Wilberforce and the Caste system: By Joseph Dâ€™souza, International President, Dalit Freedom Network, President, All India Christian Council
22 Mar 2007
The West is commemorating the bicentennial of the abolition of the slave trade law that began the process of dismantling slavery in the modern world. William Wilberforce a parliamentarian, a friend of the then Prime Minister Pitt and a Christian human rights activist led the struggle against slavery in the British Parliament all his life. The new film 'Amazing Grace' is being released on March 23rd in London, which marks the 200th year of the abolition of the slave trade in the British empire.
Did Wilberforce have anything to say on caste discrimination and Dalits? Yes, he spoke on the caste system and untouchability in the British Parliament 200 years ago and described caste discrimination against Dalits as akin to slavery. Speaking on the caste system, he said, 'The institution of caste is a system at war with truth and nature'.
If Wilberforce were alive today he would describe Dalits as modern slavery's biggest challenge. It is not enough for us to hide behind the statements that we have all kinds of laws against discrimination of Dalits. Caste discrimination is a mindset, a worldview of fellow human beings and what family and society constructs for us as we grow up as children. If children are constantly told about their 'jat'(caste), if popular bollywood movies talk about 'jat'and if cultural events are built around people of certain 'jatis'( castes) then caste slavery will not vanish. Bonded child labourers, girl trafficking, and 100000 cases of atrocities against Dalits is a symptom of the problem but not the disease. The disease is the caste system.
The upper castes hypocritically are quick to raise the issue of racism, take for example the recent TV episode connected with Shilpa Shetty in UK, but so blind about the blatant racism against the Dalits within our own nation.
The question has to be asked, 'Why is it that the upper castes have not led a movement for the abolishing of the caste system for 3000 years when the disastrous effect on national development, unity, progress and economy due to caste discrimination is plain?'
If Wilberforce were alive today he would be leading a global campaign to abolish the caste system. What are you doing about this? 03/21/07