TODAY -

Submissiveness Of We Indians

Maisnam Bomcha *

Caste system of Hinduism in India



We must thank our star that Shantidas Gosain failed to sell the caste system of Hinduism to the people of Manipur though the king and hence the subject embraced the religion.

Thinking about why we Indians as a whole are such a submissive people, I recalled a telephone conversation I had some time back. This friend was at that time on deputation to the UN and was commanding Indian troops in Haiti. Speaking about the fiercely independent nature of the black Taino aborigines of Haiti, he narrated the long history of independence of the place. About it being the oldest black republic and about Haiti defeating the French under Napoleon in 1804 and becoming independent of foreign colonialism which started in 1492 by the Spanish.

He told me of an interesting way of begging of the locals which according to the narration sounds more like a command than begging. The local Taino people address all foreigners, 'Blan' French for white. A beggar would just plainly ask all foreigners, "He Blan, give me a dollar" as a way of asking for alms. He is not afraid and his pleadings are devoid of undue servile submissions. About the people back at home he remarked, "The long foreign rule and late independence have made Indians such a subjugated people ".

To me the Mughals, the English and the Caste system are to a large extent responsible for the 'Ji Hujur' submissiveness of the Indians in general. When I talk of Indians in general, I mentally exclude the NE region broadly, not because of any dislike to be associated with the mainstream; but purely because of historical and geographical reasons.

I also do not subscribe to the popular usage of the term 'mainland', people take recourse to, when we, from the NE describe people particularly from the Hindi belt of India. Fortunately, narrowing down to own roots, Manipuris were not subjected to the above factors that led to a slow but sure obliteration of basic human traits that people are born free and should live equal. In this too, I do not have any misplaced pride; no human deserves to be born and exist with mental shackles, imposed by dogmas and inheritance.

Collectively, our submissiveness is diminishing gradually and not apparent outwardly. More so while dealing with people of own strata and standing in society. Individually, in relation to another human of a different class and standing and a foreigner (read of the fair colour), an average Indian is still so submissive that sometimes it borders on reverence. Do not confuse this with courtesy.

Centuries of subjugation has altered our mind-set to unconsciously accept our unwillingness to exert ourselves and be self-deluded that unquestioned acceptance of social norms however illogical is a good virtue. Coming to foreigners, our foreigner fixation: of that rapacious creed out to harm our collective interest, ironically is partly a result of that very undue superior status we voluntarily reserve for them; combined with the colonial era mind-set we still are so beset with. Sometimes the fixation hinges on xenophobia born out of an intrinsic complex. Smart and unscrupulous government think-tanks gleefully exploit the 'foreign hand' syndrome every time a dispensation is mired in trouble.

The Indian caste system is as old as the Vedas. The Rig Veda which is dated somewhere between 1500 to 1000 BC mentions the division of the people, Purush, into four sections according to their assumed origin and thus assigned a kind of work deemed to be done by them. Imagine the damage the system might have done to the collective psyche of the people over the centuries, if a recent example of a high priest of Venaras justifying a man of lower caste sitting at his feet by citing the perceived origin of the Sudras from the feet and that of the Brahmins from the mouth is any pointer.

That too in the 21st century by a man supposed to be highly erudite. It is another matter that the belief of mouth, arms, loins and feet origin of a man is metaphorical and is just a classification of aptitude for work. Nobody saw any person born out of any limb. The Greeks, to be noted, also considered something similar to the caste system. Plato, in his famous dialogue, The Republic, divided the people into three classes - the Commoners, the Soldiers and the Guardians. Only difference being that it catered for up gradation and de gradation of a particular person as per his or her talent.

Sample a direct fallout of the malaise. Nearly 20 years back yours truly visited Chittorgarh, Rajasthan as a guest of a friend who happens to be an indirect descendent of Rana Pratap, the great Rajput. While roaming inside the villages on foot at my insistence, I saw people, even aged ones, stopping and covering their feet. We were youngsters, not even five years in service.

I pondered and told my distinctly embarrassed host that such things happen only in movies. He explained and I have reasons to believe him that the docile people have come to believe, over the centuries, that doing so is their 'duty'. The sick traditions of grandiose dictates of inequality and abject suppression have been passed over reigns from the Mughals to other smaller rulers and onto the British.

Initially the British were abhorrent of the many out rightly ridiculous and cruel practices. But they were quick to know and use them as a means happily gifted to them by the genuflecting locals, to command unquestioning servility. They grew to like 'fashion canning' of the servants more than their Indian pioneers of the trade.

This very British started indirect rule of Manipur only after the war of 1891 whereas the East India Company started direct rule of a large part of India in 1757 after the battle of Plassey. The Mughals from whom ironically the British took over the rule of India never ruled Manipur. Emperor Jahangir allowed the company in Surat and the British finished any vestige of the once great empire; the former by planned deceit of a commercial treaty and the later again by deceit through a certain Mir Jafar.

We must thank our star that Shantidas Gosain failed to sell the caste system of Hinduism to the people of Manipur though the king and hence the subject embraced the religion. We do not harbour the idea of not allowing, inside a temple, the people who does one of the noblest jobs of cleaning peoples' garbage and dirt.

Manipuris have learnt to respect people who work in places of worship but refused to believe that some people are superior by birth and the society at large, as a habit should be meek. I am a practising 'Gaura' and a firm believer at that. However, coming to untouchabality or respect even inside a Mandir, I would endeavour not to touch an Eigya for reasons somewhere between ethics and hygiene; only if I go to a Mandir without a bath after having sex the previous night.


* Maisnam Bomcha wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao (English Edition) as part of "Different People, Different Places, Different Times" column
This article was posted on October 11, 2012.



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