Monday, April 16, 2012

Give me ignorance, it’s my birth right

In India, we have three major types of discrimination- that of caste, that of sex and that of religion, in the order specified.  Humans are discriminatory by nature- it’s in their predisposition to align themselves with a group to treat people of other groups with contempt, derision and fear.  Waging war, committing genocide, being xenophobic can be found in nature, even with some higher order mammals.  And human society is quite capable of justifying such behavior, sometimes glamorizing war against people of other kind, teaching them to be contemptible of other religions and caste, all in the name of fighting for your own kind.  

Either it is Nazism, or slavery in United States or caste system in India, they are all based in promotion of one’s own kind at the cost of other kind.  While it is easy to find fault with human gene for group discrimination, I am not sure if our disposition towards ill treatment of women is also genetic in nature or whether it comes wholly from religion and traditions.  Whether the roots lie in our animal ancestry or in our religion and traditions, it is generally agreed that most of these discriminations get their legitimacy from the way society influences its individuals.

It is not easy to combat these influences.  As a general rule, it takes the right kind of training and education from a civilized state to overcome the innate nature of man to wage war, to discriminate his fellow being, and his acquired nature to ill-treat the woman.  It becomes all the more tough to reverse the other kind of training, the wrong kind, which is continuously in progress – by the parents and by the society that continue to perpetuate these age old prejudices.  Most people form contempt for other castes and other religions, and most men tend to learn to treat women as inferior, because they pick up the lessons from their own parents, their relatives, and the neighbors. 

It becomes the duty of the civilized state to train its young men and women the right way, imparting the right education, so that they don’t become discriminatory in their lives, so that they don’t perpetuate the prejudices of their parents, so that they are armed with a rational and logical argument to combat such discriminatory influences coming from everyone around them.  However, India has consciously chosen to let its young men and women be ignorant, be in the dark, be prejudiced, so that the discrimination perpetuates. 

Its goes without saying that young men and women in India are incapable of dealing with reservations-based-on-caste, and that’s because there are NO classroom discussions or lessons dealing with that topic.  The biases are picked up from prejudiced parents, neighbors and peers.   Today, we see a large scale and massive segregation program against Muslims in India and there are no attempts to see the problem square in the eye.   The woman continues to be a second class citizen deprived of dignity and equal rights; and men are relentless.

The answer to why India cannot fight these discriminations in an effective way can be found in the way our young men and women are being molded.   Here I illustrate a reaction towards education on sex and religion from our young generation.  These young people are in their undergraduate programs.  Typical age for undergraduates in India is between 17 and 22.  Most countries consider such young men and women as adults, but not India.    A recent article in THE HINDU asks:

Should highly controversial content be prescribed in the undergraduate syllabus?  Are undergraduate mature enough to understand highly controversial text?

I would have assumed that such questions would be nonsensical.  Most countries would have dealt with controversial topics in the school itself.   My niece growing up in US had controversial topics like slavery and civil rights movement discussed by the time she was ten.  Most adolescents in the West already have education on sex.  Holocaust and its effects are discussed unabashedly in the schools of Germany.  So, how come Indians think that an undergraduate student cannot deal with topics on sex and religion?  

Is it also the same reason why we go on banning books, movies and plays because we think we are incapable of dealing with such topics in our adult social life?  Is it the same reason why Mamta Bannerjee takes up the role of a censor board banning newspapers in public libraries and arresting those who send cartoons that ridicule her?

One student writes:

The board should consider what the students want.  If the students are unhappy, the board must make changes in the syllabus.

Imagine this: the entire lot of students who find mathematics a tough subject vote to remove mathematics from school education.  Shall we take a vote on how many Indians actually want to take driving lessons?  Wouldn't they prefer skipping such classes altogether? 

Another student writes:

As if textbooks are the only source of a student’s information!

So where does the young generation plan on learning about sex?  From the internet pornography?  Where every woman is seen as a ready receptacle devoted to the esteemed male organ?  Or from the Indian movies?  Where eve-teasing is considered cool? Where the man who ill-treats the woman bags her in the end?  Or from the neighborhood in rural India?  Where a man makes it a hobby and favorite pastime to beat up his wife every day without remorse? Or from the immediate family which celebrates birth of a son but not that of a girl?

I am not sure where these kids would learn to treat women as an individual with equal rights, overcome their caste based discrimination, and combat their prejudice against other religions?  If not in school, where else?  If undergraduate program is also seen as too early, I am not sure when these Indians would grow up to tackle and face these ‘uncomfortable’ topics?  

As a young boy, I learnt about reservations-based-on-caste from the people around me.  I picked up so much junk that I used it in debates with my father arguing against the concept of reservations.  I did not hear a single word what he said.  Not only that, my prejudices against religion were so strong then, it made me a hero during the holidays that followed Babri Masjid demolition.  I spoke so forcefully that it won me many friends and only few foes.  Of course, all the people around me were from the same religion, and equally prejudiced as I was. 

