Liberals and the complicity in casteism – Part 1

I am from a conservative Tamil Brahmin family, which has always leaned to the right (supporting BJP, RSS etc.). I  am privileged in four ways – gender (male), religion (Hindu), caste (Brahmin) and class (upper middle – class). I have been blind to most of these privileges. Because of the patriarchal structure of my family and society, I have been very sexist (or even misogynist) in my behaviour in the past. My remorse over my abuse of gender privilege has led me to become a feminist, and the #MeToo campaign made me come out with my instances of misogyny – and . However, the issue of caste is the most serious of all in our society; and I have not yet addressed that. Today, I am going to talk about that.

Just like I have been sexist in the past, I have also been casteist. I have complained about the reservation system, without realizing that its purpose was for adequate and fair representation of the so-called lower castes; instead mistaking it to be a poverty alleviation scheme that ended up “appeasing” the lower castes. I have believed in social media propaganda about people unfairly benefitting from reservation. I have shared casteist forwards and memes. In my first job, I casually spoke in a patronizing manner with some of my colleagues regarding my Brahmin customs, traditions etc. That time, I never realized the impact my words and actions would have on others; especially people of other castes. I am deeply ashamed of my casteism, and wish to make amends for it.

Now I must have given the impression that I was a Hindutvavadi Bhakt who used to shout “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” from rooftops and called anyone who opposed BJP/RSS as anti-national. No! In fact I have never supported the BJP or the RSS. I used to be a centrist who voted for the Congress in 2009 and AAP in 2014. I then became a liberal, and have always been a vociferous critic of Hindutva. I had an epiphany of sorts that made me deeply ashamed of India, since the rampant communal hatred that has prevailed in the country under the present Modi government . However, this is something which I should have realized ALWAYS prevails in India. There is ample evidence in the form of 1984 Sikh genocide, 2002 Godhra genocide, 2008 Kandhamal riots, 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots etc.

As an ex-liberal, I feel it is necessary to point out that the collective amnesia of the liberals; regarding the atrocities against minorities pre-2014, is responsible for the rise of the hatred-filled Hindutva ideology that has risen in 2014; with a mass murderer like Narendra Modi being elected to the highest office in the country. In addition, while the liberals are nowadays quite sharp and quick in calling out bhakts and Sanghis for their anti-minority hatred; they are silent on the issue of Dalits, Bahujans and Adivasis. Indeed, the savarna liberals are quite complicit in the casteism that prevails in the society. Many of them don’t understand the privilege that they have due to the monstrosity of the caste system. This is best exemplified by the way in which a senior liberal journalist Rajdeep Sardesai proudly proclaimed his “Gaud Saraswat Brahmin” caste pride by his tweet 3 years ago; on two of his fellow GSBs Suresh Prabhu and Manohar Parrikar being appointed to the Ministry Cabinet .

By this tweet (for which he was rightfully trolled royally), Rajdeep showed his pride in the caste system; from which he has benefitted unfairly – at the cost of the lower castes who have faced countless oppression, ostracization and denial of equal rights. Caste and gender are also very closely linked. This is best shown by the controversial list of sexual predators in the Indian campuses released by law student Raya Sarkar . Far from mobilising the feminism movement in India, this has divided it into two conflicting forms of feminism – savarna feminism (in which the members are mainly upper caste) and intersectional feminism (which is inclusive of DBA ). DBA here refers to the Dalit Bahujan Adivasi communities.

There is a due process to be followed, regarding reporting sexual harassment to the authorities. According to the savarna feminists, this due process has been “violated” by the Name and Shame tactics of Raya . There is a very condescending attitude shown by savarna feminists towards the DBA community; by the plain disregard to understand the situation in which the DBA women have been – with regards to the patriarchal power structure – the way the savarna feminists (in their supposedly progressive blog Kafila) accuse Raya Sarkar of  “destroying the trust in the feminist system” by her refusal to follow the due process – which all said and done, clearly benefits the men, especially the savarnas.

Ultimately, it comes to the Brahminical power structure and thus patriarchy . The liberals, as I have mentioned earlier; are complicit in casteism. Here the liberal savarna feminists are complicit in the gender and caste nexus that allows the Savarna men to go scot-free at the expense of the DBA women. The Savarna feminists do care about women rights, but only the rights of their own – Savarnas. Being a woman is bad enough in India.. Being a woman AND a DBA results in the worst form of oppression one can expect.  It all comes back to the caste system, and the root cause is of course Hinduism.

