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Munmun Dutta's utterance part of savarnas' 'rampant' feudal, casteist mindset

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat* 

A TV actress, more known for her flirting ways than acting, recently exposed her caste mindset when she said: “Lip tint ko halka sa blush ki tarah laga liya hai because main YouTube pe aane wali hoon aur main achha dikhna chahti hoon. Bhangi ki tarah nahi dikhna chahti hoon..." Simple translation: I am planning to speak to you through my YouTube channel and hence I want to look beautiful and not like the 'Bhangis'.
Bhangi is known to be a derogatory term used for the community of those engaged in sanitation and manual scavenging work. The term is officially prohibited, but the Brahmanical mindset continues to use it to humiliate the community.
The actress, Munmun Dutta, later issued a statement by saying that she never 'meant' to 'hurt' anyon and it was a goof-up because she is not a 'native' Hindi speaker, though it is another matter that she is an important player in the TV serial “Tarak Mehta ka Ulta Chashma”, which started in August 2008.
If you have watched the show, it might look 'light entertainment' with 'comedy on day-to-day issues’, but, frankly, it is also a way to inject the savarna (dominant caste) cultural values where 'traditions' and 'past' become supreme – as 'prescribed' by the RSS.
Munmun Dutta's so-called 'apology' is nothing but a clever attempt to escape from the 'criminal offence' after the hashtag to arrest started gaining momentum on Twitter. The fact is, what Munmun Dutta said is commonly uttered among caste Hindus. They are part and parcel of the feudal casteist society, particularly in the northern Indian belt, often referred to as 'cow-belt'.
Abuses and slurs on the basis of one’s jaati i.e., caste, gender, disability, is part of our 'culture'. A common abuse in our day today life is 'behanxxxxd', and it comes in our mouth as like a 'mantra'. Terming 'langada', 'loola', 'andha', 'behara' for physically challenged persons with polio, blind and deaf, is also common. For women who can’t conceive the term is used as 'banjh'. Similarly, widows, single women too are called through various derogatory names.
Several ‘idioms’ and 'sayings' in Hindi are actually Brahmanical abuse against the people on the margins. In fact, it is the Brahmanical abuse of the grammar. The abuse, against the Dalits and women, is part of the language and gets maximum claps.
Political leaders and 'orators' have always used 'caste' narratives to 'build' their 'case'. One should not forget that, in the aftermath of Mandal Commission report, many savarna boys organised 'unique' protests where they were 'sweeping' the streets and some of them 'shining the shoes' of the people while the girls 'cried' with a 'slogan' -- “if all the boys were 'doing' this 'work', where would we get our 'husbands'?”
The contempt for the work that Dalits have been engaged in and the thought that it is the work they deserve, while dominant caste people’s job is to dominate and rule, makes the savarnas think that they are 'meritorious' and ‘deserve’ important positions by virtue of their caste supremacy. Accepting that non-Brahmins and Dalits in particular can have merit and perhaps better than them is a rare thought and difficult to fathom.
India needs serious introspection, as such nasty thoughts – that some people are born unequal while others are born with merit – emerged 2,000 back. Yet, in modern times, when we have a Constitution and are a rule based polity, such thoughts must not merely be taken seriously but condemned and punished so that there is no chance of their repetition.
Several ‘idioms’ and 'sayings' in Hindi are actually Brahmanical abuse against the people on the margins
Indeed, India needs a hate crime law which can take up such issues seriously and punish the guilty. Our schools, colleges and dictionaries need a re-look and students must be informed from their childhood as to how caste system is killing humans inside us, and how this system should be thrown into garbage.
In the meanwhile, it is time that Munmun Dutta's utterings should be taken seriously and she must be face the law. The aim is not to punish her but to send across the message that as to what ails our society and why it is essential that such thoughts do not appear in our mind. Caste discrimination must have the same kind of intolerance from us, as world is dealing with racial prejudices.
Our children must know from their homes that they are living in a society where Constitution is supreme and it deals everyone as equal. Caste discrimination and caste system must not be merely condemned but thrown in the dustbin, and for that we must put 'annihilation of castes' on our agenda.
But will that be possible if our students are not taught about the dirty relic of our past, which the caste system is, and how Baba Saheb Ambedkar fought against it? Let this 'Bambai cinema', which often makes jokes on the colour of one’s skin and glorifies the 'past', start taking a lesson from Dr Ambedkar's life and mission.
One hopes, more and more Indian families would read Dr Ambedkar, Jyotiba Phule, Periyar and others who preached humanism and human values. Once we become humanist in a true sense, the dirty edifice of the caste system will automatically collapse.
The task is tough, as those enjoying power and patronage for centuries would not leave their privileges. Anti-caste groups in India and abroad and Bahujan masses should join hands to do the needful and get an alternative, as shown by Dr Ambedkar.
---
*Human rights defender

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