The case of Dr M Mariraj: Caste is all around us

Last Updated: Thu, Jan 11, 2018 11:59 hrs

Doctor in training M. Mariraj, a Dalit doctor and an aspiring surgeon from Tirunelveli, was treated like a peon and subjected to caste-based discriminations while pursuing his Masters in Ahmedabad.

This act only resonates with how Dalit children in most villages are treated even today day by the caste monarchs who are situated at all the higher levels in our systems of education. Our children and their families are forced to clean the toilets, sweep, made to sit out, subjected to physical and verbal abuse to which they are to be tolerant and enduring. Most of my friends ask me if this is worth talking about today. This despite reports like this in the media every second day.

This state of denial is persistent and prevalent throughout the country in all realms of life. We think manual scavenging does not exist in our cities till three worker asphyxiate to death in Bangalore. We see the prevalence of caste today accompanied by a pretence that it does not exist.

Experiences like these are mundane in the lives of Dalits. The video of M. Mariraj and several reports suggest that it's not only an issue of caste, but also language.

This experience of M. Mariraj discloses various levels of oppression. In fact, one of the justifications given by the hospital authorities is that he doesn't understand Gujarati nor Hindi. The question is why should he at all.  Why don't they understand none of the south Indian languages? But how is it that they were able to read his caste perfectly well even as they deny any knowledge of it? Would this happen to a Brahmin Tamil doctor even if he did not speak Gujarati or Hindi?

It is really a joke to believe the when Dr. Pankaj Modi, a professor there, says he had no knowledge of M. Mariraj’s caste when he rattles off the castes of everyone else in the Department. He also marks himself as OBC as if that exonerates him, when we know that the worst abusers of Dalits in contemporary India are OBCs.

The other aspect that should draw our attention is region. A Tamil Dalit from Tirunelveli is in Ahmedabad. Along with caste, language, and region, one should also consider the way our academic systems work exerting and exhibiting power over the students or anybody not just in the lower strata of the system but the lower part of the nation. 

We are now told that M. Mariraj was “undisciplined.” He was irresponsible and does not listen, say other doctors there. Just like in the case of Justice Karnan, we see the rallying together of all the upper castes from the upper parts of the nation to paint the Southern Dalit as a nuisance, a danger.

Implicit in this is the argument that he is not here on merit but because of reservation. Even presuming that any of the allegations are true (and they seem doubtful because of the strict hierarchy of the medical establishment), isn’t it the duty of doctors to train incumbents? They accuse him of absurdities like leaving the operation theatre midway, going on leave without informing his superiors and transferred several times over between units. The results of discrimination so easily becomes the causes of reprisals for Dalit insubordination. Casteism effects such miracles.

M. Mariraj was confronted by a monstrous entity called caste accompanied by weapons of destructions like language, region and strength of hierarchy in his learning space. No doubt the intended spin is now that Dr. Mariraj, like all Dalits, is playing the victim card very well. Some will go on to say that this is mere exaggeration by the media or by Dalit activists or ‘ranting’ Dalit columnists like me. Only a Dalit or anybody in the situation of being ostracised continually will understand the violence of such a discourse.

  Along with all these atrocious factors that have pushed M. Mariraj to commit suicide is the laziness of National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) and all other bodies that M. Mariraj approached seeking help. We see the failure of powers that govern the country and also the failure of Dalit bureaucracy in the country including the president who is nothing else but a mere stamp-justifying Dalit sitting at heights and warming the seat in an air conditioned bungalow.

To a Dalit who is cornered and ridiculed at very moment of life, the existence of a Dalit President and Dalit-protecting policies and institutions is mere news to know. In fact, it only further shows how Dalits are made puppets in the hands of fascists groups and are the breathing robots handled by casteist men and women. 

I personally recognise the fall of democracy, the democracy that we speak of loudly has miserably failed and we live in brutal denial, in a static state which only worsens the situation and for sure will cause many more suicides, daylight murders, rapes and abuses. 

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Dalits, Tamil cinema and Tamil society

Rev. Immanuel Nehemiah is a pastor at two churches in Zuzuwadi, Hosur and Electronic City, Bangalore.

Note: The views expressed in the article are the author’s and not of