Thursday, 22 May 2014

Is caste an issue ?

Paalaguttapalle (Dalitwada) 

It look years of living with the community as a neighbour, as a friend for some realities to fall in place.

The caste system and untouchability are different. Nobody resents their caste, and the caste is also a strong community concept, with substantial support networks built in. Untouchability when practiced is seen as demeaning, and is indeed deeply demeaning.

Caste gives stability and support to a community. It gives them a social identity and a support network in needs like employment and health. People gather together at marriages, deaths and other functions and the community bonds are reinforced. Caste also gives different communities, under an overarching framework, freedom to practice their customs and beliefs. Often castes live in separate settlements. The Maalapalle is separate, and like other castes, the Maalas are quite satisfied staying in their own space.

There are many occasions where in a caste based society, caste is irrelevant. Anandiah is the priest at the Aanjaneyalu temple in the Reddy village of Varadappanaidupeta. The Maalapalle washerman, though lower in caste, is the priest in all the Maalapalle Gangamma functions. In the Bharatam story and drama celebrations, caste divisions do not exist. All castes together pull the tapasu maanu pole during the Bharatam. Woman of all castes together circle the tree in dripping clothes to pray for a child. In case of snake bites, all people come to Bhagavanthayya to his hut in Maalapalle. People come to Maalapalle to Annapurna to get their blouses stitched. When Vasantamma was working in Venkataraamapuram, she made friends with some upper caste women who would even borrow her gold earrings for weddings.

Untouchability is another story. It is resented deeply.

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