Casteism bodes ill for our future

The unprecedented tsunami that caused enormous loss of life and massive damage in South Asia, including South India has been a national disaster. Besides the shock at the death and destruction that it caused, I was anguished to read in the newspapers that even in this extreme catastrophe some people living in our coastal areas were refusing to eat and share their food with dalits.

It is extremely distressing that even such a massive tragedy which shattered the coastline and thousands of buildings, was not able to break the shackles of discrimination and casteism that remain a curse on Hindu society. One would have expected that half a century after freedom there would have been a change in the mindset of the community, but it is dismaying to read reports of such obscurantism.

Vedanta, the crest jewel of Hinduism, teaches us that the entire universe is pervaded by the same divine force “Isha vasyamidam sarvam”. The Bhagavad Gita says that the Lord resides in the heart of all being “Ishwarah sarva-bhootanam hriddeshe tishthati”. Lord Shiva himself appeared to Adi Shankaracharya at the Vishwanath Temple, Varanasi, as Chandala.

Social reformers from the time of Raja Rammohan Roy, and religious leaders like Swami Vivekananda have thundered against the ill-conceived prejudices reflected in caste discrimination. And yet caste prejudices flourish and large sections of the Hindu community are still impervious to the higher thinking.

This is also reflected in the predominance of caste considerations in electoral politics, particularly in North India, where election tickets to Parliament and State Assemblies are now openly allotted on the basis of caste. Affirmative action in favour of traditionally disadvantageous sections of society is one thing, but institutionalisation of casteism at all levels of society bodes ill for the future.

Although we roundly condemn communalism, rampant casteism is no less a threat to the development of an enlightened society in our great country.

Dr KARAN SINGH, MP (Rajya Sabha) & Chairman, Ethics Committee, Parliament House Annexe, New Delhi



The bitter truth

Though much has been written about the vacillating policy on sugar, the Centre remains indifferent to people’s hardship. Sugar is becoming costlier day by day. The bitter truth, though sugarcoated, is that the Centre has succumbed to sugar magnates, ignoring the common man for whom sugar has now become a luxury. The editorial “Sugar turns bitter” (Jan 12) aptly warms that “the import of the commodity cannot provide a long-term solution, particularly when it is going to be costlier in the international market.”

Only prompt action to remove this man-made shortage will show that the government means business. Or is it too much to expect from the powers that be?

D.V. JOSHI, Bartana (Zirakpur)

Encroachers return

As soon as the Punjab Government and the Municipal Corporation of Patiala finished work on widening of the road and pavements from Thikriwala Chowk to YPS roundabout in Patiala, the encroachers are back. The biggest culprits are taxi owners, doctors and some sanitary and hardware shops. It is becoming difficult for us to even walk on the footpaths, specially in the evenings.

The Traffic Police are mute spectators to fruit-selling rehries who force the pedestrians to walk on the main roads. One wonders for whose benefit lakhs of rupees have been spent on road widening.

J.K. DULLAT, Patiala

Talk to farmers

While farmers are agitating for their sugarcane dues, which have not been paid for the last three years, the government is importing sugar, causing sudden price rise. The Centre and the states should take a realistic view of the situation and control the situation by holding negotiations between the millers and the farmers.

M.P.S. RANDHAWA, Dhapai (Kapurthala)

Creating enduring traditions

Statements of national leaders like the one by President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam during a visit to Kargil not only reassures the defence personnel that the nation cares for them but also inspires the younger generation by helping them appreciate the role played by the armed forces in nation building. Having lived in the US for a few years now, we are impressed to see how the American people and their national leaders adore the US armed forces.

At least twice a year, on events like the ‘Memorial Day’ and ‘Veterans Day’, the American President leads the nation from the front in paying tributes to the brave personnel who have given their lives during wars and to those who have served their nation honorably during peacetime as well.

We can appreciate how such a national show of gratitude creates enduring traditions that keep the spirits of the armed forces and the nation high. President Kalam having set the tone, we urge the national leadership in India to emulate this good practice on special occasions.



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