Yep, you read the title right, CASTE SYSTEM IN MALAYSIA. There is a saying that goes,’You can take an Indian out of India but not the India out of the Indian.’ And, in this caste system being applied in Malaysia, this adage rings true. Ooru vittu ooru vanthum, namme aalungge jaathi veri eh kudeve pack panni kootitu vanthutanengge.
Since caste system originated from India, I have to touch a little bit on the case scenario of the caste system in our land of origination. Aryans brought about caste system to South India’s populace known as Dravidians when the the former invaded the land of the latter during ancient times.
The caste system was and still is a tool to subjugate people who are deemed lesser by birth. The general idea of caste system is that all man are born unequal and it is intertwined in the Hindu religion. It is said that the upper castes come from the upper body parts of a primordial/supreme being and lower castes sprang from the lower body parts of the primordial/supreme being.
The Indian constitution, has, since outlawed caste system but there, this law is flouted openly because of the lack of effective authorization and rampant corruption. India, although a secular democratic republic is a land of great divide. Kerala karan ku Tamilan eh kanda aagathu, Tamilan ku Telugu karan eh kanda aagathu, Telugu karan ku Tuluva eh kanda aagathu. Kerala wouldn’t give water to Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh is now in deep internal dissonance – they are demanding state bifurcation, a separate Telangana state. Sekarang mereka sedang berebut Hyderabad, siapa yang berhak ke atas ibu negeri tersebut. And, certainly caste system divides them further. Although caste system is a Hindu attribute, Muslims and Christians in India too practice it. In India’s major urban cities and suburbs, caste system is applied vaguely in housing – people from low castes find it difficult to rent a room/house and people there generally prefer neighbours of their own or higher caste.
In India, people from lower castes are treated worse than cows and pigs. This video is painful.
In India, people of low castes are not allowed to enter temples, churches and mosques, cannot share water from wells and streams and if a low caste person passes by the house of an upper caste person, he/she has to remove their footwear and walk barefooted across the house/street.
How caste system besets Malaysia
In Malaysia, there are certain Indian people who won’t eat or drink water in “low caste” friends’ homes – low caste people often seen as less clean and to think this is happening in a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural country like ours, is beyond tragic and despondent.
Caste system here is most evident when it comes to Indian matrimony. And, fair skin is directly associated with high caste hence this salivate for fair skin, a misconception made indelible in the minds of Indians by the Aryans.
And then, there are caste based NGOs here and it further compounds the problem. Caste system is even applied by politics here – only select people are allowed to rise up to the leadership echelons. For an example, in MIC. The Indian leadership under MIC has not seen a leader with capability to steer the community for socio-economic growth. To date, Malaysian Indians are still plagued with fundamental issues of identity card issues, job opportunities, Tamil schools, poverty, displaced estate workers,university seats, alcoholism, gangsterism, etc.
The root cause for the disparity among the Malaysian Indians is this caste system inherited from India. The recent fiasco over MIC presidential elections is surrounded by the caste support for the top post. The Mukkulathors and Kounders are the dominant caste and the current president is aligning the candidates with the respective caste. Despite their education, the leaders are still playing the caste sentiments in politics. In this context, whom shall we blame for the backwardness of our Indian community?
Are we trying to emulate India in Malaysia? India has a stronghold of 1 billion population; we, an Indian diaspora in Malaysia account for only 8% of the stronghold of 29 million Malaysian population. Already we are divided into different races and sub races, do we need to break it down more? While we are at it, why don’t we indulge in jaathi kalavaram? That would complete the circle wouldn’t it? Ponggeda..
We get livid and absolutely enraged when other races call us pariah and keling. But what do we do internally? Some of us divide ourselves based on caste but if called pariah by the Malays, kovam mattum munthiri kotte maari munnadi vanthu nikkum – some Malaysian Indians curse and shower profanity at the likes of those who supposedly insulted us and then, blissfully ask the caste of the girl or guy they want to marry. Such hypocrisy.
