Religion sets social rules and such rules are manifest in religious epics. Based on those holy theologies unholy deeds of prejudice and discrimination still prevail in the new secular republic. Some profane verses in those books cannot be justified. An egalitarian society can exist only when its members are groomed right. Since time immemorial Hindus have been taught discriminatory stuff. Hindu extremists, crying for Hinduism in Nepal, should ask themselves if they, at any point in history, attempted to address this thorny issue of scriptures.
Several struggles have been made by Nepali Dalits just to enter temples. Pashupati temple entrance (in 1954), Siddhakali temple entrance in Bhojpur (in 1964), Nawalparasi temple entrance (in 1990), Dudh Kand (Milk Movement) of Chitwan and Syangja (in 1993) and last year’s Bramhasthan temple entrance movement by Pipariya hamlet Dalits in Rautahat are some emblematic cases. In the backlash, Dalits were tortured, intimidated, ostracized, restricted, thrashed, and sometimes even killed.
Why are temple doors still slammed in Dalits’ face? It is simply due to the bigotry born of unfounded teachings. The proponents of such bigotry quote from their granthas in defense. The first time they are introduced to religion during their Bratabandha, they are taught not to chant Gayatrimantra in front of so-called untouchables. In fact, the fear imposed by such biased teachings has helped promote their faith over critical thinking.
Either in direct language or by insinuation, naive Shudras have been portrayed as despicable and untouchable in different Hindu precepts. The Indian Sub-continent was without varna system in the primitive age, as Shantiparva 107/30 of the Mahabharata says that the primeval people were all equal in caste and clan. Caste-based discrimination started from the Vedic period around 1,500 BC. Evidence suggests that this inhuman practice was introduced in Nepal around the eighth century and it became prominent in the 12th century.
The idea of discrimination was conceived by the Vedas. Rig-Veda X/90/12 (Purushashukta) talks about classification of birth and occupation of people through Varna system. It says that Shudras are created from the feet of Purusha and are destined to serve Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vaisyas just as the feet support other parts of the body.
Vishnupuran 5/11 mentions that grains or food touched by only those Shudras whose wives have served Brahmins can be taken. The verse seems to be basis for exploitation of Shudras. The Shudras are forced to deify the Brahmins. Time and again, the divisions of society as a result of those holy books were imposed by the rulers in the guise of societal change, labor division, development and so on. Shudras were the main agents of feudalistic production. It can be visualized in Dalits who inherit the legacy of labor works, arts and low-skill jobs.
Manu, the so-called Hindu lawgiver, promoted the feudal system in his Manusmriti. Different verses of this book (8/416, 10/96, and 10/129) say that Shudras can’t be owners of property. Their property belongs to those whom they serve. Manusmriti also says that if a Shudra listens to or pronounces even a single word of the Veda, the king has to cut off his tongue and pour ground glass into his ears.
Ban Parva and Anusasan Parva of Mahabharata, Bramhapuran, Atismriti and Maharshi Harit are among a few instances of exploitation of the Shudras. More surprisingly, Gita also says that Shudras are born from Paapyoni, ‘womb of sin’.
Chanakyaneeti Darpan has a number of disturbing hymns where women and Shudras have been defiled or dehumanized as errant and impure. It conveys that Brahmins who eat from Shudras are useless. All these troublesome verses are contrary to Human Rights and are cause for extreme marginalization and deprivation of Shudras who are newly named as Dalits.
Hindu pundits who think of themselves as sole explainers of Hinduism should be worried about disgruntled Shudras converting to Christianity, Buddhism and Islam. Educated new generations will find no reason for adhering to the discriminatory Hinduism. It was the reason why the greatest anti-caste messiah Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar said in a public speech in 1935, “I was born a Hindu which was out of my control, but I will not end up a Hindu.” True, defection is not a solution but still there is a saying, “When everything comes your way, you are in the wrong lane”. Now in Nepal, religion conversion is the best solution for hapless Dalits.
The new constitution should consider either erasing or revising all those bigoted verses in our scriptures and legally ban publications with discriminatory contents. This, I believe, will be a landmark for annihilation of caste-based discrimination.
The author is a Fredskorpset Fellow at Kislay India from Samata Foundation Nepal [email protected]
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