A few years back (I was 23-24 then), I was visiting a friend in his office.
My friend, who was a good ten years older than me, ran a respectable mid sized business and at that time he employed around 100-120 people in his company. He had a manufacturing set up and his employees were split between the blue collar operators and the white collar staff, which is typical of any manufacturing unit.
As I entered his cabin, my friend was busy in a discussion with one of his Managers. He greeted me and motioned me to sit as their discussion continued.
They were discussing the applicants of a new recruitment they were making for the post of an Assistant Manager.
They had a bunch of resumes scattered around on the desk of people whose interviews were taken and it appeared the selection process was on.
The Manager picked up one of the resumes and said, “This is by far the best profile we have got. He fits the bill perfectly. His education qualifications and experience is just what we wanted”.
My friend looked at the resume and said, “Nah, not this one, who is the next one?”
So the Manager picked up another resume and said, “He is okay, he might be able to do the job, but I am not sure. He is definitely not as good as the first one”
My friend said, “Okay lets hire this one. We will train him for a few months and he should be alright”
The Manager frowned a bit and said, “But you know the first guy is damn perfect, we wont even need to waste anytime training him. He will fit like a glove”
My Friend suddenly got angry and said, “Abbey bola na, not him. Wo Kamble hain” (His surname was Kamble)
The Manager said, “Oh yes… okay we will go with this one then” and he left.
When the Manager left, I asked my Friend, “If the first guy was so good, why didnt you hire him?”
My friend told me in a very patronising tone, “Arey baba, wo Kamble hain ….”
I still did not get it, so I asked him, “So what if he is a Kamble?”
My friend almost did a facepalm as if he was talking to a 5 year old kid, “He is a Kamble. Mahar (Dalit) hain wo….They are not fit for such jobs”
I was taken aback. At that time, I was not that well versed with associating surnames with castes, since I had not been brought up in that way. I hadnt figured out that Kamble was a Dalit surname.
“But you have many Dalits working on your shopfloor, dont you?”, I asked my friend
“Haan Baba, they are good for shopfloor jobs. Make them operators, drivers, sweepers, cleaner…..but dont hire one as a Manager, they are totally useless for that”, he told me in the same patronising tone.
This incident was perhaps my first encounter with reality.
At that time, I was quite surprised to learn that such discrimination existed even in the Metros amongst educated people coming from a socially progressive class (supposedly). Today I get surprised when people are seen to be in a denial that caste discrimination exists in India.
But facts are facts.
The only reason a person gets tied up to a jeep and hit by iron rods is because he is a Dalit.
The only reason a guy is denied marriage with a girl when they both are in love is because he is a Dalit.
The only reason why a person does not get a job in a private firm and someone lesser qualified supercedes him is because he is a Dalit.
The only reason why people still have to drink water out of a separate well is because they are Dalits.
The only reason someone gets beaten to death for attending a Garba festival is because he is a Dalit.
The only reason a woman is denied a household job of cooking food in someone else’s house is because she is a Dalit.
The only reason some of the basic necessities are denied to a particular community is because they are Dalits and somehow the Upper caste people think these people are below their status purely because of the surnames that they carry and nothing else.
Once we understand these harsh realities of real life, we will also understand why the Dalits retaliate in the way they do.
We are quite happy leading our own peaceful lives, going to offices, earning our livelihood, getting our fixed salaries at the end of every month while the downtrodden have to fight for their basic rights every moment of their lives.
We are unhappy when our, that one day of peaceful life, is disrupted by those people whose every day is a disruption, with the hope that there might be a peaceful existence coming their way….someday.
Yes, we have a right to be happy and we have a right to be unhappy about such disruptions too. But dont these people have a right to be happy too?
Or is it that they are supposed to be unhappy all their lives ….. because they are Dalits?
Btw, that businessman friend of mine, he is no longer my friend. 🙂
Disclaimer: People born with privileges do not understand the lives of those who are born without any basic rights, forget privileges.