With their “purity quotient” not matching the fancies of priests, 450 Dalit households of Tiloli village in Rajasthan’s Bhilwara district were subjected to ignominy by being told to have cow urine and dung for purification to be able to participate in a yajna ceremony.
This is 2009. We win laurels for scientific endeavours, reach space, but are still caught in a time warp.
Often such news does not go beyond making us cringe, that too over the reference to excrement. We get more bothered about how to deal with terrorism, how to fight, how to score points, how to snivel before the superpowers…
The crime mentioned in the report is in many ways worse, because it kills the souls of people, it creates deeper fissures in society and it demeans our own citizens.
India has progressed at many levels, but why can we not solve these entrenched outdated values from being discarded? What great leaps can we claim to make when we falter at every step in our own backyard?
Part of the problem is the unholy hold of religion in society. Even the Dalits, who were outcastes and made themselves acceptable by embracing the all-encompassing Dalit identity, want to be a part of the parent religion and participate in the rituals that even earlier discriminated against them.
We can blame human prejudice, but many of the differences are there in the scriptures; they may have been there to merely highlight certain cultural aspects but, as we know, religious texts get interpreted to suit whoever runs the show at a given time.
A cow that must have spent time in filth is more acceptable than a human of an economically disadvantaged group. This cow’s urine and dung is going to purify the Dalits, because the cow is worshipped. Suppose one was to go along, would this temporary purity take away the inherent low status of these people?
I know that priests in temples urinate and defecate in the patch of green behind the temples. Do they not defile the place? What about impure acts and thoughts of high-caste worshippers?
The problem is that all of us have become immune to these acts. It is as though we now accept that ‘Dalit’ is only a politically correct word to use; the attitude towards them has not changed and never will.
If that were so, then instead of the Dalits asking to participate in the yagna, they would have filed a report in the police station and the cops would have been forced to act and arrest the priests.
Will that ever happen?