discrimination on the part of citizens, whatever the basis: color, race, caste, gender, sexual orientation, religion…. Discrimination that is irrational in nature reveals the nature of those who discriminate. Discrimination on the part of the government, however, must be prohibited. That’s what constitutions are for.
But the author of the above piece isn’t concerned with such matters. He thinks the caste system is not merely immoral, but criminal, and is looking for a scapegoat. The question is who do we lynch under a “proper system of justice”? Those who discriminate today, or the descendants of those who discriminated over the last few millennia?
In apartheid South Africa, apartheid was the norm for the minority of whites, barring honourable exceptions who went to the trenches and paid with their lives fighting against it.
So, if you didn’t die fighting against discrimination, then it’s obvious that you discriminate, if not overtly, then covertly.
I don’t buy this kind of analysis. “Screw your religion, and screw your caste system” is the rational approach here. Staying within the religion, starting dalit maths, and washing each others feet, makes no sense at all. I don’t see “low, calculated cunning” here. Only infectious stupidity.