How the Sheikhs of Kashmir are different from the Dalits of Bangalore

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In this article, the author probes the disparities between Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribal communities in Kashmir and Bangalore.

By Maheen Sajjad

EARLY mornings in Bangalore, as I like to call it, a city of crossroads, are musty, with strong incense smoke coming from the temple, next to the building in which I am staying, and an even stronger stench of garbage trucks.

I remember one time my landlady called us all downstairs on her floor because someone had thrown trash in the bin in “all the wrong ways”. Results: the intestines of the garbage cans were floored, and therefore stripping had to take place.

Nonetheless, after a session of scuttlebuts obeyed, the lady who picks up the trash from our building; the one wearing a green jacket that reads something in kannada on the back, passed by and then, like how the disturbances in the force are real, and there is such a thing as a magical transcendent energy field , the owner spotted her as a speed scanner, nearly spilled her coffee.

The lady who only has selected trash bags ended up washing our trash that day and was paid a little extra for it. One of the residents later on that date, showed me a photo they took of mine, staring strangely at the landlady. I don’t remember exactly what went through my head but I remember thinking that in Kashmir we wouldn’t have waited for the cleaning lady or someone else to come and clean our trash cans for us. Not because it’s unethical, but because asking someone to do something like that for you is too blatant and makes the reporting system too obvious.

A road sweeper in Bangalore.

I was brought up in a family of workers; in the literal sense, the people who work for the community but nevertheless seized by capitalist logics. My babysitter, Noora, was the only one I remember spending time with as a child. Over those years, the first person I would call if I stumbled would be him, and so in terms, he had an assertive role to play in lifting me up in all the proper conventions.

Noora stopped working for us almost ten years ago. He calls us once or twice every six months, but it doesn’t matter. What’s relevant is that Noora juggles three jobs a day, which seems to me, literally mad.

He comes from a scheduled caste, specifically Sheikh, and he is one of three brothers in his family who refuses to stick to his varna practices. From what I have noticed, moving away from your traditional varna practices is something quite rare in Kashmir but actually very common in metropolises like Bangalore.

The Kram division of the past in today’s time stands still but is not necessarily true for mundane reasons. In college, with one of our professors in class, we once discussed the differences between jati practices and Varna practices in a country like India. What this three hour conversation led to was that we stopped and accepted Ambedkar’s reasoning that Varna conventions are just a facade, that behind it all, it’s basic jati practices.

If we look at the valley, there are undoubtedly differences in how different communities are viewed based on the types of jobs they perform or are expected to perform.

Haenza tribe of people in Kashmir known as the descendants of Noah, is an example of how some communities still stick to the same varna practices for several reasons, including membership and obligations, in this case , the Peach.

A fisherman casts a net into the frozen waters of Dal Lake.

As part of a project, I once interviewed women from the fishing community, and during our exchanges, one thing that stood out was that the community marries itself; that the community cannot marry off their children outside of their land, outside of a setting where people are not fishing. The reasons for this, if you’re wondering, are simply that there’s a hierarchy involved in how people accept jobs.

The fishing community finds it difficult to marry outside of their culture as they believe they will be treated differently because of their profession. In retrospect, this understanding underlines the existence of a kind of separation that also persists in the valley, comparable to the practice of Varna (care for one’s profession), behind which hides the rigid system of jati practices (concerning birth), but is not always labeled as such.

The significance of this glaring difference, however, is most evident in a setting outside of Kashmir, such as a city like Bangalore.

Over the years that I have lived there, the division of labor and what it does to a community has repeatedly caught my eye. Given that Bangalore is a melting pot of cultures, ethnicities and traditional practices, I couldn’t help but notice how the members of the Dalit community there are constantly thinking about giving back to their roots.

Noora left home very young. He still lives in the city while his family lives in Anantnag. The three jobs he juggles are all for the benefit of his family, and that’s word for word where the epicenter is. His reimbursement is specific to his family rather than his community, which is very common among the various communities of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in Kashmir. It’s about reimbursing your family, not the community you belong to, and that’s the opposite of what the Dalit community is doing outside of Kashmir.

A sweeper in action.

The Casteless Collective and other small associations and organizations are simple examples of how today’s marginalized communities have come together to challenge the hierarchy in ways that are particular and distinctive to them. Although the level of marginalization is not as severe, it is somewhat troubling that there is a comparable lack of unity in the communities here in Kashmir.

Unlike a setting like Bangalore, a metropolis, where Dalits try to create a safe and specific space for them by leaving their environment, learning new skills, expressing their opinions, and then instituting all their learning at home, there is is nothing like to see here in Kashmir.

There are several layers to this argument, and religion is a major driving force in this division. The valley is predominantly inhabited by Muslims and as such Islam has no caste class hierarchy so the division is not deliberately and overtly presented. Yet it still exists.

Moreover, the economic conditions of the state in general, compared to a metropolis, are much better, in the sense that serious problems like starving people are not a daily occurrence in Kashmir while the opposite is the case. in Bengaluru.

Given all of this, there are plausible explanations for why there are differences, why changes take place, and how individuals take on tasks and strive to carve out places for themselves. All this is valid in a city like Bangalore where there is greater communal cohesion. This is not necessarily the case, however, for a region like Kashmir, as the majority of inequalities are not explicitly addressed, despite the fact that they still exist.

And because of this unacknowledged suffering around the differences, the reasons given and the measures taken for it are also obscure, which distinguishes Kashmir from Bangalore.

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