APPOLOGY FOR HINDU UNTOUCHABILITY
The following is an apology forwarded by ‘Navya Shastra Organisation’ to the untouchables (avarnas) of India, as I found in the Hindu Press International (HPI), December 21, 2006. Navya Shastra Organization Apologizes for Untouchability - www.shastras.org www.shastras.org
*TROY, MICHIGAN, December 20, 2006: (HPI note: The following appeared as a press release written by Navya Shastra and sent out through Religion News Service.)Navya Shastra, the international Hindu reform organization, has issued an apology to the Dalit communities of India. The organization issued the apology after consulting with Hindu activists and its own Dalit members. It reads:We, at Navya Shastra, deeply regret and apologize for the atrocities committed on the sons and daughters of the depressed communities of India, including the tribals, the "untouchables" and all of the castes deemed as low. We shamefully acknowledge that the ideals of varna and its practical manifestation in castes (jatis), promoted and encouraged the notions of inequality, lesser and greater, high and low, superior and inferior among human beings. An ideal that does not aspire for equality of human beings is not worthy of being an ideal. Caste and varna have relegated many to a degradingly low status. This was a divisive, inhumane and a ruinous social construct. Navya Shastra fully recognizes this and rejects unequivocally as heinous and despicable varna and caste together with all Shastras and theories that endorse them or support the unjust and demeaning social hierarchy that these imposed on the Indian society. Navya Shastra understands that all Hindus cannot be equals when such theories are still amidst us. We ask for forgiveness for what our forefathers did in the past to directly and indirectly contribute to any and all indignities heaped by one human being upon another in the name of Dharma and God, and which some among us continue to do even in this enlightened era. The depressed and lowest castes have been the keepers and protectors of our oldest and most ancient traditions and wisdom. They have kept in practice the traditions that have become foundational to what we call "mainstream" Hinduism today. Some of the tribal languages, spoken even today, have provided the substratum for many of the spoken and classical languages of India. Most of our mainstream indigenous medicinal, agricultural, craftsmanship and other knowledge systems owe their origins to the knowledge and practices that have been propagated and retained within these castes over millennia. The folk performing arts were and are the main sources of input into the classical and popular art forms. We want to celebrate and fete all these traditions on this day, and pay homage to them. These traditions form the very foundation on which the Indian civilization stands today.
Navya Shastra,(NSO) I hear for the first time, seemingly a neo-upper-caste Hindu organization took birth in the United States of America is apparently trying to come clear of their forefathers’ atrocious and baseless denigration of India’s majority as ‘untouchables’ in the name of the most unwilling for that, the God. As the first of this kind, the apology deserves attention and the offer should stand until the untouchables of India find this change of heart felt in their real life.
The following are some of the concerns in this regard
How can an academic reformation waged on the electronic and print media as of NSO bring change of mind in those who have no access to such gadgets and opportunities The following recent news-clips are proof that the organization that started functioning since 2003 still remain obscurant on the Indian scene and that the untouchables have to go a long way to find real solutions to their problems.
Educated Dalits Speaking Out ( www.rediff.com):
Dalits All Set To Enter Orissa Temple (www.ibnlive.com)
Orissa High Court Rules for Dalits www.newindpress.com
Dalit Statue Attack Sparks Hindu Riots in Mumbai (today.reuters.co.uk)
Dalits Threaten to Convert After Being Denied Temple Entry (www.dnaindia.com)
In a historic court battle, according to HPI (September 1,2006), Hindu American Foundation (HAF), et al., v. California State Board of Education, et al, Case No. 06 CS 00386, though Judge Patrick Marlette of the California Superior Court upheld HAF's claim that the textbook (sixth grade, social studies) adoption process was flawed and illegal, “he held the view that the textbooks were not necessarily illegal in terms of the standards set forth by the education code”. This was because as HAF claimed that the contents in those books, misrepresented caste as central to Hinduism, devalued the role of women and stated that the “debunked Aryan Migration Theory was a fact, ” were not "grossly inaccurate". Certainly the content is not going to help the young Hindu Californian learners to be proud Indians.
If Navya Sastra Organisation’s reforms can eliminate the shame sustained on Hinduism in India and abroad then that should be welcomed.
But if its efforts are confined within the media and not reaching out to where the atrocities are fiercely felt covertly and overtly it is another wasted academic exercise.
WISH YOU ALL A MERRY XMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR