Imagine if the Pakistani cricket team beats India and its players wave their bats as if they were the swords of Ghazni or Babar. Or if the English players flaunt themselves as Dalhousie’s Boys. Or if the players of Sri Lankan team enter the ground after a victory as Ravana’s ten heads. How are Indians going to react? With something like ‘my sentiments have been hurt’? We will outrage to no end.
And perhaps rightly so.
Such acts are offensive. They hurt public sentiments. And Ravindra Jadeja should know that. The Indian cricketer, famous for his fielding on the cricket ground but also popular for the bat swirl after scoring a half-century or a century, leaves little room for doubt about his identity — not of an Indian, not of a cricketer, not even of a sensible adult, but his big, all-encompassing identity: caste.
If you have seen Ravindra Jadeja off the cricketing field, came across his videos on social media or read his interviews, then you know he is a Rajput. But just in case you don’t, Jadeja has you covered. He recently uploaded on Twitter a 17-second clip of himself swinging a sword as a Bahubali song plays in the background. The cricketer desperately tried to match the caption of the tweet with his angry facial expressions: “A “SWORD” MAY LOOSE IT’S SHINE,BUT WOULD NEVER DISOBEY IT’S MASTER #rajputboy”.
— Ravindrasinh jadeja (@imjadeja) April 12, 2020
Ravindra Jadeja’s hashtag ‘Rajput boy’ is offensive and hurts the sentiments of every Indian who is working to improve the lives of those discriminated against on the basis of caste and end this culture.
Jadeja’s act also demeans the culture of sports, of which he is an ambassador and therefore knows that players are honoured for their skill and not for their caste. Should Sachin Tendulkar, a brahmin, now wield his bat to show the wrath of Parashurama, an avatar of Hindu god Vishnu, who is believed to have wiped out Kshatriyas 21 times from the earth? In a casteist society like ours, these things can take ugly turns, triggering a competitive show of caste valour, which is why public figures are not known to engage with their followers in such ways on common platforms.
Ravindra Jadeja forgets that the Rajputana bravery that he seems so obsessed with were individual acts of soldiers and kings. It is not because of his caste that the valour of Maharana Pratap is celebrated. Nor it is because of caste that the legends of Lorik, Lachit Borfukan, Tanhaji are sung to this date. The monkey god Hanuman was not considered brave because he was a monkey. Similarly, India’s freedom fighters such as M.K. Gandhi, Subhas Chandra Bose, Bhagat Singh, Jawaharlal Nehru, B.R. Ambedkar did not succeed because of their castes. It was their individual acts that mattered.
Sword wielding can be a form of sport, such as fencing, and people belonging to any caste can learn the skill. But Jadeja is not wielding a sword to promote fencing. His sword is an invocation of the valour of Rajputana kings, and Jadeja is merely lumping himself among them like those good-for-nothing people who project someone else’s achievement as their own by simply pointing out their caste association. What is Ravindra Jadeja’s contribution to the Rajputana valour other than swinging a sword like he does his cricket bat or riding a horse?
By identifying himself as a ‘Rajput boy’, Jadeja is insulting the cricketing fraternity, which is still struggling to address racism. And Jadeja’s open, regular display of caste pride doesn’t help the cause because it is not much different to race pride. Earlier, he has worn shoes to a match with ‘Rajput’ inscribed on them.
Cricketers K.L. Rahul and Hardik Pandya were reprimanded and made to face disciplinary action for their ‘loose talk’ about women at a talk show — Karan Johar’s Koffee With Karan. There is no reason why Ravindra Jadeja’s casteist acts should be allowed to flourish. He is not a local goon who roams around the streets with ‘Jat Boy’ or ‘Rajput Boy’ or ‘Yadav ke Chhore’ written on his vehicle.
In The Kapil Sharma Show, cricketer Virat Kohli has spoken about Jadeja’s eccentricities such as believing the world would collapse one day when the two buildings moving closer to each other in his home town Jamnagar finally touch each other. Kohli, who was describing the oddities of someone he believes ‘boasts’ the most in the Indian cricket team, also revealed that Jadeja thinks a horse on a king’s portrait changes its stance every year.
There’s something to be said about a popular Indian figure flaunting his caste identity in a society that has forever struggled to even properly acknowledge everyday caste-based atrocities, including killings, let alone do much to end a system that actively promotes a hierarchical structure. That Jadeja’s clip was being lapped up by more than a lakh people on the eve of Ambedkar Jayanti shows how far we stand from realising B.R. Ambedkar’s dream of a casteless society.
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