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Dignity-Self Respect

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Few months ago I watched an episode of a TV show, “Satyamev Jayate”. It talked about Dignity, Untouchability, Caste system, Intercaste Marriage and Self –Respect. This show was named as Dignity for all, Aamir, the host and producer of the show says, “For a country which has been independent for 65 years, it is a matter of shame that we have not yet shaken off the tyranny of caste-based discrimination. Countless people have to live in degrading conditions, children are unable to go to school, employment avenues are closed, and even education does not open bigoted minds. No measure of progress can be true unless the question of people’s equality is factored into it. And we can only be considered a progressive nation when we refuse to accept caste differences.” A Guest, Dr Kaushal Panwar says, while the Constitution of India decrees equality for all, in reality India is a complexity of layers, social structures and hierarchies which deny large numbers of its citizens their very basic rights. Scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and other backward classes are guaranteed equal opportunities for education and work under the law, but the age-old practices of caste discrimination often ensure that these opportunities do not come their way. Moreover, all too often certain occupations are deemed the domain of certain communities, and this perpetuates the differences and socio-economic divides. In the case of the extremely oppressed sections of society, this also condemns them to a life carrying out the most degrading work of all – manual scavenging, or the cleaning of toilets and disposing of human excrement, euphemistically termed night soil. The caste system dictates that those born into a particular sub-caste should engage in manual scavenging and should remain doing so throughout their lives, prohibiting them from leading a dignified life.

The case is not only of India, in our own country, Nepal there is a huge discrimination based on caste, creed, religion, race and ethnicity. This is one of the major reasons why we lack behind. Is that true? May be, as not only us but every country has some sense of discrimination. Yes, it does. The difference is we focus on it majorly.

There are a number of things that distinguish Gandhi from most of his fellow freedom fighters and the leaders of that time. One of them is that he gave equal importance to one more thing along with the struggle for independence, and that is, the emancipation of people supposedly of the lower caste. Why did Gandhi give so much importance to removing untouchability, or discrimination based on caste? Let’s reflect on that for a moment. I think it is because the freedom that he was fighting for was not just political. He didn’t merely want a different set of people in the corridors of power. Freedom for him meant freedom for each and every citizen of India. A freedom, which could only be born from genuine equality, and the protection of the dignity of every Indian. Untouchability was clearly incompatible with his vision of freedom.

Today many of us have a visions for what our country should be, what it can be, and what Nepal’s in the world is. Many of us dream of Nepal becoming developed. But can this ever happen in a country where society is so fractured; where walls divide us? Can we ever achieve our vision if we don’t believe in a shared social good? A common vision?

What do I mean when I say shared social good?

A public property is a shared social good, a street or a road is a shared social good, and our public health system is a shared social good. Unfortunately we are so fractured that we don’t see all this as ours. No wonder we throw wastes on our roads because we don’t really see the road as ours. We are not interested in our public health system because we don’t really see it as ours, which is why it is in shambles. We can have a shared common goal, or a shared vision, only if we as a people are one.

To be a cohesive team, and to have a common, shared vision, we have to start by first accepting that we have differences, that we have walls, barriers. Then, we have to start working towards removing these differences. Perhaps a great way to start making amends. Let us not sow the seeds of separation. Let us not follow the lessons of differences that we have been taught. And maybe if we stop practicing these differences, in the innumerable ways that we do, then these divisions will not percolate to newer generation.

All humans should hold their own dignity and each and every human should be respected.

This article is a mixture of my opinions and articles on Satyamev Jayate’s Website.

By: Asish Thakur

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