Racial and caste discrimination
DISCRIMINATION: The quest for superiority, primarily over other
species and thereafter over the same species, is a trait common to
almost every living thing on earth.
This is specially so in a species known as Homo sapiens, the
assemblage of a unit, which lived in caves and united themselves against
wild animals but after successfully repelling them, fought amongst
themselves for food and sex.
As man became more civilised and started growing his own food, there
crept in divisions based on colour of the skin, the Gods they worshiped,
the language they spoke and the tribe or the caste that they belonged to
and finally the differences based on the race.
Civilisation and culture has brought about so many divisions and
these divisions have brought about the oppression of the weak resulting
in millions of human beings being killed or maimed.
Thus today, even after millions of years, since evolution and the
process of civilisation and culture, the divisions among the Homo
sapiens has made them more vulnerable to internal attacks based on these
The divisions on the colour of skin, religion professed and the
language spoken and the difference in caste has made people look down
upon others as inferior. What baffles me is to think that millions of
people have died and innumerable wars have been fought due to the
beliefs of superiority.
It is unfortunate and is a matter of interest that the civilisation
process has not contributed to the prevention of various tribal wars,
racial wars and border wars.
They who speak condemning these petty wars when the warring factions
are not within the areas where they live, change their tune as soon as
the war comes to their doorstep and they praise the effort of their
tribe or race and justify the killing of the other tribes or races.
Civilisation is the opposite of savagery and barbarity. Veddhas are
savages like the other aborigines that inherited this earth. The whole
process of being anti-barbaric is to put away our natural instincts,
which draw us to war over sex, status and revenge.
Civilisation is that healing process. We proclaim a 2500-year
civilisation. Unlike the imperialist barbarians who lived in hovels, we
lived in great metropolis buildings and our thoughts were purified by
our great religion Buddhism.
Yet our rate of murder is the highest in the world. There is a
growing debate that the reintroduction of capital punishment would
reduce the crime rate which is assuming gigantic proportions.
Similarly, we are being remonstrated and dictated to by the Western
power blocks, who say that we should unconditionally speak to the
terrorists to find a permanent solution to the ethnic strife, which
engulfs the country.
Within closed doors over a drink they must be discussing the nature
of the majority race refusing to share power with the minority. The
trait of racism, casteism and tribalism would be the subjects of
As one rekindle one's thoughts about the future of Sri Lanka, a sense
of ennui and hopelessness would engulf you, batter you and condemn you
for being a party to the polity of racial disintegration.
Our failure to enlighten the powers on the necessity to share or
devolve power with all other human beings in the island is matter for
Racial hatred is not confined to the ruder races or to those with
little or no learning or those who do not appreciate or accept the
existence of other human beings of other cultures or cults. This is
common to the human species. It is a continuous civilisation process
that has kept many people from becoming racists or people with racial
In Germany, when Hitler took power and destroyed the democratic
institution, he did so with the absolute cooperation of the majority.
Germans were no barbarians.
They had reached the zenith of civilisation. Their contribution to
Western music is unique. It is unbelievable that three great musicians
like Beethoven, Mozart and Bach and to a lesser extent Wagner were
products of German civilisation.
A nation that could listen to the fifth symphony of Beethoven and
would appreciate the very subtle tones of Mozart and the Canons and
Fugues of Bach and appreciate and understand the power and the
subtleties of these great musicians should have an exemplary aesthetic
and cultured mind.
The entire nation was sent into ruptures by these composers. The
whole country waltzed to the Viennese orchestra conducted by Johannas
Strauss and later by his son. It was a common sight to observe ladies
and gentlemen immaculately dressed dancing and waltzing to the tune of
But can the same Germans, who have reached such heights in human
civilisation, decide to eliminate another race - the Jews from the face
of the earth, even at the instance of Hitler.
On the 15th of June, 1933 the concept that the Germans were the
Master Race and destined to rule the world sank into the grey matter of
the German blue-eyed Aryan supremists. What a comforting thought to
believe that your race is the master race which should inherit earth.
"If the blonds and blue-eyed people die out, the human race will
become increasingly dense... Blond hair actually bestows intelligence."
With a unique blend of Nationalism, militarism, and a racial theory that
Germans were a unique people they drove it in that other races could be
dispensed with so as to give room to the Master Race.
It spread like the Gospel among the poor German peasants. They
believed that every one of them was born to rule the world. While the
German propagandists spearheaded the drive to confirm the German
peoples' superiority they also blamed the elite of the First World War
for the country's economic distress. But that was not sufficient.
The supreme enemy must be found. The hate factor, the cruel factor,
found beneath the surface of a civilised race, must be ignited. The hate
factor must be combined with the jealousy factor. The scapegoat must be
The Jews were smarter in their business. They excelled in their
literature. The Germans loved their theatre and cinema. Very few Germans
could compete with the Jews in science.
The result was a hard-line anti-Semitism. It was a misfortune to
become a Jew or a black or a homosexual, a gypsy or any other minority.
This was the propaganda blitz so productive it conditioned the thinking
process of the most sophisticated Germans. They simply started believing
the racial diatribe.
Thus, in the year 1942, on the 20th of January, fifteen elegant men
of the master race, many with Royal blue eyes, gathered in a Villa on
the outskirts of Berlin. It was a meeting where all traditions of
democracy prevailed. They spoke with a refinement and with such
fineness, the outcome of long years of civilisation.
The Chairman smiled and remarked kindly but firmly what the final
outcome should be. After much deliberation of the method of the final
solution and the legal impediments that would have to be overcome were
Finally, it took not more than ninety minutes for the elegant
civilised gentlemen to draw the master plan. You may ponder what these
representatives of the Master Race discussed at this secret meeting.
