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Web Exclusive | Caste and colour in cricket

Web Exclusive | Caste and colour in cricket
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First Published: Mon, Jan 28 2008. 08 44 AM IST

Raj Liberhan, director, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi
Raj Liberhan, director, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi
Updated: Mon, Jan 28 2008. 08 44 AM IST
Indians have done it again. For long a subject race, we have upped the ante and the shoe is now firmly on the other foot. We have been accused of being racists by the white man. Difficult to imagine that one would live to see the day when the white man is feeling the heat of the superior ‘ brown sahib’. The hunter has become the hunted, and in his own land. This is just not cricket according to the white man’s standards.
Raj Liberhan, director, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi
The issues involved are fundamentally laughable, were it not for the serious and grave demeanours of the busybodies who are ubiquitously referred to as the Cricket administrators in the countries involved. These gentlemen in their sombre dark suits with expressions to match have brought otherwise healthy sporting rivalries to a sorry pass. The media naturally joined the party and the pitch has become even harder to bat on.
In such a scenario, bouncers flew apace and got angrier still. The screams got louder for the sacking of the umpire, a fellow brown one at that and with this was coupled a national cry to get our team back without any further ado. The subtle art of spin was forgotten in the dialogue of the aggrieved and our off- the- field, uncharacteristic display of aggression inflamed passions all around.
No balls, wide balls or chukkers - everything was lobbed into the Sydney cricket ground and in the intense heat of the moment, good sense and reason was out for no score.
Who cast the first stone? Nobody knows, nor does it matter really. One more wound in the body of the game. Not fatal surely but enough to scar. Everyone appears to have forgotten, including the Australians, that we are casteists to the core, certainly not racist. This transformation has within its womb to threaten the social fabric of our sovereign country and that is why this hue and cry to get our team back before our divided society cracks.
The Australians could not have known that apart from an abiding belief in the superiority of the Aryan race, our alleged progenitors, have never seriously propagated the brown man’s preeminent precedence either in the possession of a refined DNA or a palpably higher IQ. Infact such a proposition has not even been mutely suggested in our international behaviour.
For heaven’s sake, we are casteists, not racists. Racism is a disease reserved for those, thanks to whom the word Apartheid came into existence. We have reams of evidence, ranging from the divine to the human to prove this. Hundreds of years ago, we were ordained to divide ourselves along assigned roles determined by birth and have stayed the course.
The stratified system has all the embedded prejudices of creed and sect, and sex but colour, only very little of colour, in as much as the universally preferred complexion is fair. For some reason fairness has been a mental block for a large section of our countrymen. It is the colour of preference amongst all bride seekers. It is also the colour of last preference in our dealings. Everything that works in my favour is fair and all else is darkened with taint of one reason or the other.
In fact, we have modified the rule of law to rule in favour of the law and in the absence of this happening, the mighty have been known to conveniently change the law. But these are small issues and we should not miss the big picture which shows the practicing casteists still holding sway on the affairs of our society.
Marriages, tenancies, elections, for all of these, the starting point is looking up the caste configuration. It is one bind you cannot get out of, unless you take another birth and this as we all know is complicated, to say the least. You also cannot convert to break free, because even amongst the converted the original tag tends to live on.
You do not afterall become a Brahmin through conversion nor can you give up your vaishiya status through renunciation. The same logic applies to all the other castes. Brother, are we stuck with the tag! To whom the Gods ordain, no human may alter, and that’s the way it is going to be. It is not a rigid system, as you imagine it to be.
A couple of thousand years of meditation, without human contact could get you off the look, if you were intent on it. Then again, at the end of the thousand year’s effort, it may not happen. It is strictly a matter of divine pleasure. That is why, most of us have stayed within the allotted Rs.varna’.
Any dim witted person who looks at this weight of historical and theological evidence would never dream of labelling any member of his/her tribe as Rs.racist’ in a pejorative sense. After all did we not get only the brown umpire sacked and left the white one unscathed. Now, is this racism? Not by a long shot. It is only discrimination, and we can live with that, but the Australians willl find it hard to live with their victory as only one team played cricket.
Raj Liberhan is Director of the India Habitat Centre at New Delhi. Send your reactions to socionomics@livemint.com
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First Published: Mon, Jan 28 2008. 08 44 AM IST