By Nikhil Sanjay-Rekha Adsule
I am an untouchable
My whole body is filled with the scent of the earth My whole life’s filled with the sorrow of veTTi,
My eyes are filled with the heat of the sun,
My head is covered with dried braids
Like the branches of a Banyan
Hardened by sun and rain.
You pushed me outside the village,
You asked me to knead mud and make bricks,
And build their homes with the bricks
But forbade me from entering them.
You asked me to till the fields and grow grains,
To harvest them and store in heaps,
You asked me to stand guard, day and night,
But you allowed me to gather and eat
Only the grains you threw away.
You didn’t even consider the fact that I was only a child
When you took me
Far away from my parents,
And made me tend to your cattle,
Without ever sparing me
A drop of milk……
Our History, ideas, ideologies, Conscience and Consciousness Northern biased always teach us a Gandhian Dictum that Villages are the focal point of Civilisation, Swarajya and they shall usher a true democracy. But this monolithic view from above lacks various facets and excluded the perceptions, experiences, aspirations of the Dalits who though a part of Village and its Economy akin Jajmani System or Balutedari System (a form of Slavery, which still continues) are not taken into consideration (even while writing these words) !So, When instead of Romanticization of Villages when Ambedkar writes,
“The love of the intellectual Indian for the village community is of course infinite, if not pathetic,” and “What is a village but a sink of localism, a den of ignorance, narrow-mindedness and communalism?”
These words demolish the rosy picture and point to the stark reality of the Villages of India( here in Tamil Nadu) which is evident in “The Scar” by K.A.Gunasekaran.In his own words he speaks of Villages in India as doubly treacherous i.e being caste-conscious and cruel.Now speaking about the instances of Caste Discrimination within the Autobiography shall be a gigantic task as every page is full of instances of Caste discrimination i.e A procession not allowed because it happened to be a dalit wedding and how can they dare to go via public road as this shall be a challenge to Higher Castes in the village.
The Author being slapped as his Shadow fell on a person from intermediary Caste fella, Author being tried to be nearly killed owing to he addressing a High Caste Child by his First Name, Authors Cousin who was a Doctor trying to save a person suffering from fit being abused with casteist slurs for helping that person and preferring to die rather than being touched by a Parayar Caste Person, etc….So, the crux is each page opens the Scar of the dalits and the Humilation they face in this “Republic of Caste”.So, as Shklar urges to revisit the germinal distinction between situation of misfortune and of injustice in the context of Linder drawing line between ‘trauma without humilation’ and ‘humilation as core of trauma’.
Thus, this exploitation even if looked from a Marxian perspective it entails structural imposition of experiences of degradation, pain and suffering along with dy-mystifying exploitation as primarily a cultural category and when joined with Dr.Ambedkars Analysis of Indian Society it points that its pegged with ‘Infestation of Imitation’ (which laterly Ghurye styles as ” Sanskritisation” )and taking note of this phenomenon as not only material but ‘Psychological’.
It also brings to the forefront the importance of Education for Dalits.Dr Ambedkar says,
“Be Educated, Be Organised and Be Agitated”
Prior to that Mahatma Phule had pointed that,
“Without education wisdom was lost;
without wisdom morals were lost;
without morals development was lost;
without development wealth was lost;
without wealth the shudras were ruined;
so much has happened through lack of education !”
Even the author is conscious of the fact that Education can lead to his emancipation, but instances of Caste biting him however high a Dalit rises in life is shown when he cites example of his Doctor Cousin. This paradox was again brought to the forefront by ace poet Daya pawar, when he said that Why he was introduced to the books, knowledge. He was well when he worked as cattle herder for upper castes, atleast this consciousness of being succumbed to injustice every moment shall not be there!
But even though the importance of Education in the life of Author is evident when he refuses to marry to pursue Education and his own Mother a victim of trickle down theory of Brahmanical Patriarchy and trait of ‘infestation of imitation’ pushes him hard to study and break the shackles or else he shall fall prey to the boisterous village economy which thrives on suppression of self respect, dignity and sense of purpose of Dalits is a stark reminder of the importance of Education not only as a career for Dalits but it is a road to salvation and Emancipation too ! What shall be more apt than the following words of Dr.Ambedkar,
“Freedom of mind is the real freedom.A person whose mind is not free though he may not be in chains, is a slave, not a free man.One whose mind is not free, though he may not be in prison, is a prisoner and not a free man.One whose mind is not free though alive, is no better than dead.Freedom of mind is the proof of one’s existence.”
Dr.Ambedkar in his essay titled, ” Christianizing the Untouchables ” has spoke of Christianity and its merits as well its service to humanity in seeking emancipation though partially from unjust Hindu Caste System.Here too in Tamil Nadu Christianity acted as liberator in some sense for pursuing Education which was evident in classic of Sujata Gidla,” Ants among Elephants”( Dealing with Telangana Region). But as Dr.Devkumar Jacob talks in his essay on Caste and Christianity in TamilNadu, that conversion into Christianity has still not ridden them of Casteist Biases.This is starkly brought about in this Autobiography in a nuanced manner which raises the questions of Dalit Christains too of which Bama’s ‘karukku’ is an epitome.
Another important aspect brought about in the Autobiography is the fraternity that is shared among the Dalits and Muslims.This affinity goes a long way back from Mahatma Phule to Dr.Ambedkar.It is brought about Authors interaction with guys from Muslim Community where he literally experiences freedom from all bondages and pure friendship which he cherishes for lifetime as it was a pure experience of love based upon interaction of Human with a Human and embracing all traits and follies in the realm of Humanity and Humanism.
Thus, Scar carves a caravan of departure of humanity in the hearts of all readers(without biases and Casteist state of mind) and brings to the forefront wounds that every dalit nurtures deep within, which sometimes become visible via ‘words’ to borrow the analogy from Jean Paul Sartre else goes with her/him/them in the Earth if Society allows them a decent cremation!