Was it how to combat the plague that killed millions of people in
Europe? Was it to prevent the architectural monuments being destroyed
due to the ongoing war? Or, was it the method to dispose night soil as
the scavengers had gone on strike or was it to award the Nobel Prize to
eminent scientist or artists?
No these men, who believed that they were destined to rule the world
as the master race were discussing the final solution to eliminate
nearly 21 million Jews from the face of this earth. They discussed
whether sterilization was better than forced emigration.
The final solution was to exterminate the Jews in their thousands in
gas chambers. They calculated the time that would be taken to complete
the annihilation of men, women and children.
They did not show any emotion at the possibility, of people inside
the chamber, when carbon monoxide was pumped in, trampling each other
and climbing to the ceiling in a bid to survive a few seconds longer
than the others.
The gruesome macabre death that would be inflicted on Jews was
discussed with the least emotion and sensitivity while music of Wagner
was played. They had a buffet lunch and quickly dispersed to continue to
give effect to the plan of this murder.
Was this the most despicable act of cruelty by one race upon another?
Hitler is now synonymous with evil. What about the other mass murderers?
What about Stalin? What about Mao-Tse-Ttung?
Having killed hundreds of thousands and having brought untold
suffering to millions, as a benediction for the crimes, Stalin and Mao
Tse Tung committed against humanity, after their demise they became demi
gods and were worshiped by the rest who survived.
What about the Atom bomb the Americans dropped on Hiroshima and
Nagasaki on innocent civilians. The heat generated by the atom bomb made
the eye-balls pop out from the sockets of thousands of children.
Has anyone questioned the validity of the explanation given by the
United States Government? If Hitler won the war people would have
transformed him into the greatest human being ever to set upon this
world or worshipped him as God of the Mother Race, the head of the Third
Reich destined to rule a thousand years.
Two thousand five hundered years ago there lived in India a man
called Siddhartha Gautama, who taught a philosophy which later became a
religion. To me the greatest teaching of the Buddha, which was
revolutionary, was his unequivocal stand against Caste.
A fundamental belief which existed during that time was challenged by
him "that no man is born a Chandala or a Brahamin. I could only imagine
the opposition to the Buddha when he protected the rights of the low
castes the concept is the very foundations of the religion of the
But today, after 2500 years, can we find a temple which is against
the caste system. Some temples refuse to ordain if the Samanera who is
of a lower caste.
The 1971 insurrection was headed by Rohana Wijeweera, who belonged to
the fisher caste. His movement was mainly founded to battle against the
prevailing caste system.
The youth who had been discriminated against, due to caste, were
attracted to the new revolutionary philosophy of Rohana Wijeweera.
A few years later, when the Tamil militant movement started killing
Tamil politicians for supporting Sinhala governments, many believed this
was the result of Sinhala hegemony.
Prabahkaran, like Wijayaweera, came from the fisher caste in the
North and the youth who joined Prabahkaran came from the underprivileged
caste in Jaffana, those oppressed by the Vellalar, which was the
dominant caste of agriculturists.
The new militant groups found that their leaders who came from the
Vellalar caste more often than not sacrificed their struggle to obtain
benefits from the majority race.
The Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and Burghers were united against the
Europeans, specially the British imperialists and fought in unity to
Thereafter, as before, the races were divided into various sub-groups
based upon race, caste and religion. We vilified the Europeans for their
racial discrimination and for their obduracy in their belief in racial
But when it came to caste we believed that one caste was superior to
the other and we did not hide our shameless attitude of discriminating
our own people due to their being born to a different caste.
The best example of our attitude is shown by the fact that when a
Bollywood heroine Shilpa Shetty was ridiculed by the British television,
the whole of the Indian media lambasted the TV hosts, in England, for
But when the United Nations world conference against racism suggested
that the scope of the conference be expanded to encompass the prevalent
caste discrimination, the Indian Minister of State for External Affairs
Kumar Abdulla rejected the attempt to discuss casteism at that
He stated that caste discrimination is not the same as racism and
should not be discussed at an impending international racism conference.
The Indian politician refused to accept that the caste discrimination
in India may be even worse than racial discrimination As opposed to
Indian mainstream political thinking, some academics in New Delhi argued
that caste can be more discriminatory than race because it is inflicted
by birth, sanctified by religion and glorified by tradition
Our hypocrisy is clearly exhibited when it comes to the marriage of
our children. We pretend that we are progressive and emancipated by
religion and we believe in the dictates of the Buddha, when he said No
man is born a Brahamin or a Chandal, but never permit our children to
get married out of our caste.
How long will we live with this hypocrisy of our racial hatred, our
discrimination on caste, could be deciphered only if we could travel to
the future in a time machine.
In other countries, racism exists, but they have legislated against
racism and are striving hard to get out of these historical traditions
based on the false concept that one race is superior to the other which
is based purely on the colour of one's skin.
At least the other nations are trying to rid themselves of these
petty notions. Racism is an ugly word in other countries.
Some of us are not only racist and discriminate against minorities,
but are also conscious of caste and attempt to preserve these
traditional concepts as a part of our indigenous culture.
If we do not change these mindsets the country will remain divided on
ethnic and caste lines. Progress would then walk away from our doorstep.
We remain plugged into a gaping hole of no return.
The time has come for a confession and acceptance of our frailties
and to move forward at all costs and not resist any attempt to improve
our mindset and accept the truth about our attitude towards others of a
different race or a caste.