When the Interlok uprising happened, every Indian Tom, Dick and Harry behaved like a white knight. Perhaps it was more of the pride that they are not from lower caste ergo the pathological denial. I am sure many of them are members of caste based NGOs who’s pride got pricked. We clamour for equal rights in Malaysia, oppose racial politics, complain of draconian laws and oppression and then, some of us, vaayi koosama will ask the caste of another Indian, “Neengge enna aalu?” Eeh, manusha aalu! We know some Malay politicians who always say, “Balik India!” Indeed, those Malaysian Indians who draw distinctions among themselves on the lines of caste should go back to India and stay there for all intents and purposes. Santhosama ungge jaathi kaarengge kude kuduthanum nadathungge.
Some Indians here distinguish themselves by caste and then say that 1Malaysia is only a facade by Najib to gloss over all the race based official policies here. Pray tell, what is the difference between you and the man who launched 1Malaysia?
There is a revelation that marrying within one’s caste would preserve the intelligence and desired qualities in the next generations. To ensure the preservation of the authenticity of a caste, the Indian culture of marrying cousins and mom’s brothers, thai maaman was introduced. Biology totally fails here – science has proved the elitist perception wrong. Such practices are equal to inbreeding and many congenital and genetic defects are seen in the children born out of these types of matrimony. Since the gene pool’s proximity is too close and there are not much favourable traits present, natural selection fails to take place resulting in defects, which both mother and father partially carry in their chromosomes afflicting the child sooner or later. When both chromosomes from the mother and father combine in zygote conception, the two partial defects become a complete defect in the child. Congenital heart problems top the list followed by neurological, physical and mental disorders like celebral palsy, dyslexia, Down Syndrome, autism etc.
When you marry a person of a different caste, the genepool gets larger and natural selection has more traits to choose from and it the chances for your child to have defects reduces remarkably. If you see animals, they have specified mechanisms of strata to avoid inbreeding. It is mother nature’s programming and in the fanaticism of caste system, we are going against the laws of nature.
Ancient Egyptian royalty married their own half brothers and sisters in the fallacious belief that it would preserve the purity of their sanguine and propinquity and we all know what happened to Tutankhamen. Sejarah leh padichome.. Maranthupocha? The Egyptians didn’t have science at that time so they are excusable. We live in a science and information age and a globalized world so, what’s our excuse?
Caste system is also vindicated in the form of ‘jaathi butthi’. It means certain castes have certain aptitudes and talents. distinctive to their caste. In the story of Eklavya, Dronacharya asks the hunter archer his right hand thumb as guru dakshanai and Eklavya obliges to his maanasigha guru whom he learnt archery from, in the form of Dronacharya’s statue. It was done because Eklavya surpassed Arjuna in archery and it is dharmic that Arjuna be the greatest archer that ever lived, on par with his Khshatriya caste. Eklavya is of a lower caste and Dronacharya opines that if such a skill is mastered by a low caste person, he is bound to misuse it, thus such a demand. It is like saying ‘Segheppa irukaruvan poi solla maatan.’ Aptitude doesn’t depend on caste – it depends on unique individuality and hard work to polish and hone a skill like Eklavaya did. Ilaiyaraja is from a low caste – didn’t he rock the Tamil movie industry in the 80s? Rajinikanth belongs to the Scheduled Caste, an euphemism for Dalit – didn’t he become an established, celebrated and exemplified actor of Superstar status? His mentor, K.Balachander is a Brahmin – didn’t he take Rajini under his wing?
Some Indians here justify the caste system on the grounds of how oil and water don’t mix, that’s how upper caste and lower caste don’t mix. To all those people, the next time you need to have an emergency blood transfusion, without which you will die in 4 hours, please make it a point to have only the blood of a person of your caste be allowed to transfuse.
We should put being human first and caste last. We make hue and cry here when we are racially discriminated but among ourselves, we discriminate ourselves by employing caste system. Have some compassion and a firm standing – ithu iraivanukke adukkathu.
No matter which caste you belong to, in nature’s eyes, all of us are equal – none of us jumped from the sky by birth and neither anyone of us are immortal. We look different on the outside but inside we are all the same. If nature meant for us to divide ourselves by caste, we’d each have a cap dagang on our foreheads when we were born. Being proud of being born in an upper caste is equivalent of being proud to be born with two kidneys. Your kidneys has diamonds if you are from a high caste ah? Medically, those are kidney stones and just like how they are harmful for health, caste system in Malaysia is pernicious and insidious for the Indian community. Thirunthengge da!