To get to the roots of that derogatory term used to refer to the 'Untouchables' of the Indian caste system, we need to trace its origin back to India.
The home of billions of people each divided and separated by age old tribal customs and genealogical variations not only by their language and dialects but also as to the physical attributes which are a myriad of differences created by Almighty God.
The usage of a particular derogatory term @ 'pariah' to describe the lowest caste of one of the Indian character in the said novel raised the ire of the Malaysian Indians here in Malaysia and they raised a protest against the continuous usage of the novel depicted here as part of the Malay Literature syllabus in the Malaysian Education System especially for 5th Formers.
To understand as to why they took offense to the usage of the word, we who are concerned for our fellow Malaysians must study the caste system that is still very much alive over there in India.
Its not that pronounced here in our Malaysian life, but I understand that our Malaysian Indians are also very much entrenched in such divisive preferences both in the socio-political and business circles. Just take a look at the ones running or ruling the Malaysian Indian Congress @ MIC here in Malaysia.
You'd notice only a certain caste calling the shots. The current MIC President belongs to the 'Gounder' caste. So was the previous longest in power ex-President Dato Seri S. Samy Vellu.
The caste system of India is still quite prevalent here in this country but not as pronounced due to the smaller numbers of Indians in Malaysia compared to the Malays and Chinese.
It is not as evident here as the way such age old customs and caste systems still divide and separate the various classes amongst the Indians as a whole over there in India.
The Hindus hold very firmly to their inherited values and caste system which they claim dates back to thousands of years and refer to the Law of Manu, which is part of their religious beliefs.
There are several videos available here which shows the way life is in India to this very day for the Untouchables @ Dalits, Harijans, etc.
They still hold very firmly to the age old traditions from their forefathers. You can see that its not easy to change the way life has always been for the Untouchables over there in India.
Even though there are a few movements that aim to get rid of all these caste systems in India, the majority of rural dwellers still uphold the traditions of old to the letter.
During the times of the British Colonial rule over India, the Englishmen lorded it over the Indians to the extent that they were regarded as the Master Race @ the Aryans and the Hindus were so subjugated by the British in all areas of life.
The same thing happened here when the British lorded it over our forefathers during the Colonial rule over Malaya. 'Tuan Besar' used to be what they were addressed as. Lord Master.
Well, today, the British have left both India and Malaya but the vestiges of their legacy remains in some parts of India still. There are no remnants of British lordship left in Malaya but the Caste system still lords it over many communities in present day India.
Still choking the life out of so many and despite the world having evolved to be what it is today with all its modern marvels, India still witnesses horrific crimes and abuses upon its Untouchables perpetrated by those whose hearts and minds are still cloaked with the feudal system of old.
They continue to torture and abuse those who are called Harijans @ Pariah's amongst the caste system still thriving in India.
Here is Part 2 of the video.
In a sense, we can also see the differences of classes happen in all other parts of the world and even in ancient Arabia or in Rome, Greece, Jerusalem or in Egypt during the times of the Pharaoh.
There were the so called noblemen, soldiers, tradesmen, servants, etc. Each society of old right up to this day continue to live a life separated by levels of wealth and occupations.
We all know that this happens in every level of society. There is a caste system existing here within our very existence. The titled ones who do not mix with those who aren't of their kind.
The Tuanku's and Tengku's, Tun's and Tan Sri's, Datuks and Datins. Isn't these part of a caste system as well?
You take any of the 'high society' featuring magazines like the 'Malaysian Tatler'. Would you even see any common people gracing the cover or the pages of its magazine?
No sirree! Only the ones who are rich and 'famous'.
In a way this is a part of a caste system as well. The reality is right there on our streets.
The rich and famous are given the right of way on our highways. Traffic policemen and outriders clear the roads for the titled as they speed past us who pay toll but must make way for the buggers as their luxury cars zoom away to whatever exclusive gathering is being held in their honor at posh restaurants and five star hotels.
Caste system well and truly alive in every part of the world. All we need to do is to accept that even in the hereafter, there are different levels of heavens and even hellfires prepared by God Almighty for us according to our deeds.
Its not something that can be changed overnight!
Life in India is steeped in age old traditions and to change them needs herculean efforts and the cooperation of many.
The ones who are angry over the labels and terms being accorded to them ought not fret. If they work doubly hard and make their way out of the pitfalls that they find ourselves in, believe me when I say that those who look down upon those who are poor will waste no time in saluting them when they up the ante later in life!
Its all a matter of effort.