Battle Against Casteism

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Bini Dahal

The caste system is an inherent characteristic of the Hindu religion, exclusive to this faith. Hindus are grouped into distinct castes based on their occupations and duties, with four primary categories: Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras. The notion of casteism is prominently articulated in the Manusmriti, which posits that human beings originate from various body parts, each designated for specific tasks.

Spanning a history of 3,000 years, this system continues to persist, primarily marred by the discrimination it engenders. This issue remains notably prevalent in the South Asian region, encompassing Nepal and India, among others, often taking the form of verbal slurs and discriminatory actions. Globalisation has led people to migrate and settle in various parts of the world while retaining the traditions they learned in their childhood. Among these traditions, the caste system is one that many still uphold.

Recently, California achieved a significant milestone by becoming the first U.S. state to pass legislation prohibiting caste-based discrimination. This event has been marked as a victory against casteism. Dalits from the South Asian diaspora have shared their experiences of mistreatment in workplaces, social settings, and education. Media reports have highlighted instances where privileged castes discriminated against Dalits, even leading to lawsuits, such as the case of discriminatory behaviour by the so-called 'high caste' managers against a Dalit engineer by paying lower wages.

In Nepal, legislation addressing caste-based discrimination and untouchability has been enacted, banning such practices in both public and private spheres. The country's constitution explicitly states that no person shall face discrimination or untouchability based on caste, religion, tribe, community, profession, occupation, or physical condition. Nevertheless, the grim reality persists, as past news stories have exposed hostility towards individuals from lower castes, depriving them of their freedoms and rights. Even young children are indoctrinated into these practices.

As we transition from one year to the next, it remains crucial to protect our ancient cultures and traditions. However, it is equally imperative to scrutinise whether a particular tradition is beneficial or detrimental. Harmful traditions must be eradicated, even if it necessitates legal intervention. Caste-based discrimination remains a stain on our society, obstructing progress and inflicting trauma, especially on those in lower-tier caste groups. This system perpetuates the erroneous and problematic notion of superiority and inferiority.

Regrettably, traces of casteism continue even among the educated, evident in various facets of life. The recent court ruling in a foreign country, devoid of a caste system, serves as a powerful lesson. It is heartening to see international recognition and action against caste-based discrimination, such as California's groundbreaking legislation. This demonstrates that the fight against casteism is not limited to specific regions but resonates globally as a human rights issue. Also it motivates us to completely eliminate this issue from our society. We must transform our mindset, recognising that every individual has the right to live in society with equality and dignity.

Efforts to combat this issue necessitate a multifaceted approach, encompassing not only legislation but also comprehensive education and awareness campaigns. Instilling values of equality, inclusivity, and respect for all, regardless of their caste or background, is essential. Embracing and implementing this principle can diminish ignorance and foster a more harmonious society.

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