It is easy to criticize Hindutva and the Sangh Parivar. But it requires a lot of courage to criticize Hinduism. I have been reading Dr. B.R. Ambedkar’s book “Annihilation of Caste – The Annotated Critical Edition” and in the course I have realized how “tolerant” the religion Hinduism really is. In fact, Hinduism is not at all a religion. Quoting from Dr. Ambedkar “Hindu society is a myth. The name Hindu is itself a foreign name. It was given by the Mahomedans to the natives for the purpose of distinguishing themselves. It does not occur in any Sanskrit work prior to the Mahomedan invasion. Hindu society as such does not exist. It is only a collection of castes. Each caste is conscious of its existence. Its survival is the be-all and end-all of its existence. Castes do not even form a federation. A caste has no feeling that it is affiliated to other castes, except when there is a Hindu-Moslem riot” This is mighty enlightenment for a person who has been fed on a dose of Ramayana, Mahabharata, Panchatantra etc. throughout my childhood!

The worst feature of this caste system is the anti-social spirit in it. “One caste enjoys singing a hymn of hate against another caste as much as the Germans enjoyed singing their hymn of hate against the English during the last war. The literature of the Hindus is full of caste genealogies in which an attempt is made to give a noble origin to one caste and an ignoble origin to other castes” The Hindus are thus a collection of warring groups living for their selfish ideals. There is also a feudal mentality in which memories of past battles are kept fresh in the mind, which leads to lack of unity. “The present-day non-Brahmins cannot forgive the present-day Brahmins for the insult their ancestors gave to Shivaji. The present-day Kayasthas will not forgive the present-day Brahmins for the infamy cast upon their forefathers by the forefathers of the latter. To what is this difference due? Obviously to the caste system”

It is difficult for anyone to convert to Hinduism, because of the caste system. “Unlike a club, the membership of caste is not open to all and sundry. The law of caste confines its membership to persons born in the caste. Castes are autonomous, and there is no authority anywhere to compel a caste to admit a newcomer to its social life. Hindu society being a collection of castes, and each caste being a closed corporation, there is no place for a convert.” The tolerance of Hinduism and Hindus has been debunked “The Hindus claim to be a very tolerant people. In my opinion, this is a mistake. On many occasions they can be intolerant, and if on some occasions they are tolerant, that is because they are too weak to oppose or too indifferent to oppose. A Hindu will quite meekly tolerate an insult a well as a wrong” The indifference of the Hindus has made it difficult for them to co-operate even for a good cause; according to Dr. Ambedkar.

This is not the worst of all. The caste rules are deadly “Now a caste has an unquestioned right to excommunicate any man who is guilty of breaking the rules of the caste; it will be agreed that as a form of punishment there is really little to choose between excommunication and death. No wonder individual Hindus have not had the courage to assert their independence by breaking the barriers of caste” Also, the caste system has made the Hindus an unethical people as a lot, by destroying public spirit, public charity and public opinion. “A Hindu’s public is his caste. His responsibility is only to his caste. His loyalty is restricted only to his caste. Virtue has become caste-ridden, and morality has become caste-bound. There is no sympathy for the deserving. There is no appreciation of the meritorious. There is no charity to the needy. There is sympathy, but not for men of other castes”

Seeing as Hinduism is such a morally flawed religion, why do savarna liberals defend it ? Why do they not seek to reform it, or raise their voices for its reformation? This defence of Hinduism or ignorance of its flaws, while criticizing Hindutva persistently; is fallacious. It is also the reason why Hindutva has grown by leaps and bounds; and why caste persists in India. Gauri Lankesh was murdered because she criticized Hinduism. We see a lot of liberals condemn her murder on account of lack of free speech, but not many of us have actually read her writings. Even I haven’t! We only know Dr. Ambedkar as the Architect of the Indian Constitution. Many of us have not read Annihilation of Caste. Thus we don’t know his role as a radical leader of social justice. We have not bothered to buy his books and learn about the flaws of Hinduism.

I suppose all this talk about how bad Hinduism is; must be making you weary (a sentence inspired from AoC itself 😀 ). Well, I shall give you a break before Part 2. Until then, ALL LIBERALS, KINDLY READ THIS! So that you can be aware OF YOUR ROLE IN CASTEISM!

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