Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Casteism among Hindus ceases to exist

Whenever there is any talk regarding Hindu society, the first and foremost issue arresting us is VarnaShrama, regarding as basics behind the promotion of inhuman caste-system among Hindus. However, it’s no longer a secret that such inhuman procedure exists among alleged socialistic religions like Christianity and Islam too. Purusha Sukta, famous verse from the Rig Veda, which delineates how this physical world emanates from the cosmic body of God, or according to another interpretation, how the physical world is the body of God. The hymn also states human society is divided into four social grouping called varnas.

The divine head of this cosmic body becomes the priestly (brahmana) class, the arms of this body become the warrior (kshatriya) class, the stomach, or sometimes the thighs, become the agricultural or merchant (vaishya) segments of society, and finally, the feet of this cosmic form become the worker (shudra) segments of society. And all these have led to an assortment of problems. Historians do also allege that its existence has prevented Hindus from challenging the bane of Islamic aggression in India. Now, even if we do accept this as well, Brahmins must remain most privileged in Hindu society. Is it so?

Let’s take a look. According to a few recent studies, in the realm of Delhi 50 Sulabh Shauchalayas (public toilets) do exist and these are managed and cleaned by Brahmins. Surely this is not an elitist job. No less than five to six Brahmins are in each Shauchalaya. They came to Delhi eight to ten years back looking for a source of income, as they were a minority in most of their villages, where Dalits are in majority (60 per cent to 65 per cent). In the majority of villages in UP and Bihar, Dalits have their own trade unions and these help them lots to have jobs in villages or in the vicinity.

This is not all. Brahmins are also found to work as coolies at railway stations in and around Delhi. What is the difference between Dalits and Brahmins then these days? Dalits among Hindus are pampered; they’re provided good amounts of money by successive governances whereas Brahmins are left in the lurch. Take Patel Nagar in Delhi, for instance. More than half of rickshaw pullers here are Brahmins and they’re finding it tough increasingly to make ends meet.

This rearward discrimination is found in Indian bureaucracy and politics too. The majority of intellectual Brahmin Tamil class has emigrated beyond Tamil Nadu. Only 5 seats out of 600 in the combined UP and Bihar assembly are held by Brahmins -- the rest are in the hands of the Yadavs. How can plights of Kashmiri Pandits be forgotten? 400,000 Brahmins of the Kashmir valley or Kashmiri Pandits, live as refugees and at times in refugee camps in Jammu and Delhi in inexcusable conditions.

What is the condition in South India then? 75 per cent of domestic help and cooks in Andhra Pradesh are Brahmins. A study of the Brahmin community in a district in Andhra Pradesh (Brahmins of India by J Radhakrishna, published by Chugh Publications) brings out that today all purohits (Hindu priests) live below the poverty line.

Eighty per cent of those surveyed stated that their poverty and traditional style of dress and hair (tuft) had made them the butt of ridicule. Financial constraints coupled with the existing system of reservations for the 'backward classes' prevented them from providing secular education to their children.

In fact, according to this study there has been an overall decline in the number of Brahmin students. With the average income of Brahmins being less than that of non-Brahmins, a high percentage of Brahmin students drop out at the intermediate level. In the 5 to 18 year age group, 44 per cent Brahmin students stopped education at the primary level and 36 per cent at the pre-matriculation level.

The study also found that 55 per cent of all Brahmins lived below the poverty line -- below a per capita income of Rs 650 a month. Since 45 per cent of the total population of India is officially stated to be below the poverty line it follows that the percentage of destitute Brahmins is 10 per cent higher than the all-India figure.

There is no reason to believe that the condition of Brahmins in other parts of the country is different. In this connection it would be revealing to quote the per capita income of various communities as stated by the Karnataka finance minister in the state assembly: Christians Rs 1,562, Vokkaligas Rs 914, Muslims Rs 794, Scheduled castes Rs 680, Scheduled Tribes Rs 577 and Brahmins Rs 537.

Appalling poverty compels many Brahmins to migrate to towns leading to spatial dispersal and consequent decline in their local influence and institutions. Brahmins initially turned to government jobs and modern occupations such as law and medicine. But preferential policies for the non-Brahmins have forced Brahmins to retreat in these spheres as well.

According to the Andhra Pradesh study, the largest percentage of Brahmins today are employed as domestic servants. The unemployment rate among them is as high as 75 per cent. Seventy percent of Brahmins are still relying on their hereditary vocation. There are hundreds of families that are surviving on just Rs 500 per month as priests in various temples (Department of Endowments statistics).

Priests are under tremendous difficulty today, sometimes even forced to beg for alms for survival. There are innumerable instances in which Brahmin priests who spent a lifetime studying Vedas are being ridiculed and disrespected.

At Tamil Nadu's Ranganathaswamy Temple, a priest's monthly salary is Rs 300 (Census Department studies) and a daily allowance of one measure of rice. The government staff at the same temple receive Rs 2,500 plus per month. But these facts have not modified the priests' reputation as 'haves' and as 'exploiters.' The destitution of Hindu priests has moved none, not even the parties known for Hindu sympathy.

The tragedy of modern India is that the combined votes of Dalits/OBC and Muslims are enough for any government to be elected. The Congress quickly cashed in on it after Independence, but probably no other government than Sonia Gandhi's has gone so far in shamelessly dividing Indian society for garnering votes.

The Indian government gives Rs 1,000 crores (Rs 10 billion) for salaries of imams in mosques and Rs 200 crores (Rs 2 billion) as Haj subsidies. But no such help is available to Brahmins and upper castes. As a result, not only the Brahmins, but also some of the other upper castes in the lower middle class are suffering in silence today, seeing the minorities slowly taking control of their majority.

Anti-Brahminism originated in, and still prospers in anti-Hindu circles. It is particularly welcome among Marxists, missionaries, Muslims, separatists and Christian-backed Dalit movements of different hues. When they attack Brahmins, their target is unmistakably Hinduism. So the question has to be asked: are the Brahmins (and other upper castes) of yesterday becoming the Dalits of today?

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