Panchayat Season 2 is streaming on Amazon Prime as we speak, and while the show has inspired a plethora of memes and is being loved by millions across the country for its portrayal of village life in India, it has completely missed out on one of the most prevalent systems dangerously rampant in our rural areas- Caste system.
But let’s get something out of the way right off the bat. A show is not only casteist if it propagates visuals of casteism or glorifies it. Panchayat doesn’t do any of that. It doesn’t glorify casteism, at least not in no way that makes your skin crawl.
What it does, however, is eliminate its existence in its entirety. It pretends all is hunky-dory without ever acknowledging caste. Mind you, this is a country where untouchability is widely practised, both in urban and rural areas, despite the practise being illegal.
Amusing how TVF has made two seasons of Panchayat without mentioning caste even once.— Sultan of Mood Swings (@Guiltfoyle) May 23, 2022
Firstly, all its main characters are from the upper caste. Sachiv ji is Abhishek Tripathi, Sahayak is Vias Shukla, Pradhan Pati is Brij Bhushan Dubey, Pradhan is Manju Dubey, the deputy Pradhan is Prahlad Pandey and so on. The bus conductor is Brijesh Mishra or something if I am not wrong.
So it’s not like the show entirely dismisses the existence of caste in Indian villages. As a matter of fact, it acknowledges that UC, primarily Brahmins do hold the most important high ranking positions in society and has access to most of its resources. Why then, does it not acknowledge the existence of those marginalised who continue to suffer under their boots?
Seems you haven’t seen the remote villages of UP and BIHAR. All these tweets of yours are incorrect. Panchayat series didn’t show castiesm so does this mean CASTE is not present in villages? Don’t compare a series to real life. https://t.co/YFa06lv9Jx— Kanpur Wala (@EkKanpuriya) May 24, 2022
While the show shows one part of the caste system, by only telling the story of those on top of the food chain and completely eliminating those at the bottom of it, almost denying their existence, it does glorify casteism.
Brahmins constitute about 5% of the total Indian population. Meanwhile, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes constitute 16.6% and 8.6% of the total population. So what reason could there be for them not existing in Panchayat?
The show is a hit because it has a claim to be based on the reality of Indian villages. It presents a poetic, romantic view of Indian villages, the whole ‘gaon ka jeevan saada aur saral hota hai‘. But that’s only the case for those at the top of the food chain.
The show refers to caste of its characters on many an occasion but never attempts to criticise it, as it should. The Indian caste system is a system of apartheid that has outlasted entire civilisations. It is evil and unspoken criminal acts have been and continue to be carried out in its name.
And the situation, while seems to have gotten better from the medieval times, it is hardly enough. More than 40,000 crimes against lower castes were reported in 2016 alone.
By never criticising this system, Panchayat tells its audience that caste hierarchy is necessary for things to run smoothly. In one of the scenes, the Pradhan insists on knowing the caste of Siddharth, a friend of the Jitendra Kumar’s Abhishek Tripathi and a smile appears on all their faces as soon as he hears that his last name is Gupta, thus establishing his status as an member of the upper caste.
The closest reference I can give you is if you are watching, say an American movie about the South(the guys that enslaved Black people) and you hear about how great Southern hospitality is and how awesome their way of life is, and how rich their history is but it completely fails to mention slavery, its evils and the systemic racism that still exists and is deeply rooted in the society. That movie would be considered racist without a shadow of a doubt.
There are a million and a half things wrong with how the show has portrayed village life in India. It is fictional and unironically so. You simply cannot talk about village life in India and glorify its customs and power structure while failing to address structural injustices that exist within that system.