But later, I made attempts to understand this all. I dropped my prejudices and biases to learn and reason, and the picture that emerged was so different that I realized what a fool I have always been.  I asked myself, why was I not taught all this in a classroom?  Why did I have to know about caste-based-reservations from the street?  Why did I have to learn the real stuff so late, and why all by myself?  Why was there no help?  Why did it not come easy to me? 

Why do the kids in United States get to learn about slavery and civil rights movement while at the same age I was wondering why this one kid stood up in class whenever there was a handout for scholarship?  And why was this kid so ashamed to get up?

Could I have not understood why we have reservations-based-on-caste if someone taught me all this?  Of course, I would have.  I would have learnt these things the easy way, and I would have been armed with rationale and reason and maybe I would have been spared the agitations that arose when the recommendations from Mandal Commission were implemented.

Some students write:

Texts on religion or anything sexual must be avoided.  We students don’t need to learn about them at this age.

Students at the undergraduate level are usually not mature enough…

Indians, the young and old, are consciously avoiding all the right kind of training, choosing to be ignorant, glowing in their prejudices, crowning themselves with their biases, and celebrating their discriminatory attitudes as if India won all the World Cups in cricket.  

No good will come out of this conscious choice to remain ignorant of the topics which concern all of us in our social lives.  Our refusal to grow up has consequences.  Our books will be burned, our plays will be banned, and our authors and painters will be forced to flee the nation - as it is happening right now.  We will create youth that is not socially responsible, unable to understand the complex social topics, refusing to deal with them head on, and instead trying to find solutions in quick-fix formula provided by equally naïve leaders like Anna Hazare.  Meanwhile, our politicians will continue to act as moral police to censor what they think is not appropriate for immature Indian audience.  They will control what we see, what we hear and what we read.  The wolves will rule and the sheep will pay the price. 


  1. Very good post. There are so amn y other topics like the Kashmir Issue which I think should be part of our school syllabus.

  2. Excellent writeup Sujal..
    I was thinking on the same lines the past few days too..
    great work.

  3. You missed one category. The learned treat others with contempt and derision. In reality these are not learned but hypocrites who think they are learned.

  4. "Those who cannot learn from history are condemned to repeat it": George Santayana.

    Pretending that something did not happen or does not exist is the quickest shortcut to "moronism".

  5. "Give me ignorance, it’s my birth right
    In India, we have three major types of discrimination- that of caste, that of sex and that of religion, in the order specified."

    No need to read any further. I agree with you Sujai. There is too much discrimination in India and the US. Sooooooo oppressive!! Lets cut through the ignorance once and for all. We need a revolution. We should learn from the muslim majority countries. In those countries (which are mostly theocracies) they really love their minorities. They are all like mini utopias. We should all become like them.


    What do you say "moderator".. since you are the only one who will ever see this comment maybe I should just start speaking directly to you :))

  6. I do agree with some parts of the post...but still think, it's lopsided. Problem of discrimination can be found in every nation (developed or otherwise), kind may differ. I would say formal education has little to do with decrease in such perception, it's more about how society moulds (refer racial discrimination & sexual abuse cases statistics wherein you will find developed countries on the wrong side even after considering unreported cases in developing economies). Further, most of the population (list incl. names like Narayanmurthy, Ratan Tata etc.) will agree reservation or the way they are imparted, require a change

  7. The primary cause of discrimination is IDENTITY. Over the period differences in IDENTITIES lead to complex.
    Can all human begins on earth give all kinds of identities except humanity?
    Then there is no need for reservation. Conversely any kind of empowerment will not remove discrimination. At the most roles will be reversed. Today's oppressed will become oppressors in next milleinium.

  8. "Those who cannot learn from history are condemned to repeat it": George Santayana.

    Exactly. Sujai you also need to look at the history of muslim rule in India and also of islam in general:

  9. good one sujai, though with a small disagreement."

    "I am not sure where these kids would learn... ..If not in school, where else?"

    Do you think so. I do not. To make schools capable of teaching these things the schools and the educational system, alongwith its academics should have the right political sense, which makes political literacy a must. Without that, our schools would fail in this.

    I can admit that it is somewhat a vicious circle.


  10. >>> I can admit that it is somewhat a vicious circle

    I do agree some extent that many of our establishments are run with vested interested.

    But why do we look towards government only for everything that happens in the country?

    What happened to "Society"? From the time beginning has humans learnt everything in schools only?
    Organized and administered educational institutes are hardly 200 year old. Were people ignorant prior to that?

    I strongly believe that we, even educated, stopped thinking and keep blaming somebody always.
    How many software and finance professionals have time today to teach morals to their children? Even if they have time, they are worried about kids future growth in terms of wealth and comfort.


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